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SEO is a Snake-Pit

November 9, 2015  •  By Larry Jordan

[Originally published on Nov. 8, 2015 by Larry Jordan.]

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:

  • Told them the work we needed done.
  • Worked with them to provide approved key words
  • Discussed website we wanted them to avoid
  • Requested that any materials posted to the web be approved by us first
  • Requested monthly status reports on work done and goals for the next month

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:

  • 90% of the people/companies pitching SEO work are, to be polite, unreliable.
  • As far as I know, there is no reputable, third-party certification system that says: “This company knows what they are talking about and will do the work they promise accurately, on time and on-budget.”
  • Never totally trust references – on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.
  • Before hiring an SEO company, figure out some way to verify they are doing what they say they are doing. If you can’t verify their work, you are better off avoiding contract SEO work.
  • Have the SEO team you are working with PROVE to you that the work is getting done to your specifications and on time.
  • Don’t believe anything the SEO company tells you. It is not enough to get a printed “Report of Work Done,” have someone show you the actual work that was done.
  • Assign someone on your team with the day-to-day management of the SEO company. Don’t assume that because things were going well six-months ago, they are still going well today.

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.


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