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Today, having a web site on the Internet is not enough.
The saying "If you build it...they will come" makes for a great baseball movie but it just doesn't apply to a web site.  More realistically, the truism is "If they can't find you...they will never show up."

Most small companies are on the Internet because their competition is there and because practically everybody is there.  Therein lies the problem.  The Internet is so popular...there are so many web sites on it, related to any topic you can imagine, it is not uncommon to find hundreds of thousand, if not millions of result pages in a search engine when you search for a common term.

Studies have shown that the typical web searcher will look at the first page of results when he does a search with a search engine.  He may look at the second page and even the third but statistically, no one checks beyond the third page!   A few obstinate souls may dig deep into the search engine results pages but for the vast majority, if they don't find what they are looking for in the first three results pages, they will go back and start a new search with more refined search text.

What does this say about your website?  If you are not placed within the first three search engine results pages, you, basically, are invisible to the vast majority of Internet searchers.  It's that simple.

Search Engine Optimization involves a lot of work and can command high prices.  It is not uncommon to see companies advertising, up-front, that their services will cost $2,000, $5,000 and even $10,000.  This is for a 6-month to one year renewal term.  For the companies whose main business comes from Internet contact, it is worth it.

Because of these prices and because of the many businesses willing to pay them, a number of unscrupulous "entrepreneurs" have popped up offering guarantees to get you listed at the top of the search engines.  "We'll even get you to #1 in Google!" they say.  Offering you a full money back guarantee, the naive business owner may think: "How can I go wrong?"

Here how:

  1. Most business owners have a domain name that is the same as their company name: Sam's donuts has a website called www.samsdonuts.com.   Because of the unique nature of this name, a search for "Sam's donuts" will, typically, result in that domain name being listed as #1.   This generally happens automatically anyway.  It is, however, of little value because you are looking for web searchers who don't know you (that's why they are using a search engine to find a donut shop).  If they know your name, they probably already know your URL.  You are paying these SEO operators big money to get something that you would have gotten for nothing anyway!

  2. Many of these SEO entrepreneurs have developed their own search engines.  These are obscure, never-heard-of lists of websites.  It is easy for them to place your listing at the top of a category in these lists.  A #1 position on a search engine that nobody uses, only benefits the SEO entrepreneurs because now they have fulfilled the terms of their guarantee and you can't win if you sue demanding your money back.    The wording of these guarantees is written very carefully so that they can easily prove that they have fulfilled their promise even though your web site traffic hasn't increased at all.

  3. Guaranteeing a top placement in Google "for your targeted keywords" is usually accomplished by enrolling you in a pay-per-click, Google Ad-Word campaign.  This is fine until the bill from Google arrives and you find out that your fee to the SEO company doesn't cover it.

So how do you keep from getting ripped off?

  1. Demand to talk to former and current customers.  Ask for a list and contact them for a review of the services received.

  2. Ask about a website analysis and review.  Do they even do one?  How can they know what you need without analyzing where you are now?

  3. Ask specific questions and try to get a feel, through the answers, if these are people you'd like to do business with.  Do you get a funny feeling that something may not be just right?  Trust your instincts.

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