I have opinions about most everything. From time to time, I'll try to share some of the most useful of them with you here.
SEO Consultants and Other Charlatans
October 15, 2014
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is about raising your rank on search engines. There are thousands of "Consultants" who promise to raise your Google ranking. I know that there are some companies that can work with you to do that, but that's going to cost a good deal more than the $10 - $50 a month that the companies that approach you are charging. For the rest of this article, let's call those people Search Engine Scammers, or SES's.
Your Google ranking is determined by a sophisticated set of algorithms that try to determine how relevant your site is to different search terms ("keywords"). SES's are basically trying to "cheat" those algorithms to deliver a high ranking. Some of the techniques they use include:
- Bogus links -- One of the known search engine criteria is to look at links to your website. The more relevant your content, the greater the number of other websites that link back to it. SES's will create "link farms" of pages of links that no one but a search engine discovery program will ever see. Worse yet, some will look for untended blogs where they can leave comments, each linking back to a website that the SES is hawking.
- Bogus reviews -- One of the "services" that a SES will provide is a series of positive reviews on places like Facebook, Google+, and Yelp. Aside from ethical issues, bogus reviews have another drawback. Locally, people look for reviewers they know. Bogus generic reviews that are built to fool search engines won't necessarily fool a real human being, particularly as more and more of them are added over time.
- Bogus updates -- Generally speaking, sites that update content regularly will rank higher than sites that don't. For a nominal fee, SES's offer generic content to add to your website at regular intervals. The problem is this: a content writer who doesn't have anything approaching your experience in your field is pretending to be you, offering generic advice in your name.
If you are a potential client of mine, the odds are that you are a local business or organization. You're in Iowa, not New York City, and you probably don't have pages worth of local competitors. You don't need a huge Google ranking to be found by your customers. If you have your business on Google's local database (currently, that 's Google+), you already have a good start.
Still, you can take advantage of the above-mentioned criteria with a moderate amount of work on your part:
- If you want links, then link back to your vendors, subcontractors, and other people/businesses you work with. Then get in touch with those people and ask them for reciprocal links -- it's the old you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours, but with people who really are relevant to your business.
- No one can ask your real customers for reviews better than you can yourself. You're the one who knows who your customers are, what you did for them and whether they were happy with your services. Contact them individually, ask them if they'll recommend you, and provide links to review sites they might use.
- Write your own content (that's what I'm doing here!). What questions do your customers keep asking? What are the latest trends in your business, and what do you think about them? What does the world (or more realistically, your potential customer) need to know about what you do? Websites made on Blogger or Wordpress are made with easy content-editing in mind, but a competent web developer (like myself) can also include an online editor on custom-built sites.
In other words, use your strengths, assets and experience to make your site more reputable and more useful to readers. If you do that, your search engine rankings will improve without tricks or cheats.