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Old 9th April 2006, 11:03 AM   #1
Booksworstenemy
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Default Should I outsource search engine optimization or what?

Long story here, but I will tell it and if anyone has the patience to read, please post advice.

I run a residential lawn care company that service only three towns in the northern dallas suburbs. Primary product is lawn mowing but we also sell a lot of chemical applications (aka weed control/fertilizer) and shrub trimming and bed clean-ups. meierslandscape.com

Last spring, I was cold called by a guy from SBCSmartPages.com. He sold me a product called Search Engine Solutions and tied me down to a 12 month contract at $250 per month.

Most of the leads were coming from their sister website, yellowpages.com, but they were coming in at a pace that did not make the monthly fee even remotely worthwhile. So I upgraded to a tile at the top of their page that would place my company's logo at the top. Things actually got worse because they deleted my directory listing as a premier advertiser. My directory listing is on page 12. Then, when they merged smartpages.com and yellowpages.com, things got even worse. They created three classifications where consumers might look to find a lawn mowing company and I am only represented in one of them. I have gone the entire spring without a single client signing up from their website. They will definitely lose my business when the contract renewal is due.

The search engine solutions product also did something with Yahoo and Google because a few clients are indicating that they are finding me there. Mostly, its when they search for my company name. Also, from time to time I search yahoo for "lawn lewisville" and sometimes my website comes up but usually it doesn't. I am totally clueless about this one. How they did this is beyond me. They never told me to re-write any text on my web page or assisted with meta titles and key words or anything like that.

I just bought the e-book, "Small Business Guide To Search Engine Marketing" for $79. So far, the guide has created more questions than answers.

I would like for my company to come to the top if they search for my company's name on a search engine. That is happening now, but when my contract runs out with SBC I don't know if it still will or not. Also, if someone mis-spells Meier (which happens more often than not) they will not find me and I need advice for solving that problem.

Are there professionals on this site that charge reasonable fees for helping with search engines? I would really like to learn how to do this myself so I am not dependent on others to do it for me, but from what I've seen, I might as well try to teach myself how to be a brain surgeon.

For my business, $250 per month is not reasonable. At the end of the day, I look at my customer acquisition costs from a specific form of advertising. I like for that number to be under $50 per client. I poll every client who signs up for service to see how they find me, and so far, SBC is a huge LOSER. Even if they say they saw my trucks out, I still ask them how they found my number today? Often times, they are finding it via search engine and I record that as a win for SBC. Even with that, they have no chance at renewal based on their customer acquisition cost.

Any advice?

Thanks,
Books Worst Enemy

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Last edited by Booksworstenemy; 9th April 2006 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 9th April 2006, 12:08 PM   #2
Pete_Wailes
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Go over to Redscowl Bluesingsky, which is an SEO blog that I write on, and read up on that. I did a 5 day series a couple of weeks back, focusing on basic SEO for people who have no clue. Go through that, and then come back to me if you've any questions.
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Old 9th April 2006, 01:00 PM   #3
Jim2Macs
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Booksworstenemy,
Just sent you a PM. I'll be glad to help you out.

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Old 9th April 2006, 05:00 PM   #4
Gav
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Hi Bookworstenemy

