Disappointed by the SEO you hired? You’re not alone! A good number of our clients are coming to us having been messed up by some rather unhelpful “seo help”. Now listen; I’m not inclined to characterize those SEOs as scammers and frauds. I honestly hope they are not! What I tend to think is that many of these inadequate SEOs are simply (even innocently) not keeping up with important changes. They just held on to some strategies (the ones that have given SEOs a bad name) that used to work quite well, but which Google has worked hard to expose. Those out-dated (and perhaps “black hat”) tactics really don’t help the client in the long run.
Confession: I really struggled to find the word “inadequate” to describe the SEO work that I’m talking about. I started with “incompetent”, thought about “lousy”, “deficient”, “unqualified” and “incapable”, and then finally landed on “inadequate”. I’m trying to use a term that includes some innocent deficiencies, and that doesn’t imply a conscious effort to scam.
Tell-tale signs of an inadequate SEO
Here are a few things that I’m spotting as I review the SEO work that’s been done for our clients prior to their coming to us for help. These are the things that have hurt our clients, and sometimes our clients have been the last to figure it out.
- Promising a certain rank in Google in a specified period of time. It’s not that this cannot be achieved. It CAN be achieved. But it is usually achieved through manipulation, spam, fake social bookmarks, duplicate copy, and other fluff and bluff tactics. If you’re actually trying to develop a brand – an online reputation for offering a high quality product or service – then you do NOT want the “help” of those that promise 1st page ranking for your keywords. Why? Because the SEOs that promise these things, end up attaching a lot of useless garbage to your brand name along the way. Too many of our clients bring us an online profile that is worse than if they had done nothing.
- High volume content distribution (but no attention to quality). These SEOs will flood the ‘net with content, but none of it is carefully and creatively built in order to truly connect with potential customers, and definitely not built to draw readership. Listen, I’ve told you guys before, I used to do this myself, and I’m not proud of it. But I do recognize it when I see it. And if you’ve had the “help” of this type of inadequate SEO, you will have noticed that they’re NOT concerned with the quality, creativity and appeal of the content. In fact, you may not even HEAR about the content they’re using! They’re only talking about how much of it, distributed on how many sites, and the promise that the search engines are going to see that huge volume and consider it rank-worthy. For these types of tactics, it really doesn’t matter whether the content is being seen by humans or not.
But when your content is stumbled upon and actually noticed and read by a real human, do you want to be proud to have your name associated with that content? Do you want people to identify you by the quality of that content? The inadequate SEO will not be discussing such things with you!
- Little social engagement. The “old school” type of SEO I’m talking about here can control the volume of “stuff” thrown out onto the internet, but they have little to say about developing real connection with real people who are really in need of your product or service. This (social media marketing) is hard work, and is NOT possible through mass bookmarking, high volume article distribution, robotic pinging and link schemes. Do you want to connect with people who have questions about your product? Do you want to find out WHO is looking for you, and WHAT product they need help with? The inadequate SEO will not hook you up with that sort of social engagement.
- No measurable increase in business. That’s right: they’ll show you some impressive spreadsheets with lots of numbers and changing keyword rankings. They’ll blow you away with the sheer volume of social bookmarks they’ve placed and the number of “distributions” of their articles. But month after month goes by, and you’re not actually selling more product. Your traffic bounces off your site so fast that the only thing you’re able to ‘prove’ is that they didn’t want to get there in the first place (misleading links brought them). But a real client, brought to your site and KEPT on your site through helpful content? A real client that ends up purchasing your product? No. Inadequate SEO will not affect such things.
What about “good SEO”? What’s that look like?
At the heart of good SEO is the understanding that SEO is a supportive technology for helping to make sure that the brand-building efforts of content marketing and social media marketing are being noticed in the right places. Here are a few points that contrast the “good SEO” with the “inadequate SEO”.
- We won’t promise a page 1 rank for your keywords. We’ll work for it, we’ll probably achieve it over time (4 months? 8 months?), but why would we promise something that depends more on the quality of your product than upon some magical ‘trick’ or ‘game’ that we’re going to play against the search engines? We’ll talk with you about your keywords, and how to develop a content and social strategy that revolves around those keywords. We’ll talk about exploiting the gaps out there in the less-competitive long-tail versions of the keywords that honestly identify your business. We’ll measure your competition, and give you a reasonable estimate of how much content (I mean compelling, intriguing, creative, attractive, truly-helpful content) you’ll need to be posting in order to genuinely compete with those that are already ahead of you. We’ll help you understand how the social media side of the equation is an indispensable support and amplifier for your content strategy. And we’ll show you how good SEO (both onpage and offpage) will be designed to help both the engines and the humans find your stuff for the right reasons in the right places!
Your keywords will rank eventually, but our focus will be on developing your business by connecting you with the truly interested, and demonstrating your expertise to them as soon as they see your content!
- We’ll help you create content that is compelling. Yes, you’ll find us engaging with you very intimately in terms of your content, so that we can help you nail down your company’s message, formulate that message into stories that people can relate to, and then publish those stories at a pace and in an arrangement that really appeals to your target audience. We’ll focus much more on the quality of your content (as it paints the unique value of your brand), and much less on high-volume distribution. We’ll help you shape content for your blog and for your social networks as well: content that is strategically coordinated to develop your Brand and have it be seen by the right people.
- We pursue and develop a group of engaged followers. This is not something that happens mechanically. It’s a highly nuanced art that relies on good communication skills, expertise in social networking, the ability to create conversation, and some tools to measure and support the effort. This is something that we do in concert with our clients, for only the client knows the exact tone and flavor that they want to portray to inquirers. This part of SEO, although an integral part of the overall marketing challenge, is completely neglected by the inadequate SEOs that are still way too prevalent out there.
- We’ll define our goals in terms of increased business for our client. Yep; it’s tough; but it’s the way we like to work, and it’s what our clients expect. They were getting used to hearing everything measured by “keyword ranking” and volume statistics. But we move that conversation into a discussion of what really matters: the increased visibility of the client’s brand; the increased engagement with real customers; and the eventual sale of products and services.
Does this type of goal scare us sometimes? Does it put us under pressure? Yes, it does! But we grew tired of the old approach, and find that our clients have too.
Remember, the “inadequate SEO” is often an innocent group that grew accustomed to using tactics that were pretty much “sure-fire” until 2010, and who simply haven’t made adjustments as the digital marketing world evolved. Since I also functioned for awhile inside of that world, I’m a bit sympathetic. I remember being surprised that our work was, all of a sudden, bringing in less and less results for our clients! So I’m not ready to go “SEO bashing” (just yet). Instead, I only want to try to give you a heads up, and help you avoid further frustration, waste of money, and the potential tarnishing of your brand.
Care to share a story about how you’ve been burned by an inadequate SEO? Leave a comment below. And if you’d like some help with your marketing, give us a call at Shift Digital Media. We’re glad to help.