December 08, 2009

8 SEO Danger Signs

Attention all business owners:
Keep a link to this site and always refer back to it before employing an SEO consultant or web developer.

An entire industry of scam artists has cropped up and is preying on small business site owners: SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, “experts.”

I’m writing this article as one of our customers has recently fallen victim to one of these SEO “experts.” When he told me of this, I realized I did not fulfill my role of educating my valued clients and friends on the many myths and dangers of Search Engine Optimisation.

For that, I apologise. My penance shall be to share with all of you 8 SEO Danger Signs…

#1 - Guaranteed results
Any company that guarantees results is trying to trick you. Typical methods of this trickery include:

Setting up an AdWords campaign, where you -- not they -- pay Google to appear in the "Sponsored Links" that appear on a page.

Or they have some sort of criteria that they will meet but will not be of value to you. For example, I can guarantee that we will be #1 for -- because Google will always put a URL (address) as an exact match first. Click here to see my example, or Google your own website URL.

So if someone says they guarantee results, ask them how while slowly backing away.

I may sound a bit forward on this point, but I feel safe doing so since Google themselves tell "No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google."

#2 - We only do SEO
If the company only does SEO, and doesn't actually create websites, they are probably shady operators. Not definitely, but probabaly.

The reverse does not, however, apply. There are plenty of web development companies who employ shady, or "black hat", SEO techniques which will result in Google delisting sites.

In fact, I know of at least two Toowoomba web development companies that use "black hat" techniques. It is happening in your backyard!

#3 - Not answering the question "How do you do it?"
There are no "trade secrets" or "proprietary methods" in SEO. If a company chooses not to tell you how they intend to improve your site, then they are probably using methods that will result in your site getting delisted by Google in the long run.

#4 - Using any "tricks" to make Google see something different
Sadly, this is an example of what one of our customers was told to do, by an SEO "expert":

"He suggested that in the blank area on the sides of our site that we have our keywords listed in white so they wont be seen by visitors but Google will still pick up on them."

Google's job is to find sites that are relevant for a human being, so they take a very dim view of techniques like this which are aimed at providing different content to the search engine than a human would see.

And by "take a dim view" I mean they will go as far as removing sites all together from their indexes.

#5 - Not requiring access to edit the website's content
An SEO "expert" who does not intend on modifying your website's content is like a mechanic who says they don't need to physically have your car to fix it.

All legitimate SEO techniques require access to your site. The main one is "look at each page on your site and make sure you actually use the words that describe who you are, what you sell, and where you are." Also known as keywords. And don't overdo it so that it sounds like gibberish to humans!

To make sure that no underhanded content, methods, or links are employed, ask the SEO "expert" to give you the content to update and do it yourself. If you don't understand why you are doing something, walk away or seek a second opinion.

#6 - You'll get results in 24 hours
Going back to my mechanic example, I would not be satisfied if my mechanics, The Motor Shoppe (who are fantastic by the way), told me "Your car will run really well tomorrow."

It is easy, using underhanded "black hat" techniques (the ones Google hates and will penalise you for), to get a site bumped up for a short time.

What a site owner should really be interested in is long term results.

#7 - How is AdWords involved?
Often times, SEO "experts" are setting up Google AdWords campaigns on behalf of site owners. AdWords are the "Sponsored Links" that appear above and to the right of Google search results.

If an SEO "expert" is using AdWords as part of an SEO campaign, he or she should make it very clear that they are recommending AdWords, give you a choice as to whether or not to use it, discuss maximum budgets per click and per month, and implement tracking to see if it is worthwhile.

AdWords is the source of 95% of Google's $24 billion revenue, so there are certainly people that see value in it. However, it is something that your SEO "expert" should be educating about and guiding you with, rather than hiding from you.

On a similar note, if you have an AdWords campaign as part of an SEO campaign, be sure you are paying Google directly rather then the SEO "expert" who will simply be adding markup for doing nothing. Pay for the time they are helping and advising you.

#8 - What "linking" is involved?
If you are expected to link to random people, then walk -- nay -- run away.

Linking between websites is an important factor in Google's PageRank technology. Because of this, we should all link, but do it only to companies we know and trust. Remember, you are potentially losing traffic to a site when you link to it, and are effectively giving a word of mouth referral.

Link, but link carefully. 

Summing Up
Hopefully this list of SEO danger signs will prevent a few of our valued customers and friends from getting involved with shady SEO "experts" or web developers.

If anyone has any other experiences or danger signs to share, please share in the comments section. Please also share this article as you hear your clients, suppliers, and associates pondering the use of an SEO "expert."

Further Reading

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro

December 05, 2009

Quick introduction to

A customer wanted to know a bit about CRM, which we use at 1300 Web Pro. I wrote the following reply to him, and thought I would post it on our blog in case it is of use to anyone else... is an American, publically listed company and is part of the S&P 500. In other words, it isn’t going anywhere. Their flagstone product is the Software as a Service (meaning hosted by them and charged by the month) CRM product.

A few qualifying points before deciding to use CRM:
  • If you already have a CRM system in place, consider carefully switching. A lot of historical data cannot be transferred (or can be difficult and time-consuming to do). 
  • If you have more than 5 users, the price goes up substantially. I am looking at switching to an Open Source web-based system (either vTiger or SugarCRM) as we are going to hit that 5 user point soon. The main downside of these other systems being you have to host and support them yourself. I'm not saying it is not worth the money after 5 users... just putting all the cards on the table.
  • Being web-based, you need a fairly reliable and quick Internet connection. We have ADSL2+ at the office which is sufficient.
Access to Salesforce CRM is entirely web based, with the exception of an Outlook Sync plugin and a Microsoft Word mail merge template plugin.

Using it is fairly self explanatory. The main types of records are:
  • Leads — People you are hoping to win business from. Our website consultants enter people they meet at networking events, people who ring in, etc. as leads. Any forms submitted through our website also go directly into Salesforce as a lead. 
  • Accounts — A business that you have a relationship (ie. Supplier or customer). When you sell something to a “lead” you convert the business to an account. 
  • Contacts — People associated with an account. Each contact must have one (and only one) account. For example, you might have 1300 Web Pro as an account with two associated contacts, Nury and Monita.
The Outlook sync plugin allows you to push the contacts to Outlook (and in our case this in turns pushes them to our iPhones). I find this useful, especially since it pushes the entire company’s contacts, not just yours (optionally). This way, if Monita adds “Brad Ison” from Instyle Homes and Loans it will appear in my iPhone next time I sync Outlook!

There is a fairly powerful reporting engine. There are a number of built in reports, or you can build your own. I generally build my own. The process of building a report is straightforward. You select the type of record you want to report on (eg. Leads), the columns you want in the report, and limiting criteria (eg. Created in Dec. 2009) and away you go. You can view the report online or export to Excel.

There is also a very good mail merging system for both Microsoft Word and e-mail. To use the Word system, you install the Word plugin which will provide you with access to mail merge fields (note: these are not the same as the Microsoft Word merge fields). You then save the Word document and upload it to Salesforce. From there you can run the merge from any record. E-mail merging words similarly, except you just build the template within Salesforce. Because e-mails are sent directly from Salesforce, they don’t appear in your Outlook sent items.

There is a calendar and to do list for each user, cross-referenced with leads, accounts, and contacts. We don’t use this as extensively as we could. I believe this integrates to Outlook using the sync plugin.

My suggestion would be to create an account using the 30 day free trial link that Salesforce always seem to have.

I have a copy of for Dummies, 3rd Edition. It gives a good overview of things.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro