Whether this is in the form of a free video in return for a link back to a site or a free guest blog post which contains a link back to another site or help with their Facebook Ads or Google Adwords campaigns or even just saying that they will 'get them to the top of Google', you have to be very careful who you get into bed with.
The latest algorithm updates - how Google decides which websites should rank where on the results pages that they produce for a particular search query - have focused on links, quality of content and manipulation of the system using keywords in the domain. The latest Facebook updates have targeted Pages that have fake profiles liking them - a scam which has been rife over the last year.
Small Business SEO Services
In addition to the daily emails from India, I also received a call myself recently from a very persistent salesman who insisted that he could build me high quality links back to my site for £250 per month. His sales patter was good and, even my interrogations were answered, because he was able to pass me on to more qualified colleagues. It looked like a really good opportunity, but there was still a nagging doubt in my mind.
The trouble with allowing someone else to help build you backlinks by writing guest posts which are posted on their tame sites is that you are at the mercy of the back catalogue of all their other customers. Some of those will have been actively building backlinks for years through a variety of methods which once were grey hat and which have now been deemed bad links by the latest Google algorithms.
If your site is getting links from several other websites which are also giving links to businesses which are not as squeaky clean as you in terms of SEO, then you could be tarred with the same brush by Google... and penalised accordingly.
It doesn't matter that they offer a money back guarantee if your Google ranking doesn't improve. If you then have to spend months asking webmasters to remove links that are damaging you, some of whom will not answer or comply, you have done more harm than good.
Working with bigger SEO companies from other parts of the country/world, you do not have the same clout as you would if you were working with a more local, hands-on company. To them, it's all about the money, whereas a local SEO company has to protect their own reputation as a good link builder in order to maintain their standing within the community. Get it wrong and they could lose a lot of other customers who all talk to each other, whereas the guys who call you buy phone are completely protected from that eventuality.
Exact Match Domain Penalties
The SEO world has been in a right two and eight over the last week about an update which crept in and has penalised a lot of affiliate marketers sites where they targeted their chosen keyword with a website url which is the same. There are reams of posts on various forums on the subject.
But the truth is that not all domains have been affected. The difference here is that it is ok to have an exact match domain so long as you have an established site which has regular QUALITY content and a good variety of social shares - physical human proof that the content on that site provides good, relevant information.
There are many affiliate marketers shouting the odds that they have quality content on their site - but, because many of them have English as a second language and use 'spinning devices' to change one article into several, the resulting post is not always readable.
Local company promotion that does not rely on SEO
Yes, Google will still make mistakes and some small businesses may suffer a penalty for having a very long exact match domain - which is why it is a good idea for anyone setting up a website to try to include their brand name with the keyword which best describes their business. Or to just go for the brand then use the meta data to tell Google what the site is all about.
More importantly, it's a good time to start looking at promoting your business in a way that isn't completely reliant on Google - there are other search engines. And there are also other methods of getting seen. Suddenly, a combination of online and offline marketing becomes imperative. As usual, the money is in the list - the customer information that you have on your books which can be used to remind existing customers of a new product or special offer.
Facebook Ads and Google Adwords Call Centres
Again, with people cold calling you offering to manage your Facebook page or ads, you have very little come back when it does not match up to your expectations. These salesmen are paid by the lead so they will say anything to get you to sign up. They know little about the intricate processes involved with achieving engagement with a local audience.
They will set up an ad using your logo which will not attract the attention of anyone and then they will set it so that if someone does click through, it goes to your wall - a smorgasbord of information that can be overwhelming, rather than a dedicated landing page which answers the questions raised in the main ad.
If you start to ask questions about the lack of clicks, they will point to big numbers of impressions which muddy the waters as an impression is the opportunity for someone to see the ad, not an actual fact that it has been seen and noticed. Ask about conversions and they will wriggle out of it by saying that the content on your wall is at fault - and they would be right! But, of course, they didn't tell you that in the first place.
We have had the same experience with those offering to run Google Adwords campaigns. Generic ads that do not address the areas of pain your potential customers need identified and answers. Landing pages that go straight to the Home page rather than dealing specificially with the subject of the ad. And no possibility of any guilt on their part. Caveat emptor.
Social Media Optimisation for SMEs
Although many local businesses struggle to run social media profiles effectively, it is always a good idea to have a presence on the main platforms. Completed correctly, these Bios and About sections can provide a valuable SEO link to your website, helping Google to target your business for product and location and even ranking those pages for less competitive keywords.
But, more importantly, if people do search for 'product in location' within those platforms themselves, you have a chance to get your business to be prominent on the results page that is produced. This is called social media optimisation.
It is beginning to be understood that SMO is the new SEO.
Social Media for local business
If you run a business that has a dedicated following and it is possible to provide rewards for their enthusiasm in the form of discounts and offers or competitions, you can run some very successful social media campaigns. We recently ran a competition for a local cake maker supplies company and were able to increase their following by over 2k fans.
Better still, some of those new likers went on to buy from the company. That's the whole purpose of running a social media profile - getting your brand in front of people who might not have known about you before and then converting those new fans into customers.
Protect yourself from the charlatans by learning the important bits. You don't have to do the work yourself but you do need to know the crack if you don't want to be ripped off! Click on the image below