SEO Services – Smoke and Mirrors?

I quite frequently hear the comment that SEO is all ‘smoke and mirrors’ from people who have tried the services of ‘SEO Experts’.

Why is this? After all it is a skill like any other skill attained from training and experience. So why is the industry failing to convince clients that it is offering a genuine value for money service?

I think there are a number of reasons for this.

  • Low barrier to entry
  • No A to Z instructions or training available
  • No recognised certification
  • SEO Industry is full of ‘snake oil’ solutions
  • Long lead time to demonstrate changes in ranking
  • Many ‘experts’ offering services far below their value
  • Fixing poor SEO can sometimes mean an unacceptable investment by a client
  • SEO landscape has changed enormously in 10 years

This is not an exhaustive list but headlines some of the more obvious areas.

So let me go through each of these in a little more detail.

Low barrier to entry –

The Internet is global. Websites are very visible and with a few basic tools (many are free for low usage) it is possible to see how a website is performing and for what search words. Before the Internet it would have been impossible to measure how well a company’s marketing was doing for them even if you could uncover where they were marketing.

So now it is possible to produce a prospect list to contact of companies with websites and a little information about the website in a few hours from a home computer.

Putting my MBA hat on I am not sure I can think of any other market sector quite like this. An unemployed person who is computer literate and has a home computer and an Internet connection can effectively ‘compete’ with a large SEO and Marketing Agency with 100 employees.

No A to Z instructions or training available –

The majority of search engine optimisation is focussed currently around Google because Google is providing 80% or more of all search information. So this should make it easier you say as it only needs to be done for one search engine. Well it would be if Google told us what to do!

The Internet is vast and because of that the process of indexing and ranking websites has to be automated. As soon as you put a machine in place to make a decision then you open that up to being manipulated. This is exactly what happened in the early days of the Internet. For instance you would decide what keyword you wanted to rank for and then make sure you had those words on your page more times than your competitors and you would in most cases rank above them. However that didn’t mean that the website was providing good quality information for those keywords.

So Google have made the way they index and rank websites a lot more complicated and DO NOT issue anything other than the most basic of guidelines on how to structure your site for good rankings.

This means everything we do to rank a site is built on our own realm of knowledge and experience which we as SEO Experts have to constantly update.

No recognised certification

As far as I know there is nothing out there to provide a recognised training level achieved in search engine optimisation. This means ‘everyone’ is an expert but there is no common bench mark. As we are now seeing, this is dangerous as the wrong techniques can do a lot of harm and damage to websites rankings which in some cases can be nearly impossible to reverse without major expense.

SEO Industry is full of ‘snake oil’ solutions

Every day I get my email inbox filled with the latest ‘cure all’ SEO solution which will give you ‘instant page 1 rankings’.

Again putting my MBA and Entrepreneur hats on, building an online Internet presence is no different than building any other business. It takes time. There are no shortcuts or magical cures or silver bullets.

Yes, I can build a simple website and rank it for ridiculous keywords in a non-competitive sector, but how many real businesses are like that? The focus of a website is to capture real people and convert them into whatever the focus of the site is. It is all very well demonstrating that you are being ranked for 1000 keywords but if no one actually clicks on those keywords you may as well turn the site off! When someone lands on your site from a keyword search, they need to be looking for what you are offering otherwise they will leave immediately. This will take time and lots of it to achieve.

Long lead time to demonstrate changes in ranking

There is myth that you can improve websites rankings by just making a few quick changes. I do occasionally see a ‘quick win’ but invariably a sites ranking take time to alter especially if the site is established.

There are numerous factors that can alter the rankings for sites keywords, some are obvious and some are quite subtle. All of these have to be uncovered and addressed. In the worst case, if the site is being penalised by Google it can take months or more to recover from this. There is NO quick fix.

Many ‘experts’ offering services far below their value

To build the level of knowledge and expertise to provide reliable and long term effective SEO Services takes years of dedicated work. Do this incorrectly and your website can be banished to the Internet Wilderness and can take months or more to correct.

This knowledge does not come cheap. So how do some ‘SEO Experts’ offer their services so cheaply? You take your car to a garage and you will pay the mechanic probably somewhere between £50 – 100 per hour to fix it. So is £10 per hour for an SEO Expert a realistic amount?

Personally I spend many hours a week researching what Google and others are doing and trying out new and different techniques on many ‘test’ sites I run and monitor the changes. I work for clients in many different market sectors with different types of websites (ecommerce, news, membership etc.) and will be constantly looking for trends based on what I and others are doing.

This does not come ‘cheaply’! However getting your website rankings sorted can have a dramatic impact on your business.

Fixing poor SEO can sometimes mean an unacceptable investment by a client

I have had occasion to tell a client that the only way to get any useful rankings for their site is to ‘start again’ and build a new site on a new domain. The cause of this is down to SEO practices by others to get those ‘quick rankings’ that are now completely outlawed by Google.

I see site after site which have been completely wiped off the search engine rankings like this –


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Sometimes this can be worked on at a site level, but more often it is down to the sites external link profile and can take a very long time to recover from. In worse cases the only sensible way forwards is build the site on a new domain which is obviously a costly exercise.

SEO landscape has changed enormously in 10 years

I meet a lot of people who think that if they have a website built for their business then they can get it ranked for a few ‘keywords’ and in weeks they will have a successful online business! Yes really…. If this were the case then there would be a lot more internet millionaires around.

As I have previously said, 10 or more years ago it WAS much simpler to rank a site. However there were far fewer sites and Google was still ‘finding its feet’. Today, users are far more critical and less patient with what they are presented with and there is a magnitude more sites.

Google, Bing and others have had to improve how they decided what is good and useful information to serve up against something we type in their search engines and filter out the irrelevant and poor information.

To do this they are looking are many more signals for a website. If any of these do not meet their criteria then the sites rankings are reduced.

Understanding and knowing how to manage each of these criteria is what you pay a true SEO Expert for and over time they will get your rankings on the move.

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