If you own a small business with a web presence, you’ve likely received numerous emails over the years pertaining to SEO. These emails usually start with a phrase like, “I was on your website…” followed with claims of what your site is missing and how this person holds the key to ranking your business numero uno in the search engine rankings.
Here is an example I received for my site, ReviewSTL.com, a couple years back:
I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic for Reviewstl.com
- Your site has 1Googleback link, this can be improved further.
There are many additional improvements that could be made to your website, and if you would like to learn about them, and are curious to know what our working together would involve, then I would be glad to provide you with a detailed analysis in the form of a WEBSITE AUDIT REPORT for FREE.
Our clients consistently tell us that their customers find them because they are at the top of the Google search rankings. Being at the top left of Google (#1- #3 organic positions) is the best thing you can do for your company’s website traffic and online reputation.
I found your site in the Google search and after having a look over your website I think you should go for an SEO campaign to boost your marketing strategy.
Sounds interesting? Feel free to email us or alternatively you can provide me with your phone number and the best time to call you.
This example is just one of the many emails we’ve received over the years. Usually they share a few traits, including:
- Poor grammar
- Promising to put your site at the top of Google
- Presenting themselves as the best option for your business
These are the snake oil salesmen of the digital era: selling their wares for top dollar, making outrageous claims, and providing nothing of actual substance.
I’d like to say it isn’t a problem, but we’ve had plenty of clients get emails like the one above. They frantically contact us asking why their site isn’t mobile ready or why they only have one backlink to their site. Even after a simple explanation that what they received was a cold call email and that the email is not a trustworthy source, distrust of your digital strategy might linger.
Most of the things I want to say about these people can’t be said in a blog published by jWeb. Instead, I’m going to go over the inaccuracies these people push after they are done sending out their emails pretending to be Nigerian princes.
“We Were On Your Site…”
Ha, no they weren’t. They’ve likely never been to your site and are unlikely to any time soon. Even the head of Google’s search team gets these emails. Seriously, Google gets emails about how they can get Google to rank better on Google. There is a part of me that wants it to be some meta joke a hipster thought out, but it’s more likely that these people have bots culling emails from contact pages.
“Your Site Has One Backlink…”
This phrase is the one that really gets me fired up. These emails almost always contain false information, with no indication of a source. They use scary numbers as a tactic to get you to reply, where you’ll be put in touch with someone to close you on a monthly retainer for shoddy SEO services.
It would be like a therapist emailing you out of the blue and saying, “You have only 1 friend currently, which means you aren’t utilizing the world to the fullest. Contact Tobias Funke at Gobias Psychology today to hear about how you can get weekly meetings with Dr. Funke for one low monthly price.”
If I really wanted, I could go to Moz’s Open Site Explorer and get an actual count of your backlinks. I’d be hard pressed to find out if you really only have one friend.
The Proof is in the Pudding
If someone makes a claim, make sure they can back up that claim. Where are they getting their data? Is their source reputable? Asking questions isn’t a bad thing. Your teacher might be a filthy liar for saying there is no such thing as a bad question, but asking questions that concern the future of your business is a must.
“You Aren’t Ranking Number One on Google…”
For what search terms? C-3P0 and R2-D2 slash fiction? Gary Busey for President? Podcasts about Listerine? Of course you aren’t ranking number one on those terms. (At least I hope you aren’t.) Good SEO doesn’t really work that way. There are billions of searches every day, and it’s more likely that your site is the top search result for some of these terms.
For example, if I search for myself using my title here at jWeb, ‘Blake Fehl Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Digital Services’, the top search result is the “Our Team” page at jWeb. So, we do rank number one for that search, but it is unlikely that anyone is searching for it.
If I remove my name from the search query, the top result becomes a page from a Harry Potter wiki, followed a few entries later by the jWeb page. Now, if I remove all the nonsense and leave just ‘digital services’ the top result is a page from the White House.
The lesson here is that anyone can rank number one on Google, but it’s more important to focus on understanding why you rank for some things, but not others.
No one can promise number one rankings on any terms. You can craft a strategy to help rank better for the terms relating to your business, but it’s more important to learn how to capture visitors to your site and convert them to customers.
“We Can Provide Thousands of New Backlinks…”
This here is a major case of “too good to be true.” Much like the time someone exposed me to gamma radiation and told me it would give me superpowers, only to result in an extended hospital stay. Sure, they will give you lots of backlinks, but none that will actually help increase the quality of visitors coming to your site. What’s worse is many of these links will likely be penalized in future Google updates.
A few years ago, Google launched an algorithm update that targeted SEO companies and link scammers like these. Google sent a message loud and clear: too many backlinks might work in the short term, but will likely end with larger problems like being deindexed entirely.
Link building is one the toughest jobs for an SEO agency. It requires multiple tactics to entice backlinks to your site. A handful of quality links within your industry are going to be a lot more helpful than numerous directories, blog comments, and other shady links.
Have you ever tried coming across like you knew more than what you did? Did you throw in a few technical words in the hopes of looking smarter? If you haven’t, just watch a political debate, and you’ll get the general idea. Sprinkle in a few catchphrases and/or big words, and you’ll have a captive audience that thinks you know what you are talking about.
The bad news is just because you know how to sprinkle tech-savvy phrases into your vernacular doesn’t actually make you a tech expert. I could send you an email right now boasting of my proficiency at running a space shuttle. I mean, you just press a few buttons, it’s not rocket science right? Wait, that’s what it is? My bad.
Put ‘Em to the Test!
Before hiring one of these companies, make them demonstrate that they know what they are talking about. Have them provide case studies or simply ask questions to get a deeper understanding of the work they will be providing.
In summary, if you get an email from someone you’ve never met promising you the world, it isn’t wrong to look at it with a healthy dose of skepticism.