Here’s the latest in the not-so-pleasant “art” of web design companies offering “SEO” services. Picture yourself, a mid sized company with 130 or so employees, large enough to operate a profitable business but not big enough to have your own web developer on staff. So, as web standards change and browser resolutions expand, you’re forced to gather quotes from multiple local and long distance web development companies.
The web design company you just so happen to stumble across that suits both your fancy and your minimal budget happens to offer an add on service called the “SEO Upgrade.” Now, just to keep the water clear, I’ll be upfront and acknowledge that we at Sozo Firm do offer SEO Upgrade sorts of packages directly to web design companies & ad agencies to pass along to their customers. We’ve been doing this for quite some time, and we love doing it. However, read on.
You happen to opt for the web design only package, and so your rep at the large web development company gives you a phone call. “I’d strongly recommend you go with the SEO Upgrade, too. With the way Google and Yahoo and other search engines are these days, unless you’ve done SEO [sic] to your site, your site just won’t be found. All the money you’re pouring into web design will be a big waste.”
You honestly think nothing of the phone call, assuming they are just pushing yet another way to steal another fast buck from unknowledgable you. Who cares about SEO? Your site has done just well over the past 7 years pulling in new clients and traffic each week.
It’s not until your rep’s supervisor calls with the similar story that your eyebrows raise a little. You kindly chew her out explaining your limited budget. This time, though, the warning almost is tainted with blackmail sarcasm: “Then we won’t be able to guarantee that your site will be found online. It will look good, but you’ll probably not get traffic.”
When you respond, “My site’s always done well in the past,” she, in turn, coyly says, “Well, if you change your mind, we’ll be here to help.” She pauses slightly, “In fact, I’ll extend the special price for the SEO Upgrade to 30 days after your site’s launch. However, after the 30 days, the price will be back to the regular price. Right now, you’re looking at a 40% savings.”
You conveniently brush everything aside and, a couple months later, your new website is live. It looks great, your clients love the new feel, and you saved yourself a bundle of extra cash. Over time, however, the number of leads begins to trickle, and you especially feel the hit during the 2008-2009 recession. You’re not sure what’s happening – is it just the economy or is there something more at stake?
And that’s when we arrive on the scene. You contact a local ad agency/marketing firm, asking them if they offer any sort of search engine optimization services. They in turn, partnering with us, ask us to do a “look ‘n’ see” and provide them with a rough initial analysis with rates within the budget you set.
And that’s when we stumbled onto the gold mine (or, perhaps, the quicksand?). You see, the original web design company you hired wasn’t completely up front about everything. The blackmail tone of voice that your instinct felt really was there. When they said that your site “probably won’t get much traffic” they were actually being completely truthful. Because when a client fails to accept the “SEO Upgrade” they offer, they counterslap by pulling your new website in the mud, expecting, of course, that you’d crawl back to them crying out for help.
Yes, this horror story can happen to you – to anyone, in fact. You’ve got to keep your eyes open. If you ever sense someone pushing this kind of service on you and you turn it down – particularly if they have a direct hand in constructing a new website for you – be sure to get a second opinion about their work. While the site may look and feel wonderful, in this world anything could be happening underneath.
In the particular horror story mentioned above, the web developer added a single line of coding which became a monster attacking the new website every day – a simple line in the html coding blocking the site to search engine robots. In other words, when the Googlebot dropped by to browse through the site, it would be faced with an explicit command to “go away.” And go away it did. Google dropped virtually the entire site from the Google search engine listings, assuming the site and its pages were no longer welcome. As a result, traffic slowed to a minimum – and this for a decent sized company providing a product all throughout the United States.
Don’t let a web developer play Russian Roulette with your website. Always get a second opinion. Always.
At Sozo Firm, we offer affordable second opinion evaluation services for providing feedback on your Google Adwords campaign setup; your site’s web design, navigation & underlying coding; your SEO & backlinking campaigns; and more. Don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone anytime. Andrew Jensen, our senior consultant, will gladly give you the insight you need.
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