My Website is Live… Now What?
Understanding SEO and Identifying Scammers
Kelly Edwards, CEO
Today, I would like to talk to you about what to expect when a new website goes live, and what to expect in general with SEO regarding a website.
SEO For a New Website
Once a website goes live, if it’s a brand new site, and especially if it’s a brand new business, it’s going to take a little bit of time for Google (and other search engines) to trust the business enough to really give it great rankings. Basically, you’re not going to go live and instantly be on page one of Google. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that, and that’s why we recommend supplementing this in the early days of your website being live with paid campaigns on Google and paid social media campaigns. If your website is not new and this is just a redesign for you, or if your website has been in existence for a while, you’re going to see your search engine results climb a little quicker – just not overnight.
What you should start to see in the first week or so is a little bit of climbing and movement in terms of where your website ranks for key search terms. What I recommend doing is to not think in terms of how your website ranks, but rather what does it rank for? What are the keyword phrases that you’re trying to show up for when someone is searching in Google?
For my business, obviously we do a lot of marketing, and one of our niches is financial advisors. We want to show up for terms like “advertising agency specializing in financial advisors.” We call these “long-tail search terms”. You need to figure out what these long-tail phrases are, so that you can optimize your site to work for those phrases. Consumers are savvy enough to know that if they put more information in their searches, they’re going to get more accurate results. Therefore you need to identify three to five different phrases that you want to show up for. For example, if you’re talking about a dermatologist here in Lawton, we want them to show up for “dermatologist in Lawton” or “Lawton Oklahoma dermatologist.”
Once you identify those phrases, first identify where you rank for them, and the continue checking on it. Check your ranking once a week, or twice a month, and ensure that you’re continuing to climb. It may be that you start on page ten or maybe even page three, and it all depends on whether or not your business is brand new or has been penalized in the past. If it has been penalized or blacklisted by Google, it’s going to take a lot more time for Google to trust you again, so the climb in rankings will be slower. If not, you can expect to see progress over the first few weeks. It really takes at least six months, though, for your website to climb as high as it’s going to go without additional optimization. Just be patient, SEO is not an overnight process.
As soon as your website goes live, you’re going to start getting emails and forms from your site filled out. These forms are typically filled out by scammers with something to the affect of, “I’ve been looking at your website, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t rank! If you want help, we can help your SEO.”
In reality, all of that is a scam, and most of it is coming from overseas. There is no legitimate SEO company that does business that way. Unfortunately there are not nice people, good Samaritans, sitting around the country, checking results and seeing you rank – they don’t care. The only ones that care about that are you and the people that you work with, for instance your ad agency. When they say that they’ve checked your rankings and you’re not doing well, they’re not actually checking at all. It’s a form letter template that they’re using, and they’re saying the same thing to everyone.
A client that we’ve worked with for a long time is a physician in Texas, and he gets these types of message all the time. The reality is that he ranks number one for every search term imaginable. We’ve been working with him for over 10 years now, and he’s so well optimized, that there’s not anything that he even ranks number two for, and he gets these emails. Even we get these emails! These scammers fill them out on our website, and they don’t even take the time to figure out that we’re an ad agency that does SEO.
The bottom line is that when you get stuff like that, you can absolutely disregard it. I promise you, 100% of the time, they’re a scam.
Blackhat vs Whitehat SEO
These scammers that are reaching out to you are trying to engage you to pay them for what’s called Blackhat SEO. Blackhat SEO means that you do things to try and trick the search engines to give you better rankings. In the short term, it works really well, but in the long term, it hurts very badly. It can end with you ranking on page 10 or 20 of Google, or even being blacklisted. Which means that you aren’t even ranking, because no one goes past page 2 of Google.
Whitehat SEO is what we do, what responsible and reputable agencies do, and it’s about ensuring that your website and online presence as a whole lines up perfectly with what Google and the other search engines want. It’s about giving them what they want and following their rules, maximizing your presence the right way.
The cycle of Blackhat SEO works like this: a company engages you (by form, or email or call) and convinces you that they can be your savior. They tell you things like “you don’t even pay us until we get you to #1”, and when they do, you pay them a large figure like $10,000. They get you there quickly, you’re super excited, and you pay them. You say to yourself, “It’s expensive, but it’s worth it!” You’re at number one, you’re happy, and you’re there for a period of weeks, sometimes even months. Then all of a sudden, you disappear completely. But you’ve become reliant on the fact that you’re showing up number one, you’re getting business out of it and a lot of traffic, but it has come to a screeching halt. You contact your SEO company – you trust them, what they did worked the first time. They say, “Well, Google has changed their algorithim.” They love to say that, because laypeople don’t understand what that means. They tell you, “We can make some adjustments and get you back to number one, but it’s going to cost another $10,000.” You don’t know any better, and say, “It is what it is, they did me right last time,” and you pay them again. They do some more Blackhat SEO work, you get back to page one. But you get caught even faster this time, and the penalty is steeper. Oftentimes it means getting blacklisted and removed from results all together.
This is a pattern that goes on and on, and you never know better. Unfortunately, we inherit a lot of messes like that, and it’s not cheap or easy to get someone who’s been penalized like that back to a neutral mindset with Google – it takes years.
Be very careful. As a best practice, or a general rule, don’t hire someone to do your SEO who has cold-called you, sent you emails, filled out forms on your website… just don’t do it. As a general rule, these are spam and scams, and if you want to hire a firm to do SEO work, we obviously do that, and there are lots of others great SEO agencies that do SEO work. Go with someone reputable. Don’t go with someone overseas, don’t reach out to someone who fills out a form on your website.