How Do You Convince SEO Naysayers?


A few days ago I wrote what I thought was a tame, informational post. The post centered on SEO Best Practices for Restaurants & Eateries, which has been a topic heavily on my mind thanks to some new businesses opening up in Troy, NY with less-than-stellar Web presences. The post covered common areas where restaurant Web sites fail and some tips on what users are really interested in when they land on your site. We saw a good discussion break out here on Outspoken Media and on some other sites that were kind enough to pick it up. It was all very nice and lovely.

Then the conversation took a nose dive.

In the comments of one site we were lambasted (or…I guess I was lambasted) for our use of the phrase “SEO” in the post title. The argument was that if we really cared about business owners, we would have used a different term since “regular people” don’t use words like “SEO”. Okay, I thought. That’s valid. I can take that.

Only the issues didn’t stop there.

  • We also received harsh criticism from a restaurant employee who let it be known that people who are actually working in a restaurant are too busy to worry about search engine optimization.
  • We heard that SEO exists only to ensure its own existence.
  • That SEO people need to get off their elitist pedestals.
  • That you don’t have to be a magician to find a business without a Web site.
  • That I’ve lost my mind offering these recommendations and that I should stick to using Twitter to talk about Twitter and leave the food establishments alone.
  • That, once again, the post was just about my ginormous ego.

More and more it felt like these commenters weren’t just unaware about the place of SEO in business, they were actually angry with SEO and the thought that it mattered to real people.

Watching the conversation in the comments fall deeper and deeper into the gutter, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I know how to explain the importance of SEO to people who aren’t exposed to it. To people who simply don’t have the information to know why it’s so vital.

But how do you defend SEO to people who hate you and what you do? How do you prove SEO matters to people who want to scream that it doesn’t?

I’m curious to hear your responses. For me, I thought maybe I’d break down some of their issues. Maybe we can change the conversation that way?

“Real business owners don’t have time for SEO…they’re too busy running a business!”

If you’re not investing in SEO, you’re not running your business. You’re wasting it. Small business owners have always been notoriously busy. But somehow they found time to be listed in the Yellow Pages, to sponsor little league teams, to create flyers to promote upcoming events. They found time because they had to in order to market themselves. Without these promotions, they were invisible to their community. SEO allows SMBs to be visible to a larger community and social media allows them to do it faster.

Creating a well-structured Web site, claiming your Google Place/Yelp/FourSquare listing, and using social media to hit the virtual streets have been vital in promoting a small business. To not have a Google Place Page in 2011 is like not appearing in the Yellow Pages 15 years ago. Studies show that 76 percent of consumers use search engines to find local content, 56 percent of social networkers look for social company pages, and those numbers are on the rise. If you’re not there, you’re not in the game. We can’t eat at restaurants we don’t know about, magician or not.

“SEO is just people spamming Google”

With all the bad press SEO gets regularly, I understand why you may be holding onto this, but it’s not true. Best practice search engine optimization is not about tricks or manipulating users or engines. It’s simply about creating usable Web sites that real people can and will want to interact with. Regardless of how good the food is, small business owners still need a Web site to market it. SEO’ing that sites means making sure the site is set up correctly, that people understand where you’re located, that there’s content describing your services, and that people are able to complete the goal they had when they landed on your site. SEO isn’t black magic; it’s more and more marketing and usability. It’s what allows users to find what they’re looking for in a crowded sea of mostly junk. Do you want to be found by your audience or do you want to leave it to chance that they walk by your storefront?

“SEO ruined the Web”

No, it hasn’t. See above. It’s the shallow content and funny cat videos that have ruined the Web. SEO is what’s helping to restore order and to make sure your SMB is found alongside big brands. SEO is visibility in a crowded market.

“SEO means fixing an HTML meta tag and making people pay for it”

Yes, and being a doctor means handing someone a lollipop and smacking them on the butt on the way out the door. ARE YOU FOR REAL?

“I’ve seen SEO’d sites…they all look like dirty spam!”

