How Can You Tell if Your SEO Company is Lying to You?

Simple. They are breathing.

WAIT!!! Before you join the angry mob that is now starting to form outside of my house, please put the torch down and hear me out because believe it or not, I am on your side. The problem isn’t that we as professional SEO-ers don’t tell the truth. The problem is that we often can’t.

You see, when it comes to search engine optimization, the truth is scary. We really aren’t able to say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can rank a specific keyword for a specific site in a specific amount of time.

We can estimate. Make an educated guess. But the fact is that there is no out of the box solution here. Each site is different. Each industry has its challenges. Each situation requires its own individual strategy. And each strategy is constantly being adjusted as we go. Combine that with the actions your competitors are taking and the changes that Google is constantly making and there are just too many variables and unknowns to realistically predict the future.

It’s a moving target.

But if we were to tell you that, you might run in the other direction and sign up with the first person that tells you what you want to hear. The one that claims to have a “friend” that works at Google and can get you ranked on 10,000 different search engines. The one that promises you the world but never quite delivers it. The one that will eventually leave you soured on the industry and have you calling us all a bunch of charlatans and snake oil salesmen.

So we tell a little white lie. A teeny tiny one.

Just enough to make you feel at ease while we are working tirelessly on your site in an effort to prove ourselves to you. We’ll create extraordinary content, fix the code that your nephew wrote when creating your site and comb over pages of reports and dozens of competitor sites looking for clues. We’ll research hundreds of keywords. Adjust our strategy as we go. And breathe a sigh of relief at the first sign of movement.

All while remaining calm, cool and collected.

But It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

We don’t have to play this game with you. We can be completely open right from the first day we meet. Make you brutally aware of the challenges before us. But before we can do that, we need you to do something for us.

Educate yourself.

It’s in your best interest to have a good understanding of what you are getting yourself into before you get yourself into it anyway. But more importantly, I have found time and time again that when someone I am working with has at least a basic understanding of how search engine optimization works, the overall results improve. Dramatically. And here’s why…

You Will Make Better Decisions

When you understand the problem you are more likely to find a better solution. Which means the next time someone tells you that you can get a better organic ranking if you are paying for Adwords you aren’t going to fall for it. And if no one is falling for these little scams they will eventually go away (hopefully). So, even a basic understanding of search engine optimization will help you ask the right questions and ultimately uncover the best solution.

You Can Be Our Resident Expert

Your website is a sales tool. And just like you wouldn’t send a salesperson out into the field with no knowledge of your product or service, you shouldn’t do that to us either. Of course we are going to do our homework and get to know you, your competition and your industry intimately but we’re never going to have the same level of experience and passion for it that you do. So having you on the inside with some knowledge of what we are doing sharpens the tool for us.

We Can Both Pull On The Same Rope

If we need something from you like more content, a list of competitors, details of your existing client base or any other questions relating to your campaign, it is so much more helpful when you see us as your partner. Too often we hit a line of defense that doesn’t help us get what we need and it hurts us both. Have us sign an NDA or even recite the Girls Scouts Pledge. Whatever it takes. Just be willing to open up and get us what we need.

You Will Be More Responsive

We know that you are juggling 100 different things and don’t have enough time to run the day to day stuff let alone react to us every time we need you to look at something. It could mean approving some text we wrote or keywords we are targeting. Maybe reviewing a report. Or just a simple question about a competitor. All we know is that we need a response. Perhaps if you knew why we needed it or how important it was that we get it, you might react a little quicker.

Does all of this mean you need to be an SEO expert? Not at all. In fact, we would rather you not try to be. But for your benefit and ours, understand the basics. Have an idea of the overall strategy. Learn to speak the same language.

There are thousands of places online where you can pick up a little SEO smarts for free! Here are a few of my favorites.

Search Engine Humanization
I’m biased with this first one. This is a free e-book and blog that I have coming out in January. It’s an approach to SEO that won’t make your head hurt. In fact, it will have you looking at SEO a little differently.

Google Webmaster Tools
If anyone has the inside scoop on what to do and what not to do, it’s Google. This should be required reading for anyone that has a website and is looking to get involved with an SEO company.

Matt Cutts
If you have ever gotten punished by Google for breaking the rules, there is a gentleman by the name of Matt Cutts that you are going to want to blame for it. Matt personally had nothing to do with it of course. It just seems that everyone likes to blame him for everything bad that happens with their Google results because he is the head of the webspam team at Google. The truth is that he is a very intelligent guy with a ton of great answers for you. So cut the guy a break and check out a few of his videos.

Looking for a beginners guide to SEO? There are few out there better than “The Beginners Guide to SEO” by the folks at SEO Moz. And while you are at it, be sure to check out their blog as well. These guys are at the top of the industry and for good reason!

Jill Whalen
Jill has been doing SEO since the very beginning when Google was merely a gaggle. I had the pleasure of taking a weekend class with her a million years ago and she was brilliant then and has only gotten better. She has a great resource section on her site with a ton of answers to get you moving in the right direction. My favorite part about Jill is that she is always fighting the good fight. She is a big advocate for doing things right, so you won’t find any sleazy link building articles here!

Search Engine Roundtable
If you have an SEO question, chances are there is an answer somewhere on Search Engine Roundtable. The content is great and like the other sites here they take an ethical approach to search engine optimization.

Lee Odden
Lee is our resident smarty pants and author of the book Optimize and the blog TopRank, both of which are brilliantly written. If you are just dipping your toe in the water for the first time, some of the stuff Lee talks about might be a little advanced for you, but that just makes it the perfect reading material to aspire to.

Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land is about as comprehensive a news source for the SEO industry as you are going to find. It even covers SEM (pay per click) and social media to boot. It’s a great resource for us geeks.

Have I missed any that you have found really helpful? I’m sure I have. Feel free to share then (or anything else) in the comments below and have fun at school!

  • Simon Thompson

    God Bless you Marc. I felt that came from the heart. Sincere and to the point. You held my attention admirably. A subject you know inside out. A Great Big Thanks.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Simon! You know me and my ego always appreciate all of your comments!!!!

  • leeodden

    Thanks for the kind words and including my blog Marc :)

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Lee! I appreciate you stopping by and reading! I was wondering how you would take the “smarty pants” remark. And yeah, I know I’m a little late to the party in responding to your comment. I like to let them simmer sometimes before responding :)

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  • Roshan

    love the sincerity. looking forward to the book Marc

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  • Matt Brennan

    Yes. You hit the crux of the issue. It is a moving target, and there’s no 100 percent guarantees. If I could tell you that your site would rank for term X within X amount of time, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’d be working for Google.

    • Marc Ensign

      Or better yet, you would own Google!

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  • ambreen11

    Good post ! All the things you mentioned are very important and something even those of us who supposedly know something about seo company need to revisit.
    Looking forward to future posts.

    • Marc Ensign


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