Every now and again I will receive a phone call from some company that wants to help put my business PepperEyes.com on the front page of Google. By coincidence many of these calls come from California, and it is also strange that all the companies that want to help me do business with the Federal Government come from Florida. Could there be something to that? However, the Federal Government angle is a whole separate issue. Back to the Google ordeal! Anyway what these companies are trying to sell me is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) service. The sales person will use all of the correct term and buzz words, and make the offer of their services sound extremely valuable to you. They are in the business of selling you their service, and trying to get your money for something you can probably do yourself.
If you don’t know what SEO is let me explain.
Night of the Spiders
Every moment of every day the search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Google, Ask, AOL..etc) crawls the world-wide web via web links and at all times gathers information about every page and bits of information that is on the web including personal, private, social media, and business pages and brings it back to the nest (Their server). This information is then massaged, organized, analyzed , indexes, and/or put through some every changing formula and placed in their database/storage unit.
Getting Search Result
Let’s say you search on Discount Pepper Plants. The search engines then go through their database of current results and bring back the results that have been calculated that best fit your search criteria going for most relevant to least relevant based on the content of those site. You would see sites that contain images and text related to Pepper Plants, Gardening etc. listed first. Those items that are on the first page are deemed most relevant to what you typed in. So if you were actually looking for Discount Pepper Spray, you will not get the results you want. Also depending on what you type in you can get different results on the front page of Google (or Bing, or Yahoo). For Example, Pepper Spray, Best Pepper Spray, Pepper Spray for Women, Discount Pepper Spray, and Where to Buy Pepper Spray, will all get you different front page results as a web site can only get optimized for only a few search terms.
The Never Ending Process
As you can imagine competition among companies for a position on the first page on Google, Bing or Yahoo (top 4 Search Engines) is fierce. SEO is based on lots of factors such as site content, name of images, relevant back links to your site, how readable your website is (to keep you from stuffing it with key search terms), and many other factors that the Search Engine Companies use and constantly change. So as you may imagine many companies are always tweaking their websites on a CONTINUAL basis to be the ones on the first page, and trying to stay ahead of the competition. Some of these large companies have a while division that do nothing but maintain their website and fight to remain in the top spots for key search term. But again these spots are driven by the search terms and other relevant search factors. Again using my previous example, if your do a search on ‘Pepper Spray’, ‘Discount Pepper Spray’, ‘Best Pepper Spray’, and ‘Pepper Spray for Women’ you may not always see the organic results in the same order, only every engine, and companies like Amazon or Wal-Mart will most likely be in many of those spots.
Making Money from You Ignorance.
As I said SEO is a continual process as some search engines companies change their ranking formula from time to time (Google is well-known for this), and your competition is trying to make their Pepper Spray Web sites rank higher than yours. So in comes the Sylvester McMonkey McBean Company (see Dr. Seuss) to sell you services to put you on the front page of Google for a price, and they may offer you other internet listing services to help your visibility. You may be thinking this is great and will get you lots of business so that you can recoup your cost from the profits. This is often one of their selling points by the way. So you foolishly pay your $2000 (I have no idea what the going rate is) to have this service. Now there is nothing wrong with this if they actually deliver what the promise. However, being on the front page does not necessarily mean lots of new business. However, let’s just say they actually do what they promise and you get the #1 seat on Google, Bing and Yahoo for Discount Pepper Spray, or Zombie Repellent (what ever you are selling). What is to stop this same company from going to one of your competitors and show them they are not #1 position on Google, and promise them the same services they sold you. (Just like in the Dr. Seuss Book) Over a course of months, you may see your ranking slip, as they may move to every one of your competitors, but so long as you are on the first page, you still feel OK that is until you find yourself on page eight or nine of the search results. Remember all your competitors are constantly tweaking their SEO. As I stated SEO is a continual process, you have to keep your business relevant to what people are searching for. At this point I’m sure one of their related partners or perhaps the same company will call you a year later asking to put you back on the first page of Google. The process will begin again.
What You Can Do
As a mentioned above, Website SEO is a continual process. There are LOTS of online resources and schools like Social Media University or other site that will teach you about the topic of SEO and some of these resources are free. For the most part is stuff you can so yourself, by just investing a few hours a week. Once you have the knowledge, and know how to access many of the free online tool you do it all yourself. If you can’t do it yourself, then you may want to SHOP AROUND for someone who can do it at a reasonable price, just make sure you see a sample of their work and talk to some of their clients. What you want to do is grow a quality business, and in doing that try to be to tortoise and not the hare. If you are small company don’t try to compete with the big guys (Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon…etc) they have much more money ans resources that you do.
There are lots of companies out there that prey on your internet ignorance. For example one of the Federal Business companies charges almost $500 to set your company up in the database that the Federal Government uses. This process takes about 1 hour or maybe an hour in a half if you do it yourself. They also charge a service fee for migrating your data from the old service to the new one. They count on the fact they you are not aware that you can do this on the new system by just entering your username and password from the old system and hitting the migrate button. So just be careful when dealing with these companies and do your research before BUYING or AGREEING to anything.
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