Framing is when you use language to set the agenda.
Framing is short for “frame of reference”, meaning “a set of ideas, conditions, or assumptions that determine how something will be approached, perceived, or understood”.
This is a very important concept in marketing, and business in general. By using an appropriate frame of reference, you can manage how people perceive you.
Seo Is Spam?
For example, “SEO Is Spam” is a frame. It defines the terms of the debate ie. SEO is either spam or not spam. Would we frame the couriers this way? Couriers are spammers? Why do the terms “SEO” and “spam” necessarily go together?
They don’t. That’s a deliberate construct.
SEO is spam/not spam is an attempt to frame SEO as undesirable by associating SEO with a pre-existing pejorative term. That frame came from the search engines, and it has stuck with the industry since the days of Infoseek.
Some SEOs have contributed, too, of course, but it has served the search engines well. No matter what side of that debate SEOs take, they have already lost. They’ve been forced to argue within a negative framework.
Google AdWords is Spam?
Nobody really frames it this way, but time and again studies have proven that the paid search results are FAR riskier/spammier than the organic search results:
Since SiteAdvisor’s inception, sponsored links have always included more dangerous sites than organic search results—8.5 percent in last year’s survey.
The ads should be easier to police than the web as a whole because they represent a much smaller set of pages & Google has the credit card information of those advertisers. But it turns out that if you add in a bit of payment the definition of spam changes. –>
Getting The Frame Wrong
My personal view if that if you start by framing your SEO service solely in terms of ethics, you’re probably losing business.
It’s a red-flag.
Potential clients would undoubtedly see such a frame in terms of “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Would you trust a car dealer who, upon meeting you, launched into a long explanation of why car dealers have a bad reputation, but he’s not like the other dealers, no sir? Why even bring it up? I’d think that he was trying too hard, and really all I’m interested in is buying a car.
Sell me on that instead.
It’s the same with potential SEO customers. What are they really looking for? Once you’ve answered this question, then you can begin to work on your frame.
How To Construct Beneficial Frames
Politicians use frames all the time.
For example, Al Gore framed the environmental issue as “man made global warming.” Bush re-framed it as “climate change.” Those different frames imply different things. One implies “we can do something about an impending disaster by changing our habits”, the other frames man in a passive role, because climate change is a natural occurrence.
Both those frames supported the underlying political message.
Same goes with business.
Marketers know that the way a statement is framed influences how customers respond to it. Tell a group of base jumpers that 1% of all base jumpers die horrible deaths, and you’ll get few people signing up. However, tell them that 99% live, and it sounds a whole lot more appealing.
A friend of mine told about how he handled an irate customer by carefully framing his response in terms of options. The customer hadn’t received his goods – although they had been sent out – and was quite angry about it. My friend listened to the problem, and rather than debate about shipping delays, the offensive language of the customer, and other factors, he replied “I hear you. You’ll get one of two things – a complete refund, or a replacement package sent overnight delivery. I just need to find out which option you want”.
The customer, given a limited frame, calmed down, opted for the replacement package, and later published an article in, using this story as a great example of customer service. He also became a repeat customer. Using options can be a great way to frame, although care must be taken to present options that are meaningful. Trying to force people to take options they don’t actually want, won’t work.
SEOBook isn’t framed in terms of individuality, ethics, or morality. It is framed as a community-based SEO training site that will help you learn, rank and dominate. There are also mentions of exclusivity, and frequent explanations of value. This is what customers want, and Aaron frames the service in terms of these needs.
So when you’re pitching your goods or services, think carefully about the frame of reference.
Make it positive. Make sure it resonates i.e it touches on attributes the customer actually wants. If the customer perceives widespread dodgy practices, then it is a good idea to address them, but be reluctant about framing your service in such a way to everyone. No good comes from starting on the back-foot.
A good way to frame an SEO business is to talk about solving problems and providing benefits i.e. lack of traffic/more traffic, lack of business/more business, lack of exposure/more exposure etc.
Let this flow through into the language you use. And the language you avoid.
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