What you think you know can hurt your on-line marketing ROI as much or more than what you don’t know. So let’s separate fact from fiction.

Taking a stand for ethical practices

Our industry was damaged in its infancy by unethical, incompetent and misguided providers. Unfortunately, many of them are still out there, preying on a general lack of knowledge and understanding of SEM/SEO and what it can achieve. SitePosition, together with other reputable search marketing agencies and SEO providers, is dedicated to creating ethical practices and pan-industry standards. Deflating the myths is part of that task.

Myth: In-house SEO is cheaper

You get what you pay for! As discussed elsewhere, 90% of the Fortune 100 companies bought into this particular myth and wound up with poorly optimized sites. Granted, those companies may be in better position to write off the costs and missed business opportunities… but the risks and losses are proportionately more damaging for smaller organizations.

Search engine marketing and content optimization are complex, ever-changing skills, requiring constant vigilance and flexibility from their practitioners. And, whereas in-house SEO lacks cost maximization, outsourcing is highly cost-effective – not only regarding ROI, but also because professionals achieve high-rank listings faster and better, and deliver on-going economies of scale after the initial investment.

Myth: Software is a one-time, one-size-fits-all solution

Submission software comes with a hefty price and extravagant promises. The price is reality… the promises are fantasy. There’s simply no way that any software program can obtain the results a reputable SEO provider can deliver for a fraction of the cost. All search engines have specific submission guidelines that change regularly. No software, however, sophisticated its claims, can identify keywords automatically, optimize your content and HTML coding, and customize and update to the degree required to achieve and maintain top-of-list rankings.

Myth: Traditional media leads are higher quality than SEO leads

The opposite is true. SEO delivers the most qualified, targeted leads available – people who have begun with a purpose and declared their interest by searching for your products and services on search engines. SEO delivers prospects who are in action mode and prepared to convert when they arrive at your site.

Myth: SEO doesn’t deliver high-quality traffic

On the contrary, numerous case studies have proven beyond argument that the quality of search engine traffic equals or betters traffic generated by more expensive sources. When you seek to maximize your Web promotion budget ROI and develop leads and sale conversions quickly, SEO is the most efficient and effective way to go.

Myth: Top-rank listings guaranteed – or your money back

In one word – baloney! Technicians can’t control the search engines. Money-back guarantees are worthless, and no reputable SEM/SEO provider will ever make this meaningless offer. Search engine positioning is an environment of constant change – unpredictable and volatile. Today’s top listings will have changed by tomorrow, and can even change hour by hour. Achieving and sustaining a high position in the engines’ listings requires constant trial and error, and continual monitoring and tweaking. It can’t be guaranteed, and it’s not permanent once achieved. Success is a constantly moving target.

Myth: We’ll get you listed in 1000s of search engines

Uh-huh! Submission software that claims it will submit your site to “X-many directories and search engines” sounds impressive. But what you’re not told is that 95% or more of those listings are worthless. They are FFA or “Free-for-all” engines, obscure low-traffic listings that cannot compare with major directories and engines such as Yahoo! or Google. They also don’t warn you that these listings place your name on spam email lists.

Myth: SEO doesn’t give a good ROI

If this myth were true, our clients and the most respected independent Web researchers are all dead wrong! The ROI for SEO is excellent when compared to banner ads, direct mail, email marketing, and print advertising. Compared specifically with other Web promotion techniques, SEO gets you better conversion rates, lower cost-per-click, and lower acquisition costs.

Myth: Pay-Per-Click search engines save you money

This one isn’t quite a myth… but it’s not quite true, either. It is partly true because partnership deals make it possible to get some free listings in major search engines by buying pay-per-click traffic. However, a PPC campaign requires a firm budgetary commitment, and can prove expensive without careful cost management. Also, studies of Web user habits have shown that many users consider these featured listings to be ads and avoid visiting them. The whole truth is that PPC campaigns can be effective, but should be chosen with care and managed by penny-pinching pros. They should also be balanced with a healthy organic search commitment, with your Web pages optimized for both human-powered and crawler-based search.

The bottom line

Caveat emptor! Beware of providers who promise what they can’t deliver. Scrutinize any potential provider’s skill-set carefully. Insist that they define their services, capabilities, pricing, contracts and reporting methods. Require them to provide references, then talk to their customers to verify the provider’s experience and proficiency. Take nothing on faith.

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