Don’t fall for instant gratification SEO scams

An old friend called me the other day and wanted to pick my brain about his small business’ web development, search engine optimization (SEO), and prospect marketing strategy. We didn’t get into a very deep discussion except to reveal that he’s paying too much for too little service. I gave him my usual warning to stay away from anyone who claims, “you don’t pay me unless I get your website listed higher in Google.” He responded, “but everyone says that.”

This underscored how oversaturated and predatory the digital marketing industry has become.

Everyone knows deep down that everything worth doing is worth doing right. And, more often than not, doing something right takes time. Like I’ve said before:

There are no shortcuts that really work, or else everyone would take the shortcut and it would become the new path. So when people tell you they can do something fast and easy when it’s usually time-consuming and difficult, you should know that it sounds too good to be true.

I used to manage the marketing for a logistics company. It was a full-service 3PL known for its proprietary SaaS. One of the challenges they faced in positioning themselves was that logistics had become a buzzword. Everyone with truck or a van (or a relative with a truck or a van) declared him or herself to be in “logistics.” It was hard to separate the innovators from the imposters in the public mind. After all, prospects didn’t really care how the solution worked, just so long as it worked. But there was a definite difference between the impostors and the innovators.

The limitations associated with the impostors eventually came to light, usually at the worst possible time for the prospect company. By the time they realized the logistics solution they had integrated wasn’t tractable, adaptable, or scalable, they were forced to waste precious time and unbudgeted resources going back to the marketplace to beg for help from the proven innovators. We saw it all the time.

This is the same problem with digital marketing today. Everyone claims, and probably believes, that they’re good at SEO. They think that because they’ve played around on facebook and twitter, they’re good at social media integration too. Sometimes it’s nieces and nephews who want to help out their aunts and uncles. Other times, it’s underemployed professionals who desire to list a host of unearned competencies to their résumés. It doesn’t really matter if their claims of expertise are genuine or dishonest. There’s a right and a wrong way to do SEO, and only experienced professionals know the difference.

I’ve installed a few sinks and toilets in my lifetime, but I’d never claim to be a plumber. Being an expert at something stems less from the ability to start a project than from the accumulated experience necessary to react properly when something goes wrong, or to keep things from going wrong in the first place.

How many small businesses got blindsided by Google’s recent algorithm updates (Panda & Penguin) and fell out of the search results completely? And when those business owners approached their SEO specialists about the loss of revenue and market positioning, what could they do to solve the problem? It was their amateur SEO tactics that got their clients blacklisted in the first place.

There’s a big difference between tactics and expertise. If you’re paying a lot less than the going rate for expertise, then you’re not getting expertise. You’re getting a mishmash of tactics. What do you expect when someone says that you don’t pay unless you see a quick result from a process that normally takes time? Experts have taken the time to do things right. They know which corners can be safely cut, and which ones can’t. This knowledge adds to their worth, and they charge accordingly.

Maybe I’m a little bit jaded, but I think anyone who doesn’t put a value on his or her time should be seen as someone whose time isn’t very valuable.

This fact is best illustrated with an old story about a woman who once asked Pablo Picasso to draw a picture of her.

“Oh, please,” begged the woman. “Just a quick sketch. Name your price.”

Picasso picked up his pencil and paper and began sketching. The woman smiled and struck a pose. After a few minutes, he tore the paper off the pad and handed it to her. The woman looked in awe at her artfully rendered silhouette. She couldn’t wait to rush home and hang her very own ‘Picasso’ on her wall.

She pulled out her coin purse and asked Picasso, “so, what do I owe you?”

“5000 franks,” Picasso answered wryly.

“5000 franks,” the woman screamed in shock. “But it only took you three minutes!”

Picasso slowly shook his head.

“No,” he sighed. “It took me a lifetime.”

Don’t fall for instant gratification SEO scams
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