By Hannah Bryan
Chances are you’ve seen these kinds of SEO packages being pushed by SEO companies. It looks pretty awesome, right? They’ve got pre-packaged product levels that are Goldilock-ed up! Starter level for baby new business bear, enterprise for big national company papa bear, and professional for medium-sized business mama bear. Pick the one that applies to your business and voila – your problems have all been solved!
….Not so fast.
These SEO offers, while easy to digest and understand, aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
SEO is an insanely complicated, technical, and manual job that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I fell into it and fell in love with it five years ago and have been committed to understanding and helping SMBs with their organic site performance ever since. In that time, I’ve come to realize that SEO is the silent cupid of the digital world, matching websites with the right users and shooting them with a carefully aimed, optimized-tipped arrow.
I say all of this to give you a little background and (hopefully) understanding for what I’m going to say next.
You shouldn’t give companies who offer these vague SEO services the time of day, let alone your business and hard earned money.
These companies oftentimes take advantage of the niche information and training needed to successfully do search engine optimization for a website. The less you know about SEO, the better it is for them. You say, “I don’t care about understanding this product, I just want you to get me rankings and help my business!” and they hear, “Do the bare minimum and take my money.”
What’s ACTUALLY wrong with the pre-packaged services?
Let’s work off the example we’ve got. To start, the pricing for different “levels” doesn’t make sense, services offered are old-school, descriptions of services are purposefully vague, and perhaps the biggest flashing red “DECEPTION” sign is a guarantee to get you a certain number of pages ranking in position #1.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these to help you identify why they are problematic offers from any SEO agency.
One-Size Fits All
As I mentioned above, the presentation isn’t really the problem, it’s the “one size fits most” mentality that is our first warning sign. SEO, by nature, is unique to each business and each website.
A chic vintage boutique store in San Francisco is going to have different needs than a locally-owned, environmentally-friendly pest control business in Raleigh. They both have 10 employees and the same annual revenue, but that’s where the similarities end. With this pre-packaged plan, you’ll get the same service regardless of what you do, how long you’ve been around, or how you operate your business.
The value is quickly lost in this pre-packaged set-up if you don’t match their outline perfectly, and you forfeit originality and specificity to your needs when you go this route.
One Keyword, One Ranking
The methodology is old. In the early era of the internet, keywords were easy to game. Put “raleigh cafe” on your homepage 20 times and you’d rank #1 for “raleigh cafe”. Someone else beat you out for it? Simply put another five mentions on the page and you’d be back on top.
Those days are long, long gone. Google is smarter than most people you meet on the street and their algorithm is nothing to mess with. With over 200+ signals going into organic rankings, and the way people search changing more every day (you know that annoying guy on the bus who voice searches for how to make dinner every night? Yeah, he’s not alone – not even close), your organic keyword strategy needs to change too.
Keywords are no longer targeted one-by-one but by groups of keywords that go together. It’s called semantic keyword grouping and it ensures that you catch every relevant searcher and query with one piece of content or webpage. Forget the old 1:1 formula of one page for one keyword ranking. These days it’s more like 1:15, or one comprehensive, well-written page for 10-15 semantically related keyword rankings.
What are the 20, 30, or 40 keywords outlined in these plans really going to get your business in the long run? Is it better to pay for 30 specific keywords that may not perform, or to create a holistic approach to rank for hundreds of high-intent keywords that appeal to potential customers no matter where they are in their buying journey? I think we all know the answer.
We GUARANTEE It!
This is the biggest sign that an SEO agency isn’t worth your time and money. If they are guaranteeing you any kind of results, they’re showing you their “phony” card.
Now, you may be thinking, “So, you want me to pay an SEO company that makes NO guarantees? What gives? I don’t want to take chances with losing my money; a guarantee sounds pretty great!”
Think of every weight loss commercial you’ve ever seen. They GUARANTEE that you’ll lose 15 lbs in the next month or your money back! They show you before and after pictures of people who followed the program, ate the cardboard biscuits, and lost the weight!
…And then down at the bottom of the screen in a teeny tiny font is an asterisk followed by, “These results are not normal for the program.” The SEO plans shared above are basically the weight loss companies of the digital world. But these guys won’t give you your money back.
By nature, organic traffic is never a guarantee. It’s based on seasonality, on the quality of your website, on competitors’ work in the space, on Google’s algorithm updates, on technical site health, and hundreds of other things. If a company guarantees that they can deliver organic results, chances are they are doing something sketchy to get the traffic to your site. And it’s all but guaranteed to be poor quality traffic.
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but when you work with an agency that understands how SEO works and changes, they can focus on your particular business goals, targeted topics, and organic audiences. Knowing that they won’t guarantee a keyword ranking actually proves that they’re the right agency for you.
We’ll Rank You (But You Can’t Pick Which Words You Rank For)
You may notice that these companies say that they’ll rank you page #1 for 30, 40, or 50 keywords. As a business owner, you know exactly which keywords you care about ranking for and if they can guarantee rankings like that, the only question remaining is… who should you write the check to?
The thing you may not have realized though is that they don’t specify the keywords they will rank you for. Sketchy SEO companies parade this stat in every package they offer. It implies that the keywords they will be ranking you for are the same ones you care about. In reality, they are likely just looking to rank your website for ANY keywords, whether or not they are relevant to your business goals or your business in general.
Chances are, the agency you’re signing on the dotted line with will dictate what keywords rank – meaning even if the words are not relevant, if the keyword is ranking on page #1, the terms of the agreement have been met.
Don’t end up SOL. Work with a reputable agency to identify and organically grow your rankings for groups of keywords that are relevant and impactful for your business and its bottom line.
Conclusion: Companies like this care more about your checkbook than your business.
Let’s face it, you’re exhausted. You’ve been working tirelessly to grow your small business. You have a team working with you to make ends meet and you’re considering opening up a new location in the next year. Things are good, but you don’t have time to waste on learning the ins and outs of every new marketing craze and phase.
Gold diggers exist. They take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about complicated and technical parts of websites and digital marketing. They know people are susceptible to the newest “get rich quick” schemes. They charge just the right amount to “solve” your problems, while in reality, they are providing poor quality service that may harm your business more than help it in the long run.
Learn from the tortoise and the hare – don’t try to sprint towards the SEO finish line for the sake of checking a box with a pre-packaged, vague SEO plan. Work with an agency willing to go the slow and low, healthy route and grow your organic visibility and traffic the right way. When you put in the work, the positive results will stick with your website for years and years to come.