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Search Engine Optimization

SEO Services – Useful or Just Snake Oil?

Small businesses are seeing lots more emails selling SEO these days, mainly from offshore. Anything from backlinks to full SEO packages. Some good, some average, some bogus. The sales tactics used makes SEO vendors appear as sleazy snake oil salesmen than a professional business service.

The most recent offer I keep hearing about this month (it changes all the time) is out of the UK, from AddPeople. (Their response to this article is in the comments below). Firstly, it certainly seemed better than most out there, with a link in their email to a newspaper story to help raise their credibility.

But regardless of their competence or suitability, this crowd still uses high pressure sales tactics to get people to signup, even worse than the phone calls you’d get from the Yellow Pages, Finda, Gopher telemarketers which we always get complaints about. As one of my clients said, they appear ‘shocked’ when you tell them you’re not interested. After all, everyone wants more website traffic, right?

Ironically, had it not been for the SEO efforts put into my clients new WordPress ecommerce website (proven with search queries jumping from 3,000 to 12,000 per month), then they would never have found him and pushing him to sign up! Addpeople it seems uses Google search to seek out new clients! Interesting.

We’re gullible, easy targets

This company could have a place, although reading their proposal and the recent changes with Google and their penguin update (tips via an SEO colleague in Melbourne), could put a huge dent in things. It  perhaps explains why they’re looking for business in ‘less sophisticated’ markets outside the UK. Many established SEO companies don’t like what Google is now doing and are panicking.

Still, when we look at what most NZ businesses have invested into SEO and getting ranked in Google (typically zero investment), then these sorts of Addpeople-like services can’t do much harm and may actually do a lot of good. When you’ve a small business website that get’s almost no traffic (under say 100 visitors/mth) then you’ve got to do something, right?

But can these foreigners do a better job of SEO?

Maybe, but it’s certainly risky. The problem, even with trustworthy SEO vendors, is that unless they’ve done a lot of research to really understand the NZ search landscape, their efforts won’t always work as well as it would in their homeland.

Here’s some warning signs we noted in the Addpeople proposal:

Their proposal to my NZ client appeared a copy of what they offer in the UK. It stated they will add his website to 300 directories. (More if you afford it). Firstly we don’t have 300 local directories and high authority industry sites down here – And adding our sites to those in the UK/US won’t necessarily do a lot as Google is segmenting by location these days. Being listed in directories that are not relevant to our market could do more harm than good. And how do I know that one of those 300 directories isn’t now on Google’s banned list, meaning it will hurt, not help my ranking? Just because it was fine last month means nothing. One fly in the SEO ointment can do A LOT of damage. In fact in regard to directory listings, Google is definitely putting less SEO weight on these now, than they were a few months back.

Addpeople also provides for 75 social bookmarks. Again not ideal here since unlike the big UK/US markets, we only use a small number of social channels. However their proposal did include on-site SEO keyword and title efforts, but really nothing a good local developer shouldn’t be doing.

The last item listed in the proposal was article submissions to 50 sites. Unless done very well this could do more harm than good looking at those recent Google Penguin updates. Article submission is a manipulation strategy which has been against Googles terms of service for a decade.

Just follow the rules

Today, in 2012, Google are finally enforcing their long-standing rules. In our book, this is a good thing, but not so for most long running SEO companies who have made a good living out of SEO manipulation strategies.

There’s plenty of cases where Google has de-indexed companies for breaking their rules, meaning you’ll stop get search traffic, overnight. As search traffic represents 60-70% of website traffic (chart right), it’s a disaster! And fixing it takes time. Often months.

A bargain – Starting from just $300/mth

Our suspicions aside, the UK services was well priced, starting from just under NZ$300 per month (150 pounds), for their bronze package, with a minimum contract period of 6 months. This seems quite reasonable compared with many other providers here, most of whom don’t include much backlink or social media stuff to improve a sites authority. Good SEO is much more than keywords today. In fact keywords and related on-site work is only 30-40% of the high ranking formula according to SEOMoz.

But businesses typically spend much more than $300/mth for ineffective Yellow Pages, Newsprint and Radio ads. Search, done well, can be far more cost-effective and provide 2-3 times higher returns. But it still takes a lot of work these days to get ranked so it will never be cheap. The days of placing lots of keywords into your website headers and Google sending you loads of free traffic have long gone.

They’re here because we’re Young and Gullible

But why are dubious UK, US, Indian and Auzzie SEO companies targeting New Zealand? I suspect because they see a big gap in the market. NZ businesses have done little with SEO and most can’t tell a good SEO firm from a bad one until it’s too late. We’re naive.

Most of our efforts around a traffic-building are based upon buying Adwords or just wishful thinking than actually doing anything about their website keywords, profile or ranking. Sadly, most here put their faith in their web designer who said their website was ‘SEO optimised’.  But when traffic is still low, we’ll listen to those that promise a fix, even if they are 12,000 miles way.

SEO Services – Are they worthwhile?

A worthwhile service? Definitely, when done locally by those you can trust. So, the next time an offshore ‘SEO company’ calls, tell them you’ve just employed a local person to do it.  The thing with good search marketing is the immense potential for companies to dramatically grow their website traffic and sales leads, at a much lower cost than many traditional promotions using print, radio or offline.

The point of this article is these things should be done locally, not left up to those from the other side of the globe, or from India, or even Australia. Having local experts like ourselves will always get better results than offshore people. Local knowledge and practices makes a big difference when it comes to traffic-building strategies. Want a local quote on SEO? Fill in the form below…

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Discussion

2 comments for “SEO Services – Useful or Just Snake Oil?”

  1. Hi,

    I represent the business mentioned within this blog and want to respond to the points raised.

    Firstly let me offer an apology to your customer(s) if they were offended by our sales rep. Our team are trained to behave professionally and politely at all times. Kevin, if you can email me details of who they are and when they were contacted I would be glad to follow up and ensure any associated personnel or training issues are addressed.

    Secondly, let me state categorically our services are certainly not bogus. We provide Web Design, SEO and PPC services to more than 3000 customers worldwide and work hard to give an excellent service to all of them.

    The SEO service you mention within this blog has changed. Our new service offers more flexibility, allowing us to tailor work to individual needs with less emphasis on a rigid set of deliverables. Our SEO techniques are tested to be effective and compliant after the most recent search engine algorithm changes.

    Your blog also omitted a number of key service elements we fulfill like keyword research, a professionally conducted website appraisal done by an SEO expert, completion of relevant on-page work, regular reporting and helpdesk support.

    We view New Zealand and Australia as vibrant, growing online economies where we believe our services can add customer value. Our motivations for operating here are most certainly not as you suggest.

    Your blog implies you haven’t had any direct experience with us so far but I understand your natural suspicion. So as a gesture of goodwill I’d like to offer one of your customers our services free of charge for 6 months in good faith so you can see what we can do for yourself.

    Perhaps at this point you can re-post on this blog with an objective view of our service based on some real customer experience?

    Please get in touch with me personally and I can happily arrange.

    Kind regards,
    Neil

    Posted by Neil | January 16, 2013, 3:07 am
    • Thank you Neil. Yes we will take you up on your kind offer and see if your services perform as you say. We will share the results with our readers later in the year. We’re certainly not against your company, but you’d need to appreciate that New Zealand businesses get too many of these propositions every week and are naturally suspicious. They often spend good money, for little return. It’s good that you’ve made contact and willing to prove your worth. Not many do.

      Posted by Kevin Trye | February 1, 2013, 8:52 am

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