Cheap SEO - Too Good to Be True?

Cheap SEO from the cowboysIf you have a website you've no doubt been approached by hundred and one SEO "experts". Each "expert" will promise you the earth with practically zero effort on your part. They will rewrite all the META tags in your website, "coz that's how the search engines rank you", and continually submit you to a gazillion and one search engines and directories to make sure people can find you. All of this for the once-in-a-lifetime offer price of £25 per month with a guaranteed page 1 Google listing or your money back.

Too good to be true? You knew that already, even as you were posting out their first cheque!

Apologies in Advance for My Ranting

This sort of SEO marketing is one of my pet hates. As a website owner looking to boost your traffic it's very easy to get suckered into these sorts of deals. All that happens though is that you end up losing money, getting no results and coming away with the opinion that SEO companies are a bunch of crooks.

When I approach companies who have had this experience I have to first breakdown this resistance to SEO before I can start to show people how to do it properly.

So let's break down this offer to see exactly what it means.

The Truth about META Tags

META tags are pieces of code embedded into your webpage. You can't see them when you're viewing the website but if you have a look at the HTML you'll spot them somewhere near the top.

The two main tags that SEO companies go on about are the META description and META keywords. Way back when the web was new these tags were used to help the search engines understand what your webpage was about. You provided a short description of your webpage and a set of keywords which you thought were relevant to your webpage content. This made it easy for automated software to read your webpage and index it in the search results.

Oddly enough unscrupulous Webmasters started to abuse these tags. They would actually lie in their description and keyword tags, telling the search engines that their webpages were about topics just in an effort to get extra traffic to the websites so they could make more money. I know you'll find this hard to believe but it's true.

Unsurprisingly the search engines soon got fed up with this and quite a few years ago they started ignoring the tags in their ranking algorithms (the way they work out which websites get the top of the search results).

META Description Tag

Although these META tags will not help you get higher up the search results the META description tag is still very important.

When your website is listed in a search engine results page you'll see the title of the page and a short description. If you get it right the description they use will actually be your META description tag. This gives you about 160 characters to sell your website and get the searcher to click on your result. So it's not helping you get onto the search results list, it's helping you get more clicks when you are found.

So make sure you have a META description tag. Make sure it contains your main keywords for the page (this is how you get the search engine to use this text) but write it as a call to action to get people to click the link.

Submitting Your Website to a Gazillion Directories

It does sound great to have your website listed on thousands and thousands of websites. You've no doubt heard that the more links you have the better your search results. But not all links are equal, and some links will actually hurt your website.

Some directory listings are great. They will boost your search engine rankings and are well worth doing. When we take on a client we will list them in places like The directories we use are manually vetted so only proper websites get in and this fact is recognised by the search engines so they take real notice of what the directories list. This does however come at a cost and you'll pay upwards of $30 per directory listing.

The automated submissions you'll get from these other SEO companies are to directories who don't care what websites they list. They are free to get into but there is no vetting process. Again the search engines are very aware of this and at best will ignore these websites. Some of these automated directories are heavily spammed by porn and gambling sites and again the search engines take note of this and put a black mark against them. If your website ends up being associated with a range of these blacklisted sites it can then reflect badly on you as well.

Guaranteed Page 1 Listings

This is one where you have to be very careful about what they actually mean. Very often you'll be sold the idea that you'll get a guaranteed page 1 listing for a phrase like **insert your main keyword here**. Quite often the word "like" is important part of that guarantee. They're not actually guaranteeing the phrase you want, but rather a very specific variation on that phrase that they know they can get onto page 1, e.g. "website design company called G.E.T. based in Ringstead Northamptonshire".

Another variation on this that we've seen is the use of Google Adwords. These are paid for search engine results that appear at the very top and right hand side of the search engine results page. If you look very closely at a Google search page you'll see these results are on a very faint background and are very discreetly labelled as sponsored listings. You can very easily have your website list in these areas by giving Google or the other search engines some cash. We have seen some companies use Adwords to prove a first page Google listing. Once the client has seen the proof they stop paying Google for the advert and it  disappears.

All for Only £25 per Month

£25 pays for about half an hour off an SEO expert's time. At this price range most companies are using automated SEO software. If you want to have a look at the sort of thing they are using search the Internet for "Web CEO" or "Internet Business Promoter". Both of these packages cost around £200 and will let you do SEO the wrong way for yourself.

The old saying that "You get what you pay for" is as true for SEO as it is for any other service you buy. To run a proper SEO campaign, even for a small website will take at least a few hours per month to get right.

Ranting Over

I hope I've given you some useful insight into the lower end of the SEO marketplace. Most website owners don't have very much knowledge of this topic and it's very easy to be sold and instant solution. But please remember that there is no instant fix for an underperforming website. A proper SEO campaign requires planning, careful implementation, and a wide spread of techniques to make sure that your website traffic grows steadily and securely without falling foul of any of the search engines' blacklisting filters.

If you are seriously interested in making your website work hard for your company then give us a call. We're always happy to hear from people and will give you your first hour of consultancy for free so you can see we know are talking about.

And just remember with these sort of offers if it sounds too good to be true, it is!
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