Savvy businesspeople know how to spot the obviously bogus SEO solicitations coming through – the ones with any combination of atrocious grammar, missing business and/or contact information, false addresses, and lack of research. These companies may even try to get payment for registering your site with search engines. That is one thing. What about the pitches making it past this filter?
A client of mine forwarded one such solicitation, complete with data and scores on their site’s performance. After reviewing the information, I saw the dangers in such pitches and was driven to share more about what raised the red flags.
The SEO Solicitation
In this instance, the soliciting agency touts their BBB rating and Google affiliations, all which appear true. They lend credibility, but give little insight to the services offered. The e-mail speaks of their “proprietary tool that measures how well your business is marketing itself across the Web.” Sounds impressive, but what does that mean? What does it measure exactly and how does it work? We aren’t filled in. Luckily for us, a link to a personalized report is included.
Upon glancing at the report, I see three categories with corresponding scores: Leads, Reputation, and Social. The client’s numbers don’t look so great:
Take a Deeper Look at the Data
The Leads Score immediately docks the client for not having any paid advertising. While there are inherent benefits to running a PPC campaign, it is not everything.
The next portion goes over keywords and current rankings in Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Let’s be honest, Google is the most important factor in organic rankings. Bing and Yahoo! only account for 18% or 11% respectively, and often are not worth your time or money. However, the main problem here is found in the choices: not all keywords are even relevant. This agency’s service is locally-oriented, and a large portion of chosen keywords are for cities not even serviced by the client. Why would they want to be ranking for cities they don’t go to? There is also debate over the effectiveness of local terms within keyword phrases, but that is fodder for another blog entirely. Furthermore, there are also so many variations of keywords out there – what if there are keywords mapped to the site that are only slightly different? Lastly, after doing some research, I found that many of the listed keywords were of very low (or non-existent) search volume. No well-versed SEO would ever try to rank for these in the first place.
Next in the report comes a listing of local directories, some of which require payment. Most of the mainstays were included along with some very obscure choices also. There are also many other SEO-helpful listings not included on their list. No industry-specific sources are included at all, which hold additional weight. The biggest red flag: Bing, often cited as one-third of the local search “trifecta” (along with Yahoo! and Google), was not even mentioned. Despite its low organic search use, Bing is still a factor in directory listings, and can be useful as another domain to get your brand out there.
Reputation is More Than Reviews
The Reputation Score was the next section, solely based on user-submitted reviews. As per the directories, it only pulled from the limited list of their chosen sources. Again, there was no inclusion of industry-specific sites, some of which may contain customer and peer reviews that hold even more value to the searcher. There was also no reflection of testimonials on the client’s site or comments left on their blog. While the main concept of obtaining more positive reviews is not a bad one, the scoring used leaves out other important factors and sources that influence a business’ reputation.
Social Goes Beyond Facebook
The Social Score was where the report really stumped me. All it looked at was whether the client had a Facebook page or not. Oddly, this client does have an active Facebook profile, but the report said otherwise. I scanned the report once more and figured out why there was a discrepancy – the data was pulled using the company name differently than how it is displayed across the web. Great effort has gone into a uniform presence, citing NAP consistency. This made me immediately weary of all other data provided and I wondered just how well this “proprietary tool” works. Besides this, there are many other social factors than Facebook. If we look back just a few months, we will remember LinkedIn has been found the top social network for B2B companies. There’s also Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and more…
Where Does This Leave Us?
Looking at everything as a whole, this report did provide statistics and suggestions which could be helpful. However, looking into the data found it was misleading and incomplete. There were also no indications of what the agency would do to provide better results upon signing up. When reviewing solicitations, dig a little deeper: does all of the information make sense? Is it relevant to your business? Is it accurate? If not, it is probably a sign to send your e-mail to the trash.
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