Punked (verb). Def: A way to describe someone ripping you off, tricking you, teasing you. Being bamboozled. Ex: I got punked at the swap meet. They said the necklace was pure silver and it turned out to be junk!
At one point or another, almost everyone with a website has been “punked” by some too good to be true scheme to get on top of the search engines. It’s hard to go a day without getting an email about someone guaranteeing your success on the web. Here are some things you need to look out for when it comes to search engine optimization and online marketing tactics.
1) Guaranteed Rankings – If anyone guarantees that they can get your site on page one of Google for specific keywords, go ahead and start running as fast as you can in the other direction. No one can guarantee this and Google points out specifically to steer clear of companies like this.
2) Random SEO Emails – Even we get these. “Dear ____. I noticed you aren’t ranking for key terms in your market and I think we can help.” It would be one thing if the company had a history in your market and could prove their worth, but is it really worthwhile to take advice from some random company that doesn’t have enough to do and is trolling for business?
3) Overboard Search Engine Submissions – Companies that want to submit your site to hundreds of search engines clearly don’t know the market (or, more likely, are just trying to punk website owners who don’t know the market). Google, Yahoo, and Bing make up 95% of the search traffic and of those three, Google owns 65%. You could theoretically just focus on Google and do just fine. Likewise, submitting to hundreds or even thousands of directories can also be harmful. You want relevant listings for your market ONLY. If I am a plastic surgeon, I don’t want links from a bike shop directory. Shady firms will submit your site anywhere just to say they did something.
4) Secret Sauce – Any firm that says they can’t disclose how they will make you successful is up to no good or planning black hat SEO strategies to get you ranked. You want a firm that lays it all out, shows what they will do each month, and what your cost is for the tactics. There should be no surprises in your search marketing plan tactics.
5) Proprietary Content – Any work that is done on your behalf, you should own. Make sure of it in writing. If you hire someone to build your website, you should either own the code for the site or, in the case of templated designs, own a license to use the code ongoing. You should be given a license for any images used as part of the build. If they write content, you should own it and it should be unique to you. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Make sure that you have the right to control and use everything on your site, even after your relationship with the vendor ends. We’ve seen companies hold clients hostage again and again over things like this.
The bottom line is that when it comes to choosing a vendor for your search engine success, it’s just like anything else – the more homework you do, the happier you will be with the outcome. If you spend no time researching a company and pick the cheapest offer you get, expect to be disappointed. No one likes being punked and its important you know the signs before you sign on the dotted line.