The call came mid-morning, and happened to be while I was in a 2-week long SEO push for my main website. I was at the “boy-I-can’t-wait-until-I-can-go-get-my-root-canal-so-I-can-stop-this” stage, so the offer was very enticing. If I paid this company 20 bucks, they would use their computer-generated analytical tool to find weaknesses in my SEO and, if I decided, I would pay them to do whatever they (legally and ethically) could put me on the first page of the organic searches for my main keywords in four months. (No guarantees, of course, which was to their credit.) The sales guy then had me go to Google, type in a keyword phrase having to do with search engine marketing companies, and see that they were right there in the number one spot for that keyword phrase that organic search. I hemmed and hawed a little, so the guy brought the price down to ten dollars and I took the bait.
Twenty-four hours, the report was there in my inbox. I opened it and raised one eyebrow. Right there in the header in fine print it said, “there is a +/- of 10% for this report.” I appreciated this company didn’t bury that in the footer somewhere. (Again, to their credit.) A 10% margin of error, though? That represents a lot of patoobie-covering. Looking over their summary, they offered me an analysis of visibility statistics, keyword visibility, top 5 search engine listings, top 5 keywords visibility, and an itemization of what the computer program did to get the results it did.
These are all very good things to look at. However, I’m afraid I took issue with this report. I had to; it was wrong. What this company didn’t realize is that I subscribe to my hosting company’s weekly summary of what actually happens with my site. Plus, I am an onging student of Google Analytics. And, to be fair, this marketing company didn’t know that there is a dichotomy for my key search phrase. In other words, my key search phrase is the name of my company’s main product, but it also has a popular meaning that is non-commercial, and Google weights the results toward the non-commercial purposes. The whole first page is full of them, and the best any company selling this product can do is to compete for spots on the second page. This is an important thing to know, because it means it is likely that those who search on this phrase and are confronted with sites not related to it will find another phrase to use. I need to know what alternative phrases get used. I do, so those are the ones I optimize for.
Back to the report, I bet you can guess how dismal my results were for the things they picked. Lots of zeros were piled up like dead bodies. I barely went to the details page for each section, closed the report, and resolved to tell the person who would inevitably follow up with me a short but polite, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I don’t know if it’s because I have five kids that I love more than life itself, or that I actually sign my name with a heart next to it, or the fact that puppies make my heart melt, but when the call came, I just felt bad for the guy. I made all sorts of excuses in my head about how he might really know what he was talking about and how he sounds really earnest and how it was nice of them to do this for me. After talking to him, I do believe he is a nice guy and that his services would help a fledgling website. His price for this type of work was competitive and reasonable (but too high for what I can spend just now). Unfortunately, he had a glaring error in talking with me when pointing out what was wrong with my index page. He stated that I should have 200 keywords in my keywords meta tag. That is really, really wrong and is the way to get smacked with a “spamming” flag. I immediately interrupted him and he stopped to look it up. He sheepishly responded with,”Characters. I meant characters.”
It just wasn’t for me. There were too many things he and his computer analysis didn’t know, although he was knowledgeable in the basics. Here are some dos and don’ts for you when considering an SEO company:
Do be open to the fact that other people know more than you about this topic–because some do.
Do be willing to spend money on this sort of venture, especially if you are a commercial site. You can afford more than you know, and it leaves you free to work on providing great service to your customers. (I may have actually paid for their help if I felt they were offering me more than what they were.)
Don’t underestimate what you do know, and do find out what you need to know in SEO. I knew something key to my main product this company couldn’t, and I knew what people use to search for my products.
Do go with a company who is honest and straightforward and uses ethical methods. If you don’t know what ethical methods are, research that. The company didn’t make guarantees and was willing to say their computer analysis tool wasn’t very accurate. (They did stress in the phone call that their work with my site would be hands-on, human work.)
Do consider other companies before committing to just one. Use the keywords search engine optimization companies, search engine marketing companies, optimize website, good website optimization when you’re looking.
If you have basic webmaster knowledge, do see what free tools there are online to help you in this area. I use XinuReturns.com among others. I don’t rely on just one. I do make it a point to implement something right away if it is a consensus with multiple free tools.
If you are busy running your business, do make it a point to dedicate time every month to SEO, even if it is just getting some reciprocal links from reputable, associated businesses.
Don’t be afraid to tell the company that they are out of your price range. After he tried three times to get me to commit to the package he was pitching with my repeated response as, “Really can’t–I don’t have that money for this if you can’t address return-on-investment (ROI),” the sales rep did offer me another alternative.
Don’t tell people you sign your name with hearts. You will never live it down. Trust me.