SEO is a Snake-Pit

Posted on by Larry

Commentary2.jpgEvery day I get 3-5 emails from SEO companies stating that they hold the key to Internet riches. You know the type: “Hi! I was just browsing your site – [ insert site name here ] – and noticed that with our help, you could increase your web traffic and revenues.”

I would be more inclined to believe their pitch if they didn’t keep referencing a website that we haven’t used in more than a year.

I believe that SEO is an important way for people to find you via Internet searches. I also believe that, as a company, we need to partner with people who know more about this than we do. Finally, I believe that a company that sells its SEO services should actually know what they are talking about.

What makes me crazy is that even supposedly “reputable” SEO companies act like the Internet is the Wild West: as long as you don’t get caught, everything is good.

Let me give you three examples from SEO companies that we partnered with during the last two years. In all cases, we met with each company, investigated their references and tried to the best of our ability to verify that they would do what they promised.

In all cases we:

Everything was agreed in writing. Then, and probably not surprisingly, each company ignored all our instructions.

Company 1. Made all the right promises, took our money and didn’t do any work. We canceled them after three months.

Company 2. Made all the right promises, took our money, began work and things looked good for about a year; though I was a little worried when they posted stuff representing us that we never approved. Then, our account rep left, the company changed focus and for four straight months, they billed us for work never completed. When we asked them what happened, they said: “Oh, yeah. We meant to contact you about that…” We canceled them after a year and a half.

Company 3. We spent two months talk with and researching them. Came to an agreement including a list of work to be done and deadlines they needed to meet. They immediately starting posting to sites that we asked them to avoid, with material that we never approved. All the initial setup work they promised to do was never done. We canceled them after a month.

Sigh… I’d mention names but the first two companies are already out of business. I’ve wasted my money, but, worse, I’ve wasted all this time.

I’m sure that there are reputable, talented and hard-working SEO companies out there that can help small businesses become big businesses. However, they are totally lost amidst the shysters claiming that they know how Google works because they own an email address and can spell “SEO.”

What makes this especially galling is that the only way to see if the SEO companies we are working with is that we need to know SEO and web development at least as well as they do. If we knew that much, why would we outsource the work?

Here are my immediate takeaways:

SEO and related web-enhancement technology is critical to survival in today’s web-based world. Yet, small companies are especially vulnerable to unreliable companies making promises they can’t keep, because they know the small business owner has no way of checking to see whether the work is getting done.

As I’ve learned the hard way, taking SEO efforts on faith is a great way to get taken to the cleaners. It is unbelievably frustrating.

As always, I’m interested in your opinions.

Larry


10 Responses to SEO is a Snake-Pit

  1. Larry – SEO is not hard to do. Google has posted everything anybody needs to know about this subject in the Google Webmaster guides.

    While Google does reward regular, relevant content with better rankings, you already do that, so all you needed was a re-submission to the search engines on a regular basis. I could train one of your employees to do that in 15 minutes.

    Keep in mind, Google does give you the ability to state your change rate in your sitemap.xml document, but I’ve had better results from resubmitting for a fresh crawl regularly. Google will probably deny this, but who knows how they really work?

    SEO is not hard and you already do what Google says we should all be doing – sharing relevant, fresh, content regularly.

  2. Graham says:

    Larry, I would take a look at Joost, there tools are free (and premium) and their approach is exemplary.

  3. I’m glad you wrote this, it’s accurate and true.

    As a long-time web design generalist (yes, in addition to video), I have watched clients and employers taken advantage of by SEO “experts” for years.

    When the web boomed in the late nineties I learned that SEO isn’t that hard if you build good, standards-supporting web sites with semantic markup (remember, HTML was like the wild west in the early days). And more importantly write good copy — “for humans”. Then make sure to fill in the standard metadata, alt attributes, etc. Content-management systems messed this up for years and even WordPress didn’t offer good support without adding clunky plugins.

