The High Price of SEO Failure

Search engines have evolved from simple “find it” databases into complex, virtual teleporters to send a visitor exactly where he or she wants to go. Attracting new visitors to an ecommerce or other site nearly requires that it rank fairly high on searches. The trouble is that a lot of companies aren’t properly informed when they consider how the search engines can work for them, and they fall victim to a number of SEO failures.

In the last few years, thousands of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies have popped up all over the internet.  They charge anywhere from a few bucks to thousands of dollars, all having a different twist on how they can speed your site to the top.  It’s no wonder there is so much controversy concerning hiring a professional SEO.  But there are many factors that figure into whether outsourcing might be a good idea other than price. Consider the following SEO pitfalls and failures.

Not Performing SEO at All

So many times have I heard business owners tell me that they don’t think SEO is necessary.  They have misconceptions that as long as they stick those keywords in the meta tags, their site will be fine, or if they put good content on their site, that they will somehow magically appear in the search engines.  Worse yet, I have even had companies tell me that they don’t link with other websites because it would detract from their own website, or give them competition.  Whatever the misconceptions may be, there are a definite group of people that don’t see the need for SEO at all, and just leave it alone.  These people may advertise, either with purchasing banners, or a few pay per click campaigns, but they do very little for their sites, simply assuming they will just be found the way they are, and picked up. 

This is probably the most dangerous of all of the things you can do to your own website.  Without optimizing, a site risks sitting in obscurity forever.  Compared to radio, television, magazine, or billboard advertising, website advertising is by far the cheapest, most readily accessible media available on this planet.  And if 85% of websites are found by using search engines, then why wouldn’t you at least try to gear your efforts there?

Results:  Penalization, Banning, Unqualified traffic or No traffic = no sales

PPC vs. Cost of SEO

Let’s compare the cost of hiring a professional to pay per click programs.  Yahoo Search Marketing, formerly Overture, charges $100 for a site analysis, and then by the click thereafter.  A minimum campaign may run you $100 per month.  That means, you are purchasing about 200-250 visitors per month, at roughly 40-50 cents per click.  Of those 250 visitors, one can estimate that if the keywords used in the PPC ad are properly utilized, 75% of those are qualified clicks.  So that means, for your $200, you are getting 188 qualified visitors to your site in the first month.  In the scope of traffic, that’s really not very much.  In a year’s time, you can spend $1300 for 3000 visitors.  You can see how relying solely upon pay per click traffic can be very expensive.

Let’s say you pay the same amount to an SEO firm.  If they do their job effectively, you can easily receive ten times the traffic in a short period of time.  Plus, every click to your site from the search engines are by people who are actually looking for what your site has to offer, and even if they make a mistake, it costs you nothing.   If you don’t use the correct keywords, especially in a pay per click campaign, you’ve wasted your money on traffic that neither cares about nor wants your product.  By not optimizing your site effectively, you will end up relying upon pay per click traffic far more than you need to. 

Result:  Unnecessary expenditures

Lost Time and Effort

Time is money.  We’ve all heard the saying.  But what value do you place on time?  For any company (the small business owner especially), time is probably the most difficult resource to keep a handle on, or attach a value to.  The time management industry is a mega-billion dollar business.  From Franklin Covey to time management seminars, the value placed on time management is a huge concern for every company.  One of the biggest complaints a business has with its employees is lost time and productivity.

If a company does its own SEO, it can spend large amounts of labor in-house.  The misconception here is that they are saving money.  It’s really a no-brainer that it will take someone not acquainted with the SEO functions longer than it would a professional.  Chances are that if you figure up the labor costs associated with that in-house employee having to spend their time performing SEO functions, it could be much greater than if they hired a professional to do it for them in the first place. 

This would be similar to a company using their office manager to do the company’s taxes for the year.  Besides the enormous amounts of time involved in preparing, calculating, and fixing problems, her job of acting as office manager is set aside, resulting in a lack of productivity. On the flip side, by not optimizing effectively, this lost time can cost a company dearly.

Result:  Loss of productivity = Lost sales

Lack of Expertise

Let’s take our office manager, for instance.  She may not have the knowledge of current tax laws and loopholes in order to substitute adequately for a CPA.  The two most obvious flaws with using the office manager in place of a certified accountant are that she could easily make errors that may cost the company more taxes, or get into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service by failing to meet all the requirements.

Not having the knowledge of how a search engine works, or what keywords to use for your site can have long reaching effects to how your site shows in the SERPs (search engine results pages).  It is also difficult to know the balance of the elements of optimization.  This takes dedication and constant tweaking.  If this is not your job, or you are not trained to take on such a task, the effort can be monumental.

Most people know well enough not to purposely spam a search engine with irrelevant keywords, but search engine spamming is far more intricate than simply keywords.

Result:  Penalizations, Loss of productivity = Lost sales

Not Planning Ahead

There is much speculation about the sandbox effect.  This is a delay for new websites to be listed in the SERPs.  This delay can be up to four months.  So if this time is not utilized properly, websites that expect immediate results because they roll out their website without planning for this delay can be highly disappointed.  This can be devastating for an e-commerce site that has timed the roll out of their site to coincide with the holiday season. 

