Marketing Guides

SEO is a scam.

SEO has a bad reputation. So if your SEO proposal resulted in your boss sending you back to your desk with a scowl and strains of Joan Jett in your head, there’s probably one of two reasons for this:

  • They’ve read too much about SEO’s tainted past, or
  • They’ve been burned by SEO – specifically a bad SEO company – in the past.

Once someone has a bad experience with SEO, it’s hard to change their mind. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, changing your boss’s mind about SEO being a scam, ripoff, or form of snake oil is for their own good.

Every Business Website Needs Some Level of SEO

Years ago, before websites weren’t commonplace and not every business had an online presence, SEO hadn’t yet become a necessity. Businesses were able to rank in Google searches by the sheer virtue of showing up. Even after more websites started to appear, Google search results were notoriously easy to manipulate: if you wanted to rank for “appliance store,” all you had to do was stuff that phrase into your copy a few dozen times.

Things have changed since then, though, and the number of websites on the Internet is now unfathomable. Competition is enormous, and it takes a lot to reach the first page of search results – much less #1. Additionally, search engines now rely on complex algorithms that rank websites based on far more than how many times they use a keyword.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows this, and that’s what leads some to think that SEO is still a form of snake oil involving keyword stuffing, link buying, and other shady activities. Just type “SEO is” into Google and you’ll probably get results much like these:

What people think of SEO

The thing is, most of these opinions stem from common misconceptions about how SEO actually works. Because of SEO’s shady past, many business owners hold the opinion that the practice still involves shady, “black hat” activities that will put them at risk for a penalty of some kind. But the truth is that modern SEO is as “white hat” as it comes – and those who practice it want nothing to do with the methods that were once commonplace.

The current reality is this: every business needs some level of SEO to compete. Even massively popular websites that naturally attract links or receive millions of visits a day have a team dedicated to their SEO. That’s because their owners know just how competitive the online landscape really is. They know that SEO is about a multitude of factors, not just a few. And they know that SEO is always changing, which requires them to be ready to change with it.

To really compete online, no matter how big your business or popular your website is, you need SEO. That’s why your new mission is to change your boss’s mind about the subject.

Explaining the Value of SEO

You probably already know that SEO has merit, and that the methods used have evolved. But how do you convince your boss that SEO has changed, that it’s immensely valuable, and that you really do need it to meet your online marketing goals?

To convince your boss that SEO has value, you’ll first need to show them that the practice has changed. One of the best ways you can do this is to show them an updated list of SEO best practices from an official source... and who better than Google?

Try these on for size:

Google’s documentation is very clear about what they consider an appropriate course of action to improve a website’s ranking, as well as what they consider inappropriate. You’ll probably notice that they emphasize high quality content more than anything else, and have thorough lists of tactics to avoid.

Typically, hearing this advice straight from the horse’s mouth is enough to convince most decision makers that SEO isn’t what it used to be. But you’ll still be left with the challenge of explaining why SEO will be worth it for your website.

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of articles out there offering to explain why SEO is worth it, but they may not apply to your specific business, situation, or marketing goals. So to explain the potential value of search engine optimization for your website, consider leveraging this one important factor: the value of higher rankings.

The value of ranking higher on Google


A study by Chitka on the approximate amount of traffic that goes to each position of the results for any given query in Google showed that the top result gets more than 30% of the clicks. The second result gets about 17%, the third gets 11%, and so on.

Let’s say that right now, you rank tenth for the keyword most relevant to your products or services. On average, you get about 2.4% of the traffic for that keyword. Consider what would happen if you moved to the sixth spot and nearly doubled it... or to the third spot and more than tripled it... or even got to the first spot?

Here’s some food for thought: if, through the use of SEO, you could move from tenth to first for just one search query, you would receive about 1,250% more traffic.

Let’s break that down into hard numbers. Let’s say you know that you get about 100 visitors per week for a specific page or keyword that ranks in the tenth spot. Your average order value is $40, and your conversion rate is 5%. So right now, this page is theoretically making you about $200 per week (5 people spending $40 each).

If that page jumped up to the first spot, you’d be looking at about 1,250% more visitors per week, or 125,000 people (wow!). Assuming nothing else changes and the traffic for this keyword is high, 125,000 visitors at a 5% conversion rate, and a $40 average order value, is $250,000 (6,250 people spending $40 each). Even if your conversion rate dropped to 2%, you’d still be looking at $100,000; at 1%, $50,000.

Just like that, SEO helped our theoretical business go from making hundreds of dollars to thousands. And that’s just for one page or keyword.

Try plugging some of your own data into these equations, if you have it. What would a 1,250% increase in website traffic do for your profits or leads?

What if Your Boss Had a Bad Experience with an SEO Company?

Sometimes, the problem isn’t that your boss doubts the effectiveness of SEO. They may assume it works, or even know it has merit. But they may have worked with an SEO consultant or company in the past that they had a bad experience with, and now they’re reluctant to try the process again.

We run into this a lot. Sometimes the SEO company in question promised “quick results” that weren’t delivered, or sometimes they relied on black hat or outdated methods that resulted in a penalty or even lower rankings than before. We definitely understand that it’s hard to trust an SEO company once you’ve had a bad experience with one!

The key to changing your boss’s mind, if they’ve had a bad experience with SEO prior to this, will be showing them that not every company is the same. One of the best ways to do this is by thoroughly vetting the companies or consultants you want to work with, and finding those that come highly recommended with testimonials, reviews, and plenty of widely available customer feedback.

The more reviews and testimonials you can show to your boss, the more likely they are to change their mind. It may also help if you can get them on the phone with a company or two, so they can hear for themselves how they would approach SEO for your specific situation, what methods they use, and so on.

Objection 1: "What is SEO, exactly?"                Objection 3: "We can't afford that!"