When you were "locked" into this 12 month contract with the SEO Firm, did you get in writing guarantees of what they would acheive for you and what sort of compensation would be offered if the results were not acheived? A contract is fine as long as they can guarantee you results that you can audit and check so that you can guage your ROI. Looking very casually over your website, their is little to no optimisation done to assist you with rankings - Obviously to you benefits would be search terms such as landscaping, lewisville landscaping, etc - You lack any serious meta tags and other off page optimisation, with your title in need of some serious changes to put weight into your most important keyword search terms (the current redirect option the way it is done is just detrimental to you and can actually get your website banned as it has been put in place to fool search engines with one lot of information, while redirecting real humans to another page), and your on page optimisation is close to redundant, offering no benefit to you in rankings. Also you have no internal linking strategy in place and you off site linking strategies are just downright poor (as good as non existant). An aggresive linking strategy is one a very important aspect of SEO, and this should have been a high priority for your SEO to obtain for you, especially binding you into a contract such as you have described. Put it straight to them. Ask them what exactly has been acheived for you for this monthly "contract" fee. Of course look for someone else, but don't just let it slide when you walk away. Bad SEO consultants/firms/companies need to be put on notice by people/clients to rid this industry of the "dark side" of SEO practises where either no results (or worse negative results) are acheived for clients. We see it time and time again in the industry where people are entering it after having read a few eBooks or eGuides and thinking they can conquer the world as an SEO (I am not saying this is what your SEO has done but its not looking too good from just a brief overview audit of your current site online, especially if you have been with them for quite some time and contracted under them to obtain results).

Regards

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Old 9th April 2006, 08:37 PM   #5
Localmn
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My 2 cents,

If you don't renew, you would still most likely come up on the main search engines when people type in your company name, with or without the apostrophe. Yellow page providers like SBC (yellowpages.com) do have relationships with search engines, but usually in the form of paid advertising or local results, and not the main search results. Your site hasn't be SEO'd, but there's a lot of text which will land you occasional visits from G and Y users.

Most of the search engine solutions from the big yellow pages are pretty canned and outdated. But, they have huge sales forces and brand recognition that helps their sales.

Let us know how things work out and best of luck!

Paul

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Old 10th April 2006, 07:44 PM   #6
baskethill1
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Default RE: lawn care

Im not sure that your best source for contacts wouldnt be the local chamber of commerce and business organizations and cold calling of your own. That is if your looking for business lawns and not residential. Residential is best by word of mouth. One person has it done and then the neighbors want you. You might go to advertise at local senoir groups, AARP, Adult Day Care..etc

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Old 11th April 2006, 08:33 PM   #7
gepetto
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Default rule # 1 ...

My sympathies for the poor service you got. I was in your line of work once, you work hard for your money and it's hard to see the resources go to waste. The one rule I have for myself in my business, which I have learned the hard way over the years, is that I never buy from someone who has first approached me over the phone. Just too much sales hype and too low of a success rate.
I say the local ways of finding business sound better to me, too.
good luck to you... g

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Old 12th April 2006, 02:41 AM   #8
evej13
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Books,
In my opinion, tying you into a contract for seo services is ludicrous. You have no real recourse if they don't perform, except to leave at the end of your contract.

My business is very new. I've had a website for less than three months and on the first three search page for several phrases.

If you'd like info about what's worked for me, feel free to email me.

Eve

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Old 12th April 2006, 06:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Localmn
My 2 cents,

If you don't renew, you would still most likely come up on the main search engines when people type in your company name, with or without the apostrophe. Yellow page providers like SBC (yellowpages.com) do have relationships with search engines, but usually in the form of paid advertising or local results, and not the main search results. Your site hasn't be SEO'd, but there's a lot of text which will land you occasional visits from G and Y users.

Paul
Hi,

Yes I Agree Localmn!

This won't affect your regular search engine results. I suggest you go to www.rentacoder.com and put your SEO project on there and let everyone bid on it. There are some really talented coders out there that will do this for you in o time and it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

I always get jobs done at rentacoder.

Regards,

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Old 12th April 2006, 10:51 AM   #10
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Booksworstenemy, sorry that I didn't get to this post more quickly.

A few things that I'd add to the previous posters...

1.) If the ebook is creating questions, please feel free to contact me about them, or to post to the private forum that buying the book gives you access to. Remember, part of the deal when you buy the book is that you get exclusive access to pick my brain. Feel free to email me, ask questions in this thread, etc... and I'll do what I can to help you clarify things.

2.) I'm sorry that you got locked in to this online yellow pages deal. I can imagine how frustrating it is to have to write that check every month for something that isn't performing. Have you called and complained? I would think that if they changed up what you were receiving after you originally signed the contract (like splitting lawn care into three sections...etc...) that you may have recourse for a partial refund.

