Screwed: Is this an inevitability in the SEO World?

By about 2pm everyday, each of my team members has spoken to a good handful of clients and potential clients who have been speaking with other SEO firms. This an absolutely wonderful thing to see, as in the past in our industry, not enough of our consumers were questioning what they were purchasing. It is a sign that accountability will come and the bad guys will be weeded out.

While this is a good sign, it's the cause of my having to answer the same questions over and over. The consumers in the SEO world are being fed out and out lies by some of the people who call themselves experts in the area of Search Engine Optimization. They hear these lies and while comparing prices, contact us at Abalone Designs. They then proceed to tell me everything that all of these other companies promised them and I am utterly astonished. Here some of the most asinine claims I hear through the grapevine.

"We can guarantee your rankings"

Don't be fooled! Ask the company what you will be ranking for, immediately! 9 times out of 10, a company that guarantees you rankings, is guaranteeing that you will rank for your own company name, which means people on Google or MSN or Yahoo! would have to know your company name before searching. How does this produce new customers and visitors to your site? Chances are, as soon as these search engines index your site, you will rank within the top ten for your company name, if not first, because it is unique. Why bother paying someone for something that is already going to happen, anyway?

Guaranteeing rankings is highly unethical. It is impossible to guarantee rankings unless you have access to Google's database itself, and even then I'm not sure it's possible. Keep in mind, we are working with a 3rd party, here. A highly guarded 3rd party that doesn't, under any circumstances, reveal it's secrets. No one outside of the companies that run these search engines knows what it is exactly that makes search engines rank sites high. Especially due to the fact that these search engines and the rigorous ranking filters they use to spit out search results change almost monthly. Even a former Google employee doesn't know how to guarantee rankings! If someone is telling you they'll guarantee top rankings, run fast! Those are some shady, shady claims. Google themselves have said:

"No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google - Beware of SEO's that claim to guarantee rankings, or that claim a "special relationship" with Google, or that claim to have a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is by using the page at http:// www.google.com/addurl.html. You can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever." - http:// www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/seo.html

An ethical SEO company will not guarantee rankings. They will guarantee that their methods follow search engine guidelines, and they will guarantee customer satisfaction, but at no point in time will any SEO company with a conscience guarantee your rankings.

"Your site needs to be continually resubmitted to get on and stay on the search engines"

When will I see the end of this one? How old is this method now? 5 years? 10 years? We're talking about the days when Webcrawler was the biggest search engine and all computers were beige! This claim is so fully untrue, had Pinocchio uttered it, his nose would have stretched from Rome to Poughkeepsie. And the good folks at Google will once again back me up on this one:

"Submission is not necessary and does not guarantee inclusion in our index. Given the large number of sites submitting URLs, it's likely your pages will be found in an automatic crawl before they make it into our index through the URL submission form. We DO NOT add all submitted URLs to our index, and cannot predict when or if they will appear." - http:// www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/1.html#A2

"Meta tags are not important anymore"

Sure they aren't. If you don't want a decent ranking on MSN. The new MSN search places a lot of value on the keywords and description meta tags. Without these tags in your site's code, your ranking on MSN will suffer. Just as importantly, if your keywords and description meta tags don't use proper language, your rankings will suffer. The description tag is also what MSN uses as the visible description for a site in the search results. And of course, to prove I'm not the one blowing hot air, here is what MSN themselves say about it:

"Site descriptions are extracted from the content of your page each time MSNBot crawls your site and indexes its pages...

...the best way to affect your site description is to ensure that your web pages effectively deliver the information you want to see in search results." - Click here to see the page this is found on.

"Your Web Site Has Been Sabotaged"

This one is truly unreal. I can't believe it's even been used as an excuse for why an SEO company hasn't achieved decent rankings for you. But alas, more than one SEO company has told potential clients of ours that the reason they are not ranking well, or why their search engine optimization campaign is not effective, is because someone else has been sabotaging the site. Some of the clients who have been told this are small businesses, like bed and breakfasts or pet sitters. We always explain to these potential clients that the likelihood of someone even having the initial idea to sabotage a web site, the site in question would have to be a fairly large one, and the target of a lot of hatred. Why? Because sabotaging a web site's rankings takes a massive amount of time and energy. We're talking months, maybe even years of hard, hard work. Why would anyone devote months or years of their life to taking down a pet sitting site? Or a bed and breakfast?

Once again, these are some hefty claims and it is a clear sign that the company who is running your SEO campaign is unwilling to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Don't Put Up With It.

The bottom line is, your search engine optimization company works for you. You are paying them. Hold them accountable as you would any other vendor. Keep reading these articles, read info at the search engines, educate yourself and if something your SEO says smells a little rotten, don't be afraid to call them on it.

Is being screwed an inevitability in the SEO world? Damn near. But thanks to the increasing interest of our consumers in self-education and their increased questioning, our industry will slowly climb out of the gutter and someday down the line, send this article into antiquity. In spite of my pride, I'd be overjoyed to see that day come.

Courtney Heard is the founder of Abalone Designs, a search engine optimization company in Vancouver, Canada. She has been involved in web development and marketing since 1995 and has helped start several businesses since then in the Vancouver area. More of Courtney's articles are available at http://www.abalone.ca/resources/

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