Can SEO Work Too Well?

by Bill Link

Is it possible for search engine optimization to work too well?

It would seem so, at least according to one former client. He made it clear that he wanted his phone to stop ringing and that he blamed me for causing the unwelcome disruption caused by the steady flow of prospective new customers.

Does SEO Work

Too many calls, not enough cars to go around

I’m not making this up. This guy was genuinely angry at me because I had built and optimized a page on his website for the latest model of hybrid/electric car that was due to arrive on his lot in about 45 days.

The manufacturer had already begun a media blitz for the car and there was quite a buzz about the new technology it incorporated. It seemed prudent to make sure my client was taking advantage of that global buzz by leveraging local search marketing techniques.

It worked. Within about a week, the new page was at the top of results when someone searched for that model of car in the Des Moines area.

The problem, as he saw it, was that he didn’t have the cars right now, so he didn’t want to be bothered by people who wanted one until he had them in inventory.

I laughed politely when he told me this over the phone. I thought he was kidding. He must be kidding.

He wasn’t kidding.

He explained that his first-shipment allotment of the new model was only two units and he had already “pre-sold” those. He didn’t know how soon he’d be getting more in, so he didn’t want to talk to people who interested in buying them until he knew when they would be available.

I choked on my tongue as quietly as possible before asking what I thought were some reasonable questions:

Me: Well, you already sold the two you know you’re getting. And you will be getting more units in eventually, right?

Car Dealer: Yes, but the factory won’t put a date on it.

Me: Will any of your competitors be getting the cars sooner than you?

Car Dealer: No way! I’ll either get them first, or we’ll get them at the same time.

Me: And people are calling asking about the car – wanting to buy one?

Car Dealer: Yes, that’s the problem. People want to buy it, but I don’t have it to sell.

Me: They’re not interested in a similar model?

Car Dealer: There aren’t any similar models. That’s why everyone is so worked up over this one.

Me: So, people want this car, won’t even consider an alternative, and you’ll have the cars available as soon or sooner than any other dealer in the area?

Car Dealer: Yes, but I don’t have them now so I don’t want to take a bunch of phone calls about them. I actually had one person come into the dealership because he thought we already had them in stock.

Me: That’s just awful.

Car Dealer: I know.

The conversation sort of trailed off from there. He spent a few minutes insisting that I take the page down immediately and not put it back up until the new cars were on the lot and ready to be delivered.

I offered token resistance, but ultimately acquiesced. It is his website, after all.

Today, when I search for that model of car in this area, my former client is no longer at the top of the results.

Nonetheless, I have no doubt that they’ll sell the new models as soon as they’re available. It really is a remarkable new car.

But I still shake my head at the missed opportunity and fundamental misunderstanding of simple marketing principles. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to measure the loss.

Or am I the one that is misunderstanding? This particular car dealer didn’t want to be bothered to build a call list of clients who were anxious to buy a unique product that he would have available very soon.

How would you handle the same scenario in your business? If I could help you tap into the buzz about a new product that isn’t quite available yet, would you ask me to stem the flow, or would you find a way to connect with those consumers so they’d buy from you when the product lands? How would you connect with them?

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