3.) The fact that you rank in the engines for your business name has nothing to do with your SBC contract. Don't worry about it being damaged by canceling your contract. Seriously, the two are not related.

4.) Right now, you have some problems with your site that is making it difficult for the search engines to properly index you, that's even apart from the fact that your site is not yet optimized. Here's a breakdown of those issues...

a.) The first issue is that you have a redirect in place on your web site. The redirect is being set through your meta tags. This is a bad thing and can cause problems with search engines. (It was a tactic used by some site owners to show one set of content to the search engines and to quickly forward "real" people to different content...thus many search engines will give you trouble for using it.) That means that one of the first things you need to do is resolve this issue. You can do that by simply taking the page that people end up on and moving it to be your "index" page. Or, you can talk to the person that hosts your web site and have them set something up called a 301 redirect to replace that Meta redirect.

b.) Tied into issue a.) is the fact that right now, search engines don't really see anything when they come to your site. You can use a tool called a "spider simulator" to "see" your site the way that search engines see them. Visit the one offered by Webmaster Toolkit and you'll see that the only information you are giving the search engines is a tiny, tiny snippet of text and a single link. This will also cause problems for you. You need to get some content on that first page along with links so that the search engine has reason to "value" your site.

c.) Now, once we get into the actual content of your site, things start looking better. Search engines can read your links with no problem, they can read your text with no problem. What you need to do is get some keywords worked in there. For example, your title tag (what shows in the blue bar at the top of the browser) reads "Meier's Landscaping." Instead, it should have some of your keywords worked into it. For example, if you were here in Columbus, I might suggest it read "Columbus Ohio Residential Lawncare and Landscaping Services."

You also need to work those keywords into your content. For example, your flowers page has some good information on it. You talk about exactly what types of services you offer, you give specific pricing information, it's just REALLY GOOD content that potential customers will love. What you need to do is spice it up a bit with some relevant keywords. For example, take this paragraph:

Our flower service is targeted for those customers who don't mind paying for a high quality landscape. If you are on a tight budget, this service is definitely not for you.
Flowers are very tricky. If everything isn't just right, they will get sick and look bad. We believe a landscape is better served not having any flowers as opposed to sick flowers.


You could take that and rewrite it to something like this...(note the keywords in bold)

Our flower garden landscaping services are targeted to homeowners that don't mind paying for high quality flower garden and landscaping design.
Properly landscaping your flower garden can be challenging and complicated. Homeowners that use improperly planned flower bed landscaping ideas can find themselves dealing with sick plants and unattractive flower beds. We believe that landscaping is better served not having any flower gardens than having sick flowers.


Not saying that that's exactly what you should use, but hoping that you get my point.

5.) I can also understand being frustrated with the misspelling, but there is a way to deal with that down the road. Once Google knows that your site exists and knows who you are, they will HELP searchers to spell it correctly. Google will look at any queries and see if it is a close match to existing data. For example, if you go to Google and search for Jenifer Laycock, a misspelling of my own name, they will suggest the proper spelling. See this demonstrated in this link. So, you need to work on getting your site optimized and properly indexed and there's a good chance that once that happens, Google will help you out on those misspellings.

Overall, you certainly have a decent site to work with. There are no huge glaring issues that will be hard to correct, there are simply some things that need to be improved on. As a previous poster mentioned, it would also be a good idea to start working on building some incoming links to your site as well, since that can make a big difference in helping get those updated pages into the engines and in ranking better.

You CAN do this yourself if you're willing to put time and effort into it, or you can hire someone to either guide you, or to do the work for you. If you're interesting in going that route, I'd be happy to help point you toward some trustworthy providers. I don't take on clients myself, but I have a nice network of companies that I trust that I'll be happy to refer you to depending on your budget, your needs, etc... (feel free to drop me an email - jennifer at searchengineguide dot com)

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