Along with the rest of your inbox SPAM, you have probably received some unsolicited email that starts out like this:
“I stumbled across your website and noticed it’s not optimized properly. I can help you fix it.” Or, “I found you on page 4 of Google under the keyword search for (whatever), and I can get you to page one.”
How noble, they want to “help” you. How thoughtful, they noticed a “problem” with your website and elected to extend their helping hand in correcting it.
What a nice person. What a helpful company. What rubbish!
First, a common sense question: Is there really some good Samaritan out there on the web, philanthropically browsing to find wayward websites in need of their unsolicited assistance?
Second, and more importantly: Is there really any company in bed with Google to a point that they can promise page one placement for a specific keyword in the natural search engine rankings?
The answer to both questions is “NO.”
Here are the facts that you must be keenly aware of regarding your website:
- It takes time to get good results such as page one rankings.
- To get to page 1, you will likely pass up through page 2, 3, 4, or below first.
- SEO companies use software to harvest search engine results on pages 2, 3, 4, etc. for various keywords.
- SEO companies know you didn’t get to pages 2, 3, 4 or such by accident, especially in a competitive industry. They know you must have 1) an interest in marketing yourself to be there, and 2) money, because marketing isn’t free. (Congratulations, you just qualified yourself as low-hanging fruit.)
- SEO companies subsequently call you or email you with the AUTOMATED data, saying they found you on page (X) for a keyword search of (Y), and that they can do more, better, faster, cheaper.
- The higher you get in the search engine rankings, the more of these solicitations you will receive because the more visible and available you will become. This is actually a sign that your current search engine marketing provider is doing their job well. (Don’t blow it by getting swayed away too easily!)
- Beware! If you don’t know any better, you can easily fall victim to this very common sales ploy. It sounds good, and if you’re not tech savvy on SEO/SEM, a convincing sales pitch might win you over especially in today’s economy when times are tough and every dollar matters.
Warning: If you switch over, you might cause significant damage to the search engine position that you have spent so much time and money achieving. (Note: It’s not uncommon to be less than page one for one keyword or another– Think about it, there are thousands of words, but only 10 spots on page one. Don’t forget about the keywords that you ARE showing up on page one.)
There are a lot of “moving parts” to a successful search engine marketing strategy. A proper SEM campaign involves a coordinated effort between proper website optimization, article publishing, blog posting, social media bookmarking, online press releases, and much more. SEO and SEM involve much more than simply pasting a few keywords into the content of your website and hoping for the best.
Done properly, optimization and marketing efforts will yield a continued, upward trend for your keywords over time. You should have access to progress reports, analytics data, trend charts, etc. to review and validate your progress towards page 1 results. There are two key points to remember when dealing with search engines:
- “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, and
- What is put in motion carries in motion. There is momentum.
Point Number One: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
As I mentioned above, companies contacting you about switching SEO/SEM providers is an indicator that your current provider is doing their job. Think about it, no one called you when they couldn’t find you. The more visible you become, the more solicitations you will receive. Everyone wants your money, especially if they know you have some. By becoming more visible on search engines, you de facto establish that you’re a potential customer if they can snag you. Some companies will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to get your money. Many of those same companies bind you into a 12 month contractual agreement, because they know about point number two, below.
Because of the Wild West nature of the Internet, if you are working with an SEO or SEM provider that has demonstrated good results for your business, my recommendation is to trust them, communicate with them, and stay with them. The grass ISN’T always greener elsewhere. The risks of changing providers to an unknown are not in your best interests, especially if the new provider uses one of the “canned” email or phone solicitations above.
Point Number Two: What’s put in motion carries in motion. There is momentum.
By nature, organic marketing is a compounding effort. The multiple articles, blogs, posts, links, etc all contribute to a better and lasting search engine position if done properly. Both ethical AND unethical SEO companies know this. Ethical marketing companies use the accumulation of posts to contribute to your company’s betterment and further success. Unethical (or mercenary) SEO companies use the same existing accumulation and current momentum to maximize their own profits by “riding the wave” that’s currently in motion, and putting forth minimal (if any) effort while charging some lesser amount of money from you than what you had been paying for legitimate, productive work. For the unsuspecting business owner who switches providers, by the time the momentum slows, plateaus, and begins to reverse into a declining trend, you’re three or four months into a 12 month contract. At the first sign of trouble, the damage is usually already done.
Momentum is the tendency for an object in motion to stay in the same speed and direction of motion. In the context of your search engine rankings, an upward trend tends to remain an upward trend based on the efforts put forth by a consistent, proven search engine strategy. Downward trends work the same way. By “trend” we’re talking about a consistent history over several weeks or months, not just a minor up or down fluctuation for a particular keyword placement.
To get a better understanding of how changing search engine marketing providers can affect your rankings, think of an large cruise ship traveling at sea. They don’t stop on a dime. They don’t accelerate from zero to sixty in 6 seconds like a sports car. Once they’re moving in the right (or wrong) direction, it takes some significant time and distance to change their course.
If your search engine campaign is moving in the right direction, enjoy the smooth sailing. If someone convinces you of a shortcut (there aren’t any real short cuts to doing a job right) on-the-cheap for SEM, if you switch providers you will certainly see a decrease in your spending while your “ship” slowly begins to change direction. But when you start to notice that the waters are getting shallow (your search engine results are dwindling), reversing direction and then steering back to your original course takes appreciably more time and effort (money) than if you had stayed on a true course to begin with. The moral of the story: If you change providers to save a quick buck or chase a specific keyword (while ignoring the bigger picture), too often the result is that your ship will end up on the rocks.
Recovering from the damage can take substantially more money than what it would have cost to have your existing provider make minor adjustments to what was working in the first place. Unlike the medical field or legal field, there is no such thing as Search Engine Marketing Malpractice. Welcome to the Wild West. If you make the wrong move or change providers prematurely, “the bad guy got your money.” You lose. Your business suffers. There’s no recourse.
Why is the problem so widespread?
Because of technology and the vast amounts of information readily available on the Web combined with the speed and efficiency of mass-email campaigns, it’s just a numbers game for the SEO company that’s using automated software to scoop up your business’s name, page rank, position, and keyword choices. They know if they talk to enough businesses, the odds are in their favor that they’ll rake in the dough. For those companies, you’re just a number to them. They know you’ll leave them once the contract is expired, so they often hold you hostage with penalty clauses and the like. There’s always another company out there on the Web, willing to convince you that they’ll save your ship. The more in-distress you are, the better their pitch will sound to you.
Additionally, the nature and capabilities of search engines change rapidly on a monthly basis with new technology. Since there is no real “certification” process to license an individual to practice SEO and SEM, there are THOUSANDS more incompetent folks advertising that they market websites than qualified, competent people who are proficient at it. Really, all someone needs to do is read a beginners book on the topic and they can talk the talk. But without real-world experience, current knowledge, and practical application at producing results, people who are solely “book smart” on SEO/SEM typically do more damage than good. Therefore, it’s important to see examples of their work before you spend any money with a provider.
And so the game goes on. You’re being watched, not by one predator but by many. They all have you programmed in their software settings so they know just when to strike. They’ll take your money, decimate your search engine positions, and move along to the next unsuspecting victim leaving your business as a carcass to their pillaging.
What can you do to save yourself? What can you do to prevent your business from being damaged?
Get informed about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Three simple words will get you out of harm’s way and keep you in safe waters: “No, Thank you.” (You may need to use them often, and a bit forcefully).
If you have experienced positive results from your current search engine marketing provider, learn to use those three words when someone new calls on you to switch.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!