Hey, if as a normal user you’ve landed on a site and been hit over the head with their SEO attempt – you probably were looking at someone who spammed their way in. Because a properly SEO’d site is like a piece of content that’s been properly edited – you’re not going to notice it. Nothing will stand out or look out of place. It will all simply flow and make sense that everything is appearing the way that it should be. When you notice SEO start to notice SEO is when there are too many variations of that keyword in the body content, when that headline looks like it was twisted and pulled to fit, or when you’re being pushed through a site instead of being allowed to walk through it. And if that’s the case, yes, that’s not SEO. That’s spam. And there is a difference.

“SEO doesn’t matter…”

SEO only doesn’t matter if driving customers to your business does not matter. If you don’t want to be found, if you don’t want to learn more about your customer’s needs, if you don’t want to cater to anyone other than the people who live on your street, if you don’t care if people know about your business. If you do and if you want that wider audience, then you need to invest in SEO and market your business. Otherwise, what are you doing?

For me, it’s frustrating to see people ignore their businesses by refusing to market it. It’s like blogging without understanding promotion. If you care about something, then, I think, you do everything you can in your power to make it successful. And in this digital age, that includes SEO. It’s also difficult to listen to people cut down what you do, simply because they think it’s something different than what it truly is (aka spam).

But that’s me. How do you defend SEO to people who think it’s unimportant and self-serving? I’d love to hear it.

Your Comments

  • Todd Mintz

    SEO helped those idiots find your blog post in order to criticize it…

  • Angelos

    The fact that they moved on to someone else’s blog to posts dickish comments is really all you need to know about them.

  • Nathaniel Deal

    Haha, I love this post. I wish I could break it down into 400 tweets!

  • Matt Siltala

    My guess is these are the same people bitching about Yelp because of negative reviews about their establishment … THEY are the ones that need to look harder at their business, how they run it, and do a better job.

  • Carla Marshall

    Hi Lisa

    No comments from restaurant owners re ‘snakeoil’?? LOL.

    I’ve come up against this so many times and I’ve learnt to change my approach from offering SEO to offering best online business practice or a way to increase sales and visibility. It’s semantics I know but it took me a while to understand that this wasn’t *all* about me and my skills and that it was all about them and what I can do to make a difference to their bottom line. Using this approach seems to bring more positive results (which is always welcome) and causes less friction and misunderstandings.

    However, I do think there will always be those out there who will never trust or understand what SEO can achieve for them which is a huge shame.

  • Joe Hall

    I have had surgery several times. Each time an anesthesiologists has given me some special medication to “knock me out”. Drinking to much bourbon also “knocks me out”. (I like bourbon more)

    I don’t understand anesthesia, but I have a pretty good handle on bourbon. So next time I need surgery I am just going to chug some bourbon, because a 5th (not caring) is cheaper than an anesthesiologists (competent SEO) and does the same thing, right?

  • Michael Dorausch

    Oh the anger. I think you are wasting your time on these critics, move forward and continue providing the valuable information active online SMBs are thirsty for. No complaints from me if others in my industry don’t have time for SEO.

  • netmeg

    I gave up on a similar (and similarly heated) conversation on WMW recently, where a few people seemed to think it was unfair that they should have to muck about about and dirty their hands with search engine issues; Google should just be able to figure it all out and float their perfect sites with their perfect thoughts to the top, leaving them plenty of time to think more deep thoughts and write them down.

    You can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. All you can do is hope they can open their minds before they look up from the oven one day and realize that possibly inferior establishments are doing a lot better than they are. And be there for them when they do.

  • Randy S

    I’ve always heard that bullys are mean because they are self-conscious… It seems that restauranteurs don’t like SEO because they know their websites suck and want to use these arguments as an excuse to not spend any time or money to fix it up.

    All things being equal, if I’m deciding between 2 restaurants, one with a website that gives seizures and one that is well laid out with an HTML menu (with prices), I’m always going to choose the latter.

