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SEO – Will You Get Better Results Using A Large, National Company Vs. A Local SEO Expert?

First, let’s get a definition for search engine optimization, or SEO as we’ll call it for this article.

SEO - National VS Local

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – “is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.” – www.wikipedia.com.

Whether you believe you need SEO to improve your business web presence or not is not the subject of this article. I’m not going to try and sell you the benefits one way or the other.  No, the goal here is to share with you a couple of experiences I’ve had as an internet consultant to local businesses dealing with a couple of the largest national business services companies in the world.

I won’t mention any names, but one publishes phone books, both paper and electronic (probably THE major player in that market), and the other made its name providing telephone services over the past century . Do either of these descriptions ring a bell? I thought so.

I’m not going to trash either of these companies. I will just provide the facts as I see them – based on my biased experiences. Just in case you’re wondering about the answer to the question in the title – it’s a big, fat “Yes.” Let me tell you why.

I had only been serving local clients about six months as a small business internet consultant when my best client asked me to sit it on a meeting between them and a sales rep for one of the above companies. I came, I saw and I left – thoroughly impressed by the very slick presentation complete with a spreadsheet full of numbers and a very connected, attentive and empathetic  salesman. It wasn’t my job to tell my client yea or nay – the numbers – promises of click-throughs and phone calls per dollar spent sounded fantastic. In fact, this “SEO” and, ultimately a lead-building program, promised to pay its way each month with greatly increased sales.

The salesman even provided an “actual” example – complete with numbers – of an existing campaign of a similar company in another city. Boy howdy – this other company was reeling in the sales like a fisherman at a pond that’s stocked with trout!

My client took the bait at about $1,600/month (about midway between the cheapest and most expensive options) and signed up for a year. Each month to be paid in advance, and the first three months paid in advance at signing of contract. By credit card. Annual contract – no getting out of this one. Wow.

Since I was so new to the business, it took a while to digest and process exactly what I’d seen. Mostly, as it would turn out in about 6 months, I was a witness to a horrible accident. But this was no accident – definitely an “on-purpose.”

Here are the gory details of the SEO/Lead Generation Campaign sold to my client:

  1. Copy pages on existing client website and set up SEO company-owned “satellite” websites (client did not “own” or have any control of these websites).
  2. Each “satellite website” gets a unique phone number and email address that messages the answering party with “This is a lead from your “Company 1 website.”
  3. Said company will submit to thousands of “partner” websites for links and leads back to satellite websites that would, in turn send links and calls to my client.
  4. Client would convert all these leads (50 – 100 per month) to sales.

Very simple. Very appealing. Except for the leads never came.

As the months passed with little to no results, many calls were placed to the sales rep who offered many excuses why the leads were slow to generate, but no offers to actually see why the program was providing no benefit, but my client was still being charged full price.

At about the six month point, things really got ugly. I won’t go into details, but the SEO company would not do anything to mitigate this failure, and insisted upon full payment for the full year.

They would not reevaluate the program, would not make any adjustments – nothing. Even though my client received almost zero leads, and certainly not a single sale from this “SEO” campaign, the SEO company was resolute. No refunds, no adjustments. Nothing, nada. You signed the contract, you die by the contract. The super salesman was completely worthless – he stopped returning calls eventually and referred my client to another in the company.

All in all, it was a horrid experience for my client and a learning experience for us both.

Eventually, my client was able to get a partial resolution – only when the SEO company’s telephone division representative realized that she would lose HER business because of what the OTHER division did – was there any offer of a solution that both parties could agree to.

When all was said and done, my client had paid over $12,000 for absolutely nothing – and had their name dragged through the mud in the process. Ugly, it was.

Turns out that whatever traffic and “links” that did result from the “satellite” sites (and other SEO links) were completely lost when the program was dissolved – because the links were not directed at my client’s website, rather than company-owned properties. The SEO company had complete control , and they used it to devastating effect.

Turns out all those “partner” websites that were supposed to send contacts to my client were merely a poorly run AdWords campaign, costing my client about double what he should have paid.

I don’t know for sure, but I guess that the salesman’s commission was between 20% and 40% of the gross. His business card revealed that he was craftily employed by a similar-sounding 3rd party.

And, all of the website creation and AdWords campaigns were carried out by 3rd parties as well. But they were carefully promoted as “part of the main company.”

It was impossible to contact the actual person (or people) running the SEO campaigns. My client tried desperately to contact this shadowy “individual” to try and change course when he found that the campaigns were failing so spectacularly. I even tried for them to no avail.

A couple years later – how are things going for me and my client?

Great gravy for both of us. I’m providing SEO for their web properties – when necessary – and for about 1/3 the cost of the big-time SEO company. Plus, they get real and measurable results. And, we can change and adapt their campaign to differing market and search engine conditions. In fact, we’re already on the third iteration of the original SEO campaign, incorporation changes for the Google Panda and Penguin updates as they occur.

A few months ago, my client asked me to attend a meeting with the “other SEO” company I mentioned above. Seems they were contacted by these folks with similar promises and thought it would be fun to hear another big SEO company approach.

The “other” SEO company made similar promises and were similarly priced. In fact, as I write this I’m looking at their sales folder, “Marketing Solutions, Business Results.” “Connect with 100 million potential buyers monthly!”  Except that the salespeople (there were two) were neither convincing nor slick. Maybe it was the fact that we could see right through them? My client and I had a good laugh, and got back to our businesses.

Remember that your well-recommended and highly experienced  local SEO expert has a lot of knowledge and expertise in SEO in your area, and for your particular business niche.

Unlike the big SEO firms, he has “skin” in the game and is directly accountable to you. If you don’t get results, he doesn’t provide for his (or her) family. Again, it is really that simple.

Plus, your local SEO expert has access to the EXACT resources and tools the the big guys do – sometimes even more if he or she is really an expert in the craft.

Finally, solid, accountable and effective SEO for your internet properties and for lead generation is as much art as it is skill. We all have access to similar tools, but oftentimes it is the way we use those skills that determines a successful outcome.

By Dan Morton.

Need some help with your internet marketing? Call me at 719-761-4862 or click HERE to contact me and I’ll give you a free one hour consultation where we can figure how I can help.

(719) 761-4862 dan@fairlanewebconsulting.com