Every few days I get an email (sometimes a phone call) that goes something like this:
Dear Mr. Beckerman,
Hope you are doing well. I understand that you might be busy this season. I would be grateful to you if you have few minutes to go through my words below and find anything interesting to proceed with.
We have studied your search engine standing and found it nearly impossible to find you on the major search engines. We discover that for your important key phrases you rank zero.
We are a [some sort of b.s.] firm that specializes in giving search engine visibility to you firm. In fact, we can offer a guarantee that you will be found on the first page of Google within one month of working with us.
[The basic pitch is that my site can't be found, has a terrible ranking, and that they can put me on the first page.]
And the conclusion,
Looking forward to explaining how we can help your business…
* * *
One of the first things that strikes you is, if you are doing so badly how did they find you in the first place? The second thing that hits you is – you can’t guarantee first place for a particular key phrase on Google. Really – I don’t care how good you are at SEO – it just don’t work that way. So for fun, I picked the most professional sounding of these offers and responded.
* * *
A little background. I’m an old timer on the web and dealing with search engines. My site went up in ’99. I think that Altavista was the big search engine at the time but I couldn’t say for sure. What I do know is that the search engine was obviously going to be the most important way for customers to find, and that from day one I tried to understand how they worked. At that time – going back a decade – it wasn’t as hard as you’d think. All you needed to do was search for what you were interested in, see who popped up on the first page, and then look at their code and try and understand what they were doing to be rated so highly.
Later on it became more messy as search engines began to use a ranking system based on incoming links. Some people began to use link farms – so that they’d have lots of links coming into their site and in theory their site would look popular to the search engines that counted incoming links. Search engines were way to smart for that – and I never went near that scheme. In fact, I didn’t use any scheme. I told people what the site had on it, and I only linked to sites that I liked and didn’t try to get too fancy with SEO.
But this isn’t a how-to about SEO – so let me continue with the story. I wrote back to one of the solicitors and asked point blank how they had found me. They told me that they had searched for “xyz” and that I had appeared on page 10 for that.
I wrote back that they were way wrong. If they searched for “xyz” in Google my site would appear on the first page. (It’s even more complex than that since G is different in different countries). At any rate they got back to me and complimented me on doing so well for my xyz key phrase. They then picked some other phrases that they promised they could help me with.
I looked at these phrases and they weren’t particularly something someone would search for – that was related to my site. So that made no sense. One phrase that they picked I was already on the first page of search results…
Again, the congratulated me on doing so well. But they could still help get a phrase on the front page. So I asked for an example of a phrase that they could guarantee me first place ranking for. That I was really interested in. There’s a phrase, very related to my site, and I asked if they could guarantee within a month that they could get me on the first page or even the second page for that phrase.
Guess what. That’s where the hemming and hawing began.
So I finally asked, what phrase would they guarantee me first page placement on and sure enough it was a phrase that had my name in it.
Duh. First off, I’m already on the first page of every search engine for my own name.
Second. You don’t care about people that know your name. They can always find you.
And somewhere around that point I wrote back that I wasn’t in need of their services, and they should be able to see that.
What I love though – is that – that wasn’t the end of it.
Two months later, I got another email from them – just like the first one. Ah… so it’s all based on a program they use that finds you and starts the ball rolling…
I still get offers at least once or twice a week – but now they just get the big spam heave ho.
Now – if you really can’t figure out how to get your key phrase ranked highly – I believe some of these places could help you. In fact, I’m sure I could help – so long as the phrase isn’t too popular and you’ve got the content to back it up. But you can help yourself by at least getting your book about SEO or doing what I did and studying sites that rank highly for your keyword phrase. If you don’t know how to look at the html code that makes up a browser page – then you might be better off hiring someone or using some sort of program. But I can’t recommend any.