  • April

    I would send someone to the Outspoken Media website or suggest they follow you, Lisa, or SugarRae on Twitter. :) In the restaurant business, I would suggest watching a little restaurant reality tv (especially Gordon Ramsey). In the food industry or anywhere in life, we cannot assume people will find us – or frankly, that they’re willing to “work” to find us. If we don’t make it easy, they won’t come. There have been countless restaurants & other businesses in recent years that I’ve passed over because I couldn’t find out what I needed to know about them by a website (menu, location, hours, social media, etc.). These are the times in which we live folks. Embrace it and use it to build your business and success!

  • Elmer Boutin

    I’ve had similar reactions when talking to many SMB owners/managers, and not just those from restaurants. Part of the problem I see is helping people overcome their ignorance by educating rather than selling.

    For example: my mechanic had been approached several times in the past 6 months by “web marketing” sales people with various levels of expertise and knowledge (or lack thereof). Invariably, they just want him to sign up for a package costing several hundred dollars per month which has services he plain doesn’t need. (

    When you approach a business owner who is bombarded with such pitches, it’s natural they are going to be skeptical; so, I’m not too surprised at the reaction Lisa sometimes experiences.

    It’s important for us ethical and knowledgeable web marketers/SEOs/Social Media Consultants to consider this and find a way to promote the knowledge and education we can provide rather than just pitch our “services.” The more we educate the public, those SMB operators who need our services so badly, the more we will rise to the top when it comes to being hired to help them.

  • Keith Privette

    Wow Lisa I could see how that can be frustrating. I offer up a little suggestion. From where you are located are some of the commenters resturants close to you? If so try this. Business is Business right and money talks right.

    Schedule a meeting at an off time in their establishment. Order food, drinks, apps, dessert and pay for it. They pay you your hourly rate and you show and inform them about what SEO is. They inform you on the activities of how they are marketing and promoting their business (hours, activities, money investment). That way each is getting paid for their services. No freebees the first time. Establish a plan for implementation of some ideas that they have paid you for (this initial fee may be a little less than a full blown fee) and you come back 2 more times in 30days for a meal. Then after the 30 days you evaluate. You present for free & they give you a free meal.

    Now the trick will be getting the initial meeting…..which always the case. But if you believe in how you can help and they believe they have a food experience that people will love, then yes SEO can deliver! But it sounds like you need advocates from the industry that is beating you up. Once you have that let the fun begin.

    Good luck! I think you will find a way to turn this situation into a win+win!

  • Kristin

    Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!

    I wish i could post this around town on every billboard there is!

    The “voodoo” aspect of SEO has become notorious and annoying! The best way I’ve found to explain SEO is to show the results. You can look at how you stand and lose your spots in Google while making no changes and then taking the EXACT SAME SITE and starting to work through a plan they will start to see the results… Good documentation helps but the best way to convince is to prove it.

    Getting them in the door, I’m stuck!

  • Angelos

    One of the subjects actually tweeted this in the aftermath:
    Food industry is tough, last thing it needs is SEO, IMO.

    Yes, it’s a difficult industry. From bussers to head chef, long hours, hot and backbreaking work, etc. So the reaction is… they don’t have to market themselves? Someone DOES own the place and is trying to make a profit, correct?

    We’re at sheer ignorance at this point. Not even worth the effort with those two.

    On to the larger points, many good ones in the post and the comments. The “education vs. sales” approach resonates the most, because it applies to my industry as well.

  • Julie Kosbab

    What I found profoundly ridiculous about some of the criticism is that a lot of these restaurants are investing in web sites. And what they’re building aren’t necessarily cheap web sites — flash-heavy sites with autoplay music aren’t generally built off a template. Why is it absurd to ask a business owner how they’re spending their promotional cash, and if visibility and utility might not be better goals than “look at the animation and listen to the music?”

    • Angelos

      And a PDF menu. Exactly. Since so many small/local restaurants are family affairs, the website is usually built on the cheap by the nephew or something, to steal from myself commenting at the other place.

      • Julie Kosbab

        Well, some of them. There are a number of websites in my fair village that clearly were NOT done on the cheap that are horrific if you want to actually case the joint out. We’re talking full Flash, custom music, etc. These weren’t brothers/cousins/cheap jobs, these were hired designers. And the sites are bloody useless.

