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Sarah Mitchell
 
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Are you being ripped off?

24 March 2014, 15:39

Lately, and quite ironically, I have been receiving calls from telemarketers who are selling SEO packages. Normally, these kinds of things don’t really get to me; but the pure audacity in selling a trend word with no substance, does. I used to work for an international SEO company in Johannesburg, so I talk under the assumption that my opinion on the matter bears some weight. I am hoping the purpose of this article can give you a more comprehensive understanding what the industry is, and the things you need to look for if you decide to outsource your online content and internet marketing.

Firstly, search engine optimization is the process revolving around following best practices to increase your exposure online (normally through Google). This is broken down into two main categories, one being onsite optimization (Making sure your website is easily readable and categorized by search engines), the second being establishing authority of your domain. Search engines work off the basic principal of categorizing sites, then arranging them by the most reliable source of information. It is the job of an SEO company to ensure you are the most reliable source of information in your industry, through great content and online reputation management.

What has happened though, is companies are emerging that are selling this product on the pure basis of it being a buzzword, and exploiting people’s desire to maximize their exposure and grow their business. I want to just run through how certain results show where they do, giving you a bit of knowledge so you aren’t flummoxed and taken advantage of.

To begin with, the front page is broken down into 3 main parent categories when you do a search. The top 3 results (in the pink box) and the results down the right of the page are adverts. It is a very simple process to get your business / service on the front page through Pay Per Click. This means that every time you click one of these adverts, the site you land on is charged anywhere from R6 – R100+. This works on an auction process, and takes no more than 24 hours. The advantages are the short term, high impact exposure; where obviously the downside is the cost.

Doing a search for a local business, will produce a map extract into your search results. This generally focuses on helping give local, reliable results. These places are not for sale, and there are plenty of indicators which determine your rank from A-G on the map. It is a fairly straight forward process for you to do yourself, by typing in “Places” on Google. You will be sent a postcard to verify your address, and then you are pretty much A for away. You will need to provide great content and be an active Google+ user in really competitive industries to rank highly.

The other 10 links are the results Google provides, that it believes are the most relevant results for your specific search. Again, these spots are not for sale, and the process behind achieving exposure in this manner is often a long and difficult process (if the keywords are highly competitive). The main disadvantage of this is the time, and often more expensive initial outlay. However, it reaps a lot more benefit over a longer duration, and you aren’t charged per click. Just a note, but there is no ‘magical process’ to rank highly. It is a very well documented ‘science’, and Google themselves release videos every few days to answer questions on rankings and other industry topics. Obviously it works in their best interests if the content on the internet is consistently improving. They have competition, and they need to ensure they provide the best end user experience possible.

The one thing I would suggest if you get a call of this nature, is to not commit over the phone. Choosing your online marketing agency should be more a natural extension of your company than an alien concept. I would sincerely recommend shopping around for as many quotes as possible. Find out what companies have done for previous clients (You can Google it yourself), and weigh up your options with price and potential rewards. Don’t rely on ‘Top 10’ lists (These are often sites that use PPC to give their company credibility) and research every available option before you commit to a company.  Good luck J

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