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SEO Honesty, Part I: Business Owners Should Be Honest Dungeon Masters

Dungeons and Dragons RPG Dice

Many businesses make it a priority to ensure customers and clients do not know what happens behind the scenes. While in many instances this practice benefits the customers — no one wants to see how hot dogs are made — in others, it is completely unfair.

Aside from ethics, such business models can hurt your abilities to scale in the long run, in addition to harming your online visibility. Google has a vested interest in delivering quality search results, after all, so businesses that engage in low-quality or outright deceptive web page copywriting will be punished and have their pages made harder to find online.

Even more concerning is that your online reputation management can become constantly engaged in “damage control” mode, causing unneeded stress and resource consumption. Just as they say “if you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember what you said,” so is it true in the business world that “if you don’t lie, you don’t have to spend extra money to deal with the consequences.”

If these truisms aren’t compelling enough, then consider the following geeky but appropriate metaphor:

Being a Business Owner Is a Lot Like Being a Dungeon Master

Running a business is sometimes like running a Dungeons & Dragons game. (Stick with us, we promise this is going somewhere.) In Dungeons & Dragons tabletop games, all the participants but one get to pretend that they are powered-up, fantasy realm versions of themselves. They go on an imaginary journey that can bring them even more power, riches and glory.

The remaining participant is not a player, but is rather the “Dungeon Master” — or DM — who comes up with scenarios for the players to conquer while helping process all the math and dice rolls that determine the outcomes of the player’s decisions. The job of the DM is to ensure that the players are challenged but still feel like they are making progress. Most critically, the DM must hide behind her or his cardboard screen and never break the illusion that the players are actually in control.

That last bit is where the business metaphor kicks in. Customers often visit business websites and are sold on this fantasy version of a journey where they get benefits that implicitly translate to fame, riches and happiness. The employee or business owner as DM sometimes feels responsible for guiding customers along this journey without letting them peek behind the screen to see what they are really up to. An example would be a landscaping company that promises lush, fertile lawns, only to add some sod patches, a few azaleas and spray some nitrogen fertilizer everywhere.

Depending on how they “pitched” their business offerings, this service may differ greatly from what they hinted at online. If they showed example project photos that were atypical, such as a several thousand dollar commercial contract or (gasp!) a picture of some other company’s work, then that promise was deceptive. If they showed a range of offerings, indicating that projects can adapt to fit the customer’s budget, then the slipshod sod job was not deceptive.

Dungeons and Dragons Stone TrollsThe point is to genuinely give customers control over their outcome by presenting an accurate representation of services. Either indicate explicitly what they will receive, or offer a range of price points and project scopes that indicate a wide spectrum of possible outcomes. Don’t be a tricky DM. Don’t promise a cave full of gold only to say “actually, that shipment can’t be handled because a troll is blocking our way, so you are going to have to accept a lesser product.”

Honesty in services is rule #1 for conducting business, both online and in-person.

Examples of Being a Tricky DM

The following tactics can be found in person-to-person interactions, but when used in online website copy they can be particularly damning:

  • Bait-and-switch tactics: offering services that clearly give the advantage to the customer, only to offer something less generous and claim you can’t deliver on the original promise.
  • Deceptive pricing models: Concealing how you determine charges, so that the customer never knows how much they will end up paying. Invoices aren’t made from dice rolls.
  • Entrapping or slowing client progress: Making what was supposed to be a short-term or inexpensive contract into a long-term or more expensive fare, such as telling a landscaping client that they now need to pay for land regrading
  • Hawking imitation goods: Using dazzling marketing language to disguise the actual service you are getting, such as “full service” law firm actually peddling template contracts

EverSpark Can Help You Avoid Being Deceptive

The point of this post is not to shame business owners, but rather to point out that some “accepted” practices are actually damaging to their brand. In the realm of online copy, simple turns of phrase could become major sticking points for clients even if the business did not really intend to deceive at all.

Let EverSpark Interactive help ensure you say what you mean and that you can deliver on all your promises. Our professional copywriters have experience crafting impressive verbiage that avoids making empty promises or giving your clients the wrong impression. We can also help manage your online reputation. Unhappy customers can be given satisfactory outcomes, and new customers can understand that you work hard to please.

Give customers the exciting, rewarding journey they deserve, and ensure that if your Dungeon Master screen happens to fall down, no one will be appalled at what they see. Click here to find out more about how we can help.