        A site that can be promoted and optimized, even done on the cheap, isn’t insanely hard. It can be done using a hosted blog service and a purchased domain.

        • Angelos

          Oh, absolutely there are those done by “designers” who charged a pretty penny.

          I wonder though, if you further break it down, how many restaurateurs told the web company “I want this and that and the other whizbang feature” and no one had the courage to say “that’s a bad idea.” The most difficult site I’m working on right now is my brother’s. So it’s easy to say “that’s a bad web practice and this is why.” But if the customer’s writing big checks, do you have the nerve to say no? You should, it’s your portfolio on the line too.

          Really good pros aren’t cheap. Maybe OSM and the like would be completely out of someone’s need level and/or price range. That’s OK. Turning away business is a good thing if it’s not a fit. Just be honest and say “you don’t need us for what you’re trying to accomplish (or, frankly, you can’t afford us), but I know some individual designers that will set you up just right.”

          Last month I was checking out a local church’s web site to find out more about the Greek Festival. Wow. HTML from 1998, like I used to hand-code. When I have free time, I am totally rebuilding that for them on my dev server, shooting off a link, and saying “It’s yours if you write me a letter for tax deduction purposes.”

          That’s not even an SEO issue. What is it? Are people being pitched too much and backing out? Did that church ever looking into updating but get a price of, say, $1500? Ridiculous. Or do they not care? No idea.

          But if you’re a business trying to get people to give you money, you want to make it as easy as possible. Especially with failure rates as high as they are.

          That DeFazio’s example from the previous thread is perfect. Menu, map, phone number… boom. Done. One tweet and one FB post a day about the special, and back to “work.” The only thing I would do differently there is not force smartphones to a mobile version. I have a full browser in my pocket, thankyouverymuch. Or at least put the map link on the mobile site, because I have the Google maps in my pocket too.

          So, to S and B, I’m sure you’re lurking… any new retail establishment needs a good web presence and good to high-end SEO. Someone, if (s)he wants to still be in business next year, can find the time.

          • rick

            Hmm.. $1500 is ridiculous for a website? Is that what you meant to say?

            • Angelos

              Depends on what you need, of course. In the example I stated, the church, yes. I could bang that content out in a stylistically appropriate WordPress template in 4-5 hours, and then train them how to update pages and create new ones.

              If designers, devs, and SEOs are overselling like used car jockeys, then of course reputations suffer and potential clients run away.

              I have no idea why Greek House’s site isn’t live yet. I have no idea why St. Basil’s site looks 15 years old. I do know that I learned to code better when someone quoted $2000 to redo my old company’s web site. We’re talking 10 static pages, nothing more than a brochure. And that was 10 years ago!

              Now, in the days of the free CMS, there’s no excuse for prices like that for a basic web presence.

            • rick

              Ah, the “I can bang out that site in a few hours” canard. Of course you can – but you’re not giving them much design work there, you’re probably not worrying too much about mobile issues and you certainly aren’t doing much beyond a basic brochure site.

              This is part of the problem you see… It propagates the “websites aren’t worth much – my friend can do one in 4 hours!” mindset. And who’s going to invest any significant money in SEO for a site that cost $250? No one. They probably won’t bother updating it or investing in it as marketing channel because they think of it as a checkbox to be done for as little as possible. “Right, website, check… OK now to what really matters.”

              It’s odd – people will spend thousands for a crappy ad in the YP. They’ll spend thousands printing and mailing paper newsletters. But ask them to invest in a good website and suddenly it’s all too expensive. Look, if anyone is putting up a static, brochure site in 2011 *they’re doing it wrong*. Hell the mechanic I go to has Yelp, Facebook and other social integrations on his site along with customer testimonials. Guess how I found him? Now, what’s the value of that? THAT is how owners need to think of sites and their performance – what’s the value over the course of a year to a well executed website? To my Saab mechanic? I’ve spent about $2,000 there over the last 2 years.

