While the days of the snake oil salesman are long behind us, we’re still plagued by people out to make a quick buck at our expense. As business owners, it’s sometimes not apparent when a charlatan is trying to wheedle money from us, especially when it relates to something we don’t know much about.
Take search engine optimization (SEO). While it’s generally accepted that a well-run SEO campaign is an essential part of any online marketing strategy, many business owners still aren’t really clear on how to improve their search rankings; and so, they turn to supposed experts for help.
The problem is, those SEO “gurus” are often using outdated tactics to try to move up search results — or simply promising the moon without being able to deliver. Thanks to Google, those “quick-win” SEO tactics from years ago no longer fly.
Here are ten lies to watch out for when interviewing people to help with your search engine rankings.
1. I Can Get You The #1 Position On Google.
Why this lie continues to perpetuate, I’ll never understand. Hear this, and hear it well: no one can guarantee rankings on search engines. Except maybe Google, but you’re not Google, and neither is that guy you hired to work on your SEO.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state very clearly that you should be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Be very skeptical of anyone who promises you top positioning.
2. Every Industry Is The Same In The SEO World. I Don’t Need Specific Experience In Your Field.
This is in response to your question, “Do you have experience helping companies in my industry?”
Ideally, the SEO professional you work with will have expertise in your field. The truth is that all industries are not equal in the SEO world. Some, like business services, are much more competitive for top keywords — others, like manufacturing, are less competitive and therefore easier to dominate.
Unless you’re in a very small niche that no one will have experience in, keep looking until you find an SEO expert who has a proven track record in your field.
3. Duplicated Content Is Fine.
The person or firm you hire to help with SEO may or may not also be a content marketing expert. It helps if they’ve got skills in both areas, because content is essential to your SEO strategy.
No matter how awesome or well-written it may have been, re-posting an article you published elsewhere on your own blog is not a good idea. This is due to duplicate content filtering and the effects of the Panda 4.0 algorithm which launched a few weeks ago.
4. The More Links, The Better.
Just a few years ago, SEO “experts” would use many spammy tactics for acquiring links to their clients’ websites, and Google largely permitted it. Though it wasn’t officially allowed by Google, Google did nothing to penalize those who were doing it. And the sad truth is that those tactics worked extremely well. As such, SEO was mostly a popularity contest driven by the number of inbound links you had to your website.
Those days are gone, so don’t let anyone tell you differently. While the acquisition of inbound links is still an important part of any SEO strategy, Google has shifted their emphasis from quantity to quality. Large quantities of spammy inbound links can now harm your rankings — or even get you slapped with a manual penalty.
5. The More Keywords, The Better.
While keyword density (what percentage of the total copy of a page your keywords comprised) was a major buzzword a few years ago, the focus now is on using a variety of keywords and their variations (known as long-tail keywords) sprinkled naturally throughout the body copy.
“Naturally,” you will note, does not mean that every third word is that keyword. Don’t work with anyone who tells you differently.
6. I’ll Submit Your Site To Hundreds Of Search Engine Directories.
And you’ll be wasting my time. Yes, while you can submit your site to the major search engines, this will yield absolutely zero benefit. There are not hundreds of legitimate directories you want to be found on. Honestly, there never were. This tactic can actually trigger an unnatural link warning or penalty from Google, so stay far away from anyone who says they’ll do any link building or “submissions” on such a large scale.
7. My Techniques Are Too Complicated To Explain.
You may not be a tech head, but you are perfectly capable of understanding how someone you’re paying money to can improve the rankings of your site. In all honesty, it’s not complicated at all. Good SEO campaigns are the result of the successful melding of what I call the Three Pillars of SEO: Content, Links, and Social Media. Each pillar is not complicated nor difficult; it’s just a matter of having the resources to implement each, and the expertise to implement each according to best practices.
8. You Don’t Need To Worry About Google Algorithm Updates.
The truth is, we all need to at least be aware of them and how they change the industry. In general, if you’re practicing above-board SEO strategies that involve producing useful and relevant content in order to build your brand organically and naturally, you should be fine. But still keep your ear to the ground on what Google’s up to.
Here’s a handy resource for keeping track of each Google algorithm update, when it occurred, and what it changed: Google Algorithm Change History.
9. All You Need Is SEO.
No marketing plan will succeed if it’s focused on a single marketing discipline. Your website rankings can improve through your active presence on social media, consistent blog posts, and even your offline marketing efforts. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but ensure that each piece of your marketing strategy maximizes your SEO benefits.
10. I‘ll Get Your SEO Fixed In A Month For A Flat Rate.
SEO is not a “set it and forget it” strategy; it needs ongoing attention. Remember that SEO does not happen in a vacuum. Your competitors are constantly working to improve their SEO, so if you stop doing so, you’ll fall behind. Certain one-time projects can be extremely beneficial, such as initial SEO website audits, link profile audits, and professional keyword research. But these should be treated as foundations and starting points of successful ongoing SEO campaigns.
Ultimately, you need someone who’s willing to work with your company for the foreseeable future and make recommendations for improvement as you go along.
Be Smart In Hiring An SEO Consultant
If you’re going to invest time and money in hiring someone to help you with your SEO efforts, you need to be confident in their ability to do the job right. Start by doing your homework on a few potential firms. A smart SEO company will have plenty of information on its website about how they help customers and the strategies they use.
Next, look for reviews of those companies. Try searching for the company name and “review” and see what pops up. Usually no news is good news; if the company has had angry customers, mentions are likely to pop up.
See how the company’s own site measures in terms of search ranking. Use a tool like Alexa to see how popular the site is. The lower the number, the higher it ranks out of all sites from a traffic perspective. Remember: SEO is imperative for the survival of your brand online. Work with a company or individual that doesn’t make promises they can’t keep.
Have you heard other lies from SEO “gurus”? Leave a comment and let us know!
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Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.