Are you really dealing with an SEO expert?
The 10 warning signs that the person you’re talking to is not an SEO expert.
In this day and age it’s pretty easy to come across someone who claims they are an SEO Expert. As a small business owner you are no doubt contacted by several people every week via phone or email claiming they can rocket your business to the front of the pack for mere dollars per month. So the question here is: with all these people claiming they can do the same thing, who is telling the truth, and who is selling SEO snake oil?
Below we’ve outlined 10 signs that the so called SEO Expert you’re talking to is actually selling snake oil.
1) They promise 1st page rankings
It’s a pretty well known fact these days by most business owners that first page rankings on search engines can not be guaranteed. If anyone is promising you first page rankings, run the other way.
2) Proprietary SEO software
I don’t care what anyone says, if they say they have “proprietary SEO software” that they have somehow developed to get their customers to the first page, end the conversation, this software does not exist, at least not any ethical software. No one has “cracked” Google’s algorithm, and no one has a “special relationship” with Google when it comes to SEO.
3) They don’t need access to your website
This should be a obvious flag. How can anybody work on “on page SEO” if they can’t access the backend of your website? People or companies that claim they do SEO but don’t need access to your website will either create a second website for you, a website you’ll probably never own and will only confuse the search engines and your customers, or they will “create listings” across the web back to your website, a tactic that doesn’t work well on its own.
4) They say they will place you on hundreds of local search engines
I’ve heard claims from so called SEO sales people saying they place their customers on hundreds of search engines and local search engines. How many search engines can you name? Most people have difficulty naming more than five. The plain fact is that Google, Yahoo, and Bing control the hugely vast majority of search. Spending money on hundreds of search engines or local search sites that people don’t know about and / or local sites very few people use doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Next time one of these folks calls you, ask them to send you a list of their sites you’d be listed on. Chances are it will be filled with a bunch of websites you’ve never even heard of.
5) “We’re a Google Partner!” – Beware of the flashy title
That’s great, and kudos for your company, but what exactly does being a Google Partner have to do with SEO? The answer is nothing. A Google Partner company means they’ve passed testing for selling Google AdWords and related Google products which has zero to do with Search Engine Optimization. Don’t be tricked by flashy titles or certifications.
Not long ago I had a guy cold call me for a website we manage, he started the call by telling me he was one of the world’s “Top Google Analysts” sounded important, but I knew right away he was full of hot air, so I let him pitch me.
He started by telling me I was picking all the wrong keywords for my transmission shop website, funny I thought considering the website ranks in the top five for every major keyword for this transmission business. I asked him what he meant, because this particular website ranks #1 and many times #2 for many keywords in this major city, and even state, keywords like: transmissions, transmission repair, transmission shops, clutches, differentials etc. He replied, well I searched “brakes” and you weren’t showing up. I stopped the guy right there and said this is a transmission shop, not a brake or auto repair shop. I then told him that we didn’t need to waste each others time anymore, he obviously didn’t do any homework to know he was calling an SEO agency (customer directed him to me). I also told him that we both knew he wasn’t a “Top Google Analyst”, because if he was, he wouldn’t be worried about the rankings of one little transmission shop on the east coast. He ended the call in a huff, yelling that I needed to pick better keywords before he hung up on me.
The moral of the story is that even reputable SEO agencies get cold called by snake oil SEO sales people, and while I still laugh about the call above, I know this guy is still out there preying on unsuspecting business owners. So beware of the flashy title.
6) They can’t tell you in easy to understand terms what exactly they do to help your SEO
SEO is not an exact science. There are no exact equations that equal great rankings for every situation. SEO is a process of known ranking factors, testing, refining, and creativity. Good SEO takes experience, and the more experience you have at it, the better you become. If you’re talking to someone that claims they are an SEO expert, and they can’t tell you their exact process, and what exactly they would recommend for your business, it’s probably because they don’t know themselves. You wouldn’t trust a mechanic to fix your car that couldn’t tell you exactly what he was going to do to fix your problem, SEO is no different. A mechanic should be able to tell you what he is going to do to fix your vehicle, the process and the parts involved, an SEO expert should be expected to do the same.
7) They want a long term commitment (contract)
When it comes to SEO and small business there is no reason for a long term contract. Any reputable SEO agency should be able to start showing results to a customer within a few months. Does that mean they are going to get your business to the top of the pack for that major keyword you’re looking for right away? Not likely and if they do, that could be a major warning sign of unsavory SEO tactics. Quality SEO is a painstaking, detail oriented job that needs to be continually worked on, but it’s not something that requires a year long contract. If they’re asking you for a long term commitment, start shopping somewhere else.
8) No references
This to me seems like a no brainer, an SEO expert should be able to provide you with references. They should be references from companies that they have done business with for the long term, and businesses you can check their rankings on the search engines. Make sure to check several keywords, one keyword doesn’t cut it on the web today. The proof is in the pudding.
9) They don’t know website markup and structure
An SEO expert should be able to breakdown your website code to you as a business owner in easy to understand terms. They should be able to point out key areas for improvement, and show you on their own websites how they are coded differently. Many people that consider themselves SEO experts can’t complete this simple task and will often say they have “in-house” experts that handle that. Being able to breakdown a websites code is a fundamental for any real SEO expert.
10) The SEO expert talks about clicks
No matter what anyone tells you, clicks do not automatically mean customers. Many people think that getting a bunch of visits to their website will equal their phone ringing, unfortunately this is not the case. A true SEO expert will talk about click through rates (CTR), bounce rate (people that came then left), entrance pages, exit pages, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) among just a few. As a small business owner, your primary concern for your website should be generating leads, and clicks do not always equal leads . Highly targeted website visitors, calling or walking into your business should be the metric you judge.
It’s your job as a small business owner to sell the prospect, it’s your SEO agencies job to generate the lead.
Bonus – The “SEO Expert” says you don’t have a mobile website when your website is built in responsive design
We get this question from our customers a lot. Joe salesperson says that we don’t have a mobile website. My answer is inevitably the same each time, “No you don’t, your website is built in responsive design.”
Anyone telling you that a mobile site is better than responsive design is just plain uneducated. You can read what Google recommends when it comes to website design and particularly when it comes to mobile devices here. In the first paragraph it states:
- Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
I hope the above helps you steer clear of SEO Snake Oil Salesmen.
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