              Of course, sometimes all a business needs is a basic site. That’s fine and I’d certainly never charge $1500 for 4 pages. But any serious small business (which I’ll arbitrarily define as one with over $500,000 in annual revenue) needs to think of their marketing efforts as investment in growth, not as cost centers. If a well-done, nicely optimized site increases revenue by 1% you’re making another 5k in revenue at the least using my criteria. And if you only get 1% lift from a well optimized site, well, again, you’re doing it wrong.

            • Angelos

              I agree with most of that, Rick. I am not knocking high-end design and pricing, if it’s appropriate.

              Look at the number you picked, though: $500,000? That’s a hell of a lot of money. But if that’s where you want to draw the line at “small business,” then I guess I’m talking about micro- or nano-business.

              Like the woman I met recently who makes cheesecakes, cakes, and other great desserts? She works out of her apartment right now, but is hoping to find a reasonably affordable storefront in the next year or so. Right now, she’s on… blogspot. She needs help, and I can give it to her. She probably can’t cut a huge check, I’m guessing. Let’s get the thing going, with the underlying code SEO-ready and friendly, get other 518-ers to link to you, get on Twitter, get moving. You can always build on it as long as the foundation is solid.

              On the other hand, there’s my brother, a jeweler. His site is going to cost him a bunch of money, and I’m not even charging for my wire-framing and UX work. Once we mock up the basic look and determine the interactions, I’m sending the PSD to a real wireframer to get it ready for the dev, who’s one of the best coders in the business. We’re talking with over a thousand SKUs and a lot of other fun stuff. I know when I’m over my head, but I also know enough to general contract the thing, and ask the right questions and make the right demands. My brother doesn’t.

              Apples and oranges.

  • Jerry McCarthy

    Wow! Sounds like you struck a nerve. To all the S.E.O. naysayers, truth shall come to the light because S.E.O. is no longer an option. To all the S.E.O. houses of the world, there’s a fine line between convincing and sorting. Amateurs convince, professionals sort. There’s nothing wrong with going the extra mile to explain S.E.O. but not to the extent that you’re pulling teeth, there will always be people so inflexible it becomes crippling.

    “For this is the tragedy of man-circumstances change, but he doesn’t.”

    • Tony Dimmock

      Very wise words, especially to smaller SEO agencies who can’t afford to mess around (as time = money). Thankfully, there are potential clients out there who are flexible, wanting only the results our hard work brings to their businesses. We just have to find them, without losing (too many) teeth :-)

  • Pam

    I am interested in getting my own SMB running, for extra income and as a possible off-shoot into getting better placed for my larger goal. I certainly understand the importance of having someone good at their job and that has a demonstrated track record of success able to help a business, large or small, become better at doing what they do.
    I will not profess to know SEO – I don’t, its not my business or background, and I don’t understand it. But I have met Lisa in person and talked with you, and seen your work and read your writing. You are a person of integrity, and you value that, bottom line, personally and professionally.
    Maybe that’s part of the core here. Some of the naysayers may just not be as committed to integrity as you and OSM are.
    Same as bullying (someone earlier mentioned it). A bully tries to make him or herself feel better, or elevate thier status, by trying to bring others down.
    We know it doesn’t work.
    As an uninformed, self-proclaimed non-techy, I say keep on keeping on!
    You’re good, OSM is good, and you ladies know it.

    • Tony Dimmock

      Here here! OSM, you have a truckload of followers – keep saying it how it is. Besides, the world is full of too much BS already. The truth really does set you free and people need to know what’s what.

  • Gary Sanchez

    I suspect that this isn’t so much an SEO issue with restauranteurs as it is a marketing issue with most small business owners. I agree with Elmer that many of these owners are being pitched with dozens of marketing “programs” from salespeople, and ideas from friends and family, including (as Lisa points out) Yellow Pages, sponsoring little league teams, and creating events to promote with flyers. The problem with this approach is that it’s not planned, it’s not strategic and it doesn’t make tradeoffs between limited resources because there is nobody with a dogged focus on growing revenues, the experience of having grown revenues, or the ability to design measurable marketing activities working for the business.

