We’ll Call this a Hollow SEO Victory

This is a quick follow up to the post I did yesterday.  In that post I claimed that I could guarantee a #1 ranking in Google virtually immediately.

And the proof is in the viewing.  Below is my screen capture from less than 24 hours after the page went up:

Internet marketing experiment


Internet Marketing and the Sleazy SEO Guarantee


Can Any Internet Marketing Professional Guarantee a Number One Ranking in Google?

You’ve received the emails, right?  The ones that claim to guarantee you a top ranking in Google for a bargain-discount, super-special, today-only, limited-time price?

“For $99.95 a month we’ll give your our honest John SEO guarantee that you will rank #1 on Google.”

And if you’re honest you’ve asked yourself…”Maybe it’s true?”

Well, boys and girls, I’m here to tell you that sometimes it is true.

What?!  You exclaim (or mumble, or just think it in your befuddled, pre-coffee, morning haze).

I’ll bet you expected me to debunk that claim.  Sorry to throw you a curve ball, but it is possible to guarantee a number one spot in Google.

Let’s test it out right now.  I’m going to tell you that this blog post is about Internet marketing razzmatazz in Las Vegas.  Now, give it a try.  Go to another window and search on the phrase “internet marketing razzmatazz in las vegas.”  Unless you’re reading this 5 minutes after I publish (and maybe even then) I can “guarantee” that we will get a good ranking in Google for “internet marketing razzmatazz las vegas.”

Ok, now someone needs to pay me $99.95.  That was the guarantee, right?  I’ll get you top ranking on Google for only $99.95 per month?  Well, fork it over…

(Note: Here’s an update from 24 hours later.)

Where’s the rather obvious deficiency in my number one ranking strategy?

Who searches for Internet Marketing Razzmatazz Las Vegas?

Answer: No one.  (Ok, well, you just did, but other than you…)

This is something of a follow-up post to what I wrote (see SEO Experts: Look in the Bag Before You Buy) about, er, let’s say, overly optimistic Internet Marketing companies that brag about their ranking “success” stories.

The moral of this story is simple.  If any SEO/SEM marketing company offers you a ranking guarantee, ask them the hard question:

Do I Get to Pick the Search Keyword?

This question will cut through any bull, er, shot, guarantees.  If they say yes, come to us for 1 hour of almost complementary keyword research.  We’ll pick a keyword term that is relevant to your business and gets lots of search traffic.  After all, rankings for anything “razzmatazz” are pretty meaningless, aren’t they.

Now here’s the second part of this.  As you noticed above, I said the keyword research was “almost” complementary.  Here’s the catch.  After you give them the keyword term that we helped you pick, and after that company fails miserably to deliver on their guarantee (and oh yes, unless they’re charging you a lot more than $99.95 a month, they will), please promise to come back to us and we’ll explain what real Internet Marketing means and why we’re the best company in Las Vegas to help you with yours.

We won’t even say “we told you so.”  Not even once.  We guarantee it.

Google+: Is it Important for Internet Marketing?

Google+ is a Distant Second in Social Media, but It’s Having a Powerful Impact on SEO/SEM

If you’re a social media maven, skip this post.  This article is intended for business people who have better things to do than follow the world of social networks like Facebook.

graphic showing Google+ plus sharing percentage vs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Graphic showing the percentage of users who share content on the various social media platforms

Many of our SEO clients ask us for help with Facebook.  Some, but far fewer, ask for a hand in optimizing Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  But very few seem to be asking for our assistance with Google+, or even wondering whether it’s important to their marketing efforts, or our efforts to optimize their websites for search.  When we mention Google+, most of our business clients seem puzzled, either that it’s coming up for discussion, or, in some cases, what the heck it is.  The question that many business people carry, if they have one at all for poor Google+, is, “will Google+ ever be important?”

I understand the question.  In fact I would be stunned to encounter anyone who’s not into tech that pays much attention to Google+ at any level.  And the facts support my conclusion. In a recent study by social media management company Gigya, it was evident that people are simply not buying into the Google+ experience, at least not when it comes to sharing.

So does that mean we can dismiss Google+ in terms of the Internet marketing “big picture” ?

My answer is a definite, No!  In fact it already is very important for anyone interested in Internet Marketing.

The Honda Factor in the Success of Google+

In the late 1980’s I was the proud owner of a Honda CRX Si.  For those of you who forget (or never even knew), the CRX was a 2-seater sports coupe that Honda produced to go up against cars like the Toyota MR-2, a very popular and nimble sportster of the time.  I once read a road test in Road & Track magazine that compared the Honda CRX with the Toyota MR2 and several other sports coupes.  The goal of the comparison was to make an evaluation as to which engine placement was best: front, mid, or rear.

crx vs mr2

At the end of the article, the test team concluded (and remember this was in 1989) that the best engine placement for a sports car was mid-engine.  However they said that the CR-X, with it’s front engine placement, performed about as well as the MR2.  I don’t have the exact quote, but it went something like “this is Honda we’re talking about; if they want to make a front engine placement work, they’re going to do it, regardless of whether mid-engine is best in the end.”

