current writings on all things

The SEO Sales Trap, and How to Avoid It

Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO,” has become the new marketing buzzword. As a way to drive traffic to a web site, increase awareness of a brand, and increase consumer sales, it has risen in prominence on many companies’ “must-have” lists. Unfortunately, this powerful marketing tool is often misunderstood, and as a result, can cost companies a lot of money for questionable results at best.   Traditional and Internet Marketing companies, many promoting the benefits of paid search and optimized web sites, have sprung up like weeds to take advantage of this lack of understanding of SEO. It seems like there is no escaping the constant barrage of emails that promote “guaranteed placement” or “top rankings on major search engines.” Of course, it doesn’t help that Google sends every registered company a $100 coupon for free AdWords advertising.   In my opinion, some of these Internet Marketing companies are offering the equivalent of a “Yellow Pages” approach to promoting brands: remember when it was considered smart to place customized ads (costing thousands of dollars every month!) in the Yellow Pages? The rush for paid search results reminds me of this mentality, and can be epitomized by the following quote from Navin R. Johnson, Steve Martin’s memorable character in the movie “The Jerk”: “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! … I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity–your name in print–that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.”   This is not to say that SEO is not worth doing. In fact, the opposite is true. There are a number of companies offering SEO/Internet marketing services that can add value to your business. However, instead of paying them thousands of dollars every month on a long-term and expensive contract, there are other ways to increase your rankings on major search engines. Companies and brands seeking to drive traffic to their web sites in order to build brand awareness or increase sales can do the following to improve search rankings organically, and without much expense. 1. Develop a list of keywords that you wish to be found through on search engines. Be specific, as the more generic the keyword, the lower your initial rankings will be. Trying to pay for placement using generic terms will also require greater amounts of advertising dollars. 2. Use these selected keywords throughout your site; when naming each page, link names, and for image filename and descriptions (using the “alt” tag). 3. Provide a lot of relevant content on the web site, using keywords as much as possible; the more a certain keyword appears within your site, the higher your organic search results will be. 4. Register your web site with all of the major search engines, not just Google. Registering your URL with Yahoo!, Bing, Lycos,, and others will help create more connections and relevance for search results. 5. Be patient. It might take a few months for you to notice movement in search rankings, especially if you are planning on organic search results. 6. Start a small, limited budget campaign using AdWords, for no more than three- to six-months. When you do this, sites will start indexing you.   There is a fallacy and misconception that Internet search is all you need. Ultimately, companies need to understand that SEO is simply one tool of many when marketing their brands. In addition to an SEO campaign, print collateral can also help drive traffic to your site and increase web traffic (which helps increase relevance and rankings). Be wary of anyone who promises you that they can guarantee a number 1 or number 2 placement in SEO. Sure, they might be able to do so for some obscure keyword or terms that no one would ever search for; or it might end up costing you more than you thought.   By: Ryan Hembree, Principal and Creative Director