    Because SEO is often seen as mysterious and constantly changing with every Google update, and technical to the average small business owner, it’s HARD to know who has the business’ best interest in mind versus selling evergreen services that are hard to correlate to sales and that certainly don’t help cook more food, clean more dishes, serve more customers.

    People fear the unknown, whether it’s marketing strategy, marketing tactics or SEO and online ranting is merely a symptom of that. Keep teaching Lisa and you’ll continue to work with good clients instead of those who fear you. :)

  • April

    Very well said Pam!

  • Gordon Currie

    This is a great post as I think most developers and Internet Marketers run into this ALOT. I find that some businesses that have these attitudes are not looking at their business from the clients perspective. How many restaurant goer’s use Google? 90%+ And how many use mobile phones or read reviews? A pile! Knowing your target clientele and how they use search engines is critical to their success.

    Every day I hear people who feel the way some of your critics feel. They are NOT early adopters and simply are troubled as they likely don’t understand the technology. If I owned a restuarant, eventually I would add a twitter feed, a Facebook Page and hopefully optimize the SEO on my site, or hire someone.

    Many restaurant owners have been in the business a long time. And everyday the world changes and we all adapt. Or do we? Some folks simply can’t make that jump. Is it any wonder people go broke daily in that industry.

    SEO is simply a great tool to help promote the business. Period. You can either get onboard or not. If the food is good and there are lots of customers….awesome. But in todays HIGHLY competitive arena, getting that extra edge is key to success.



  • Troy Lightfield

    “We also received harsh criticism from a restaurant employee who let it be known that people who are actually working in a restaurant are too busy to worry about search engine optimization.”

    And I am too busy working on SEO so I pay you to feed me.
    Now you pay me to do search for you!

  • Robin Hodson

    A friend’s organisation’s website was broken, but they couldn’t see that. They wanted to know why hardly anyone was visiting. I made their pages validate, accessible, optimised graphics, registered with search engines etc etc and made sure not to alter the look & feel or essential content. They said “We’re not paying for this. It looks exactly the same as before.”

  • Jess Joyce

    Maybe it’s cause I’m reading it (again) but I really love Vanessa Fox’s book a lot in these situations in that your “online strategy IS your business strategy” and I truly believe that.
    I get people missing the terms that SEO/online marketers use but anyone missing that very high level & vital point is missing out and getting left behind.

  • Kyle Alm

    “I hear that in restaurants people spit in the food. ”

    It’s unfair to characterize an entire industry based on a few bad actors.

    “Why does you Macaroni & Cheese cost $8.95 when I can buy it the store for 5 for $10?”

    Free websites are worth it right? My Mac & Cheese cost more cause it’s better ok?

  • Michelle Lowery

    That’s ok, restaurants who think SEO is all BS. Don’t pay for it. Don’t do it. Just amuse yourselves with your flash presentations, and listen to that auto-play music you have on your site. I’m sure your competitors who ARE implementing SEO will appreciate your ignorance when they’re expanding and you’re struggling to bring in customers.

    • Tony Dimmock

      Michelle & all,
      The article, subsequent response and this thread has really struck a nerve.
      It always makes me laugh when I encounter SEO naysayers. To be a little controversial (I love that word!), I think part of the problem was the boom in website design in the 90’s and early 2000’s that focused so much on how it looked, not how it performed. And where clients willingly gave five figure (or more) sums to designers to get a “great looking” website developed. It’s only just recently (certainly within the current economic climate) that clients have had to re-educate themselves (or be re-educated if they’ll listen lol) on the importance of actually being found online. No matter how expensive or good looking a website is, if it ain’t found, it ain’t gonna bring in punters – simple as – and nowadays, this is a lesson being learned more the hard way than ever before.

  • rick glaser

    Lisa great article, and in my opinion these business owners are simply being stubborn when it comes to evolving with the latest (or not so latest) marketing outlets. They would never remove their listing from the yellow pages but will openly neglect the importance of SEO. The writing is on the wall, and it is now a fact, not an opinion that appearing in Google is of the utmost importance to restaurant owners.

