Have You Been Bitten by the SEO “Snake Oil Salesman”?
They may be the 21st century’s snake oil salesmen. The SEO (search engine optimization) Guy. If you own an online business, particularly an e-commerce retail business, you most likely get about 10-20 SPAM emails a week from someone trying to sell you his/her SEO services. AND, 90% of the time they come from one of the Free, anonymous emails like Yahoo or Gmail. Rarely do I get SEO solicitation Spam from a legitimate domain based email that is associated with a business.
But, before I get started, a disclaimer. I no longer do SEO for clients, only for my own ecommerce businesses. That said here we go….
When I created my first e-commerce business in 1996 I had no choice but to learn the In’s and Out’s of search engine optimization (SEO). Google didn’t even exist back then. There was Excite and Lycos and the e-commerce world was even more dependent on search engine placement. NO twitter, no facebook, no social media to speak of. You couldn’t find anyone locally who knew what SEO was, never mind much knowledge about it.
Today it seems everybody is an SEO expert, adding it to their portfolio of services. And, what is more startling than the quantity of SEO consultants, is the quality or total lack of. Let me explain. I am amazed how many SEO’s I meet that acquire a lot of business, but are close to clueless about the “value” they are really providing their clients. Case in point. I attended a meeting of entrepreneurs and was sitting next to a man that introduced himself as a Systems Consultant. I wasn’t sure what that meant. After I gave him my pitch mentioning I use to do SEO for clients, but no longer, he said, “I do SEO, we are SEO consultants”. Of course I was intrigued so he continued on, stating that he charges his clients $250 a month to get them on the first page of Google (which is cheap as many of these outfits charge thousands a month with similar results). My first question was “for what?” He then showed me a term his client was now listed on page one of Google for. I thought my eyesight was failing me again, but in reality I did not even know what this term was. So I asked him what the keyword volume was ? He looked at me like I had a third eye popping out of my forehead. “What do you mean” he asked? I repeated, “what is the monthly search volume for that term you have your client on page one for?”. He didn’t know. Not only that, but when I asked him how he conducts his keyword research, he was again , lost. And, it doesn’t get any better. Then I asked him what tools he uses. No response so I suggested Google Keyword tool. But, he didn’t know what I was referring to. I would have continued on asking about such metrics as OCI , which signifies the “commercial value” of a keyword, but we never got that far. (P.S. If your SEO or online marketing consultant doesn’t know what OCI is, thank him/her and move on to another SEO guy or you’ll be flushing money down the drain). .
Now, if this had been five years ago I would have been shocked. However, the sad reality is the Majority of SEO and Online Marketing Consultants I meet have a level of expertise similar to this individual. Since SEO has been the buzz word for the past several years everyone wants to get in on the action. Regardless of their qualifications. And, with a “desperate” economy, many “consultants’ are trying to be everything to everybody.
And, the worse part of this scenario is the client doesn’t know any better. The consultant shows a client they are on page one of Google for “monkey dung” and they are thrilled to be on page one. Even though no one in the universe (except maybe monkeys) is searching for or typing in Google, “monkey dung”. It reminds me of a BNI meeting I went to a few years ago. After the meeting TWO business owners both came up to me and said “I am already #1 on Google”. I asked for what? The first woman said for “Cindy’s Home Garden’s” and the other said for “Karen Swartz Business Consultant”. I could only respond with “congratulations”. Why, I thought, should I ruin their parade. But silently I asked them, “exactly how many people do you think typed in “Cindy’s Home garden’s” or “Karen Swartz Business Consultant last month”? The answer was surely zero.
Next time you are approached by an online consultant, instead of asking them what their certifications are (because most certifications are nothing more than taking an online exam), ask them to show you THEIR e-commerce business. I mean if they have not been successful online and created their own web based business, how in the world are they suppose to show you how to do it? Then interview them. Ask them the following questions:
1). Can I see your e-commerce site? (NOT their consulting site)
2). What is the monthly volume for my search term(s)
3). What is the “commercial value” of that keyword
4). How is the keyword “trending” i.e. up or down
5). How long do you guarantee I will be on page one for that keyword
6). Tell me exactly HOW you are going to get my website on page one?
- You want to weed out spammy tactics that could get your site completely BANNED by Google &
7). What do you need from me to optimize my site?
8). How many other SEO clients do you have and can you provide references?
9). How are the spammers doing it?
- if he can’t answer this, Pass.
10). How do you measure performance? (HINT: if you don’t hear the word “Analytics” forget it).
11). Why should I hire you over the Ga-Zilion other SEO consultants out there?
And good luck out there in the world wide cyber jungle.
Kevin Conway is owner of Cutting Edge eMarketing & Conway’s Vintage Treasures
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