Every industry has it’s scumbags, scammers, and liars. Every industry also has a cabal of providers who stay in the dark, keep doing the same old thing, and never look to improve their craft. For a customer, the outcome is the same: money paid but no return. Much like the weight-loss industry, the web service provider world is full of people who don’t know, don’t care, and/or are just out for your money. No other sub-set is worse than SEO. Based on personal stories and experiences, here are 5 reasons to run away screaming from your current provider.
Before I jump into these, let me give you a little context and inside knowledge on what goes on behind the scenes with SEO services. There are two sets of activities I do to improve the ranking of your site:
- Changes that are experimental in nature and need to be reviewed and possibly changed after a period of time.
- Things that are industry-standard, Google approved and recommended; these are dead simple changes and procedures.
The first one is where the expertise comes in. It’s about finding good keywords, using them properly, and figuring out if they are doing anything once they are in place.
The second one, however, is the easy one. These are things that are not debated, the things that every SEO should be up on, things like…
- Page structure
- Meta information
- Keyword location
These pieces have changed over the years but it’s very easy to find out the right thing to do, you just have to read a little bit. And this is where my accusations start. If you don’t know the easy stuff, how can you bill yourself as an SEO provider? This part of the job is easy so it must come down to complete laziness or deception.
In the end, it’s buyer beware. But with something as technical as SEO, how do you know when you’ve been bamboozled? Let me help…
- They offer you hundreds or thousands of links for a very low price.
A client of mine recently signed up for a service (not at my advice) that would give him “30K back links” for $5. Sound too good to be true? It was. After less than 24 hours, the entire site was missing from Google. No pages indexed, no results found, nothing. This was a big setback for a brand new site and forced us to change gears completely to try and mitigate the damage.
Quality, helpful incoming links are not easy to get and they never will be. Automated, low-quality, possibly harmful links are easy to get, which is why they hold no value for the search engines (except, we’ve found, to figure out who to get rid of). Want great links? You can make a few yourself but the best ones come from providing something people want and will link to, it’s just that “simple.” If someone tries to convince you otherwise, time to get skeptical.
- Your page titles aren’t just over 60 characters, they’re longer than your browser bar
The practice of cramming as many keywords as you can into a page title is so 2002. Long ago (in relative web time), you were able to just pack them in everywhere and reap the traffic of a million keyword phrases. These days, it’s all about specificity so trying to rank for 10 target phrases is not advised. If your site was built ten years ago and you still have those titles left over, you get a pass. If someone recently walked through your site to make SEO changes and you’ve got a page title that’s a mile long, you have a serious problem.
I’ve seen a range of accepted/recommended lengths for page titles and they hover between 50 and 70 characters. If you’ve got more than that, not only are you hurting your ranking for the words that are there, the rest of the title won’t be seen, read, or considered. Keep it short and put the best keyword(s) up front. If you have more to say, make another page!
- They go on and on about meta keywords and meta descriptions
“But my SEO said to concentrate on my meta keywords!” I have heard this a few times before and, for a while, made sure it was part of my plan. Until I read, from Google, that they don’t care about the keywords tag anymore. After that, the term fell out of my vocabulary. When you’ve got an algorithm that can parse a page and figure out the keywords easily on its own, why in the word would you need someone to tell you what the keywords are? You don’t.
Meta descriptions are another story. These can be used as the text beneath the page title on search engine results pages (SERPs) and, if they have your keywords in there, they can entice people to click on your result (because, of course, showing up if only half the battle). Still, these will not contribute to you actually showing up in the ranking so you’re much better off writing it for a person who is considering whether or not they want to click on your link. Write a one-sentence summary of your page and leave it at that.
- You’re not on the first page for your domain name after a month
A client came to me for a minor refresh of his site (same client as number 2 above). In the process, he asked me what I would recommend for improving his site. Immediately the page titles caught my and I mentioned that we could make some positive SEO changes with a few good keywords and changes to many of his pages. He quickly told me that a “very good” SEO had just finished working on his site. Curious, I typed the keywords from his domain into Google (he has a very long, wordy domain name) and his site was nowhere in sight (besides a paid link … icing on the cake). I figured maybe the changes had been completed a few days ago. Nope. 2 months, almost to the day. That was a problem.
Ranking for keywords in your domain name is a no-brainer, especially if you’ve got a very specific domain and content that supports it. Even without a ton of incoming links, it should be pretty easy to get somewhere on the first page. If you’re working with a professional and you’re nowhere to be found, there might be an issue.
- You’ve spent hundreds with nothing in return.
The tough thing about SEO services is that there can’t be any guarantee at all. You’re working under specific guidelines but, in the end, the black box that is Google (and others) will determine where the pages appear. Even if you succeed, your rank could be taken away soon thereafter because of an algorithm shift or a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa. Your hold on a particular position is always tentative.
This, however, is still no excuse for money spent without anything in return. I recently took over a client’s SEO strategy from a someone who “has been in the industry for a long time.” After a few hundred dollars spent, my client heard what amounted to “well, you’re doing a few things right and I’m not sure why you’re ranking so well but there’s a few more things we can do.” He then received an estimate for additional services and a confirmation that, yes, his first payment just went towards an email consisting of a few sentences and no plan of attack.
We’re not magicians but there needs to be value created for every dollar our clients spend. Even if it’s just a thorough analysis and a report, there needs to be a take-away besides an up-sell for more services. If you’re not getting suggestions, keywords, and actionable recommendations, then you’re wasting your money. I can’t guarantee a #1 placement but by the end of our session, you should feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
What did I miss?
Are you working with an SEO that’s just not helping? Have you fired someone and moved on to a different consultant? Tell us about your horror stories working with your web service provider!
Sounds like someone else was thinking about the same thing! A few more tips from Hubspot.
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