    Much like your article about “it’s not the economy you just suck” these businesses will blame their future failure on easy scapegoats rather than their inability to evolve in their industry.

    Those businesses that are focusing their efforts on new tactics are quietly happy that their competition is being left in the past. They see the results and understand the value.

  • Shira

    I think the business owners have a point. They only have so much restaurant capacity and work only so many hours. If both of these are full due to hard work, good food and word of mouth – why should they invest in SEO? The odds are someone else has already reviewed them online and that review (assuming it’s a positive one) will do more for a restaurant than having their own website will. Furthermore, SEO is an ongoing cost. For an industry that has thin margins – that’s taking a serious cut from their profits.

    If a restaurant is not very good, the best SEO in the world will not fix the lack of repeat business (which is the bread and butter of the restaurant world – pun intended).

  • Kim M.

    Well first of all, you’ll never win over people who hate you for your follower count. Anyway …

    As someone not in the industry, but been exposed to enough of it from being your Sidekick, I think the best tactic is to present cases of poorly optimized websites (e.g. Cafe Caliente, Spill N Beans) vs a well designed and optimized site (e.g., DeFazio’s) within their specific industry. At least that is how my particular/peculiar brain works.

    No one is claiming that SEO should be *the* focus of a restaurant/what-have-you. But small businesses that do not have a detectable presence online are only hurting themselves, and it will only get worse. And no one is claiming that SEO is the way to get the word out about a business. But it *is* a very efficient way to provide a customer or potential customer w/ the information they want to know.

    The bottom line is this: If someone raves about a restaurant or bar, the first thing I do is google that shit. I will likely want to know where it is, what they serve, how much they charge, etc. And if they have live entertainment, I want access to the schedule. Yelp might provide some of that, but not all. But even so, shouldn’t a business control their information (and keep it up to date)?

    That was the point the naysayers missed because they got hung up on the title … of a post that was not written for the SEO-novice/restaurant owner. You wrote to your audience, like a good girl should.

    Oy. What a week!

  • Karan Gupta

    Awesome rebuttals lisa, this is kind of a situation people quite often come across these days, Restaurant need to read each and every line of this :P thanks for the wonderful post ;)

  • Anna

    Pearls before swine.

    You’re wasting your time trying to persuade them. Find clients that get it instead.


  • Laurie Holman

    Yep, I think you’re preaching to the choir on that one. Business owners who scoff at SEO clearly are insecure because they don’t really understand what it is and how it works. It’s kinda like those people who sneer at social media because they still think it’s all about 20-year-olds broadcasting stuff like, “I just peed, and it reminded me I had asparagus for dinner.”

  • Stuart Bazga

    In my personal experience these type of business fall into two categories, those who are ignorant of the facts and just need it explained to them (How SEO can actually attract more customers to their restaurant and “put more bums on seats”, so to say) and those business owners who know everything and will tell you so but are going broke due to lack of customers.

    The second group of people I steer well away from. It doesn’t matter how well you explain and show them how it works or what the statistic say, they are never going to listen.

  • Jim Kreinbrink

    Don’t let the turkeys get you down!

  • Kelli Wise

    I recommended that post in my blog last week because, while it was written about restaurants, it applies to any small, local business, including Massage Therapists. I get a lot of pushback from massage therapists about having a website, let alone SEO. “Oh,” they say, “I’m booked solid for 3 weeks and I don’t need more customers.” That’s great, but what about when the customer moves, dies, or runs out of money? How will you get new customers?

    SEO, like you said, isn’t about being smarmy or pushy, it’s about not shooting yourself in the foot. If you have a website, you’ve invested a lot of time, money, or both, so why not go the extra few steps and make that website useable, readable, informative, and findable.

