We've all received the phone calls. And if you're the owner of any kind of local business, chances are you've received them very often and at times several times a day. Sometimes it's a person. Other times it is an automated recording, "This is Google calling . . ." "I can get you to the top spot on Google!" "Press one to take the top spot on Google. Press two to give the top spot to your competitor." Etc. etc. Indeed, beyond the fact that these calls can be annoying, you really do have every reason to be highly skeptical of what these companies genuinely have to offer your business. It's not that online marketing and SEO for your business isn't critical in the 21st Century world. Were that the case I would be out of a job and there would be little point in taking the time to write this. Nay, the issue is that rarely, if ever, do these companies legitimately have your business's best interests in mind.
It is critical to understand the economics - and perhaps more importantly, potential economics - behind these calls, their frequency, and why it is a different person or company calling you almost every time. In order to understand, you have to see it first and foremost from the perspective of the companies that are calling you.
First, consider how many local businesses there are in world. If that's too much, just consider how many local businesses there are in the United States. To help put that in perspective, simply consider how many local businesses there are in your own city or town. Depending on where you live, the answer is hundreds of local businesses in the smaller town, thousands and thousands in the larger city. To give an example, at one point in the city of Las Vegas alone there were 15,000 Realtors. The answer, there are hundreds of millions of local businesses out there.
So let's just take the Realtors as an example. If I can contract just 1% of those in Las Vegas (120) or even half a percent (60) to, say, $300-500.00 a month or more for online marketing services I'm collecting $18,000 - 60,000.00 a month from that tiny fraction of Realtors alone! (And why wouldn't they all want it!) But it gets better because this is the internet. I'm not bound to any one local city. I can contract Realtors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Houston, Miami, Chicago and every small ho-dunk town in between. Now I'm making $180,000-600,000 a month just off Realtors. But it doesn't stop there. What about roofers and painters and handymen and plumbers, electricians, restaurants . . . In short, there exists out there a vast sea of virtually endless businesses! I don't even need to dominate the market to make gobs and gobs of seriously big, easy money. A tiny fraction can make me rich!!!
Rule#1 - You're a number in a vast sea of local businesses.
You can add the numbers up a thousand different ways. Let's say I'm only collecting a meager $24.99 a month. But if I can collect that from a million business owners in one year I'm a 24 million dollar company! Fact is, no matter how you add the numbers up, one way or another, it spells big potential money and that is what has these companies salivating on the other end of the phone. This is also why several new fly-by-night local SEO companies spring forth from woodwork each and every day, find your business number (probably online), and gives you that call . . . So rule number one, you're a number in a vast sea of numbers and they want to collect your money. Before expatiating on how this doesn't work in your favor, however, lets focus next on the actual person you're talking to on the phone.
Rule# 2. You're a number in a vast sea of local businesses . . . and they want your money.
Most likely, almost without exception, the person on the phone is just a sales representative. That is, they are not the person who is actually going to be doing any website or local SEO work for you. They probably know less about it than you do and what they do know is a broad list of memorized sales points to make it all sound good. The sales rep is paid on commission. That is, they go home penniless and hungry unless they sign people to contracts over the phone. Even if they do get paid some kind of hourly wage it is in all likelihood very small and not enough to live on. Thus, either they sell you a contract for SEO services or they wont be making a living. It is in their monetary interest to sign you up, not in any way necessarily in the best interests of your business. Further, no company will be paying even a paltry hourly wage to someone who does not sell contracts to add to the above numbers for long. So either the sales rep sells you on their services or they will be out of a job.
Rule # 3. Sales reps don't do SEO.
Behind the sales rep is the company sales manager constantly reminding them of two things. One, all the gobs and gobs of money they will make if they sign people up for contracts from the vast sea of businesses and two, all the gobs and gobs of money they wont be making if they don't sign people up for contracts out of the vast sea because they will be out of a job.
Rule # 4. But sales reps do need to sell SEO or they'll go penniless and hungry.
Should'a stuck with timeshare.
There is nothing wrong with sales, of course, Even phone sales. The fact that they are aggressive, however, points to the reality that it isn't actually that easy to sign up gobs of businesses from the vast sea of businesses and make gobs and gobs of big easy money. One could spend 8 hours a day making phone calls into the vast sea of local businesses and easily talk to no one. (Business owners, it turns are, are actually busy . . . running their businesses.) A few more days and pretty quickly zero dollars have actually been made. This is where the pie-in-the-sky, easy big money scenario actually begins breaking down and why there are so many fly-by-nights. While the numbers may look beautiful on paper, the on-the-ground reality is an entirely different story. Before you know it your hotshot SEO company that was bound to be filthy rich can't even sustain itself, pay it's own employees, pay its own rent. And thus, all those suckers who did sign up will either find themselves paying money for services that are now non-existent or calling in to cancel at a phone number that was disconnected months ago.
