One thing I dislike about the business of online marketing is that amount of garbage that is sold to honest business people who are looking to do the right thing. There is always someone who is lurking in the shadows, one google search away, that has a deal that is one better than the previous. The problem is, that unless you do an awful lot of research into the company, the past customers, previous work, and know all the right questions to ask, then you stand a pretty good chance of being ripped off. Sadly to say, this is the search engine optimization market that I work in. It boggles my mind how many packages and experts there are in the field. I think half of India and the Philippines population are certified SEO consultants who can guarantee you first page rankings, no matter what the keyword you are after.
The first thing I will say is that search engines are not stupid. Google and Bing did not get to the places they are by being stupid. Admittedly, a decade ago when search engines were in their infant years, there were certainly ways to circumvent the system and rank your page much easier than you can today. Today, the algorythms are constantly changing with updates being made all of the time. There are standard best practices that can be done, but none of these include buying thousands of links from link farms, spinning content, buying likes and shares on facebook, or the fantastic .edu domain links.
My most recent frustration comes from someone who as far as I can tell is a well minded individual who is starting up a dive equipment retail store and wanted to start an online shop. He reached out asking for a quote for making the ecommerce shop as well as ranking it on the first page of google for searches like dive equipment, masks, fins, bcd’s, dive gear, computers, etc. If you really wanted to get into it, there are probably several hundred if not thousand keywords that should really be explored in a project like this and it is not for the faint of heart. Now to be fair, a SEO campaign such as this is probably over my head. We would be starting out with a new domain, which wasn’t very keyword rich, which had no domain authority, page rank, incoming links, or age to back it up. We would be up against the top sites in the industry which guarantee would be spending several thousand dollars per month on search engine optimization and marketing. The thing for them is that it is already worth it. They rank where they do and they understand that to maintain that position there is work to be done. They have a solid income stream coming in so they aren’t going into the red each month like a start up would be. It would be an absolutely huge job that you would definitely want a team, that is much bigger than mine, to be working on it.
This gentleman told me that he had already gotten quotes from different web development firms around the world and that the cheapest one he got was for $2000. I said, great I can certainly make the site for 2000, could probably do it for $1500, but I would have to get in touch with some more SEO nerds who could help with this project and come up with a quote on a monthly price. That was a deal breaker. The firm in India who had offered him the $2000 deal had guaranteed first page rankings for the keywords he was after and were including the first 6 months of SEO work in the $2000. As a bonus they were even going to help him out with a different website he had. My jaw must have dropped when he told me this. For $2000 a company is going to make you a website and rank you for keywords that would be worth tens of thousands of dollars per month. Wowsers, how are there not 20 of those sites being made right now. Well the problem is that there is no chance of this happening. Zero. And sadly what are the chances of getting your money back from a company in India when the guarantee isn’t met. If someone is making those guarantees and they are that confident in their ability to manipulate search engines you should ask if you can pay upon achieving the desired ranking. None will accept that deal because they know as well as I do that they can’t do it for that price. It doesn’t matter if they are paying their employees 25 cents an hour or $250 per hour, it can’t be done.
SEO work is complex and not an exact science. What I have discovered with SEO, as with most things in life, is that there are no shortcuts. When google puts out a Panda, or Penguin, or Hummingbird update, it can change the rankings significantly. They always announce these updates after they happen so that rankings can be fluctuating and you left wondering why before you find out. They put out these updates as the internet changes and evolves and also to weed out the sites that are using the spammy techniques that you can find all over the net.
My point of this rant is a few things. If someone offers you a deal and guarantees rankings, be cautious. There are so many factors involved with SEO, many (what the competition is doing) are completely out of our control. I have been working on a domain name for a scuba diving shop in Rangiroa for a few months now and have finally reached the front page for the search “scuba diving in Rangiroa” but that is about the only search I am ranking for currently. In this case I have a great domain for that search (www.scubadivingrangiroa.com) but it was brand new with no backlinks or authority behind it. To be at the bottom of the first page is one thing, to be at the top is a completely different task that could take another 6 months or it could take 5 years. If I told you I knew I would be lying.
In closing, do your research and make sure you are not going to be one of the dive shops that gets scammed in by crazy promises and guarantees. If something sounds too good to be true, I hate to say it, but it probably is.