I am a curious person by nature and I guess that is what makes me always want to do research. Today I got another call from my “This is ‘X’ checking on your Google listings. We will guarantee you front page placement on Google search” friends. So I took the time to be pre-qualified for their opportunity and then listened to the pitch from their account manager. Hey, they called ME so any intelligence gathering I do in that situation is perfectly fine in my book…
I was curious about how they could make that claim in an even remotely realistic way so I figured I would see what they offered. After all, there are so many variables that go into how Google determines the best answer for every search query that to guarantee search engine rank position is impossible. So right off the bat they were making seemingly impossible claims but until I understood what it was they were offering I couldn’t be sure.
In addition I wanted to see how they intended to make good on their claims. After all, I do essentially the same thing for a living but with a difference. I know what it really takes to get on the first page of Google and how much work and time is involved. Some consider me something of an expert on the topic.
I also wanted to see if there was any validity at all in their claims so I could make sure it was not just another simply fraudulent scheme to bilk unwary business owners out of some money. If it was indeed something that they might be able to pull off then I wanted to know how they proposed to do it and how much it was going to cost.
They told me they would “register 10 keywords with Google for me so that I was guaranteed front page placement every time someone did a search for my type of business”. That was interesting because I know of no process whereby you can register/claim keywords with Google or any other search engine. If they are professionals they should know better than to say it that way.
I asked him if he meant they would use advertising to promote my business. Adwords (Google advertising) does let you run ads by bidding on specific keywords that are related to your ads. If you bid high enough to beat all of the other people competing for that keyword and your ad quality score is high enough then yes, technically you can buy a spot in the advertising section of Google search results. But again, there are a lot of variables and I would never tell a business I could guarantee them top search placement because of that.
He said, no it wasn’t advertising, it was purely organic results. He said there were 1,900 searches per month in my area for my type of business and that his company only works with one company of each type within a radius that would be the equivalent of about an hours drive from my location and if I wanted to make sure that I was that special company I would have to act quickly.
The funny part was that he obviously had no idea what type of business I was in. Plus I know that there are not 1.900 searches for top keywords related to by business within an hour’s drive of my location. That is easy information for anyone to get using the free Google Keyword Planning Tool (recently moved inside the Adwords platform) or Google Trends. If you have a lot of videos you can also use the YouTube Keyword Tool.
Finally, he said there are many directories on the web that can rank your business well in search results. Now I understood what the real product was they were selling.
What it comes down to is they charge a $99 setup fee and then $159 per month to simply create local web directory listings for you. They said you don’t even need a website so I asked how they could do that and they said it is all based on your Google+ (Places) page (I knew that but was just checking). Ah-HA! That is certainly simple enough but depending on the competition it doesn’t guarantee you the front page of Google search results locally and definitely not on a regional or national level. Web directories are however a great resource for businesses. There are literally hundreds of them out there and nearly all of them will give you a listing for free.
Because most directories have well established sites they rank well in search results so your listing on those directories have a good likelihood of appearing on the first page of search results. Of course this likelihood is modified by many factors such as how many competitors are in your area, how well you have worded your listing title and description (a subject for another article) and how many of them are also using the same directories as you are. They are free to everyone after all.
I advise clients to make use of them. If you don’t want to take the time to fill out information for your listing a few hundred times there are some sites that you can use that are very large and well respected database sites. Many of the other directories will draw information for their listings from these database sites. So by listing on just these four sites your listing will eventually show up on most of the rest. I am going to list the “big 4” such directories for you so that you can save some time and money if you want to get some local directory listings for yourself. they are; infogroup.com, databyacxiom.com, neustarlocaleze.biz and factual.com.
As I said, all four of these sites will give you a free listing and all four are used by other directories to pull listing information from. They also have paid packages and going that route is totally up to you. Some are tied into YEXT which is another listing service. I was a YEXT reseller because they make it a bit easier to do multiple listings with their centralized dashboard but the cost got to be outside of what I thought was justified by the value of the service so I no longer represent the brand.
A cheaper alternative is a new listing service offered by MOZ Local which gives you the same multiple listing from one place service without the management dashboard. That is only $49 per year so it is still a good price for those who want to take advantage of it.
Like SEO or something (I asked innocently)? Do you write blog posts or something?He said they did that and more and for only another $99 setup fee I could get their premium package and get listed on Bing Places For Business, Yahoo Local and social networks too. Another $99 for 15 minutes of work?
Beyond the “big four” database sites I listed above the other directory listings that you really should have as a local business are Google Places (Google+), Bing and Yahoo as well as Foursquare For Business. The reason to single these out is that each search engine has their own directory listings and each of them favor their own listings and put some on the front page of related search results. So you can not doa listing on just one of them and have it show up on all of the search engines.
So that is the pitch they made and the service they offer. Vaguely inferring that they work for or are Google was their first deceptive tactic. That was followed by big claims with little information for the consumer and what they do give is pretty skewed and grossly inflated and partially a flat out lie. It might sound great to those who do not know any better but that is all it is, a cheap way to hustle the “Yokels”.
There are much better alternatives available to you from companies who will take the time to do things right and let you know exactly how they are spending your money and the results of their efforts.
Optimizing and promoting your web presence is a complex job. Doing it right involves far more than just creating local directory listings. A well crafted digital marketing plan should be just that, a plan. It should include optimizing your website, blog posts, images, videos and even your social networks to Google “best practices”. It should also include a plan for the creation and distribution of content that is related to your business on a regular basis. It will very likely also include some advertising to promote your business to your ideal market demographic.
I don’t want to recommend any full service agency in particular but I can tell you that the Google Partner agencies represent a great place to start. Google’s requirements for being a Partner Agency include passing certification tests to demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency with Google’s advertising products. They also require each agency to maintain a high level of (measured) customer service quality.
In the still somewhat wild west of the Internet Google’s commitment to developing and deploying top quality products is what has made them into the largest company on the web. Their commitment to putting the user/customer first is what has kept them there. I am part of the Google Partner program as an independent agency. You can find a searchable database of Google Partner Agencies at this link. I think that is a great place for you to start your search for a qualified marketing professional to help you promote your business.