    Then again, if you don’t want to do those things, I’m sure your competitors would be happy to take care of those lost prospects.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • Dick Baynham

    How do you deal with SEO Naysayers? You absorb their comments, patiently communicate in short sentences how SEO works and why it is important and you move on. You do this not just for their benefit (it’s always possible they are Luddites who are beyond help), but because others are watching and you need your company to be consistently seen as an approachable brand leader. Yes I know it’s hard. I talk to many CEOs who still think of their brand as their logo rather than an assessment of the attitudes that different stakeholders might feel about the customer experiences they offer. Surprisingly however, I find that by not treating small business operators who see brands in purely graphic terms as idiots and by explaining to them why needs to be much more than that, they occasionally turn into clients or refer my company on to others. Don’t beat them up Lisa. You’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re better than that.

    • Rohin Guha

      I totally agree with this. Unlike SMO, SEO just hasn’t had a sexy/glamorous way to connect to the mainstream. It hasn’t had Facebook/Twitter. It doesn’t find a way to be repurposed into lowbrow serials like ‘Gossip Girl’. This is why a restaurant worker might not understand it.

      I don’t think SEO is supposed to be as out there as SMO; after all, social media optimization is about being social…while the only socializing you might do with SEO is with search engines.

      You said it in the post–if SEO is being done right, no one sees the strings leading up to the puppetmaster.

      I think a basic step might be for SMBs like mom’n’pop restos to learn just how mired the search industry has become. And to realize that their competitors are already spending a fortune on search–which is no doubt impacting their potential market share.

  • Mike Feiman

    Lisa, one of the biggest reasons that people think SEO consultants are nothing but scammers and snake oil salesmen is the fact that there seems to be way more people who claim to be SEO experts who are in fact nothing more than scam artists. I can tell you that every week I get countless calls and emails from salespeople who claim they can make me #1 on xyz search term. As someone who’s worked in the online biz for over 15 years, I can typically weed out the boiler rooms from the real SEO folks, but most of the people you’re talking about cannot.

    Typically, they’ll bite once, pay the fee, see no results and be soured on SEO. Once you get snakebitten, the chances of you believing the SEO line drops dramatically, which then causes the blowback you’re describing above.

    As for the whole “voodoo” aspect of it, think about it this way. When I spend money on a PR firm, they can show me how many releases they’ve done for me, how many pickups, how many mentions my company has received in MSM. They are open about how they go about getting PR mentions. With SEO consultants though, they may point to increases in rankings, but when you ask them how they achieved it, it’s all “secret sauce”. The relationship is almost always “you pay me and I’ll get your site ranked higher. Don’t ask how, because I’m not going to tell you, just be happy with the fact that you moved up, and don’t forget to send me the retainer check”. Hell, if you go to the doctor, the doc is going to tell you how they’re going to fix your ailments. They’re not just going to say “write me a check and you’ll be better”.

    The reality is that the SEO industry has a bad rep for a reason and talking about how stupid or ignorant people are who don’t hire SEOs just perpetuates the rep.

  • Chris

    RE: “Best practice search engine optimization is not about tricks or manipulating users or engines. It’s simply about creating usable Web sites that real people can and will want to interact with.”

    I’d personally say that these both fall under the category of usability and accessibility. Both very important areas, and both worth fixing on any website.

    I think the big problem is that ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ is such a poorly defined term. It *can* mean spamming and it *can* mean just changing the meta data. It depends who is defining it. Most people just define it as going up the SERPs by any means possible.

    If your service includes usability, accessibility and PR, then that is a great service and I’d say you are underselling it by just calling it SEO, but I’ve met so many SEOs who cannot answer very basic questions about the way search engines work.

    It is far too easy to blind people with science when it comes to SEO, and so that does attract a lot of snake oil salesmen.

  • Mitch Bartlett

    When it comes to the ego comments, true SEO experts like yourself get lumped in with the thousands of wannabes you’ll find on Twitter. Hence the criticism. Ignore them and move along. Keep doin, what youz doin!

  • Ana

    Since I specialize in just a few local niches it is easy for me to show a prospect actual results in the form of web visitors converting to phone calls. In addition, they can contact any of my previous customers that are in their same niche. If they need more than that to realize SEO is NOT a business option then I just move on their competition:) Bottom line I want to work with business owners that get it.