Recently a business owner who is a friend of mine shared with me that he is has a “great” website which is doing great with SEO. Of course I am curious because I am always interested in meeting and sharing with others who study positioning on the web. For example, David Amerland is one of the best, and his book The Semantic Web is something of a bible for anyone interested in Google’s algorithm. I also follow Ann Smarty, Barry Shwartz, Glenn Gabe, Mark Traphagen and few others.
Apparently my friend’s SEO genius is not aware of any of the folks just mentioned, but has anew twist to how he performs SEO. Not only does he not follow the aforementioned sources, he has his own “formula” to optimize a website.
My friend boasted that he is using a company that only charges him if they rank him #1 on Google for agreed upon phrases! Wow. I always thought you should run like hell if anyone promises you first page ranking! Apparently, this “SEO” genius is someone my friend met at a local networking group, and therefore he must know his stuff!
I asked my friend exactly how he and this company determined what the important keywords would be for his website – remember, the SEO is compensated only if they come up number 1 in Google. He said they just sat down and made a list. After all, this SEO guru suggested that he knows what people are searching for better than anyone. You guessed it, there was no analysis, no evaluation of existing analytics, no metrics, no studies. I was beginning to realize that my friend was an “SEO’s” guinea pig… because other than coming up with his own ideas, there was no rhyme or scientific reason with regard to the keyword selection.
Keep in mind that the keywords, obviously, had to be geocoded… (Long tail phrases – are you catching my drift?). Many of them were the same word or phrase with a locality at the end. A small locality…
Honestly, they have no idea whether the list is good or not, or if people even refer to them for the phrases they have identified, however, this new SEO guy is doing a heck of a job “optimizing” the website for these phrases.
To explain to my friend that there are minimal searches for any of these terms may be in order, but he is so enamored with the fact that he is #1, that it falls on deaf ears. So, I took a look at the Analytics…
Disturbing Google Analytics Trends
Upon a review of the Google Analytics, I discovered some disturbing trends among the sudden throngs of visitors to the site.
- A disproportionate amount of traffic was visiting 1 time for just a few seconds.
- Pages with high traffic were internal pages, but there was no trail of how they got there – they simply landed on an internal page.
- While the area and city that the company was located within is a major metro area, many of the visits were from overseas. In fact, they were from Japan.
- Traffic did not gently ramp up. It suddenly appeared one day and then remained fairly high and there was little traffic for the words that were not on the “list”.
- Click throughs to landing pages were few and far between. In fact, there were no landing pages to speak of, just a contact us page. No calls to action, no offers of additional information.
With this in mind, I wondered how the marketing manager would allow this to happen? After all, isn’t the marketing manager the “keeper” of the inbound marketing plan?
Outsourced Marketing Manager
Further investigation lead to another dilemma. To save money, the company did not have their own staff, but they have an outsourced marketing manager. While the marketing manager had some experience working for legal firms, and she began her own “marketing” firm, when asked, admits that she does not know SEO or web or Internet Social Media. She claims that she does know PR and branding. While no one can be adept at everything, having a grasp of what is going on with the web presence is no longer a “nicety”. It’s a must. In fact, if you are not monitoring the conversation, you are an open target. The marketing manager leaves the “web stuff” up to the “web guy” and because she is outsourced, she is not privvy to the terms of the agreement with the web guy.
However, if the client is happy with the brochures and literature and ads she is creating, all is well as far as she is concerned.
Keep in mind that there is no survey or analytics or way to determine the ROI on any of the activities that she is so busy organizing. And she has no idea if anyone is talking about the company, or bad mouthing them.
Who Is Handling The Social Media?
Of course, following inbound marketing practices, there have to be social media accounts. Apparently, the HR Director “loves” social media, and after finally figuring out how to add herself as an Admin to the Facebook page, she is posting on behalf of the company. Yes, you read that correctly, the “HR” director, not the marketing manager. She took over the social media accounts and over the last month, there has been one Facebook post, that indicates that there is an job opening that the company is looking for fill. No engagement, no interactions, no links back to the website, no calls to action.
In fact, the marketing manager says they do not need calls-to-action because the content on the website is so good. She, of course, is an expert writer who wrote most of the copy of the “new website” herself.
Wait, you said “NEW” website? Oh yes…
Blew Up Existing SEO
One of the easiest ways to spot an SEO fraud is that they always try to get you to create a new website. This means that they get paid to create the new website and they also will get paid if they “optimize” for the phrases that were agreed upon.
The company’s former website had built using Google Best Practices and had gained in authority and ranking keywords over time. The “new” SEO (yes, the one who only charges if he gets the number one ranking – that just sound wrong on so many levels) decided that the old website is no good, so he built a new one on a template on WordPress. That would not have been awful, had he preserved the URL’s or had done 301 re-directs, however he blew up the old website and created an entirely new one. In conjunction with the marketing manager they ditched the old content and rewrote the pages…
The new website, well, it has huge graphic files that create long load times for large file images. When I first looked at the site, even though it was live, the images were housed on the development server and that was part of the reason there was an incredibly long load time. According to the SEO, it was due to Rackspace, which is just silly. Of course after I pointed out the issues, they were corrected. But they were not the only issues…
When I look at the site utilizing any of the SEO tools, I see all kinds of errors – no meta-description, no h-1’s, missing alt text…In fact, there are warnings all over the place, despite this being a template on WordPress site. Using SEO tools, I saw there were various warning and errors for Code violations, CSS errors in addition to the obvious re-directs missing…
But a strange tale was being told to the client…The site was doing incredibly well for visits. Huge numbers. And the visits for the selected keywords were through the roof. This, despite it being a new website.
Seems Too Good To Be True?
The client seems to be delighted. He is happy to pay for the placement he thinks he is getting on Google.
What Are You Willing To Accept?
Unfortunately, this is a situation that does not have an easy fix. In order to correct the damage that has been done, the owner must first realize that SEO is not the cure to what ails him. SEO is great, but it’s only part of an equation. Without everything working in sync, he has a website that has a lot of traffic, but it is not the best traffic for his business. As a local company, he will never see business from the many hits he gets from Japan and from far geographic areas. He is paying this “SEO” for results, but the metrics are all wrong! And the sad news is that the person who is overseeing his marketing doesn’t know any more than he does that this type of marketing activity is never going to have the types of results that will turn into conversions for the business.
It’s not about SEO, it’s about Conversions.
Bottom line is that it is about the bottom line. Chasing a number one position on Google is not going to result in anything if the traffic is not representative of potential consumers. With analytics, you can twist the numbers into showing that you are number one for something on Google, and the longer the keyword phrase, the more likely it is that you can rank number one for that more easily.