I have some of the same thoughts about Google and Google+.  Does the world really need another social network?  Not really.  But this is Google.  If they’ve decided to make a social network work, they’re going to make it happen.  If your business wants to succeed on line, don’t bet against Google.

But regardless of whether Google Plus succeeds as a network, what about the question of whether Google+ is really relevant to your day-to-day business marketing efforts?  If search engine optimization and search engine marketing are important in your overall marketing strategy, then the answer is yes (even if you have no real need of Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or any other social medium).

The way that Google is making Google+ relevant is by leveraging their dominant position in search.

The issue of whether sharing a website post or post on Google+ will make it rank better is a matter of hot debate in the SEO community with some “studies” indicating that sharing content on Google+ makes it rank higher, and other studies showing it has no effect.

I believe that particular question can remain unanswered for the time being.  The important factor here is something called Google Authorship.  By tying your content into your own profile on Google+ you can raise the visibility of that content.  What it affects is how your content is displayed in search results.   Everyone has seen the small thumbnail pictures of people that appear next to many search listings (see my example below).

 example of search snippet showing Google+ authorship markup

The impact of this is considerable.  Human beings are hard-wired from birth to look toward human faces.  Which of the above listings do you look at first?  The ones that are plain text, or the ones with a face next to them.  Like it or not, the face draws the eyes of the searcher.  Increasingly you will need to make sure that a human face adorns your content in search results, not merely to stand out, but also to avoid fading away as your competitors adopt this tactic.

In a future post I’ll discuss how to get this done.  Or, if you want to get started taking advantage of this right away, contact your account representative at Horizon Web Marketing and we’ll help you get going with Google Authorship.

SEO Experts: Look in the Bag Before You Buy

What do Some Search Engine Optimization “Experts” have in Common with the Middle Ages?

In the middle ages, meat was scarce, but puppies and kittens were not (already you should see where this is going).  Some enterprising entrepreneurs determined that this provided them with an opportunity.  Finding a stray cat or dog, they would place it in a sealed bag.  Then they went into the marketplace selling the bag (also known as a “poke”), which they maintained, contained a suckling pig.  A rare treat indeed.  I would think that few people would actually buy the bag without checking inside, but apparently enough did that the scam, and the phrase that it gave rise to, have endured for hundreds of years.

Internet Marketing Success?  Or a Pig in a Poke?

Now we say “he bought a pig in a poke” to refer to someone making an unwise purchase.  Back then it meant that you bought a bag without checking the contents and ended up cheated.  That poke looked like it had a pig in it, but, alas, it only had a puppy.  Hmmm.

Not much has changed.  I recently came across a website for a company maintaining that they are search engine optimization experts.  They gave some pretty convincing evidence for their Internet marketing success.  There was a whole page of their clients with a bunch of very impressive claims.  For example, they claimed that one of their clients had 50 keywords listed on page one of Google.

Here are some examples of “page one” keywords this company had achieved for their client:

  • seo-expert-or-pig-in-a-pokebeach villas rental big island
  • four seasons home rental hawaii
  • hualalai home rental big island
  • four seasons home rentals hawaii
  • hualalai home rentals big island
  • hualalai beach home rental hawaii
  • hualalai villa rentals big island
  • hualalai beach home rentals hawaii
  • hualalai beach villa rental hawaii
  • hualalai villas rentals big island
  • four seasons home rental big island
  • four seasons vacation rental hawaii
  • hualalai beach villa rentals hawaii
  • hualalai beach villas rental hawaii
  • hualalai vacation rental big island
  • four seasons home rentals big island

That’s just a sampling.  I did not check whether the keywords they listed really were on the first page of Google (that in itself is a pretty dubious claim, since Google results vary from region to region and even person to person).

However, I did check Google’s Keyword Planner to see how much traffic these keywords could perhaps generate for the lucky customer.  Here are the average monthly searches on those keywords as reported by Google:

Page One Rankings, No Actual Traffic

KeywordAvg. monthly searches
beach villas rental big island0
four seasons home rental hawaii0
hualalai home rental big island0
four seasons home rentals hawaii0
hualalai home rentals big island0
hualalai beach home rental hawaii0
hualalai villa rentals big island0
hualalai beach home rentals hawaii0
hualalai beach villa rental hawaii0
hualalai villas rentals big island0
four seasons home rental big island0
four seasons vacation rental hawaii0
hualalai beach villa rentals hawaii0
hualalai beach villas rental hawaii0
hualalai vacation rental big island0
four seasons home rentals big island0

In fact, of all 50 keywords that this company were ranking on page one for, what do you think the combined monthly search volume, as reported by Google, is?

