I’m as guilty of anyone of using a headline full of hyperbole then writing an article much more reserved, but in this case I’m being completely honest. Unless the SEO industry does something fast we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where we’re as disliked as a profession as traffic recruiters, estate agents even traffic wardens.
I run a little website to promote a little sideline I have in wedding dj-ing. It isn’t much, has average SEO, but it gets me enough enquiries that I can convince my wife I don’t need to get rid of my PA, Records and DJ equipment.
A tiny site with very little traffic yet every couple of days I get emails from people asking for or offering payment for links. A little aggravating I’ll be honest but not the end of the world.
Far more frustrating is the phone calls from companies who’ve noticed I’m not doing very well on Google and offering me there services. Normally I hang straight up on these people and leave it at that but the other day caught me while I was waiting for my wife outside a shop, so I took the call.
If the frequency of these calls on it’s own isn’t enough to ruin our reputation what they promise certainly is. What they were saying was hugely misleading and unethical.
They started the call with “Hi it’s Michael calling from mumble mumble Google”
I replied from “You’re calling from Google”
“No not Google just Company X who are an Official Google Supplier?”
I followed with “A what sorry?”
“We’re an official reseller of Google”
In this exchange I can only assume he meant he was calling on behalf of a company with Google Adwords Professional Status, but if I’d believed his first statement, as many people would, I could easily have thought he was calling from Google.
A little bit cheeky or damn misleading?
Then we proceeded to have a chat about their £99 pound a month service which guarenteed first place listing. I asked whether it was pay per click, he assured me not. I asked whether it was the natural search listings? No it wasn’t there. Maybe something in Google Local? No. After a few more questions he admitted it was where the PPC listings are but it wasn’t charged on a per click basis.
At this point I mentioned what I did for a living, and he went a bit quiet. It would have been tempting to go off on one but the bloke was just a call centre jockey who no-doubt was only following a script, so I resisted.
I suppose you could argue maybe companies could charge a set fee for PPC regardless of spend, but the way they evasively tried to deny it was PPC left me pretty concerned about their moral compasses.
So what can we do? Everyday thousands if not millions of business owners are being contacted in this well being mis-sold something I wouldn’t even describe as SEO, some who sign up will do doubt feel their getting value for money but my gut feel is most will end up feeling ripped off and mislead. And quite rightly they’ll associate those feelings with the industry as a whole.
I think Google need to be more proactive in working with people like the Federation of Small Businesses in the UK to inform people what SEO & PPC is and help them avoid getting ripped off.
And if there was a decent trade association for search marketers it should be spending it‘s time and money educating other trade bodies about the tricks carried out by these pranksters.
Plus each and every search marketer has an obligation to explain what they do to their friends and family, to help them understand. No more getting away with the I work on the internet to avoid explaining it!