Welcome to the shady underworld of SEO, where false promises are made, and the things you buy aren’t yours to keep. This black market of SEO services is easy to wander into, and the merchants are known to weave silkily worded tales of top ranking websites and immediate results, but don’t let yourself fall for their lies. If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Living on Borrowed Listings
When you buy something, most reasonable people will expect it to be theirs in perpetuity. However, with some SEO vendors, this isn’t always the case. Certain agencies will sell you citations and then refuse to hand over ownership of citations at the end of your agreement. They may also go back to the citations they have created and deliberately place incorrect information about your business on those pages. This practice essentially keeps you tied to their services indefinitely, preventing you from moving on to more reputable vendors.
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Be wary of vendors who approach you with a promise of top page visibility in search results. Vendors who come to you promising top-ranking results on keywords and phrases that are highly relevant for your business are most likely targeting queries so specific that there is practically zero traffic for it. Unless you are dealing with a highly niche product with little to no competition in the market, there is virtually no way to ensure a number one slot for your organic rankings. Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and user search queries are continually changing. Promising anything in this sort of online landscape it virtually impossible, not to mention incredibly misleading.
With Or Without You
If they say they know a guy, they probably don’t. Even if they do, there’s no one employee that can force a listing to appear at the top of a search results page unless that guy’s name is Sergey or Larry and he works at Google. If the agency or vendor you are working with is a Google Partner (as we are), they still won’t know anyone who can help them understand the inner workings of Google’s organic search results. Google Partners are strictly for Google Ads products and have nothing to do with the organic side of their company. In fact, there is practically no knowledge out there that Google is made publically available regarding their organic algorithm. This brings us to our next point…
What’s Going On
There are a lot of reputable SEO professionals in the business today who spend hours pouring over every new update that Google unrolls, and those updates happen several times a day. Most of what they discover is simply professional guesswork. They base their speculations off of changes in performance on their clients’ sites, not off of what Google tells them. The reality is that Google is highly protective of their organic search algorithms, and doesn’t give away this information freely. It’s part of their “secret sauce” and they don’t want other search engines stealing their code. Anyone claiming to have an inside track on this matter is lying to you.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
You get what you pay for in this industry. SEO is a process that involves in-depth knowledge of a number of different metrics and tools to do it right. Paying less for SEO could potentially hurt your site’s performance, as the person you’ve hired will probably not know how to properly optimize your site. Google hands out ranking penalties to sites that practice “black hat” SEO tactics, and vendors (maliciously or otherwise) may implement these tactics on your site. While these changes may result in positive results in the short term, the long-term results could have your site taken off of Google’s listings altogether.
Do They Really Want to Hurt You?
This isn’t Jimmy John’s. You aren’t going to get your results freaky fast. SEO is an incredibly tedious process, and it can take a decent amount of time to reach your full potential as a domain. If someone is coming to you promising you results within 48 hours, this should raise some red flags. Conducting an audit on a very small site could take about a day’s worth of work. Larger sites can take even longer. The actual optimization process is even more time-consuming, as your vendor optimizes on-site content, builds a network of citations and backlinks, and continually monitors your site’s performance. A short SEO campaign would still take about 6 months, but it is recommended to run one for at least a full year. After that time you can reassess your site’s current performance and see if you should continue on with your campaign.
I Ran (So Far Away From Bad Vendors)
So how should you go about choosing the right agency for you and your business? The first thing you need to do is sit down and ask yourself a question: What are your business goals, and how does SEO help bring you closer to those goals? After you’ve established what you would like to achieve, it’s time to start your search. When you are speaking with potential partners, ask them what they will be doing to help reach your goals, what their communication looks like, and what their reporting goes over.
Your Own Personal Agency
A good agency (like us, hint hint) should be able to answer all of those questions and more. Our SEO team here at GTMA will provide you with an audit that gives you with a comprehensive analysis of your site and it’s competition, as well as recommendations for you and your developers. We’ll walk you through our process, streamline communication through a main point of contact, and provide you with clear and easy-to-read monthly reporting. That being said, no matter who you decide to go with, we hope you do your due diligence to find the best partnership for your needs.
Need a quick refresher on what some of these terms mean? We’ve got you covered.
- Queries/ Search Terms – What users will type in to search for something in Google/ Bing/ etc.
- Ex: “apartments near me”
- Keywords – A word that describes the subject of your site’s content
- Ex: “apartments”
- Keyphrase – Multiple keywords that describe the subject of your site’s content
- Ex: “apartments in northeast Portland”
- Top-ranking listing/result – Listings that appear on the first page of search results
- Blackhat – Aggressive SEO tactics that only focus on search engine algorithms instead of user experience