If a Page One Ranking Falls in the Forest, and No One is Around…

If you guessed anything more than 0 you were overly optimistic.  That’s right.  50 page one rankings and not a single search.

This company might call that a recommendation.  I call it a “pig in a poke.”

The moral of the story is this: whether you’re investigating anyone else’s services, or even our own, ask whatever SEO Expert you consult (and yes, Virgina, some SEO experts are indeed, well, expert) not just about rankings, but more importantly, about estimated traffic that those rankings might bring you.

In other words, make sure you open the bag and see there really is a fat, suckling piglet inside that poke, and not just some scrawny alley cat.  (This post was in no way meant to demean alley cats.  We do not discriminate against animals just because they live in a poor neighborhood.)

If you want more information about how we might be able to assist you, please visit our contact page or call us at 702-836-3278.

SEO vs. Internet Marketing, Which One do You Need?

SEO: An Acronym We’ve Learned to Live With

picture of the word SEO to illustrate search engine optimizationThere’s no doubt about it, SEO is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) that has stuck.  The letters SEO stand for “Search Engine Optimization.”   I suppose I should clarify: at least in my circles it does.  Depending on your career choice it could also stand for Sewage Enforcement Officer, and many SEO’s do seem to shovel a lot of, er, well, sewage.  But that’s the subject of another blog post I suppose.

However, even when it comes to the world of Google, Bing, Yahoo and “the rest,” I believe that most people use SEO a little too freely.  In my 10+ years of experience as a search marketer and web developer, I’ve noticed that “SEO” has become shorthand for something that goes beyond the realm of search engine optimization.

Let’s start with the gritty task of defining Search Engine Optimization.  If you come to this blog post with a business-person’s mindset, you might think that it has something to do with making a search engine as good as it can be – in other words, “optimum.”  Ah, but there you would be wrong.  The term has nothing to do with search engines doing a good job, and has everything to do with you showing up well on the search engine results pages.  In this context, SEO means making your site perform at an “optimum” level in search results when compared to your competitor’s websites.

A Definition of SEO

Here’s what web dictionary Webopedia has to say about SEO:

Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.  (Emphasis is mine)

I would tend to agree with the above definition.  Unfortunately, that’s not usually what a company needs in order to succeed on line.  Or at least let’s say it’s not the only thing that a company needs on line.

Let me use a real life example from one of my clients.  In this case the client has a high-performing website devoted to a very specific market niche, namely workplace safety training.  In the 4th quarter we had a number of popular pages, but I want to discuss the 3rd most popular page, as illustrated in this screen capture from Google Analytics for that period:

picture of google analytics screen capture


Great SEO, Lousy Business Results

By the standards of Webopedia, this page had a great SEO return.  I’ll tell you right away that the client’s site ranked number 1 for a highly competitive term that landed directly on this page.  So their visibility on search was terrific.  Not only that, but the net result was a large number of visitors.  High ranking placement in the search engines, an increase in the amount of visitors.  Isn’t that what Webopedia was talking about?  Doesn’t that seem like an SEO success story?

Hold on there for a minute.  Here’s the proverbial rest of the story.  The search term that this page ranked highly for was “whistle.”  And the page itself showed nothing more than the following picture:

 Whistle illustrates the value of a broad SEM strategy


What does the whistle have to do with my client’s business?  Absolutely nothing.  So what happened with all those visitors that followed the search result to my client’s website?  Right.  Absolutely nothing.  They bounced.  Actually it was worse than nothing, because bounces and short engagement can actually hurt your long-term performance in search results.

Beyond SEO: the Crying Need for Web Marketing

This illustrates the difference between SEO and Web (or Internet) Marketing.  Web marketing doesn’t care about search engine visibility or visitors…UNLESS they bring more results to a client’s bottom line.  For this reason most businesses really need an Internet Marketing professional who knows how to do SEO as merely one part of the service he or she offers.

In my experience, most businesses need the following services more than they need a merely mechanical approach to search engine visibility:

  • Definition of their Website value proposition
  • Market research in the form of “Keyword Research
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Engagement strategies
  • Allocation of marketing dollars to achievable priorities

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that your business most likely needs SEO as only one of several Internet marketing services.  (If you’d like a bit more explanation about each of the above terms and how it might affect your business, please give us a call.)

At this point naturally I’d like to sound the horn for Horizon Web Marketing.  Unlike companies that care only about search engine visibility and traffic, we care about whether you succeed online.  Isn’t that what you’re really after?