Obviously, no business wants to pay too much for a service. Irrespective of the industry they find themselves in. Most companies are constantly trying to reduce overheads and minimize costs as much as possible. This makes perfect sense, but be very wary of employing bargain basement people to look after your web content, web design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM) or any aspect of your online marketing. What you save in the short term could end up costing you dearly in the future.
If your business operates purely online, as cost effective as it seems, this strategy will get you nowhere. If the role of your SEO and SMM is to complement a brick and mortar business, regardless, your online presence will still be what is often seen first and seen most often. It better be good, otherwise, the competitors will soon take advantage of your weakness and dominate you online. The barriers to entry are relatively low, and competition is fierce. In order to stand out, your entire online campaign needs to be great, from start to finish. Unsurprisingly, you will never achieve this with an amateur.
How Bad SEO Happens
Oftentimes there exists a knowledge gap between the client that wants SEO and the provider. SEO is a complicated, intricate set of ideas, and it is not surprising that many people do not understand it well enough. With SEO, there are no specific rules, only guidelines, and the methods are often intangible. Good SEO is the cumulative effect of numerous good practices executed perfectly. The other major issue is that the SEO landscape is constantly evolving and changing, often dramatically. What worked last month might not work today. As such, a true professional needs to constantly keep abreast of these developments. It is even harder for the client.
As a result of this gap in knowledge, it is quite easy for big talking, big promising and so-called SEO experts to take advantage of a client’s ignorance.
The Results Of Bad SEO
In a nutshell, SEO—and everything that goes with it, is an effort to promote a brand or product online (or a specific page or piece of content) so that it comes up as close as possible to the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). It is also intended to establish credibility and trust and provide a positive user experience. All of this should result in increased brand awareness, with potentials for increased sales, depending on the client’s goals.
Bad SEO achieves the exact opposite. Although the page or content could show a short term rise in page ranking, Google, the internet and the public are not stupid. In the long term, the content will be punished for poor SEO.
To buttress the side effects of bad SEO, I’ll give a few very big examples that have dramatically changed the face of SEO within a short space of time. Google Penguin, launched in April 2012, is one such example. In the past, SEO practitioners would stuff content full of irrelevant, meaningless, spam-type links onto clients’ websites. They did this because, at the time, it worked. Sadly for them, Google picked up on this and changed their algorithms. Unfortunately, some people didn’t learn their lesson and still follow this same unwholesome practice which does more harm than good.
Quality link building is an ongoing process that requires skill and experience. Any promise of multiple instant links is likely to negatively affect your content in the long run, apart from waste your time and money. It also does not help your online reputation or credibility.
Another example of a big SEO change was Google Panda which was introduced in early 2011. To reiterate, these algorithms constantly change. But the result of this development is that Google now penalizes poor content on a number of levels. Old practices of cheap, low quality and unoriginal content will, as always, do more harm than good. Your content needs to be unique, relevant, well written and engaging. Apart from the direct punishment from Google, poor content will destroy the credibility of your site and lead to very poor conversion rates. You need to be highly selective about who does your copywriting, editing, photography and other aspects of your site. Getting quality is going to cost a lot more than poor content, but it is a worthy investment.
The same applies to your website design. There are thousands of people around who can slap a site together for you at a really low price. However, the bargain comes at a price. A quality website designer has the skills and experience you need to boost your online presence. You have to pay for good quality design and functioning of your site for the same reason you would not put up a retail shop in the middle of nowhere in a broken, run down and dirty building. Other aspects like security are also important and not having experts address these will hurt you eventually.
All other aspects of your online marketing, including social media marketing, search engine marketing and online advertising follow the same rules. You get what you pay for.
Why You Need A Professional
The guys that know what they are doing understand the dynamic nature of SEO and have the experience. They will get you long term results which will give you a measurable return on investment. They will not make you grand promises, but rather will give you an understandable plan and strategy for how they will work with you over the long term to improve your SEO and all other aspects of your online marketing. They will not promise immediate results or instant miracles. They will have a proven reputation in the market and will work ethically, without resorting to black hat tactics that will damage you or get you banned altogether. A banning, penalization or just plain old bad SEO can take a lot of time and money to recover from. It can also put your brand in serious jeopardy. It is not worth the risk.
I wish I could tell you there was a way to do it on the cheap, but the truth is, if you want good results, you will have to use professionals. As with every other discipline, professionals do not come free, but the investment will be worth it in the long run.
How to find the right SEO Company
If you are unsure or have any doubts, do your homework. Check the company’s responsiveness and knowledge. They need to present an understandable, clear and specific plan of how they intend to achieve the results and how these will be measured. During the process, they must give you regular progress updates.
Check their history and reputation. There are new agencies that can do a good job, but one with an established track record is normally a safer bet. Ask for case studies or examples of successes they have had with similar businesses.
Whatever you do, do not try to save a few dollars on your SEO and online marketing as it will only end up costing you way more in the long term.