No, local search pros aren’t doctors (and no, we don’t even play them on TV). I can’t tell you how to diagnose an autoimmune disease or remedy overbite. It’s probably better that way – at least until I do some serious studying.
But I can tell you there’s at least one way in which a local-search specialist should be more like a doctor: vowing to “do no harm.”
You know, as in that most-famous part of the Hippocratic Oath that states that a doctor above all must never worsen the patient’s health.
People’s lives or health may not depend on local-search pros (online visibility and ability to attract local customers, maybe). But, like doctors, our first obligation is not to screw things up.
“Do no harm” means a lot of things. But one thing it means is you don’t attempt some unnecessarily daring procedure that might cause your patient to keel over – or your client’s business to go “poof.” There’s no place for ego trips. (More on this in a second.)
It also means you must always communicate – so that your patients or clients have some idea of what you’re doing, know what they might need to do personally, know what all their options are, can ask questions, or tell you to stop.
My Ancient Greek is a touch rusty, so here – in plain old English – is an oath I think every local-search professional should live by:
(This applies most strongly to Google Places work, but also to any other kind of local-search campaign.)
A Local Search Pro’s Oath
- I will not create my clients’ Google Places or other business listings using my email address. I will also voluntarily tell my clients the login info for any business listings or other accounts I set up for them. They need full access and control, regardless of how long we work together. (A patient needs the ability to refuse treatment.)
- I will never post reviews for my clients. It’s dishonest, and it backfires because customers are good at detecting fake or shill reviews. (The doctor can’t make a lifestyle change for a patient, no matter how hard it may be for the patient to do so.)
- I will not “stuff” keywords into the business listings or the website in order to rank well for those terms. I will explain that it’s nearly impossible to rank well for every desired search term, and that greedy, simplistic attempts at doing so always backfire – either by resulting in penalties or by making the website un-customer-friendly, or both. (The doctor should avoid risks whenever possible.)
- I will not put plagiarized, spun, overly-keyword-dense, or other garbage content on my clients’ websites in order to reach a certain keyword-density or get links. Doing so may incur penalties from search engines and, worse, can repulse potential customers. (The doctor needs to consider dosage and side-effects.)
- I will ask my clients to help with the things I simply can’t do myself. Like owner-verifying on certain third-party sites, updating the website if I don’t have FTP access, or asking customers for reviews. (The doctor can provide the medicine, but the patient still has to take it.)
- I will tell my clients specifically what I did, am doing, or plan to do to make their businesses more visible to local customers. I’ll volunteer this; I’ll let them tell me whether the details don’t matter. (The doctor should explain what the treatment is.)
Who administers the Oath? If you’re a competent, honest local-search professional, you administer the Oath to yourself. If you’re the business owner and you’re looking for help with local search, make sure the person you’re considering knows his / her obligations to you (i.e. all the above).
A doctor probably isn’t very good if her patients have to come in every week for the rest of their lives. Likewise, your ultimate goal should be for your clients not to need you.
Sure, you want to be the one your clients come to for help. Sure, you want to do a good job and profit by helping them profit. If you’re any good, you help give your clients at least one missing piece of the local-marketing puzzle – better visibility in local search – which is likely all they need. But you don’t try to turn yourself into the piece, any more than a good doctor would try to claim “I am the cure for your ills.” That’s what separates professionals from parasites.