SEO Ripoff.

I just paid a visit to a former client’s web site that I developed a while back. The site was the culmination of several months of strategic work – developing the company’s brand, corporate identity and marketing message. I also helped them iron out their sales strategy and create a tactical marketing plan. I taught them how to fish and they went about casting their lines without me. No problem. Everybody happy.

The first thing I noticed when I visited the site was that someone had inserted a god awful logo proudly proclaiming the site was WC3 XHTML 1.0 certified. What the hell does that do for the company? I don’t think any of the folks that visit the site give a whit about how nice the code is. (The business is a home care provider – customers are typically baby boomers looking for someone to provide in-home care to their loved ones – usually under very trying circumstances. Not only is the WC3 logo ugly and tacked on, IT IS COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT TO THE TARGET AUDIENCE. Although I’m sure the geek who put it on there is mighty proud of it.

I’ve also noticed that somebody’s been doing some search optimization. However, it’s the kind of search optimization that simply is a waste of time and money. They added some meta tags to each page consisting of some generic keywords. Whoopie. In fact, since this company’s clients are all local, this SEO genius didn’t even think to include geographic targeting. To add insult to injury, the keywords are all really common, highly sought after words – there is no way to win the search game with these types of keywords.

But the real rip off is this: The client expects to get some benefit from this so-called “optimization”. Either the SEO guy doesn’t know what he’s doing or he just milked the client for some quick cash – either way the client loses. What happened here is so common it makes me sick.

Here’s how it works:

1. The client wants to place high in Google. And they want it fast, cheap and easy.

2. They find an SEO consultant who makes a lot of promises but knows that the client will never pay for the effort and time it takes to actually deliver a high ranking.

3. The client doesn’t know any better so they sign the agreement and write the check.

4. The SEO consultant does some little stuff, makes a few thousand bucks and moves on. Usually they add some meta tags (Google hardly even pays attention to meta tags), add some obvious keywords (a real key word strategy takes research and weighs not only which words are being searched but takes into account how many other companies are using these words – it’s an art and a science that needs to be approached strategically.)

5. The client never gets any benefit from the work.

Real SEO takes a long time to be effective and many man hours. It is an ongoing process that effects everything from the site’s architecture to the content to any number of other variables. The secret is to test, tweak and test some more until you get where you need to be on the search engines. And you are never finished because it is highly competitive and Google changes the rules constantly.

I’ve been searching on the so-called keywords in Google. The client’s site is nowhere to be found.

But if the “SEO consultant” told the client that – they would have lost the couple thousand bucks.

Sad. Very sad. What really hurts is that these people are truly good people. They deserve better.

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