A big part of what we try to do at LocalU is to educate small business owners about Search Engine Optimization and internet marketing. Part of our motivation is to give those with more time than money the information and tools that they can use to help them promote their own company on the web. Another important mission is to educate them as to what really works in SEO and online marketing and how to choose reputable vendors when they are ready to turn the reins over to professionals.
As we all know, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there -- people who are outstanding at making sales even when they don't really understand what they are selling. Unfortunately, some of them don't even care if what they're selling is actually good for the customer or not. They pride themselves on being able to sell ice to Eskimos, as the saying goes. Dealing with them isn't very satisfying when you're the Eskimo.
These folks typically cold call -- sometimes using recordings -- or send unsolicited emails to businesses. They often employ high pressure sales tactics, aren't totally forthcoming about who they represent, and try to scare entrepreneurs into buying their services via misleading sales scripts.
If you haven't experienced this, consider yourself extremely lucky.
I'm contacted several times a day by people who want me to hire them to do SEO and Local SEO for my websites. They obviously aren't even looking at them, first. If you doubt that this is a common problem, here are links to some representative threads (there are more) in the Google Help Forum that clearly demonstrate how some of these outfits operate:
- Are They Google Representatives?
- I received a call from Cyber Center; who said they were "contracted by Google to give free consultations regarding the Google Places listing."
- Our office is beseiged daily by phone calls asking to update our Google listing. The calls said we could push a number to be removed from their database, but the calls continue even after we did so. How do we get those calls to stop?
- Google calls me from 503-457-1410 and has a very rude sales person, Kyle is his name. Tells me to shut up & listen
You also need to be careful with companies who only want to sell you a single online marketing service and claim it will rocket you to the top of the rankings. There are hundreds of factors in the search algorithms and magic bullets do not exist. Anyone who claims to have one is lying and anyone hopeful enough to believe otherwise is going to be disappointed.
Before you engage anyone to provide Search Engine Optimization for your business, you need to educate yourself or you are highly vulnerable to buying things you don't need -- things that won't help you to gain any additional business from the internet. You don't need to understand it all, but you should be aware of what to look for in an SEO company, the questions you should ask before hiring one and some of the characteristics commonly exhibited by less-than-great internet marketing companies. That knowledge will put you on the right path towards hiring a company that will help you to succeed online.
Google provides excellent advice and guidelines on how to choose an SEO company here. If you'd like to delve deeper, Google also published a 32 page Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that you'll find useful.
(Photo by alkruse24 and used via Creative Commons licensing.)