Search Engine Optimization -- that phrase strikes fear in the hearts of many a solopreneur, especially those who don't live and breathe internet techie stuff all day, every day. And that makes you extra vulnerable to scammers who show up uninvited in your email on an all too frequent basis.
So here's what you need to know to avoid getting scammed and undoing all the hard work you've put in on marketing your private practice as a therapist, coach, healer or intuitive.
First: never ever respond to a cold call
Whether by phone or email, if someone is soliciting to get your business, chances are VERY HIGH that you will get scammed. Or worse. You could have your online reputation completely ruined by the shady practices of so-called SEO companies.
The best thing to do with those calls is to just hang up. Don't waste your time engaging in conversation -- that's an invitation to be taken advantage of. And the best thing to do with those emails is to mark them as spam and then delete. Do NOT be tempted into responding -- when you do, they just pressure you more.
Second: don't pick someone out of a Google search
Or, at least, not without checking out their work. And by checking out I mean doing the following:
looking at at least 5 websites they have optimized
contacting the site owners
asking if site owners are satisfied with the SEO done for them
asking about any difficulties in terminating services
asking about SEO company's control over their website
asking about ROI -- are they really getting more clients as a result
checking out their own testimonials and LinkedIn endorsements
In addition, the highly respected authority on all things SEO -- SearchEngineLand.com -- provides this list of 10 tips that are very useful in determining whether you are about to get scammed by a so-called SEO expert.
1. They generate low quality, duplicate content with minor word changes
This is a practice that Google has actively worked on ending, yet some scammers are still using it -- and getting the website owner penalized as a result. Duplicate content is a BIG NO-NO.
2. They use lazy, outdated tactics
Keyword stuffing is one of these -- jamming a bunch of words and cities into your pages' meta keyword tags that have no relevance for your page. This old practice went out more than 7 years ago, but some scammers still do it.
Over long title tags for pages is another outdated tactic. Google has really clamped down on this. You can tell what a web page's title tag is by just looking at the top line of any search result snippet. The best practice now is to use the most relevant keyword + the city or name of the practitioner + phone number, if that fits in about 70 characters! Longer than that won't show up.
3. All they do for you is blog
There is so much more to SEO than frequently fresh content. If someone tells you that they do all the SEO you need just by adding a new blog post to your website a few times a month, they have no idea what they are talking about. Run away. Run fast.
4. They brag about lowering your bounce rate
Here's a secret: a lot of analytic measurements are simply gee-whiz info for data junkies. While sometimes it can point to something you should change, the real value is not how many people spend 20 minutes on your website going from page to page, but how many call for an appointment. This is called the conversion rate, and is much more important than the bounce rate.
A bounce rate is calculated by the number of people who get to your website only to leave a second or two later without going to any other pages or filling out a form. We often mourn a high bounce rate because it obviously means people aren't reading the marketing messages we've labored over.
But think about this -- if all your site visitors are looking for is confirmation that you specialize in their problem .... which, by the way, should be prominently displayed on your menu, header tagline, and /or headline or buttons right under the menu bar ..... AND ..... if all they need is your easily located great big phone number on every single page to call for an appointment, then a low bounce rate means your website is doing a great job for you.
Don't sweat the bean counting.
5. They offer nickle and diming on ala carte services
Many scammers like to ensnare victims by seeming to offer a range of options you can choose from. But chances are you won't know what any of the options mean, and won't have a way to wisely assess what you really need. Don't be fooled by a sales approach that seems transparent but really is just information overload.
6. They brag about guaranteeing you page 1 on Google
Laugh right in the face of anyone who tells you they can do this. Then close the door. Loudly. Metaphorically speaking.
I constantly hear therapists, coaches, healers, and intuitive talk asking about how to get on page 1 of Google. Forget it. That's not the goal anymore. Much more important is how many high value incoming links you have to your website. And that means being on popular locator directories that are eating up space on Google's page 1, as well as being active on at least one social media platform like Facebook where you can engage potential clients, offer them a tip of substance, and give a link back to your website for more.
7. They claim to give you automated and cheap SEO
Real full range SEO is tedious. It takes a lot of time and effort, and you have to stay on top of it. While you or your website designer should be able to accomplish the basic on-page SEO like meta tags, alt tags for images, and h1 or h2 headlines, the rest is a pain in the patootie to do (I might have a bit of attitude about that. LOL)
SearchEngineLand says to expect to pay as much as $1000 a MONTH for legitimate, full range SEO. Anything less than about $400 is likely a scam. Frankly, you'd be better off doing AdWords or Facebook ads for that amount of cash and reaching a narrowly targeted audience.
8. They make "set up" fees sound reasonable
Many of you charge a bit more for your initial intake sessions, so getting charged a set up fee for a mysterious service you're told you need can sound reasonable. It probably isn't, unless the set up is really an in depth consultation with you to understand your business and it's special needs and ethical restrictions that are unique to the world of SEO. Don't get caught by surprised by how unethical SEO scammers can be.
9. They control access to your analytics account
Some SEO scammers will take over or establish a Google analytics account for you, so you don't need to worry about it, they'll say. Believe me, worry will be cheaper in the long run. Never allow yourself to be in a position where you can't get immediate access to an account in your name or connected to marketing your business.
10. You rarely hear from them
If you aren't getting monthly reports on their efforts that coincide with a reasonable increase in actual clients, there's something wrong. But of course, if you have been diligent about screening for all the above mentioned signs of a scam, you won't even get this far.
Read the original article from SearchEngineLand here.