I’ll admit it. This article is written partly out of frustration. The Internet has forced business owners to change the way they market their businesses, and for some, it’s been challenging — and stressful. Ten years ago, it was easy to rank someone in Google — I actually was stuffing keywords and copying content like crazy at that time. It’s what online marketers did to rank websites, and it was fun and easy. The frustrating part for me is that many “SEO experts” are swindling people and making empty promises, and it all makes me sad.
1. Google isn’t stupid.
Google has changed everything online, and now, there are rules. There are still those who believe that rules are made to be broken, and many people do break them by using blackhat SEO methods. Some are still stuffing keywords, copying content, and building cheap backlinks. Of course, Google isn’t stupid, and soon, we’re back to the drawing board again with new algorithms and updates. Google’s rules of providing good content to prove that you’re the best is still a brilliant idea, and if you follow that protocol, you can’t go wrong.
One thing I’ve learned after years of Internet marketing experience, is that there are strong opinions about everything involving online marketing. Everyone has an opinion about how business owners should market their businesses online. I am on some Facebook groups where everyone is an “SEO Expert.” They beat each other up quite regularly, all claiming that they know more than the last guy. The sad thing is that no one wants to listen because everyone’s talking.
2. Don’t throw your money away.
Finding good online marketing agencies is tough these days. People have become very suspicious because they’ve been burned. I think that most every one of my clients has lost thousands of dollars before finding me, all because they trusted someone to handle their online marketing efforts.
In the end, most business people, particularly those in competitive niches, such as attorneys, accountants, and chiropractors, want it all. They want to rank on the first page of Google (map pack, please), beat the pants off their competitors, and have a constant stream of prospects knocking at their door. While all of that is possible, it’s going to take time and strategy to make that happen, and finding the right agency can be a challenge.
3. Don’t believe a guarantee.
“Are you sure there’s nothing up your sleeve?”
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not wizardry or a magic formula. There’s no “secret sauce” or magic that happens to get someone to the first page of Google. Instead, there are some carefully planned strategies that will “probably” work (as in, it’s worked for other people kind of like you), but there are never any guarantees.
Wait — Did you get that last part? There are never any guarantees. There are some tried and true formulas that should increase your rankings, but there are too many variables and factors to make that promise to anyone. This is where online marketers get into trouble, and why communication is so important.
4. Understand how SEO works.
If you can imagine SEO as being in a war, it might help. As a general or captain, you strategize, you make a plan, you give soldiers commands and guidance. And you do all of this planning to win. Your strategy is based on years of experience as a general or captain, and people are counting on you. However, you can’t know much for sure… because you don’t know what your enemy is doing. You don’t know every pothole or ditch along the way. So, you plan and you step out feeling confident and very hopeful.
What happens in wartime? Not everyone wins, but someone will win — the person with the best strategy. Is there a stroke of luck involved? Sometimes, yes — but usually, no. A good general or captain knows the importance of flexibility. He makes the command, but if things change, he knows he has to change too.
When it comes to an online presence, you have lots of “enemies.” Your online competitors are the ones you really want and need to beat. If you own a local business, it’s pretty easy to figure out who your competitors are. You may or may not know who they are, so how can you know for sure?
5. Remember that your competitors are your “online enemies.”
One simple strategy is to pretend to be a person in your community who is looking for your products or services. You then search online, using terms that “average people” would use. Average people are those who don’t really know what you do. They don’t practice law, know about income tax, know how to put a roof on a building, or they don’t know how to build a website. They are just normal folks who are looking for someone like you.
Be brave and do a Google search on your area and industry to see what pops up on Google. If you’ve had someone working on your site’s online presence, if you have no competition, or if you are the only person in your community with a website, you may find that you are on the first page of Google. On the other hand, if you haven’t been working on your rankings or you have lots of competition or if thousands of similar businesses have websites — you might find yourself on page ten.
6. Don’t throw it all away.
When some people find that they are on page 5 or 10 or 20 of Google, they look at me with confusion in their eyes and say, “So what? People know me around here. I have a great reputation. I don’t need to be on the first page of Google. In fact, I don’t even need a website (or SEO services or social media)!” I then have to fight the resistance to take on that same glazed look because I’m still amazed that people, business owners, no less, believe this. I feel like some people still have their heads in the sand when it comes to the Internet and what most of the world is doing.
Here’s why it does matter:
- If you want a successful business…
- If you want to make a difference…
- If you know you are as good or better than your competitors…
- If you want to take advantage of one of the cheapest forms of marketing…
If you want a successful business, you know that you need clients. You can have a great looking store or website, but if people aren’t knocking on your door or calling you, it doesn’t matter. Marketing has changed so much in recent years that many of the old methods don’t work as well. Today, people are doing a great deal of their business online. They look online for just about everything.
7. Know what’s working today — and what’s not.
I recently had a talk with a client of mine who has always run huge advertisements in the phone book. The salesman came knocking on her door recently to renew her yearly contract, and she told them that she didn’t need their services anymore. We had already discussed it, and she agreed 100% that it was a waste of money. Of course, the salesman was not happy, and he basically told her that she will lose business.
She called me, very upset and wondering what to do. I assured her that most people aren’t using phone books these days. As we chatted, I said, “I don’t even know where my phone book is because I never use it.” We both had an ah-ha moment, and again were reminded that this “all important” book from days-gone-by isn’t important anymore.
There are exceptions to this, such as when working with elderly people who are used to their phone books and aren’t online as much. I told her that it can’t hurt to have ads in there, but since she was paying over $4,000 per year for this service, she probably needed smaller ads. And honestly, we would be surprised at all the seniors who are online these days. 🙂
Making Sense of It All
I shared my story about my client’s experience with the phone book company because it’s so typical of what is happening today. It seems like the business owners are being taken right and left by slick marketing agents who promise them the world if they sign up — and guarantee that they’ll fail if they don’t.
Maybe I’m just too honest for my own good. I want to be honest with my clients at all times, and I also am not willing to sell my soul to get someone ranked in Google. Maybe I’m dreaming, but at the end of the day, I’d like to believe that I can be truthful, follow good practices, and still rank a website in Google. It’s the only way I know how to do things, and I can’t see myself changing anytime soon.