I know I do frequently sound warnings here about the amount of money being poured down the drain in “search engine optimisation”, but a couple of things have cropped up in the past week which made me think that I can’t warn you about it often enough. The first was a conversation with a genuinely good SEO specialist, and these people (as I’ve mentioned before) don’t come cheap. I was reminded so much of when I was in magazine publishing, and our market was being attacked by a succession of magazines which charged small, regular amounts for inclusion (usually called “colour separation charges”) but never actually published the magazine. Surely this couldn’t be the basis for a lucrative business, could it? Well, dear reader, it was, thanks to a combination of high pressure selling and marketing managers who didn’t have the time or inclination to actually look at the results of their advertising.
It seems the same thing has been going on for several years in SEO – companies set up, take regular retainers from clients to “keep the clients high up in the Google results”, and promptly do nothing at all. The genuine experts (just as we did in magazine publishing) think: “well, nobody would be daft enough to sign up for this, would they?” …but they do. And in quite large numbers, I reckon. My friend the SEO specialist was more saddened than adversely affected, because, as she pointed out, the companies paying a couple of hundred pounds a month for some mythical “SEO service” were never going to be able to afford her fees anyway. But in any industry, the very existence of cowboys still hurts the good guys.
How do I know this is going on? I hear of many examples. Some new clients we have been talking to were brave enough to admit having only just realised they were being conned. Their “SEO company” said it was regularly making small changes behind the scenes on their site, and monitoring the results in Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Very good. Except the clients then quietly changed the passwords to all these services, and several weeks later had still heard nothing from the “SEO company”.
I also heard the other day of another good, solid industrial supplier finding itself all but disappearing from the Google results, with no obvious explanation. However, one distinct possibility is that the company – without knowing it – had been joined into some sort of link networking scheme, aimed at “fooling” Google’s algorithms, but the scheme had been found out. This happens regularly. The people who use these schemes are the people who make a living from gaming Google for short term (but highly lucrative) gain, and those who use them as a short cut to get clients results, cheaply. Don’t get caught up in this sort of stuff. If use an SEO company, make sure you get regular, specific reports about what they’ve done.