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The Smoke and Mirrors of the SEO Industry

Why do some SEO companies give you a very expensive quote while other companies give you a relatively cheap quote? Why do some SEO companies guarantee that your web site will be #1 on Google while others warn you against SEO companies that offer guarantee rankings? Why does it seem that every SEO expert claims to be the best? How do you choose which company to go with? Are you comparing apples to apples?

In this article, we will shed some light on the common confusions business owners run into when they get quotes from SEO companies. We call these the “smoke and mirrors” of the search engine optimization industry not to criticize the industry. After all, we are SEO experts ourselves. The reason these confusions can appear to be smoke and mirrors is that many people are not comparing apples to apples when they get quotes from different SEO companies.

Here are 3 vital questions to ask when you get a quote from a SEO company:

1. What keywords are you optimizing for me? The keywords that are optimized for you cannot be too broad or too specific. For instance, we have a client who owns an auto repair shop in Redmond, WA. It does not make sense to optimize the keyword “auto repair” because what difference does it make when someone who lives in Florida types “auto repair” into Google and this web site pops up first in the search results? No matter how good this auto repair shop is, people are not going to drive from Florida to Redmond, WA to get their cars fixed. What’s more, it would cost a lot of money to optimize a broad, nationwide keyword such as “auto repair”. What would make sense for this business is to optimize the keyword “Redmond auto repair”. What would not make sense is for the keyword to be too specific such as “auto repair facility on Avondale Way in Redmond, WA”. It is relatively easy and cheap to optimize a really specific keyword, but who is going to type “auto repair facility on Avondale Way in Redmond, WA” into Google?

That is why the keywords being optimized need to fit your business. Broad, nationwide keywords tend to be very competitive. Therefore they are difficult to be ranked high on Google, and would cost more to optimize. Specific keywords are easier to be ranked high, and therefore cost less. Suppose you are a pediatrician in Seattle, and you get a relatively cheap quote to get the keyword “downtown Seattle pediatrician” optimized. Now think for a moment…How many people actually type “downtown Seattle pediatrician” into Google? Or do people actually type “Seattle pediatrician”? In my opinion, the keyword “Seattle pediatrician” is a much better fit for your business. However, “Seattle pediatrician” is a broader keyword than “downtown Seattle pediatrician”, and would therefore cost more to optimize. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples, and don’t get too excited over an extremely cheap quote to optimize some overly specific keywords that may not be what your customers are typing into Google.

2. Are you optimizing my web site? Believe it or not, there are companies that promise high rankings on Google for your business, but they don’t actually optimize your web site. Think of this as a directory listing. A marketing company may have a directory web site that ranks very high on Google, and you are paying this company several hundred dollars a month to be included in its directory. When customers search on Google, they need to first go to the directory web site, look through the directory of businesses, then click on a link to your web site. If you stop paying this marketing company, it simply removes the link to your web site from its directory. Now, there is nothing wrong with that if it is the direction you wish to go. In my opinion, it is a better investment of your marketing dollars to optimize your own web site. You may not get there as fast as being included in a directory that is already at the top, and you may need a larger upfront investment to get your web site to the top. But you know what? Once your web site is at the top, you own it. You won’t have to worry about being taken off the directory if you stop paying the marketing company. When you spend money optimizing your own web site, it is an investment. When you pay to be included in a directory, it is a monthly expense.

3. Does this sound too good to be true? The saying that “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies to choosing SEO companies. Unless the keyword being optimized is extremely specific, chances are you won’t get to the top of Google in one week. If you want to optimize competitive keywords that a lot of people are typing in, chances are you need to invest some money to make this happen. Remember, no one can guarantee you a #1 position on Google. In fact, Google’s webmaster guidelines clearly state this. Beware of SEO companies that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. Watch out for SEO companies with no references or track record. SEO is an art, not a science. Since no one knows exactly what the ranking algorithms are, every SEO expert has a different method and technique, hence the variance in charges. Go with the company that can provide testimonials, references, and hard data to back up its claims.

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