A Small Business SEO Horror Story (and the 7 Qualities to Look for in a Real SEO Professional)

Every single SEO agency knows exactly what it’s doing…

At least, that’s the impression you get from checking out their websites. All of them tell you that they can guarantee results. And they’re quick to talk about all the techniques they’ll use to get you to the top of Google.

They say they’re going to handle the technical SEO and deal with your content marketing. They’ll do all the keyword research for you and engage in ethical link building. And by the time they’re done, your brand will be all over Google and social media.

You have probably heard this a lot ever since you decided to look for an SEO agency. However, SEO is such a specialized field that only a handful of people can actually deliver the goods.

Almost everybody who says “I’m an SEO specialist” is no such thing. Many of the agencies you come across in the SEO industry just want to make a quick buck instead of becoming your partner.

And it’s these so-called experts you’ll end up working with if you cheap out on your SEO.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this story of a guy who got completely screwed over by an SEO strategy that almost destroyed his business.

What Happens When You Choose the Wrong Experts – Joe’s Story

Joe’s horror story is unfortunately common among small businesses that mess around with the so-called SEO experts.

It all started back in 2004. Joe wanted to find a way to move his plumbing business ahead of the local competition. So he turned to the web. He got his website built and more business started coming in – because he was one of the few plumbers in his location with a website.

But by 2011, almost every one of his competitors had a website. Joe was still on the first page of Google. But he was right at the bottom of the page and he didn’t have the SEO skills needed to climb the rankings.

So he called an SEO agency to find out what he needed to do to improve.

The man he talked to asked him if he wanted to improve his search rankings. Joe said yes and found himself signing up for a contract that would put the agency in charge of his online marketing.

And what was the SEO strategy that Joe’s new SEO expert decided to employ?

Building backlink after backlink in an attempt to give Joe’s site a boost.

The Google Ban Hammer Drops

For a while, everything went amazingly well. During the first few months of the campaign, Joe’s website shot back up the search rankings. More business came in and he considered his SEO investment a huge win.

After a few months, his SEO professional came calling again.

“We’ve done pretty well so far,” they told him. “Now it’s time to kick things up a notch.”

Joe was all for it. His new SEO strategy had brought in so much business that he had to buy new trucks and hire more people. All of his marketing directed people to his website, and business was officially booming.

And it continued to do well…until April 2012.

In that month, Google rolled out its Penguin algorithm. This change to the search engine focused on punishing websites that showed a pattern of building unnatural links.

Guess what Joe’s SEO expert had been doing for almost a year?

Of course, Joe didn’t know all that at first. He just knew that the phone wasn’t ringing as often as it used to, and customer inquiries from his website had dried up.

Finally, he decided to check the keywords his SEO agency had targeted for him. And that’s when he saw that his website had disappeared from Google altogether.

He called his SEO consultant, and their response was that he needed to build even more links! They didn’t tell him about Penguin or what it meant for his website. Instead, they told him to spend more money on the very strategy that had put him in this terrible position in the first place.

With no idea what to do next, Joe accepted their strategy.

After all, these guys were the experts…right?

The Penny Finally Drops

A few more months of link building yielded nothing new. Joe’s website still wasn’t in Google’s search results and his so-called “experts” weren’t communicating anything to him.

Finally, he reached out to an actual SEO expert to find out what was wrong. Quick checks of Google Analytics and the Google Search Console confirmed that it was a Penguin issue. Worse yet, it wasn’t a manual penalty.

It was an algorithmic one.

That meant Joe couldn’t even engage in a back-and-forth with Google while he attempted to clean up the bad links.

Unfortunately for Joe, the website he’d built back in 2004 was almost worthless to him now. He’d have to start all over again by building a new website. And of course, that also meant investing in new marketing materials, since all the old ones used the old site.

And I’m not even mentioning the amount of income his business lost. The rapid growth he’d enjoyed early on disappeared. The new hires and the extra vans had to go as Joe went from prospering to penalized.

And all because he fell for the same BS that so many so-called experts spout.

This is one of the most depressing SEO case studies I’ve ever seen. And what makes it even more depressing is that Joe’s story isn’t unique. There are tons of casualties on the SEO battlefield that have dead websites because of crappy SEO.

Don’t be one of those casualties.

When you’re looking for an SEO expert, make sure that you’re looking for these qualities…

Quality #1 – They Aren’t Desperate for Your Business

“We’ll get you to the top of Google in a month!”

“We’re the cheapest SEO agency in town!”

These are the cries of so-called experts who are desperate for your business. They know that they’re not really experts. And they know that the strategies they employ will offer little more than short-term gain.

But that’s okay with them. As long as they can get that quick injection of cash, they’ll be able to survive for a few more months. It doesn’t really matter what happens to your website after that.

Real experts aren’t this desperate.

They know what they can do and they know exactly what their services are worth. They’ll tell you what needs to be done and they will charge the right amount for the service.

And if you don’t accept it…they’re not going to go changing for you. To the real experts, a prospect who says “no” is really saying “I’m not ready yet.”

The moment an SEO expert starts chasing your business is the moment you know that they’re desperate. Good SEO agencies aren’t desperate, because they’re nailing it for all of their clients.