You should plan for this sandbox effect by working on your linking strategies and keeping your content fresh during this time.  Being stuck in the sandbox doesn’t mean that your site won’t get crawled.  I like to think of the sandbox as a test period that the search engines weigh what a site is capable of before giving it the green light; like the 90 day introductory period an employer uses to evaluate a new employee before deciding to hire them permanently.

Result:  No traffic = No sales

Using Broad Keywords

My soon-to-be father-in-law is a Business Consultant.  He said to me the other day that every client tells him the exact same thing when they sit down for the first time:  “We have a very unique business.”  So, if everyone says the same thing, how can they be unique?  Yet, they are.

If you own a car dealership that sells BMW’s, Audi’s, and Mercedes, and it’s the only dealership inKansas City, located in Shawnee Mission, Kansas you will have a lot of keywords at your disposal.  But how difficult do you think it will be to get to the number one listing for “car”?   Currently, there are 184 million results for the word car.  But if you are a car dealership, and someone is searching for a “car rental” then suddenly your website means nothing to this particular searcher.

On the contrary, you will be the only business listed at number one for “Aristocrat Motors Dealership Shawnee Mission Kansas”.  Now, our goal is to get the keywords somewhere between “car” and the more specific company name.  A great place to start might be “BMW Dealer Kansas City” for example, and someone looking to buy a BMW inKansas Citywill be looking for YOU. 

It is because every business is unique that there are unique search terms that apply to them.  Capturing these terms in as general a way as possible makes for a perfect search keyword.  Failing to do just that can cause you to either pay your SEO too much, or cause your site to not be listed in the SERPs at all due to too much competition.

Result:  Wasted expense, Lost traffic = lost sales.

Penalization, Banning

If you don’t optimize your site correctly, you can rack up some severe penalties or possibly even get banned in the search engines.  Search engines constantly seek to whittle out those sites that are not relevant in a search, or are perceived as spam.  If your site is penalized for mistakes, it won’t appear to searchers, and the search engine traffic will be non-existent.  While it is difficult to place a value on lost sales, every business has to take into account how lost sales affect their profits. 

One of the natural consequences of being penalized or banned for these things is the difficulty in climbing back up in the SERPs.  Remember the Traffic Power fiasco?  Traffic Power is the poster-child of what not to do in search engine optimization. If you use cloaking, hidden text, devious linking strategies, doorway pages or any other deceptive technique that’s only for manipulating search engines then you can be sure that your web site will be banned.The companies that got caught in the middle of the entire Traffic Power ordeal had, and some still have, a hard time starting over, because of the black mark assessed to their sites.  The consequences for these types of mistakes are poor ranking and no traffic.

Result:  No traffic = no sales

Over Optimization

Over optimizing your site can be perceived as search engine spam.  Filling your pages with nonsensical keywords looks to a search engine as if you are attempting to get your site listed for keywords that have nothing to do with what your site is all about.  Keyword stuffing is a good example of over optimization.  Another form of over optimization comes in the form of duplicate pages.  More is better right?  Not necessarily.  Search engines are interested in unique content.  Unique means “the only one like it”.  This is the opposite of duplicate, which means “more than one”.  Over Optimization Penalties, or OOPs, are particularly infamous in Yahoo.  The nature of an OOP is that it filters out sites that are over optimized, so that in essence, they “…never leave the gate”. 

Let’s look at a website I analyzed recently that deals with migraine headaches.  When I analyzed the page that deals with migraine treatment, it was almost comical.  Of the four keywords in the meta tags, the word “migraine” was three of them; the term “migraine headache” made up 43% of the body text.  Needless to say, this site ranks very poorly in the SERPs, if at all.  This is a good example of over optimization. 

Again, the consequences for this type of mistake are poor ranking and no traffic. 

Result:  No traffic = No sales.

Hiring Unscrupulous SEOs

The most obvious expense to you would be hiring an SEO firm that either doesn’t do what it is supposed to do, or an unscrupulous SEO firm that makes promises that it can’t deliver.  You cannot guarantee to be number one for a broad search term.  But there are hundreds of companies that tell you otherwise, and they will gladly take your money.

It will make it that much harder for a company to agree to spend the money on SEO once they’ve had a bad experience.  I can’t tell you how many countless clients I’ve had that need help, but having been burned once before, need constant reassurance that they have spent their money wisely.

Result:  Unnecessary expenditures, Lost traffic, Unqualified traffic = BIG EXPENSE

Conclusion

SEO is not rocket science.  Any webmaster with a rudimentary understanding of how a search engine works can probably optimize a page as well as any professional.  However, there can be severe penalties for making optimization mistakes, or the simple fact that the time spent on SEO could easily have been utilized elsewhere.  How much of your bottom line will this effect?  Hiring a consultant can cost you a good chunk of money, but knowing there are other factors to consider than just price should help you make a better decision. 

Whether you choose to spend the money on an SEO firm, or do the work in house, or even just decide to let it fall by the wayside, one must understand that there is still a cost involved.  In the long run, hiring an SEO consultant is still the most cost effective way to go.  But ultimately, SEO has to be done, and it has to be done right.  The price of failing to do this properly is more than you can afford.

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