    Many who’ve created web sites since the beginning have done the latter by default. If you’re making a site you fill in all the blanks and ping the client or copywriter when you can’t figure it out yourself. It’s actually part of the design to do this, but I know this thinking isn’t popular except with those who are smarter than me. SEO wasn’t a line-item to add to a web project until the dot com boom started attracting the sharks looking for easy (or automated) money.

    I’d say that SEM (Search Engine Management) is far more of a necessary service than SEO is — assuming you’ve got the nice solid foundation and “did it right” when you built your site. Having someone keep up with editing and managing new content that is SEO-friendly is really the only thing aside from ongoing site maintenance (these days that means keeping your CMS database secure and up-to-date).

  4. I am President of E-Power Marketing (http://www.epower.com). I’ve been doing SEO for 17 years and cannot agree with Larry more. Today I reviewed a website that the client paid for SEO and I see no evidence of SEO. Last week I saw a new website that was actually three duplicate websites with SEO strategies that Google neutralized 15 years ago. I could go on for hours.

    This is what I would do to qualify an SEO agency:

    1. Do ask for example of websites the agency or Web developer searched optimized. Look at the html source code which you can do with any browser. Look at the page titles. Does each Web page have a unique title with relevant keywords? If the Home page title is “Home” or the Products page title is “Products,” then keep looking. Do the page titles and website content fully express the target phrases? For example, Larry Jordan is a video editor. If the usage is “editor” rather than “video editor” then the SEO is weak. A more effective target phrase would be “Final Cut Pro video editor.” Then you have a better chance for people looking for his particular skill to find him.

    2. Will the SEO strategy include revising the content to better use keywords?

    3. Does the SEO include developing content on an ongoing basis as well as an active Social Media program? If not, then keep looking because those are important factors for success today on Google and Bing.

    4. Does the SEO agency promise you specific search positions to be #1 or for a specific phrase? If so, keep looking because Google and Bing decide organic search visibility.

    With all due respect to previous commentators, there is no need to resubmit your website to Google or Bing if you have established reputable links. Automated SEO tools are not effective if you do not know SEO well.

    • Larry says:

      Larry:

      These comments are excellent – and its a tribute to your company to have been in this industry for 17 years.

      For so many of us, SEO is a dark art. Your tips can help many of us avoid making my mistakes.

      Thanks,

      Larry

  5. Larry,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    However effective SEO is not a dark art. Success is based on quality content that uses relevant keywords. If your SEO agency is talking about “proprietary” methods or software, then keep looking. Effective SEO is not a secret and it does not require secret sauce or a magic elixir. An effective SEO agency will tell you what they are doing and why the strategy will work.

    Larry

  6. Larry, Good read.

    I can here just on the off chance looking for “seo magic elixir” thinking you had it too but you don’t.

    I have got it but nobody listens. You wrote: SEO companies stating that they hold the key to Internet riches.

    Well yes, I have found it but people have read since seo was invented to be SKEPTICAL and DUBIOUS if anybody uttered these words.

    At the time, I did not know until I found a cracking seo tool that states everything I do provides that seo magic tonic.

    Search me on twitter.com/seogafis

    I’ve written to Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, HPE, Amazon none of these have the knowledge that boosts your ranking. Emailed Forbes they don’t have it. Even some Top USA SEO guys don’t believe.

    There really is a solution and I thought it up funnily enough going some gardening, so consider this if anybody wants to use an SEO, ask them do they like gardening.

    My 2 hobbies are, seo, gardening.

    I’m thinking of showing it on some seo conference so everybody who uses Google Adwords does not need to anymore. It will dent Alphabets income but I don’t care.

    Regards

  7. Gafis says:

    Consider what I wrote yesterday instead of deleting it, I came here and wrote in honesty but you just delete the reply.

    • Larry says:

      James:

      I hadn’t deleted it. I was simply holding it while I debated whether this was spam or not. I get a LOT of these messages which are purely spam.

      Larry

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