Snake Oil Salesmen – They’re in every industry including in the Web Design and SEO Fields you’ve been in the working world for more than a few years you’ve probably come across one of them. They are cocky and like to boast about how they can magically make your dreams come true. That’s right, the snake oil salesmen.

Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, salesmen used to travel across the country selling all kinds of potions and contraptions. These salesmen would make wild claims that their wares would cure everything from a constantly icky toe to the measles. Often times, like today, when a customer bought these items they did far less than what was promised.

Fast forward more than a century and you’ll find that not much has changed. Their are still people hocking their wares, claiming to be able to solve all of life’s mysteries. Now, you’re probably asking yourself what does this have to do with Web design or Internet marketing. Sadly, the Internet trades are not immune to these slithery, slimy characters. If anything, the Internet is the new frontier, where these vermin thrive.

Recently, I was courting¬† a client for a Website design. Like most of my customers they were interested in being found on Google and the other search engines. They already had a site made for them by one of the ma-bell outfits. They didn’t know much about the Web, but did they know that things as they weren’t working. So like many brave business owners they ventured out into the frontier of the Web and began talking to Web designers and Internet marketers to see what options they had to offer.

This is when we first met.

We met at a local cafe and I explained to them my philosophy of design and development: Clean, schematic, and readable sites that promote natural rankings in the search engines. They looked at me dumb founded. “Naturally?” they asked. Apparently they were led to believe that somehow a Website and Search Engine Marketing (pay-per-click) were one in the same — you couldn’t do one without the other.

I explained to them that even though they were in a competitive keyword and market they could still rank high in the natural listings. They were shocked and felt betrayed by the other designers and salesmen who steered them wrong.

When I first heard what they were being told, my blood boiled. Yes, there is a place for PPC in every Web design and Internet marketing strategy. PPC isn’t always a waste of money, if it’s done correctly. But it certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all.

I explained to them that I could do a number of things for them. Besides building them a custom site, coded correctly, I could get them ranked for keywords that were being searched for regularly and without PPC and in the end these prospective customers became clients.

A few tips for going at search engines naturally

  • Going after a competitive keyword like, let’s say, Pizza Shop, you are competing with more than 36.6 million other listings. Remember that a broad search term like this is pulling up listings from all over.
  • What you can do is go for Pizza Shop Philadelphia or Pizza Shop Yardley. The first one might still be hard to break into, due to the fact that others have been there much longer and the fact that Philadelphia is a large area, but the second one is definitely attainable.
  • If you have a small company that is regional or even local, don’t go after the broad key terms. You’ll never be able to compete with the giants in that space. Go after your surrounding zip codes and local towns.
  • If you have a regional or even national company, you can go after the broader key terms, but be prepared to spend lots of money and time getting there without any guarantee of success. What you can do though is go into the more regional or local spaces and compete on those levels for those key terms. It might be more work, but you’ll have a better chance of ranking.

The moral of the story beware of the low hanging fruit and those snakes that tell you to eat the apple. Do your homework and be an educated consumer. If something sounds way too good to be true it probably is and sometimes doing a little extra work pays off in dividends later on.

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