Cheap SEO Services: Why they'll do more harm than good.

You know the saying - "If it looks to good to be true - it is". Or how about "You get what you pay for".

Yet hundreds of business owners are being duped by offers of cheap Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

I hesitate to use the word 'lazy' but it has to be because they don't want to, or don't know how to, ask some simple questions and do some digging before handing over the keys to their business reputation.

Please, run a mile if you're offered:

  • 99 dollar a month SEO
  • Free SEO – even as a trial
  • Results within a few weeks
  • Anything involving the word 'secret'. SEO might be hard, but it's not magic.
  • Or any of these SEO Myths as part of a sales pitch

Bad SEO WILL harm your business.

At best it will relieve you of some hard earned revenue. At worst it could mean completely rebuilding your website, your traffic numbers and your reputation from scratch. Sounds like I'm getting a bit hysterical, but I have heard of businesses that end up in exactly this pickle.

I can sympathise with a business that wants to save money, but why take the cheap option and hand over responsibility for something so vital to someone who could do so much damage, without being very sure they could be trusted? Do you hire full time employees the same way? Sorry to sound so grumpy, but it's just not good business.

Cheap is just that - cheap.

Professional SEO's are NOT cheap. If you can't stump up the budget, you'd be better off with a modest PPC campaign like Adwords – at least you will get results. Or learn how to do it yourself (Here's a DIY Checklist)

What you get with cheap or shoddy SEO is:

  • Cheap back links from blog networks and link farms that look like spam. Google hates spam and actively hunts it down and punishes it. Even though it might take a little while, it will eventually harm your rankings. Link building is hard and it takes time and effort. Submission to hundreds of business directories is NOT quality link building.
  • Article spinning which involves taking an often badly written piece of content and changing enough of it so it doesn't look like it's a duplicate then submitting it to every article site available. Not only is it embarrassingly to have your business name associated with such garbage, but Google's Panda update effectively wiped out this as a legitimate tactic (thank you!)
  • Forum and blog commenting. The only thing to say is that it is pointless from an SEO perspective.
  • If you let these characters tinker with your website (or build a new one) you could also get technical errors, security vulnerabilities, bloated code and possibly an AWFUL site that doesn't actually convert any of the visitors to business.
  • Satellite sites. While there is some legitimate uses for campaign or services specific sites that link to a 'main' site, setting up a whole lot of smaller sites and linking them back to yours for SEO purposes often takes as much time and effort as legitimate SEO practices. And Google's recent efforts to reduce the value of Exact Match Domain's means this won't work as well it used to.
  • Guarantees: anyone that guarantee's you a page one result for a fixed price is going to take your first monthly instalment and run. You can't guarantee results without knowing exactly what the challenge (and therefore the cost) is. And the return on this investment may not stack up.
  • Worse case scenario: Blacklisted or indexed at number 257 which is as good as being blacklisted. And very very hard to recover from.

There are NO short cuts in SEO.

No matter what they tell you. If you want to be on the front page of Google you have to EARN it. And the word 'earn' doesn't exist in the same sentence as 'shortcut'.

Choosing a SEO Professional

Good SEO professionals should talk to you about :

  • Starting the project with in-depth research on keywords (not just which ones you 'want') including competitiveness and relevance to your business and market
  • Your overall business and marketing strategies and how SEO fits in.
  • A complete technical and structural review of your website. Bloated code, inability to update the site with fresh content, flash based sites and other issues should be addressed first
  • Accurate measuring and reporting of results – i.e. goal setting (not just ranking results) including visitor numbers, conversion rates etc. If you don't have Google analytics (or something with equal power) or Webmaster tools they will ask you to have them set up
  • A content strategy – unique content is now critical for SEO
  • Local vs international SEO – if you are a small or local business your SEO will have a different flavour than international SEO (if you want to take over the world).
  • Social media – which also plays an important role because of sharing signals. Linked to your content strategy.
  • Your role in the project. Sorry, there's no handing complete responsibility over, you'll need regular communication and reviews of progress to monitor, tweak and refocus as required.
  • Their prices. They won't be cheap. But they will have case studies and testimonials to back it up.

They should also properly manage your expectations and warn you it will take from three to six months to START seeing results.

Anyone willing to share any horror stories or hard earned lessons? Or even challenge the premise?!

Essentee

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Client words...

"Thanks to your seemingly simple optimisations we're seeing more new customers and 40 percent greater advertising revenue from our site."

Jeff McClintock - Synthedit