Forming a partnership to deliver Search Engine Optimisation services (SEO) to your clients demonstrates your commitment to providing access to a vital range of techniques that ensure their online presence is taken to the top of the search engine rankings.
Search engines drive the world-wide-web, dominated by Google, Yahoo and MSN who account for 70% of all searches and how you rank in them dictates the traffic visiting your site and ultimately the revenue generated. Clients with an online presence that is not optimized for the search engines will simply be ignored by prospective customers looking for their products and services, unless they rank on the first page of a search a prospective customer is unlikely to find their site at all. If you rank on page 3 or less, your online presence may as well be a billboard in the middle of the Sahara.
Affiliate programs provide a potentially lucrative partnership for referring clients for SEO services with a commission structure based upon the level of referrals. You benefit not only from generating an untapped source of revenue from your clients but also from an enhanced perception of your ability to deliver immediate and continuing business results that are simply and easily demonstrated and measured.
As e-commerce continues to gain momentum and acceptance, and we are nowhere near the potential that has yet to be unleashed, businesses have to look to where their future customers are going to come from. I recall reading something recently that made the glib comment “NBC is laying off people as fast as Google is hiring them” and this reflects the economic reality that increasingly consumers are turning to the internet to source products and services, and of those who do; a majority are using search engines such as the Big 3 to find suppliers.
Something else that is coming out of the empirical research on who is doing what, where, when and why on the internet is that consumers not necessarily looking for e-commerce sites when they are searching – very often a search will be “Attorney Daytona” or “Plumber Binghamton” – what almost three quarters of consumers are doing is searching for a service that is local to them so they can make direct contact and obtain a quick divorce or fix the leaky bathroom (source Kelsey Group).
This is all great news for local business as hardcopy media is overtaken by the adoption of the internet as a means for obtaining information. So for those who provide businesses with support and professional services, there is a window of opportunity to add value to existing relationships by forming a partnership with an SEO provider affiliate program.
So this all sounds great and fantastic, where do I sign up?
Not so fast, let’s take a look at the market and see what is currently on offer and let’s also take look at some of the do’s and don’ts. Simply placing “SEO reselling” into your search engine will uncover a list as long as Route 66 of SEO service providers and some form of affiliate marketing or reselling program. The reason for this is simple, over 50% of internet traffic is generated by the search engines and consumers are using search engines to source products and services more than any other form of online marketing activity.
What you will find is dazzling array of SEO providers, but first you need to exercise a degree of simple business common sense. Keep to the forefront of your mind that if you are going to partner with an SEO as an affiliate they are going to be delivering a service to your business customers who will be relying on the relationship they have with you to stop them from being oversold, overpriced and avoid failure of service delivery – their success will give you credit but failure can be damning.
First principle, identify an SEO with a market reputation that stands up – any SEO will be quite happy to provide you with references and a detailed schedule of the services they provide with a clear charging structure for work performed. If they can’t or won’t, avoid them like the plague, if they can’t provide basic supporting collateral to you as a potential business partner what will they be like let loose on your customers?
There are also some unethical SEO techniques which companies may use that you should be aware of. Methods such as using link farms, “hidden” text where the printed content is the same color as the background and even some tactics take a user to a webpage completely different from the one they wished. These techniques are referred to as “Black Hat” and search engines may penalize a site that uses such methods or eliminate them from the search engine altogether – in February 2006, Google removed BMW and Ricoh in Germany for use of deceptive Black Hat practices.
A “White Hat” practice refer to techniques that are not considered to be unethical or deceptive and conforms to the guidelines and terms of service as laid down by the search engines themselves. White Hat is about providing content for site users not for search engines per se and promotes accessibility and usability of a client site.
Make yourself aware of exactly what SEO methods are being delivered by an affiliate program before you commit to signing up to it. The decision to use Black or White Hat methods revolves around your sense of ethics and your own view of your business reputation.
The affiliate programs that are available all appear to be embryonic at this stage; this is an immature concept for which it is highly likely we will see continuing development. Some affiliate programs are free requiring minimal registration while at the other extreme fees of $750.00 can be charged before you can refer potential clients to them. I have even seen one program that simply states we have no affiliate program but will pay 15% commission on any referral.
This leads onto the topic of money and payment for client referrals. How much can be made out of SEO reselling. Clearly there is an opportunity to add value to existing client relationships by SEO reseller affiliation but the remuneration and commissions do vary though the average appears to be something between 5% to 15%. Volume of referrals and type of referrals also factor heavily in the commission structures, with high volumes attracting greater levels of commission and bonus payments as does the ability to refer larger sites and online enterprises as opposed to a local restaurant downtown.
There is a wide discrepancy in the quality of SEO providers, not only between those who practice Black and White Hat processes, but in the ability to appreciate that SEO is not a simple, single skill set that operates on a stand alone basis. SEO providers who genuinely practice a holistic marketing methodology are actually few and far between. Such holistic SEO practitioners believe that search engine marketing is actually part of a larger range of online marketing methods that need to be combined and tailored to suit the business goals of the client. The SEO affiliate programs available vary widely in the apparent ability of the offerings to deliver services alongside SEO such as public relations activities, email campaigns, blog consulting, web trends, and online media buying.
Clearly SEO affiliate programs will develop and the market will respond to the good and the bad, but in the interim arm yourself with at least a basic understanding of what SEO consultants do and the value added they can provide.