Imagine this. You go to a fitness instructor and tell them that you want to lose weight. They say no problem, and immediately set you up with a regime of gut busting exercises and a power diet plan without asking why you want to lose weight and what you hope the overall results to be. Do you think that, in the end, the instructor will be able to get the results for you?
The reason why I ask this is because we as SEO's assume a lot. We assume that we already know the solution to a business' problems without fully understanding that this isn't a cookie cutter world ; every business that you deal with has their own unique set of problems, challenges and desires.
SEO marketers live in two worlds. In the world we are most comfortable in, we talk about schema data, long tail keywords, user agents and IP sniffing. We can chatter on about source code, search bots and marketing funnels.
And then there is the rest of the world. This world is seemingly simpler. Can you make us rank for name-of-keyword-here.?
A responsible SEO knows that this isn't normally a cut and dry answer. And more often than not, what the client wants versus how they think they are going to accomplish it are 2 totally different things.
Sometimes, it takes a bit of digging to figure out exactly what it is they are really asking for.
That's the question you should ask your client and often. Because, beyond thinking that you are going to be able to help them get more leads, they don't really know how to get there. And for the majority of businesses, their sources of how it works (beyond you) may not be giving credible information in regards to their business and how the web really works.
In some cases, the client has a rudimentary view of what something will do for them that needs to be explored by the marketer. For instance, they may want more traffic but what do they really want beyond that? By exploring the question, you can get a more accurate picture into what they are asking for and give them a solution or two into how they can accomplish this.
Sometimes the solution goes beyond ranking in search
I think that it is important here to say that an SEO's job is no longer limited to simply ranking keywords and fixing infrastructure setbacks. In some ways, social media awareness can be the better and more practical solution to getting faster results. Conversion levels matter.
In other cases, other ad mediums may be a better solution to leveraging link acquisition and affect the bottom line immediately.
Asking why helps the online marketer understand what the business really wants but just as important, it helps the business understand what the marketer can do for them and in what time frame.
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