Advertising vs. Marketing and My Hyprocrisy

Let me just put this right out there up front- I hate, loathe, detest, want to burn with fire all advertising. The constant bombardment of all of my senses from advertisers hustling their cheesy wares really grates on my nerves; and the ubiquity of ugly, inane and stupid advertising makes it really hard to get away from. I think Philip J. Fry put it best-

Leela: “Didn’t you have ads in the 21st century?”

Fry: “Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio, and in magazines, and movies, and at ball games… and on buses and milk cartons and t-shirts, and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams, no siree.”

Advertising is everywhere; you can’t get away from it. It’s probably realistically the only thing keeping the US Post Office open. I seriously can’t stand it. I watch all of my TV on DVR, even eschewing live sports because I hate the commercials- I mean come on, the end of an NBA game is mostly just commercials! I run AdBlock on my computer because I have never once been enticed to buy a product through a banner or Facebook or Google Search PPC ad and I don’t want the intrusion of the ads. I don’t listen to commercial radio in the car; I listen to my iPod. I loathe the fact that my 4-year-old comes home from a day of lax television supervision at Grandpas and all of a sudden wants every stupid toy she saw a commercial for, or starts spouting off product information and taglines for products that I’m not even aware of! What the hell is Fantasticaboom, anyway? I don’t like shopping brick and mortar because of the hard sales pitch- I mean, when I go to a store for a $7 tube of moisturizer, I shouldn’t have to turn down two sales pitches- THOSE ARE 3 FOR $18 SIR AND HOW ABOUT A PUFFY THINGIE TO WASH YOUR NASTY SELF WITH- and an offer to join their rewards club.  I already did my research at home, Mr. Salesman, and I know what I want, and I don’t window shop or partake in retail therapy- in fact, the only reason I’m probably even in your brick and mortar store is that I couldn’t buy whatever I came here for online, or because it was prohibitively expensive to ship. Going to get an oil change for my car makes my skin crawl because I know how hard they are going to push every other service that supports the one I went in for and I have a tough time saying no to people, which puts me on edge, which makes me act like a jerk because I don’t like being pigeonholed, and an oil change is them getting you right where they want you. I suppose I could learn to change my own oil, couldn’t I? But the point is; I don’t like people pushing stuff on me.

That makes me the world’s biggest hypocrite, right? Hating advertising but working in Internet marketing? I’m going to argue that no, it doesn’t, really- because I work in Search. I work to position companies at the top of the relevant search result when people are specifically seeking out information about their products. I see my job as positioning my client in the best possible spot to be found by the best possible qualified consumer. This makes my job hard sometimes- it means that I may have clients with money to spend but unrealistic goals, in which case my job is to inform them that I can’t take their money; and why.  It’d be easier and more lucrative to just offer up some nice platitudes about work we can do and progress we can make but at the end of the day if the ROI doesn’t at least match (and hopefully drastically outpace) the spend then there’s no value to the client- and I see it as my job to let them know at the outset if they are wasting their time or not. Many SEOs and firms will take money from anyone, regardless of their marketing goals or savvy-but it’s a responsible marketer’s job to let the client know when their expectations are ridiculous.

I don’t think that linkbuilding is SEO. I don’t think that affiliate marketing is SEO. I don’t think that anything but doing keyword research, creatively putting together a strategy leading to a package of options for the client to use, then implementing best practices and continuing to build good content and engage socially on an ongoing basis are SEO. Any tricks, or short-term wins, or “hacks”; anything that doesn’t add transparent, long-term value to the clients brand, is not SEO. It’s desperation or almost worse- laziness.

In the past, I’ve worked with two types of salespeople. There were the slicker-than-pigeon-shit guys who priced their SEO campaigns for clients at whatever the client would be willing and able to pay- I think plumbers call that car-in-the-driveway pricing, without considering whether or not they were a well qualified client and we’d actually be able to help them meet their marketing goals. I see these guys as the Affiliate Marketers of the world, making a buck on Google’s back and crying every time they twiddle the dials and their lazy asses have to actually do some work. These are the guys that just say “well buy ’em some more links then” when clients aren’t satisfied with their campaign’s performance. Then, there were the desperate hangers-on, so incredibly anxious to make sales because they needed the money personally that they would promise clients the world to get them to sign on the dotted line, and then throw the SEO account manager under the bus when their ridiculous and impossible goals weren’t met; refusing to take any responsibility for not getting to know the client and their goals thoroughly before getting them to sign at the dotted line. These are the guys that say “just can’t understand why that client left, shucks, well, on to the next one”- they see their job as keeping the pipeline full at the top, rather than bringing in any quality clients. A good SEO client is a partnership; and a good SEO treats the client’s site as they would their own.

I have recently had the pleasure of working with a third type of salesperson- they type that does their job well, taking weeks or months- in extreme cases, years- to qualify a client, communicating clearly with the client, researching their needs, writing a throughtful proposal (it doesn’t hurt that the guys I work with now are former SEOs and as such have an actual understanding of what they are selling, imagine that)- and showing the client the long term value to their brand. These are the types of people I want to work with both professionally and in real life.

Because that’s not advertising, that’s providing a real service. Ask yourself when you sit down to service your client’s site- are you just trying to retain your client another month, or are you trying to provide them with real, actual value? If it’s the first; you’re probably in the wrong game.

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