Where Does SEO Responsibility End?

Matt Davies, faithful reader of this blog (or stalker) and SEO/music guru brought up a really good point in a comment about one of my postswhere does the responsibility of an SEO begin and end?

I’ve had as many bad customer service experiences as anyone else, although to hear me talk about them, you’d think that I never received anything even remotely resembling good service. I do enjoy hyperbole. Anyway, a well known women’s unmentionables company whose name I shan’t mention (although the initials are the same as the 2 first initials of a famous writer born in Trinidad to parents of Northern Indian ancestry) almost seriously shafted me on some really nice knickers, and I am not one bit happy with the way this was handled. Thankfully, in the end (HA!!! I mean come on that was a good one…) I did indeed receive them, but it cost me quite a bit of aggravation.

Now, admittedly, I did not use any sort of search engine ANYTHING to find the aforementioned knickers, but here’s my rationale for discussing this…the site is quite visible in the SERPs, the usability seemed just lovely, and the ordering process was nice and painfree. It was only after these idiots somehow managed to lose my order and fail to provide me with my customer number (needed to login to check order status, which strangely enough did not allow me to actually see anything other than that, indeed, my order had shipped.) And, worst of all, there was no actual tracking on the shipment on their website. In this day and age, that’s simply quite unacceptable.

Obviously you don’t see this kind of issue until you’ve placed your order and attempted to track it. I’d had one horrendous experience ordering boots from a well-known site that also didn’t provide order tracking functionality, and I have never ordered from them again. I certainly will never order from the knickers site again, even if I CAN get 3 pairs for $25. SEO couldn’t have saved this, you see. And the responsibility of an SEO most likely would have ended well before these issues occurred.

With that in mind, really, what IS the responsibility of an SEO on a site that offers something tangible to a searcher? Years ago, as I’ve mentioned, I (perhaps erroneously) assumed that my job was to get the user to the site. I had nothing whatsoever to do with what happened after the click occurred in the SERPs. That was kind of nice, actually, since I could easily relieve myself of the responsibility of converting the user. Now, however, I think that it’s definitely a part of my job to lead the user to the most relevant landing page, make all the buttons and links visible and user-friendly, and work my arse off when paid ads don’t have a good ROI. Well, I should say that this is what I do when I’m well-paid…otherwise, I really do nothing but lead the horse to water but that’s a funding issue. You get what you pay for you know.

It’s now my job to pore over the web analytics, too, to figure out what information is useful to help me make the site owner more and more money. Usability is a major concern, and I’ll definitely keep the main principles in mind when doing my work. However, when your customer service sucks or you don’t provide a basic service AFTER the fact, how is that my problem? It should be my problem, since if this is happening with great frequency, it’s going to lead to fewer return sales unless your site sells something designed specifically for hardcore masochists. However, honestly, is something that occurs after a conversion an SEO’s responsibility? Is brand reputation now mine as well?

I think it is, sadly. While I’d love to say that no, it’s not, I think that I’d be remiss not to worry about things like this. I could be alone in my constant desire to find something to bitch about, but based simply on the people that I encounter daily, I don’t think that I am. When I told a few friends about my horrendous knicker debacle, after inquiring about exactly what type I bought, most said simply “blog about it” and here you go…that edict is springing from the lips (and fingers) of everyone these days.

Obviously I’m a seriously classy and high end type of woman, or else I’d be calling these people out on their shoddy system publicly without resorting to literary references. Oh, and remember that the products DID eventually show up, which softened the blow a bit. Still, it was a dreadful experience waiting, with baited breath, every day by the window, for the postal worker to show up empty-handed. The Country Curtains catalog just wasn’t enough for me.

With all this being said, and quite lengthily, for which I apologize, what do you think IS your realm of responsibility with regards to SEO? Where does it end, do you see its circle continue to widen, and what effect will this type of thing have as we move farther away from actual on-page factors?

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