Video Marketing Update

As a sample of ABQ’s video marketing work, check out this video we just completed for Allstate General Contractors, an Albuquerque Remodeling Contractor. After we film and edit the video, we then put it on the client’s website which will help convince visitors to the site to call or email for more information. This technique really works to increase leads from the traffic coming to the site. We also take the video and use a powerful software package to syndicate it out on Youtube and several other high-traffic video sites using all of the client’s campaign keywords, so that the video will get found on those sites as well as appear in Google search results as a video result. All of these tactics mean more traffic and more leads!

Is that Google Calling? Truth and Fiction in Local Marketing Telephone Pitches

We’ve been getting more and more inquiries recently from current clients about calls received from other internet marketing agencies’ salespeople. It’s no wonder these calls are becoming more prevalent as the internet marketing industry is currently in a major expansion due to the skyrocketing demand for services. The sales reps from these companies use varied approaches; possibly the most unscrupulous of which is automated dialers with recorded messages that make intentionally misleading claims such as “We’re calling to verify recent changes to your Google Maps listing”. Obviously these calls are just based on random dialing of businesses, not any actual detection of changes to a business’s Google + Listing. Once the rep comes on the phone they often imply they are with Google or insinuate they have a unique relationship with Google that allows them to offer special deals or promotional advantages that other agencies can’t. On the other hand, a number of companies doing this calling are making more responsible and honest sales pitches. Moreover, I argue that Local Internet Marketing is best served by small, local agencies and that the well-known economic principle of Economies of Scale does not apply. internet marketing scam

Today’s sales reps making telephone-based internet marketing cold-calls take varied approaches, some pitch content creation and article marketing, while others advocate link building, Google + Local (aka Google Places Page) optimization or Google Adwords Campaigns. We’re often asked by concerned clients whether the call a client received was something they should take advantage of in conjunction with our services and sometimes have even had a shadow of doubt cast on the quality of the services they are currently receiving. The sales pitch often leads with a shining compliment, and then voices a serious concern about the client’s current online position or strategy. For example, “I did some research on local dry cleaners and saw that you have some of the area’s top ratings, but then I was surprised to find that you are not ranking well for many of the most important search keywords which is costing you a lot of business.” This money-issue is an effective hot-button to push with a prospect for obvious reasons. A persuasive sounding pitch about the vastly confusing topic of internet marketing and a great price tag can often sound so enticing you want to try it just to find out if it can be true. Faced with the daunting task of trying to understand internet marketing, most business-owners simply don’t have the time. Take a look around the internet you will find a myriad of sources with often conflicting advice. The recommendations are frequently oversimplified or just plain vague. For example, “you need to build links” or “you need a social media presence”. These easily gleaned “nuggets of vague goodness” are not generally untrue, but are not so easy to turn into actionable strategies. The road to action is so vague that one would be unlikely to affect much positive change without spending a lot of research time getting a true in depth understanding of the concepts and techniques. Once those concepts are learned, to be truly effective they then need to be coupled with the real world trial and error of experience employing the actions and getting both positive and (at time) unintended or downright poor results. Not to mention, many internet marketing techniques walk a perilously thin line between “gains” and “pitfalls” such as the concept of greyhat vs whitehat linkbuilding and the potential wasted spend of poorly managed pay-per-click campaigns which easily leads to negative ROI. These are topics that you could write entire books on today only to tear up the books next year to write new ones according to developments which have rendered last year’s information as outdated and of limited usefulness.

The best answer I can give to the question of whether the claims made by these phone-based cold-calls are true is, “well, yes and no”. Yes, some of the information is true, and yes some of the companies calling you may be legitimate companies offering valuable services. And, no some of the companies calling you are going to say virtually anything to get you to buy and then knowingly provide something of little or no value in exchange. With the explosive growth in the internet marketing industry unfortunately the “gold-chain wearing used car salesmen” have moved in amongst the honest service providers. It can be difficult to know what’s real and who is lying or exaggerating. A cliché, but very valuable rule of thumb applies here. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here is one example of a sales pitch anyone should question along with some red flasgs to be on the lookout for. A client reported a salesperson called claiming they could rank them on the top of page 1 of Google guaranteed for $199/month within one month. Sounds really good right?

Red Flag #1 – A guaranteed ranking. No agency can proudly make this guarantee; none of us are THAT good. Google just switches things up too much for anyone to promise a specific ranking.

Red Flag #2 –Price, sounds too good to be true. A non-“Micro Agency” claiming to offer a customized service at such a low price is dubious. We strongly believe that only very small agencies, what we would call “micro agencies”, (agencies with a maximum of 2-3 employees and minimal overhead), can really afford to service accounts at low small business price points with anything more than a very generic “set it and forget it” strategy. Common small business price points of ($250-$400/month) are not economically feasible for larger scale agencies when you consider the cost of the service labor each month, need to cover sales force overhead, and need to have a reasonable remaining profit.

Red Flag #3—Claim (rather suspiciously) omits critical details. What does “top of page 1 mean”? Are they referring to paid search ads (Adwords) or the top of the normal (organic/unpaid) search results and for what (and how many) specific keywords? When asked usually clients usually have not been given this needed information. Such poorly explained offers usually indicate the shady salesmanship needed to hide the one-dimensional nature and often quite limited ROI of many of these low-priced service offerings.