Just think about that the next time a so-called expert offers you a deal that sounds too good to be true.

Quality #2 – They Tell You the Truth (Even if You Don’t Want to Hear It)

It doesn’t feel good to listen to somebody tell you that your business isn’t doing well. It can even feel like an attack. This professional that you’ve just hired hasn’t walked your path. They don’t know how hard you’ve scratched and clawed to create your business.

Who are they to tell you that things aren’t going well?

I’ll tell you… They are the experts who can bring a new perspective to your business. They are the people with the expertise your business needs to help you dominate the search rankings.

They are the people who will help you build a bigger, better, and stronger business…as long as you listen to them.

A true SEO expert isn’t going to blow smoke up your ass. They’re not going to tell you that everything’s fine and your strategy just needs tweaking a little.

They’re going to dig deep into your website. They’ll conduct a bunch of SEO audits and try to find every possible problem. Then they’ll present the issues to you truthfully, along with the solutions they propose.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll accept your reality for what it is and start the process of improving it.

If you get anything less than full honesty from your “expert,” it’s time to look for somebody else.

Quality #3 – They Have the Results

This is an important one.

Always ask your expert for proof that they can deliver on their promises. For example, if you check out the OTT website, you’ll see a page for case studies. On that page, we have testimonials from clients we’ve gotten amazing results for. There are a lot of them.

That’s what you want to see from your expert.

You need to see that they’ve gotten sustainable results you can check for yourself. What I mean is that if they say they’ve gotten a website to #1 for a keyword, you should be able to enter that keyword and see for yourself.

You’re looking for proof that they can deliver the most important thing of all – a return on your investment.

And if you really need to, get in touch with the agency’s clients. Ask them about their experiences with their experts and what strategies they use.

Quality #4 – They Don’t Claim that You’ll Get Results Overnight

Anybody who tells you that you’re going to get to the top of Google in a couple of weeks is a liar.

It’s really that simple. You’ll see what I mean if you think about it logically.

For instance, let’s say you’ve never done any SEO on your website before. That’s already put you at a disadvantage because you can bet your competitors have. You’ll need to play catch-up before you can even think about overtaking them.

That process takes time.

You’ve got to change your website to make sure it aligns with Google’s best practices. There are probably a whole bunch of SEO issues you’ll need to fix too. You’ve got to spend time building trust with Google before the search engine will let you move up the rankings.

It takes about nine months to get real results from SEO. If somebody says they can do it in less, they’re not doing it right. In fact, they’re probably using the same short-term tactics that Joe’s “experts” used.

Sure, you’ll see a quick boost while Google’s algorithms figure out what’s going on. But as soon as they register the dodgy tactics, you end up in a worse position than you started.

Good SEO takes time, and a real expert respects you enough to tell you that.

Quality #5 – They Tell You What You Need to Do

SEO is not a one-way street. It’s not something you can just hand to an SEO professional and forget about.

It requires dedication on your part to make your SEO strategy work. That’s because when you do it well, your SEO strategy becomes part of your overall marketing campaign.

Expect an actual expert to tell you what they need you to do.

That starts with you being completely upfront and honest about where you are and what your budget looks like. As the relationship grows, your SEO agency will become a partner to you. A good one will want to learn everything about what makes your business tick. And they’ll want to work with you to make things better.

The fake experts out there say that they’ll take it all off your hands. But if they do that, it means they’re not talking to you about what your business needs. How can they possibly know anything about your goals if they never try to work with you?

Quality #6 – They Know More than Just One Aspect of SEO

Think back to Joe’s story. His supposed experts didn’t talk about anything other than link building when they created his strategy. There was nothing about building a content plan or dealing with technical issues.

It was just links, links, and more links.

When an SEO agency only understands one aspect of the game, they’re not going to play it well. A great agency knows about the following three areas:

  • Technical SEO
  • On-Site SEO
  • Off-Site SEO

And within those three areas lie a bunch of techniques and strategies that they need to be able to tell you about.

Now, you’re probably not going to need every single service an agency has to offer. However, you need to see that the agency understands all the aspects of SEO.

After all, how can they tell you that you don’t need something if they don’t even understand what that something is?

Quality #7 – They Use Plain English

You know what I always see in people who claim to be experts when they’re not?

They just love jargon. They spray out fancy metrics and technical terms like they’re going out of style.

Why?

Because the fancy language confuses their clients and creates the illusion that the “expert” knows what they’re talking about.

Now, a lot of the jargon in SEO is unavoidable. However, a true expert will explain every single industry-related term they use so that you know what they’re talking about.

Experts use plain English. And the reason they can do that is they actually understand what the jargon means. That means they’re able to explain it, rather than just trying to use the terms to score some “SEO expert” points.

Work With a True SEO Expert

So, why did I tell you all of this?

I did it because I’m sick and tired of seeing honest business owners getting screwed over by agencies that don’t know what they’re doing.

I also want you to see the devastating consequences of choosing the wrong people for the job. Joe the plumber ended up losing tons of money and a perfectly good website thanks to the fake experts he was unfortunate enough to hire.

Real experts get sustainable results that drive revenue and enable growth.

Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community

Author: Guy Sheetrit

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