Author: Ken Mueller

The other day I was sitting in a client’s office for a meeting when they got a phone call. The person who answered listened, then looked at her boss (my client) and said:

“Do we want to be on the front page of Google and Bing?”

Without missing a beat, my client replied:


Now, it’s not that my client doesn’t want to be on the “front page of Google”. It’s that she understands that this is basically, at worst, a scam, and at best, empty promises.

You may have even gotten one of these calls. They often ask you if you want to be on the “first page” or “front page” of Google, and in some cases I’ve heard them say,

“There’s an opening on the first page of Google, are you interested?”

as if slots open up and it’s there job to help fit you in.

If you get these calls, I hope you’ll run the other way. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here’s why you  need to steer clear:

1. There IS no first or “front page” of Google – It’s not a newspaper or magazine. It is a search engine that is constantly changing. Every search you do comes up with a different front page. In fact, you and I could do the same exact search on our own computers and come up with different results. We could even be sitting right next to each other and might get different results for the same search.

Why? Because Google and others are doing their best to make your searches personal. Their ever-changing algorithm is increasingly taking a number of personal factors into consideration. These include: your location, your social graph/networks, and your personal search history, among other things.

You might not like this, but Google knows a lot about you, and they use that information to help improve your searches. They know where you are, who your friends are, and what your search history is. These all come in to play.

2. There is ALWAYS space free on the first page – Search engine optimization is not a once and done thing. It’s an ever changing process. Every spot on EVERY page is always up for grabs. Do any search. What you see in the top slot is there for a reason, but do that same search tomorrow, and you might see a different order in the top slots.  There is a space free on the first page of Google and Bing. There is ALWAYS a space free as it is always changing, as is the algorithm. Google, Bing, and the others don’t slot special spaces just for you. It’s all part of that very complicated, and ever changing, algorithm I’ve mentioned.

3. What keywords will they use? – In many business categories there are a variety of keywords that are used to find your business. If you’re a plumber in my area, the most likely keywords might be things like “Plumbers Lancaster PA” or some variation. That’s how I would look for a plumber. Because of that, some key words are higher volume than others, and those are the keywords for which it is harder to get a high rank. If most people search by “Plumbers Lancaster PA”, then those are the best terms for which to rank, but also the most difficult. On the other hand, you might be able to guarantee a high ranking for “My toilet is clogged in Lancaster PA”, but then again, how many people search for plumbers that way.

The point of this is that if they are promising top ranking for keywords that no one uses…you’re not getting anything. And if they are promising top ranking for the most used, heavy volume keywords? Too good to be true.

4. Define “guaranteed” – What’s the guarantee, and will you get it in writing? The only guarantees that will work for me are:

  • We guarantee top ranking for YOUR chosen keywords, or your money back, or
  • We guarantee top ranking for YOUR chosen keywords, or you don’t have to pay us.

Other than that, run away.

5. WHERE will I be on the “front page” of Google? – Locally? Regionally? Nationally? Globally? In my market or someone else’s? I happen to focus mostly on doing well in my local area and region. I know that to rank really high on a national level is out of my reach. You want to rank high in the right places. If you are a plumber in Lancaster, PA, ranking high in Lancaster, CA does you no good.

6. Where do you show up now? – Perhaps you’re already doing well and just need to maintain. I’ve seen cases where a good website that was performing well was scrapped for a less than stellar site and started falling in the search engine results. All because someone told the business owner that they could be doing better and the owner bought it. Quite often the people offering these guarantees haven’t taken the time to do their homework.

7. Organic or PPC? – Are you paying them to get solid organic placement or advertising placement in something like Google Ad Words? Organic placement is much better, but also much more difficult. Or are they merely going to charge you to get those pay per click placements at the top and in the right sidebar? And if it’s PPC, how much will it cost you, and again, for which keywords? PPC is not SEO, even though a lot of practitioners do both.

So what should you do?

There are reputable SEO folks out there who can work with you to optimize your site in a variety of areas, including title tags, content, etc. And then there are others who will cut corners and do things which can actually hurt your rankings and get you banned. These type of “black hat” tactics can happen on both a small scale on the local level, or even on a larger scale on a national level, as J.C. Penney’s found out earlier this year.

I also am a firm believer that one of the best things you can do to improve your rankings is to start a blog for your business on your site. And you’ll need to create good content on a regular basis.

There are also a variety of online tools you can use to figure out how well your site is performing. Also make sure you check out Google’s free suite of Webmaster Tools, which are incredibly helpful.

But don’t be taken in. When you get that phone call, either hang up, or ask the tough questions. Either way, be careful.

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