SEO secrets and the great internet services swindle
written by craig, 5 October 2008
There must be some great Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies out there. I’m sure they employ people who know what they are doing, are open with their methods, and work hard for a reasonable rate.
I’m just yet to find one.
I work with many web developers, project managers, content authors, and clients, but it’s rare to find SEO knowledge in any camp:
- Web developers are busy creating the next big thing. They don’t usually have the time or inclination to research ‘soft’ technologies like SEO. Many are working on web applications which don’t always have a direct requirement for search engine optimisation.
- Project managers have an obligation to deliver on time and on budget. They might add SEO to their gantt chart, but it’ll be squeezed to the minimum and dropped at the first sign of project overrun (not that IT projects ever overrun, of course!) SEO is a hidden part of the project and clients will rarely know how well it has been implemented.
- Content authors may have knowledge of optimisation, but they do not control the HTML template or semantics. If the template is not optimised, their content is unlikely to be either. The majority of Content Management Systems (CMS) also produce shockingly bad code if you let them.
- Finally, most clients want their website or application to be complete, look pretty, and respond quickly. Few will think about SEO until, 12 months after project completion, they type “software” into Google and fire out emails asking why their site isn’t at #1!
This lack of knowledge has opened a gap in the market for SEO specialists. Can they make the difference between your product selling or sinking?
SEO services: 21st century snake oil
SEO is masked in mystery. How many other service industries can offer a product without disclosing what technologies and techniques they provide?
Several of my clients have contacted me to discuss services they’ve been offered by “specialist” SEO companies. In many cases, they’ve received cold-calls from pushy sales people who have blinded them with jargon and scared them into thinking that, unless they’re #1 in Google, their business will be dead within weeks. Some of the more outrageous claims include:
- We’ll get you on the first page of the major search engines
Great. Which search engines and which terms? Within days of this article being published I’ll be #1 in Google for “bonkdonkdong”, but will it bring me any business?
Remember that it’s very easy to buy AdSense adverts that get you on the first page of Google for any term … and charge a huge premium for doing so.
- Our techniques are secret
So they won’t tell you what they’re doing, how they do it, how long it will take them, or what benefits it will bring. SEO techniques are not secret – indeed, much of it is common sense. If there were ‘hidden’ methods to being indexed in Google, then it wouldn’t be such a great search engine in the first place.
Sales techniques like this prey on those without technical knowledge. It’s a short step away from telling people they’ll only see an increase in website traffic if they’ve got a high IQ. Don’t be taken in.
- We guarantee X visitors per month
Right … so everyone in the SEO’s head office will spend a couple of minutes clicking through to your website. That’s the only sure-fire way of guaranteeing traffic.
Worse is that traffic for the sake of it is not good. I could receive thousands of visitors wanting to buy socks, but that won’t help if I don’t sell them. In an ideal world, you want every visitor to make a purchase. At the very least, you want a large percentage to be actively interested in the goods or services you’re selling.
What the bad SEO specialists don’t offer
It’s easy to spot a bad SEO “expert” – they only concentrate on how much traffic they will bring to your site … at a huge monthly cost. What they don’t offer is often more revealing…
- No business analysis
Surely everyone needs more website traffic and customers? Not necessarily. A business acquaintance recently contacted me about an SEO company who had been recommended by their web developer. They run a small 12-bedroom hotel in Southern England and were on the verge of signing up to an SEO contract that would have initially cost £2,000 plus £300 per month.
My first question to them was: are you fully occupied at any time during the year? They were: from May to October, they were generally fully booked. My next question: do you intend to expand the hotel business, add premises, rooms, or services? That wasn’t an option in this case. My next question was obvious: why do you intend spending significant amounts of money on SEO when you cannot possibly take additional customers for half the year? Extra enquiries would have simply been a burden on the company during its busiest period.
Had the SEO company asked any of these basic questions? At the very least, not understanding the client’s business makes it impossible to determine the keywords and phrases that will bring additional traffic.
- They won’t examine or change your existing website
In an ideal world, SEO techniques should be implemented in your website from the start. In reality, it doesn’t always happen and basic mistakes can be made that adversely affect rankings, e.g. poor keywords, missing page titles, incorrect use of headings, content that can’t be indexed, etc.
A good SEO company should check your site and either recommend or implement changes. The bad ones won’t even glance at it.
- They won’t explain the benefits or offer any evidence
It’s amazing how many people sign up for SEO services without knowing what they’re buying. A good SEO company should educate their clients and provide statistical evidence to back up their claims. Statistics should be provided in layman’s terms with explanations where necessary; never trust a sales person who insists on talking about ‘hits’!
Ultimately, you need to know how much it is costing to attract a new customer and whether that cost is effective for your business.
SEO is not black magic
Selling a website without SEO is like selling a car without wheels: it might look great, but it won’t take you anywhere
I’m always amazed by web agencies who charge extra for SEO or refer their clients to SEO specialists. SEO techniques are not difficult; almost every business website needs SEO methods implemented from day 1. Selling a website without SEO is like selling a car without wheels: it might look great, but it won’t take you anywhere.
Do not make the mistake of considering SEO as an afterthought. By doing so, you’ll be tempted to employ an SEO agency who could do very little but take huge amounts of your hard-earned money.
Have you experienced bad SEO services? Do you work for a great SEO company? All comments welcome!…