While the world of online advertising is rapidly advancing, most experts still look at it as the Wild West. There aren’t too many standardized methods set in stone, and there sure are a lot of entrepreneurs trying to carve out a niche for themselves. In the spirit of independence and getting rich quick inherent to the American frontier, some dubious online advertisers have developed and perpetuated ways to cut corners in hopes of seeing faster results. Spoiler alert: They usually don’t work.
The problem is, most of these are pitfalls that well-intentioned business owners fall into when handling their own marketing campaigns. That’s why we’re focusing this post on some of the major traps that all business owners like you should avoid when traversing the unfamiliar territory of online advertising.
Don’t fall for the temptation to falsify addresses or reviews.
It may seem like an easy way to get ahead on Google+ and Google+ Local, but that’s a lot of risk for no reward. Google will always uncover the truth. For instance, if you try to place your company in a better location by using a fake address, Google’s street-view images will immediately tell them whether or not your business is actually located there (they have an image for virtually every address in the U.S.). Additionally, Google will mail a postcard to that physical address as a means of verifying that you actually work or reside there.
Similarly, business owners often fabricate customer reviews on their Google+ Local listings to pad their reputations, but Google can easily detect when multiple reviews are being posted from the same IP address, or if reviews are posted from IP addresses outside the expected geographical area.
When—not if—Google catches you perpetuating inaccurate information, they’ll likely suspend your listing and penalize your rankings. They have a zero-tolerance policy for black-hat tactics like this. Simply put, getting a quick boost for your company’s website is not worth the highly probability that you’ll get caught and cripple your campaign for months.
Don’t fall for assurances that two SEO companies can work together.
If you’re already working with one SEO company, you might still find yourself in a position where other SEO companies are trying to get your business. In their attempts, they might assure you that you can work with them and your current SEO company at the same time. They might even tell you it will double your success. None of that is true.
We wrote extensively about this in a previous post, so here’s the gist: Two companies will inevitably sabotage each other. It won’t be intentional, but it will be inevitable. Why? Because an SEO company must have exclusive access to all directory listings, social media accounts, and other listings in order to make updates whenever necessary. If two companies have this level of access to all the same accounts, they’re going to put out conflicting messaging, redundant information, and even duplicate content. Plus, Google will certainly notice if regular changes are coming from multiple IP addresses and will flag your listing for suspension.
Working with more than one SEO company at a time will unavoidably result in a suspended listing or plummeting rankings.
Don’t fall for free trials from SEO companies.
SEO must be customized in order to be effective, and the amount of work required upfront cannot be provided for free.
SEO is not conducive to free trials because it requires several weeks’ worth of detailed, back-end production that cannot be reused, resold, or repurposed for another company. SEO’s custom nature means it’s tailored for you and you alone, but it also means that the company providing the SEO work would be left holding the bill for all of the time and resources consumed if they were to offer a free trial.
For that reason, free trial offers are almost exclusively for directory-style services that only require listing your basic company information. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using directories, but it’s simply not the same as SEO. Directories list you and your direct competitors on the same page, and there’s almost no way to help you stand out from the crowd. Instead, every listing gets the same exact treatment.
Think of directory services as a hotel and an SEO company as a custom home builder. If you wanted a free trial for a hotel room, it would cost the hotel very little, as the system is built on high turnover and uniform services anyway. If you wanted a free trial for a house, however, the home builder would lose a staggering sum of money if you didn’t pay them. They would have constructed a house from scratch that they can’t resell because it was based on your specific design preferences.
The bottom line? There’s nothing in this world that is both custom and free.
Don’t fall for the hype surrounding Google Partners and AdWords certification.
Many upstanding, reputable companies may be certified affiliates, but this title does little to distinguish between effective and ineffective companies.
To receive AdWords certification, an individual must join Google Partners and pass at least two separate AdWords exams. AdWords certification is a stepping stone toward becoming a Google Partner, a title that’s offered to companies with at least one certified individual on staff and a few other qualifications—namely, a demonstration of best practices, a fulfilled AdWords spending minimum, and a complete company profile.
These are objective rubrics that most companies with sufficient resources can achieve. That means there can be vast differences in effectiveness between companies that are AdWords certified and/or Google Partners. Furthermore, a company only needs to be loosely affiliated with a certified individual in order to be considered a Google Partner, so prospective customers need to ask whether the certified individual is going to be the actual person working on their account.
In other words, a Google partnership or certification offers no way for a prospective customer to know if the company they’re dealing with is actually going to get them the results they need. Rather, these titles only serve to create the appearance that Company A is somehow affiliated with Google or has influence on things like rankings and algorithms.
In reality, a Google partnership or certification only proves that Company A is real, knows the basics of AdWords, and pays Google a substantial amount of money for AdWords.
Don’t fall prey to deceptive advertising schemes. If you have questions about a certain practice or company that seems suspicious, don’t hesitate to direct those questions to Prospect Genius. Our campaign coordinators and account managers are always eager to answer your questions and provide expert guidance whenever possible.