Your SEO expert may be killing your business. Recently I’ve been receiving calls from friends and potential clients who have been referred to me for help or advice. In most of these cases, I am seeing a similar situation. There is a trend among small businesses to attempt to improve their business by hiring someone who has presented to them a rationale to “improve their SEO”. Most small business owners are adept at understanding their offer and their customer. They are not necessarily website experts, and when presented with a compelling marketing case to improve their website, they feel that they are embracing new technology. Especially if the website has been static for a long time, the buzzwords and inexperience in social media may entice the small business owner to agree to pay an “SEO” to “get me to the top of Google”.
First rule of thumb – anyone who wants your business and who promised to “optimize” to “make you number one on Google” is someone to be wary of. Not because having a high ranking on Google is not a good thing – it is a good thing, generally. What I object to is the charletan who sells a bill of goods about optimizing your website without any regard to who your customer is and how your customer shops, and most importantly, what would be the best type of business for you?
I think it may be clearer if I share some examples. Recently I was approached by a company that offers office furniture for business. The gentleman who owns the company was concerned because he recently spent “a ton of money” with an SEO company to optimize his website. His concern stems from the fact that before the optimization, he would recieve phone calls. Now, his phone does not ring at all.
Whether the website is coming up at the “top” of a search is irrelevant if it does not result in improved business.
The gentleman learned a lesson the hard way. The first mistake that was made was when the SEO (and I use that term loosely) told him that he had to completely re-do the website.
Second rule of thumb – if anyone comes in and tells you that they have to completely re-do your website, ask them why? What are they seeing that makes it important to rip apart what is there to create something new? If the website was built in an old technology, or had un-indexible content, that is a valid reason to re-do the website. However, care should be taken to preserve the SEO or any inbound links or references to the URLs of the existing site. If the web designer does not give a clear reason, then beware! Unfortunately, sometimes a web designer wants to re-design a website simply to bump up the amount that you will wind up paying over time.
Another reason you may wind up creating a new website is that you were with a service and no longer want to utilize the service. Some franchised web companies will get business by suggesting that they specialize in a specific business market, for example, there is one that I can think of that supposedly specialized in day spas. Another that I can think of specialized in real estate. A third ostensibly is expert with legal websites. Is there an advantage of going with an organization that has done a done of websites in your industry? Yes and no. The advantage is that they probably have done some research and know what keywords to pursue. The disadvantage is that they have done some research and know what keywords to pursue – and they have done the same research and keywords for every other client in the same industry. So, your website will not be unique, your keywords will be the same as everyone else’s, and you will wind up with a formula site and a high probability of being penalized by the search engines for duplicate content.
One scam I saw recently was a human resources firm that hired a company to “optimize” their website. The optimization agency only charges if they obtain first place ranking on Google for keywords that the client suggests. It’s not hard to see what could potentially be wrong with this picture. I happend to have visibility into the analytics, and sure enough, there was a ton of traffic when the agency started up. Ironically none of the traffic was from the trade area that the hr company draws from. Will they be paying for this optimization, you bet! But the price will not only be paying for placement, it will also be in lost business from true prospects who may find the company through organic search.
If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that there are no shortcuts. Or perhaps, there are shortcuts if you know the right way, and they consist of doing the right steps, and not trying to ‘scam’ the system. Now that Hummingbird and symantic search have become the norm, it’s not as easly to stuff an article with keywords, or to pay for backlinks to your articles. That can and will be used against you. Instead, the important steps to creating a well rounded, content rich website remain doing things the right way.