• Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Volunteer for Submarine ServiceI joined the U.S. Navy in the fall of 1984, arriving at boot camp in April of the next year.  Shortly after getting settled into the barracks, there was a pretty common joke that I heard from a lot of my fellow recruits;  “How do you know when your recruiter is lying to you?  His lips are moving!”

I’m growing concerned that pretty soon people will be thinking the same thing about SEOs.

What if you were number 1 and nobody searched for you? Are you still number 1?

A while ago, I wrote about how to hire an SEO, and more recently about what questions you should be asking about your web measurements.  Both of those should help you become a more intelligent SEO shopper.  I’ve stumbled upon the site of Austin SEO company that made me realize there is still more you need to know in order to protect yourself from the snake oil salesmen.

This particular SEO Company had a pretty site, all full of keyword stuffed pages and links.  Their portfolio looked quite impressive, listing numerous clients that they had helped “shoot to number one on Google”.  Naturally, they provided screen shots of the page rankings so we could all see it was true, they even included some nice testimonials from the clients that were so pleased at now being listed so highly in Google.

We need an SEO BS flag.

There’s just one minor problem with the awesome rankings they achieved for their clients.  They are all useless.  All of them were for obscure phrases that have little, or no search traffic.  It’s great to rank well for a phrase, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  But, if nobody uses that phrase when they search, what good is it?  None.  I’d rather have a site on page two of a search with volume than page one of a search with none.  Rankings are good, traffic is better.

How do you spot BS rankings?

It’s actually a lot easier than you might imagine.  First, before you settle on your keyword list make sure your SEO company can tell you what the current search volume is for those words – if it’s low, it may not be worth the money needed to get the rankings (HINT: If your SEO company can’t, or won’t, tell you the search volume – get a new one).  Second, have a set of baseline rankings.  When you hire an SEO you should get a report telling you where you currently rank for the various words and phrases you have agreed upon.  It’s possible that you already rank well for these phrases.  Both of these will help, but it won’t catch all of them.  Google’s keyword tool will help you with the rest.  You’ll need a Google account to use the tool, but there’s no cost to use it.

After you log in to the tool you’ll see a box to enter a search word or phrase.  Enter yours.  Below the box you’ll see a check box marked “use synonyms”.  Un-check it.  This tells Google you are only interested in results for that exact phrase.  Click the “get keyword ideas” button.  The resulting page provides information about your phrase.  Look at the two columns called “Local Search Volume” and “Global Monthly Search Volume”.  These tell you approximately how many times that phrase has been used.  The numbers for local are for a recent month, for global are a yearly average.  Looking at a search for “jack leblond”, a phrase I (thankfully) rank pretty well for, you can see that locally there is not enough data to report, but globally it was searched 58 times.  I’m pretty sure 53 of those were my Mom (Thanks Mom!).  So, while I can be happy I rank well for my name, I have to be sad because nobody is looking for me.  When your SEO firm calls to congratulate you on your new and improved rankings, be sure to ask them what the search volume is for the phrase – hopefully you won’t be sad.

Try this with a few of your search phrases, are you actually ranking as well as you thought?

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3 Responses

  1. 1
    Monica Wright  //

    Happy New Year!

    My quuestion is: shouldn’t SEOs look and share search volume during the initial keyword analysis? Ideally, you would look at all of the search volume and ranking reports in order to hone in on a target list, right? I hate trying to rank for something that’s already performing (nowhere to go but down), but at the same time don’t want to cannibalize those same terms. Maybe I’m jut being anal. ;)

  2. 2
    Jack Leblond  //

    Monica – you are absolutley right, a reputable SEO should provide you will reports on ranking and search volume before they start working. Unfortunately our industry is being infiltrated with people that are less than knowledgeable or or are just plain un-ethical.

  3. 3
    Tbert  //

    So So True Jack, I know of a National Answering Services that spends over
    $ 3000.00 per month to Google for sponsored ads to appear on the first page. While another local service is ranked 3 on the same page by optimizing
    and monetizing their site and paying nothing to Google…It does pay to do your due diligence…..Tbert