Admitted, my view of the situation is a bit cynical. Unscrupulous agencies are preying on businesses that will eagerly sign-up and perceive they are getting valuable internet advertising. These agencies know most businesses have no reliable system for tracking the source of leads or the ROI of any particular advertising channel. In other words, they are banking on the fact that a certain number of clients will not cancel since they will never realize that they are receiving nothing, or virtually nothing in exchange for their advertising dollars.
How can a business get some assurance that the agency is offering an honest service that is likely to produce a true return on the investment? Try checking references of current clients, as well as taking an hour or two to educate yourself about the service you are purchasing. You can’t learn internet marketing in an hour, but you can at least gain a cursory knowledge of the service you are purchasing so you may be better positioned to make an informed purchase decision.

What’s the moral of the story? Do your homework and ask questions. Don’t take any claim at face value, and expect any agency you purchase services from to provide at least some type of reports or metrics that demonstrate they are affecting some change for your business’s position within the confusing internet marketing ecosystem. If you notice a positive change in the leads you are receiving from the internet that is obviously a great sign. We also coach clients to expect that a good agency will be able to obtain gradual improvement in results over the first year of service, which at some point will reach a plateau stage where many or most of the possible exposure has been obtained through the achieved gradual improvements and continued work on the campaign will produce more of a maintenance effect than one of improvement. All expectations must of course be weighed in relation to spend, as $100/month only buys a “lemonade stand” not an intensive marketing campaign.

Checklist for a Technical SEO Audit

All websites should consider doing a “Technical SEO Audit” periodically. It’s a no-brainer that is you have suffered from a penalty you inspect every aspect of your site to try to determine what went wrong. But it is also worthwhile to do a Technical SEO Audit periodically on your website as periodic maintenance to evaluate your site against the current industry knowledge regarding likely penalty factors as well as best practices for being ranked well in the face of the current Google storm of frequent algorithm updates.seo audit

There are four basic areas we will cover here that you should look at on a Technical SEO Audit.  (These areas certainly don’t cover everything—hardly! But they are a good start in terms of some important areas you should be reviewing.) 

1. Broken inbound and outbound links
Broken links, both external and internal, inbound and outbound are bad news since they render a website less usable, and search engines do not like that idea. Not to mention any search traffic or links that would have referred to pages are now dead ends and that is bad news. When removing or moving pages on your site is important to use 301 redirects to tell the search engines or referring website where the page or resource has been relocated to. Excessive broken links can definitely hurt your SEO, as well as your site’s user-experience not to mention that hard earned link juice may go right out the window if you fail to redirect it using a 301 redirect. A technical SEO audit should pull a report of the links to and from your site and verify they are valid, and if not replace them or 301 redirect them.

2. Duplicate content
This is a big one, duplicate text content (whether it is duplicated on your site, or between your site and any other site on the internet raises a red flag with Google and the other search engines.  The search engine algorithms don’t like duplicate content and have ways of filtering out content that is a duplication of content that existed somewhere else first. Often site owners post written content that they have cut and pasted from other websites. This is bad for SEO, as instead of creating rich content that Google will love, they are creating content that Google basically sees as “webspam”. Sometimes there are innocent technical issues that create duplicate content such as having both homepage.com and homepage.com/default (which sometimes happens when you create a new site).  Often site owners create a decent website, but fail to do very simple things like creating unique title tags and meta descriptions for their pages which can hurt their site’s SEO.

3. Link Profile Review
One critical part of a Technical SEO audit is to perfom a review of the links pointing to a website, aka “link profile or link portfolio”.  Post-Penguin, we care more about quality of links although both quality and quantity both remain important in terms of what is getting SEO results. Looking at the link profile of your site and competitor’s sites can help you understand what links you currently have as well as provide link opportunity insights. In a link profile for a local business, we like to see a mix of both citations and links. Citations are a mention of your business, often with the address, phone #, etc. and are an important ranking factor for the Google Local results. Links should come from a variety of sources, such as trusted local resources like review sites, the local Chamber of Commerce, local groups or organizations, or other local businesses.

When analyzing your link portfolio be on the lookout for:
- link exchanges
- hidden links
- links in blog networks (many of which were deindexed by Google)
- paid links (buy 1000 links for $29.99 today, etc.)
- any other sort of “spammy” links

4. Review your Anchor Text
This is another big one, and was a major cause of a lot of recent penalties from the Google updates. In your SEO Audit you should look at the anchor text profile used in the site’s inbound links to make sure it looks “natural”. Old-fashioned SEO strategy (what used to work), was to create many inbound links with the exact anchor text you wanted to rank for. For example, a site that had SEO done might have 500 links to it that all say “albuquerque mortgage lender”. When the updates hit this past year, many of these sites which had been ranking well were penalized so badly they no longer appear near the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). In the current climate, what is working is a diversified anchor text profile, using a proportion of exact match keywords combined with brand links, naked URL links, variations of keywords, and random text like “click here”.

A good Technical SEO audit is something that should be done periodically on any website, especially one that is having problems with its rankings. In the current chaos of Google updates every few months, Google will continue to keep us guessing and reacting. But it is important to try to understand the current best practices and penalty factors so that your site can continuously be adapted.