Behind or along with all of the money and sales perspective, however, is of course the product of value: your local SEO. It is critical for you to understand that this is secondary to pretty much any company out there who calls you on the phone. This applies even to large reputable companies with widely recognized names. In fact, these big name corporations may even be worse.
Bankruptcy awaits . . . can I get your credit card number . . .
Rule # 5. The Big Name Companies might actually be Worse.
A client of mine was paying Intuit 99.00 a month for a specific type of SEO service. Intuit would submit a blog article every month linked to the clients website. He had been paying them for almost two years which means Intuit should have submitted 24 articles on his behalf. A search for links to his website yielded the result of two. (If there were more that couldn't be found by Google or Yahoo they were of no SEO value anyway.) So in short this business owner paid Intuit almost 2,400.00 for two blog articles. Intuit was collecting money and screwing him. It doesn't stop there with Intuit. but we'll leave it at that for now.
CitySearch is another big name reputable company. They claim they will list you in their network of 2,000 websites. I have never seen them actually live up to this claim (and once if they do and those site can't be found by Google or have maybe even been banned, its still a rip off). CitySearch also engages in another common scheme that sounds good but really isn't. Like many companies, they offer to set you up with a specific new phone number so you can actually track how many calls you've gotten from their service. Once you understand that your real business phone number is the essential strain of DNA Google uses to track you and rank your listing, you'll realize that as good as it sounds, using a different phone number actually takes all of your organic potential away. Further, it creates a mess of duplicate listings for your business all over the internet. Any ranking power you may have already achieved is now compromised and might possible be detrimental. You tell me. Would it be better to have Google find 200 citations for your one business phone number, or find 100 for one phone number and 100 for another? Further, beyond the phone number other critical information can become confused in the internet directory ecosystem. This means that Google will not be able to make consistent sense of your business information and the result will be lower ranking and possible penalization for spam. Getting rid of these listings once they are up is also near impossible (and keep this in mind: even when you cancel). So as good as it all might sound, a "tracking" phone number is nothing but very poor SEO and that's certainly not something you should be paying for.
The big companies are also experts at making it near impossible for you to cancel once you have started. The Granddaddy of continued horror stories in this regard is actually the most recognizable company of them all – YellowPages. (Just ask the client who actually faced bankruptcy trying to pay off his YellowPages contract . . . )
We've automated SEO!
Big companies, and also many companies of other sizes, also attempt to design automated SEO systems in order to make their services cost effective. Here we come back to the economics. If we can collect x-dollars a month while we kick back and do nothing while a computer does all the work now we're really sitting pretty! That's all well and good but SEO can not really be automated very effectively. there are simply too many variables and to make matters more complicated those variables are changing all the time.
If these companies do employ human beings to do their SEO work it is usually in one of two scenarios. First scenario, we employ a larger number of lower paid entry levels employees to do the dirty work. This means the minimum wage "tech intern" who isn't paid enough to really care about your business and do an effective job. The second scenario (far less likely), we employ a small number of really good SEO techs and pay them decently. This small number of really good SEO techs, however, can easily become overwhelmed with too much, endless work as we sign up every Realtor, roofer, plumber and handyman in the country to our services. Bottom line, your paying to be put into a clogged conveyor belt where you will wait for months and months for anything to get done and in the long run it will never really get done for your business effectively.
So what’s the conclusion of all this? SEO is a very personal business. What's going to work for you in your regional market and field is not necessarily what is going to work for someone else in their field and their particular regional market. You can't sign up and pay for cookie-cutter SEO. You need a qualified human being who can and will analyze all the details of your unique situation, figure out your best strategy and then actually implement it. After implementing they need to stay on top of it, making sure it is working, looking for areas that might be improved and working to eliminate any potential problems. They also need to be someone you can talk to when you need them, have an issue, have a problem, or even have a new idea. (This actually happens all the time.) You’re the business owner and SEO can really help you, but only if you’ve got someone genuinely working on your side. This wont happen if you're just another number in a vast sea. Then again, there is a very minuscule chance that it just might. If the person on the other end of the phone is interested in making a living by actually helping your business succeed, you could be on to something. As a client of mine once told me "Now I always have to give these calls some amount of consideration, you doomed me . . . .because that's how I found you."
Timothy J Melody