Well SEO is a Bit Difficult

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, SEO and Internet marketing was simple. There was nothing but a blog. No such thing as MySpace or Facebook. It was just a simple search on AltaVista. Way before Google was around.

That was 1995 or so. Things have changed a lot since then.

Now we got all these people and companies and everybody who think they know about it. It is very interesting.

Look you can’t get “ranked”, if that is what you want to do, for a bill a month. And you must understand that things are changing.

Rome Was Not Built In a Day

search engine optimization snake oil

beware of snake oil in seo


Search engine optimization would seem simple to anyone who reads the simpleton items on the Internet. Just follow Google’s rules, read a few things, and then you are now an expert.

Not.

Actually, you are all idiots if you believe everything you read on the Internet. And then you call us, and act as if you know?

Do you really believe that you can build Rome in a day? Do you really believe that you can take over Walmart, Target, Ebay, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others for the rate of a mere $1000.00 per month? Are you really that stupid?

Start Small

If you have an idea, and wish to get it promoted, think local. Start with your local area. If you have a “brick and mortar” store, have your SEO firm promote that. Get involved in your local community, via social media. By that I mean blogging, social bookmarking, Twitter, and other social media such as Facebook and others, depending upon your specific audience.

Start small, and grow big. Very big.

You Can Do It

Your business can grow, quite easily, if you listen to your SEO advisors. They know more than you about online marketing, and if it is a reputable firm, it will be transparent regarding how it spends your money. So listen with your ears, and hush with your mouth. You would not have called an SEO firm if you knew what you were doing.

Here’s One Way

Don’t call up and say that your brother, or cousin, or ex-wife’s-dead-grandmother’s-buried-husband’s-mistress-child’s-friend-from seventh grade science class who drives a dump trunk and is taking classes online knows shit about SEO. That person does not.

Matt Foster is the CEO of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Internet marketing firm, who has been active in the industry since 1995. Mr. Foster can be found on Twitter @ArteWorks_SEO. ArteWorks SEO can be found at www.arteworks.biz.

6 Signs of SEO Snake Oil, Watch Out!

Colleagues in the search engine optimization industry are often given a bad rap from consumers. We are known as “gaming the system” or figuring out what Google’s algorithm is. This is true; we do have to figure out on our own, with a little help from the search engines, how to rank on them. Which strategies work? What shows results? What is the most ethical strategy we can develop? Unfortunately snake oil companies can ruin the reputation of highly reputable firms, steal money from their clients, and never produce results either ethically or not. Here are 6 signs that an SEO company may be a snake oil firm.

Prices so low they seem too good to be true
This is a tell all sign you may be hiring a snake oil SEO firm. “I can get you number one on Google for only $50 a month!” If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. It seems taboo to say it, but you have to invest to rank well on the search engines. It is not cheap. If a company wants to make a million dollars off the Internet in the travel industry for example, they should be willing to spend a minimum of $1,000 a month. And that is on the low end.

Promises to be number one on the search engines
We all know that firms in the industry do not work with the search engines, nor do they work with us. How can a reputable firm speak on behalf of Google and promise a client they will be ranked number one on that search engine? We never know how the search engines will rank our clients, but we have enough understanding of what the search engines want to obtain a page or position one listing. If you are guaranteed a position, you should know that you may be hiring a snake oil SEO.

Secret strategies without monthly reporting
SEO firms should open, honest, and most of all transparent. A reputable firm will inform the client of the custom developed strategy. Often an SEO firm will present all content to the client before it is uploaded to a blog or website. Snake oil firms are usually very secretive and do not offer any type of monthly reporting. The only way to track and show your clients progress is to accurately report your strategy, site traffic, and web position movement.

No third party references available
References are important, especially when you are charging thousands of dollars each month to your clients. A lot of SEO firms have virtual offices and conduct all work via the Internet. References will vouch for the honesty and successes of your firm. Third party references are invaluable. Client references mean nothing to me. SEO firms often have NDAs with their clients because they respect the privacy and protection of their clients, especially reputation management clients. An SEO firm can have made up clients and references, but if they come from third party sites they cannot be denied. Topseos.com, promotionworld.com, and seomoz provide accurate and nonbiased references. I read an article recently that said if a company doesn’t have client references you shouldn’t waste your time. This outraged me. We receive a high number of leads per day and cannot expect our clients to interrupt their busy day to screen calls from our prospective clients. A lot of companies do not want their competition to know they are doing SEO or reputation management and demand an NDA at the start of a project.

Strategies strictly based on number of links and/or directory submissions
This strategy for SEO is so outdated. I hardly think anyone wants to relive the 90s. Snake oil firms usually rely on pretty graphs and numbers to woo their clients. There is more to SEO and we cannot deny the power of social media among other things. An SEO strategy should be well rounded and focus on more than one of the more than 250 factors the search engines evaluate when ranking a website.

Lack of regularly updated content
We often receive calls from second chance clients that have been burned by snake oil SEO. The first thing I look for after hearing they’ve done SEO is whether or not there is a blog. Usually there is not a blog and the client can’t figure out why the snake oil company didn’t build links or improve their position on the search engines. Chances are if there isn’t a blog, there hasn’t been regularly updated content and the strategy relied heavily on directory submissions or link exchanges which is another sign of a snake oil SEO.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Part 2 of 2: Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Part 1 of this 2 part series discussed important on page elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, and url structure. Below you will find more important information from Google’s SEO starter guide.

Quality content and services
While keyphrase density is a myth, there should be rich, unique text content present on the home page, and the text should be relevant to and contain at least one of your desired keyphrases. It tells the search engines what your site is about. People will be more likely to link to you if you provide interesting or informative content. As Google puts it, “organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”

The trusted “alt” attribute
Do not miss out on opportunities to optimize images. Search engines do not read images so it is your job to tell them what they are looking at when your site is being crawled. The “alt” attribute is also useful if an image doesn’t appear on a user’s browser because the user can read what the missing image is supposed to be. The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide shares a helpful tip: store images in a single directory and use the most common supported filetypes. This becomes especially important if you use images as links. Image “alt” attributes help you get found in blended search results and should relate to the theme of your page. They are also a good way of helping the search engines ascertain the content of your site, and relevancy to particular keyphrase searches.

Heading Tags
Heading tags, or tags, should be used to highlight keyphrases, they will catch the users’ eyes and should only be used when/where appropriate. They should be used to highlight major themes/keyphrases of each page and should be included at least once on each page.

The importance of a nofollow
Using a rel=nofollow will not bleed any of your site’s page rank. This is very useful for sites or blogs that allow user comments. Linking to bad neighborhoods or having them link to you will hurt your ranking (another reason not to be involved with link exchanges).

Keep in mind that having a fully optimized site is not enough to get you ranked on the first page of Google or other search engines. There is more to it than that. Off page work and leveraging social media is just as important for your SEO strategy. I like how Google puts it, “While most of the links to your site will be gained gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it, Google understands that you’d like to let other know about the hard work you’ve put into your content.”

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Part 1 of 2: Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. I believe that Google has released this document for the purpose of keeping people away from snake oil SEO and to keep website owners in compliance with Google’s terms of service.

While there are no surprises in this document, it is important to reiterate to those website owners who may believe in myths. Google has made it clear as to the ranking factors. They have also updated the guide to incorporate the importance of social media.

In the document, Google states that, “search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website.” SEO is not all about on page elements but the blend of on page and off page elements. The importance of on page optimization starts with a few elements of html, including title tags, meta descriptions, alt attributes and such.

To fully understand SEO you should first know how and what you are achieving. Google says it best in their starter guide, “search engine optimization affects only organic search results, not paid or ‘sponsored’ results such as Google AdWords.” A prospective client told me that he used pay per click (PPC) and thought that Google would rank him higher because he was paying them every month. That is a myth that had to be revealed. Paying Google for PPC does not affect your organic ranking.

Here are some of the on page elements that Google says will help make your site more visible on their search engine and easier to crawl.

Unique title tags
I often see that a client’s site who is just starting SEO is not optimized. One of the first problems I see is that the site has duplicate title tags or only the business name. Duplicate content is an issue in and of itself but to only have the business name is more of a problem. Most users do not search on Google for a specific business unless they are researching the business. How would anyone know that Fake Business Inc. was selling a fake product unless they searched with the keyphrase “fake product.” Search engines are smart but you have to tell them what they are looking at so they know how to rank you.

Meta descriptions

Another problem I often see is clients simply listing their keyphrases in the meta descriptions. Your meta description is like an advertisement. It is usually what appears in the search engines and draws people in. The description should use persuasive language that also contains your target keyphrases for that page. Having an optimized meta description is an opportunity to connect with your customers on the search engine results page. The same philosophy for interior page title tags applies to interior page meta descriptions.

URL structures
Google stats that you should, “provide one version of a URL to reach a document.”  We had a prospective client tell us he had bought 10-15 different URLs in hopes he would rank higher. He used a different keyword in each URL, did not use a 301 redirect, and only had a link on the site hoping people would click through to the main site. Needless to say he was nowhere to be found on the search engines for his desired keyphrase. We politely told him to stop wasting money on more urls. Some prospective clients do not think it is important to inform us if they own different domains with identical content. The problem is that there will be a split of link building which could negatively affect their position on the search engines.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.