Theft by SEO (A True Story)

seo consulting

“My SEO firm told me they judge how well they are doing based on the number of impressions my website receives.”

“They are a ‘Google Partner’ and are proud to be a #1 ranked SEO firm so they obviously know their stuff.”

“My account manager told me it will take six months to see results and this is a long-term investment.  I’m not unhappy yet . . . I’ll give them till the end of the year.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone.  Search engine optimization has been a tricky proposition over the past fifteen years.  As SEO firms navigated the operational challenges of Google’s ever-changing rules, business owners expectations of the price and quality of SEO has continually evolved.

Ten years ago, a college student sitting at his laptop . . .

. . . half-way around the world could push a button sending tens of thousands of links to your website and boosting your website to the top of Google.  In Google’s eyes, your site was receiving a huge vote of confidence from all these sites linking to it.

But then Google wised up and the search algorithms were forever changed.

It was no longer a “push the button” game, and boutique search marketing firms sprung up from coast to coast.

These firms knew their stuff.  The individuals at these firms banded together and formed mastermind groups across the country, sharing insights into what was working, split testing various strategies, and always improving for the greater good of legitimate businesses who rely on Google to grow their business.

And then entered huge corporations with their massive marketing budgets and zest to create a scalable process for maximum profitability.

The problem . . . real SEO cannot be scaled

Unfortunate for these large corporations, profitability only comes from scaling.  And so they spend millions of dollars advertising to acquire a customer.  Then they hire a staff of inexperienced novices who use “proprietary tools” to rank your website.

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These tools execute on SEO strategy that is at least 5 years old, although they dress their services up with fancy bullet points describing infographics, press releases, article writing, videos, and directory submissions.

Although their techniques are out-dated and will not work for 98% of all websites, their marketing machine continues to pump out new clients willing to give it a shot.

Here is the model so we are all clear:

  • Big SEO Corporation spends $800 to acquire a new customer via traditional mass media advertising.
  • You are charged $495/month.
  • Big SEO Corporation spends $50 setting up your account in their software and then $100/month for an account manager to oversee your account and provide you a report.  The #1 job of this account manager is to retain you as a client for as long as possible.
  • 2% of their customers will be happy and never leave.  98% of their customers will see no results and leave.

bewareDo you see now why the #1 job of that account manager is to string you along?

This account manager does not know the first thing about SEO.  And he doesn’t need to.  His job is to sell you again every month.  Because after just 2 months, Big SEO Corporation has earned a 100% return on their advertising investment.

A True Story Many Times Over

I recently spoke with Ms. Marketer, a seasoned marketing professional with a local air conditioning company.  She paid $495/month to Big SEO Corporation to rank her website in the local zip code right around her office.  She was stuck at the bottom of Page 3 for about twenty keywords that should drive 95% of the phone calls from her website.

We did a quick review of Ms. Marketer’s website and noticed her website only listed her PO Box.  We then checked on her Google Local Maps Listing and saw her street address.  We checked her Yelp Listing. It was her PO Box.  Better Business Bureau = street address.  Yahoo Local = PO Box.

Needless to say, consistency across the internet is a very important factor when Google is deciding how to rank a local business.  If a business has different addresses or phone numbers, then it does not know which is correct.  And Google will specifically keep this page from ranking because it does not want to show search visitors bad information.

When I asked Ms. Marketer how long she had been working with Big SEO Corporation, she said 4 months.  She was not real happy with them yet but she knew it was a long-term investment and didn’t want to give up on them.

I suggested that one reason her rankings had been lacking was due to the inconsistency of her business address across the internet.  She replied that she asked Big SEO Corporation about this and they told her it was “not a big deal” and “it just took more time”.

At the time I did not know who her SEO firm was, but I kindly told her that whoever it was did not know the first thing about SEO and that they were robbing from her.  She asked how much we charged and I replied that we start at $1,000 per month, depending on the market.

Her response was “oh wow, we are only paying $500 a month right now and we can’t afford that much a month”.

This is where the conversation ended.  I told her that I wished her all the best and I hope she is able to achieve the results she desires with her current firm.  If she ever does want to discuss making a change, I would be happy to jump on a call with her.

My colleagues jumped down by throat, “Why did you end the call?!?!?!?”

My response: Ms. Marketer did not really want to rank on Google.  She did not understand the value in ranking high on Google.  She took pride in getting a great deal on SEO and being able to show that she was investing in online marketing.  Her KPI (Key Performance Indicator) was the deal she got on SEO, not on the number of phone calls coming in from her website.

She would rather pay $495/month for zero appointments, than $1,000/month for even just 1 appointment.half-price

In her area, based on search volume and the competition, we anticipated 25 appointments per month.  That would be an acquisition rate of $40 per appointment; a very reasonable rate in the HVAC industry.  As in many industries, the value is not in getting the customer but in optimizing and retaining that customer for life.

So for any real business that is unable to invest $33 a day to generate the very thing that drives their operations and profitability, then they are not serious about growth.  And Ms. Marketer, unfortunately, was not serious about growth.  She is satisfied with her job and the business owner is satisfied with her as a cost center.

Honestly, Ms. Marketer does a fabulous job at offline marketing.  Her print ads are fantastic and she does a great job of managing ad spend across several radio markets.  But online marketing just isn’t her forte.

But that’s okay.  Ms. Marketer and I have a great relationship.  And I know that once she’s shelled out another $3,000 for six months of zero leads, we will have a great shot at selling her ready-to-buy leads at $60 a piece from our own network of lead generation sites.

That’s right.  While we execute SEO for clients, our primary business is ranking our own lead generation sites in industries and geographies where we do not have clients.  That is where our greatest potential lies: in building our own websites, ranking our own websites, and selling those appointments to businesses who are happy to be saving a dollar to make a penny.

Don’t be like Ms. Marketer.  Know your metrics.  Know what matters.  Get ranked and get phone calls.

If you are unsure if your current SEO firm is setting you up for success, follow our 30-second tip for checking your website for a KEY element to ranking locally.  If you don’t have this code, then you’re already playing from behind:  Watch the Video

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