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January 25, 2008
The Dirty Little Secret of the SEO Industry

Have you been held hostage by a search engine optimization (SEO) or search marketing company who claims that your search engine rankings will tank as soon as you stop paying them their monthly fee? If so, you’re not alone. Over the years I’ve heard this a number of times, and I’m here to tell you that under most circumstances, it’s just not true!

No Need to Submit

If your SEO company has told you that you need someone to constantly submit your website to Google and Yahoo in order for it to remain in their database, they are pulling the wool over your eyes. It hasn’t been necessary to submit to search engines for ages because the engines are constantly sending their spiders out to find as many pages as they can. So you definitely don’t need to pay a company for search engine submissions.

Is Tweaking Really Necessary?

If your SEO company claims to be “tweaking” your search engine optimization on a monthly basis, but you have no idea what exactly they are doing, they may not be being quite honest with you. In fact, you may not need their fictional tweaking at all, especially if there are no signs of changes to your actual website. Be sure to find out exactly what it is they’re tweaking and why, and what benefits the tweaking will provide before you continue to pay for it.

Not All Links Are Created Equal

Certainly it’s possible that your SEO company is providing ongoing link building services. If that’s the case, they should be providing you with a monthly list of the new links they have acquired. Be sure to hold them accountable for this information. If they tell you you’ll lose all the links they’ve acquired for your website if you decide to end your campaign, then you may actually have a problem. There are some SEO companies who place links to their clients’ websites in their own linking networks, which means they can remove them whenever they like. Or they may be purchasing you links at various websites, which they may also be able to remove at will. If those links are removed, over time your overall link popularity and Google PageRank score could certainly take a hit, which in turn could affect the visibility of your website in the search results.

That said, those type of links are not the best for your website anyway, because they are not true votes for your website. The search engines, are really looking for links that are unsolicited, i.e., links that were given from other websites because they truly like and recommend your website. So if the bulk of your links are made up of “fake” links that can be taken away on a whim, you really need to gain some true popularity for your website anyway. If your website is really great and unique, chances are you already have gained a lot of real, natural links which nobody can take away from you, and you are probably safe to leave your SEO company without needlessly worrying about losing your search engine traffic.

Social Media and Online Publicity

Certainly, if your search marketing firm is familiar with ways of gaining you online publicity through social media, that could be a worthwhile ongoing deliverable, as it can sometimes provide you with website traffic as well as links. But be certain that your target audience actually hangs out at the social media sites where they want to publicize your website, because the traffic to your website is only good if it’s targeted. There’s only a small percentage of Internet users who frequent social media sites such as Digg and Reddit, and your target market may not be part of that group.

With any social media campaign, you’ll want to sure that your SEO company is measuring not only website traffic, but whether those website visitors take action on your site. Those actions could be simple conversions such as visiting more than one page, or signing up for a free whitepaper, or more complex conversions such as calling your toll free number, or actually making a purchase on your website. If you receive lots of website visitors who exit within seconds, chances are that they are untargeted visitors who are not interested in what you’re offering. There’s no sense in continuing to pay for that type of traffic.

You’re Not Locked in for Life

The important thing to remember is that you should never feel that you are tied to any particular SEO company forever. You may very well be able to take your search marketing campaign in-house, once it’s working well for you. The majority of SEO companies won’t tell you this because it’s of course not great for their own bottom line.

Still, if your SEO company is working well with you and for you, in a transparent, professional manner, then by all means, stick with them. But if you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes and all you get each month is a useless search engine ranking report, you may want to rethink your overall search marketing strategy, in general.

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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