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As part of an initiative to educate business owners before they get hooked, suckered or bamboozled by the unethical or the incompetent, we offer tips and “thinking points” in local publications. Our article, “The Dark Side of SEO” is featured in the June Edition of the Holmdel Journal.
Read the text below.
The Dark Side of SEO (as printed in the Holmdel Journal, June 2010)
If you’re a small business owner, or know someone who is, watch out: there’s a new scam in town. It’s the “SEO Consultant,” and he (or she) is ready to confuse you with jargon and take advantage of the fact that you aren’t an SEO expert. It’s the dark side of SEO and can cost you money, with no return on your investment.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the art and science of making your website “friendly” for search engines, so potential customers searching online for your products or services will find your site.
Most people think of it as “being number one in Google.” If you have a website and want it to be number one in Google, you’re the perfect target for unethical SEO companies. Here are a few tips to avoid cons and make better marketing choices.
Beware The “Good Deal”
In economic downturns, bad consultants spring up with enticing offers of guaranteed top positions in search engines (usually Google) for around $20 per month. This is your first warning sign. There is no guarantee that your site will appear anywhere in Google, a fact stated by Google itself.
Anyone who guarantees a position is being dishonest, deceptive, or both. If all it takes to be number one is $20 a month, why isn’t every website number one? There are no guarantees in SEO – only best practices, followed by ongoing marketing.
Understand The Offer
Another warning sign is that you’re not clear on what your consultant is doing. The offer is vague, sometimes to obscure practices that can result in your site being penalized or dropped from search results. Unless you understand the practice, you won’t know if it can backfire in the long run.
The very idea of top placement is vague at best, meaningless at worst. What keyword must searchers use to find your site in a top placement? You can achieve top placement for just about any keyword obscure enough, but how relevant is it to your business and how likely to generate traffic, leads, or sales?
Moreover, all placements change constantly, depending on geography, personalization settings, whether you’re logged into your Google account, and when you’re searching.
Insist On Measurable Results
Is your SEO program successful? Don’t take anyone’s word for it. You must be able to measure results either by testing the consultant’s claims or by reviewing your site’s traffic reports to see whether you’re gaining customers. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’re spending wisely.
One final tip: SEO is not a magic bullet or quick fix. If your consultant makes it sound simple, cheap, and easy, guarantees placement, gives you vague or confusing answers, can’t quantify results, or if the results don’t equal the promise, then find another consultant.
Your business is too valuable to leave to the unethical, the self-interested or the incompetent. Approach SEO as an educated consumer and bad consultants won’t leave you in the dark.
For more about SEO myths, read our “Common SEO Myths” series.
Have you been scammed by a bad consultant? Tell us your story and ask us how to do SEO the right way.