Small Business Internet Marketing – Buyer Beware

Beware of those internet marketing services in which you are approached via telemarketing or email. In most cases, they provide little to no value for your business.

I try not to talk bad about my competition other internet marketing service firms but enough is enough. I am tired of seeing small business owners getting taken advantage by the “dial for dollars” boiler rooms posing as internet marketing consultants.

Earlier today, one of my clients instructed a telemarketer to give me a call regarding some internet marketing service they were pitching. Other clients of mine have received similar calls and I want to make sure you don’t fall victim to this misleading pitch. I can’t call this a “scam” because there is nothing illegal about it. However, at the very least it is misleading and offers you little or no value.

The company that called me is NetBiz and the phone call started something like this:

Hey this is “BOB” from NetBiz and we’re a Google Qualified Placement Partner (MISLEADING). We have a spot available for one real estate company to place on the first page of Google’s search engine results (MISLEADING). Our company has a special arrangement with Google (OUTRIGHT LIE) that allows us to place our clients on the first page of Google – guaranteed (MISLEADING). For a low fixed fee of only $75 a month, your client will be on the first page of Google for “XXXXXXX” search term.

Here are the questions I asked him:

  • “Google Qualified Placement Partner? I’ve never heard of such a thing. When did they start this?
  • “When you say first page, what exactly do you mean? First page in Organic Results, Sponsored Links, Local Search?
  • What keyword terms would my client rank first page for?
  • What is the duration of the guarantee – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
  • Do you expect me to believe that your company, one that I have never heard of, has some exclusive deal with Google? What would Google, a multi billion dollar international company, gain by making an agreement like this? Especially with a small company that resorts to cold calling?

No matter what questions I asked, the salesman kept trying to convince me that this is a great deal because of the guaranteed placement in Google’s search results.

I am going to break down their pitch and explain why this offer is NOT a good deal.

First off, their company is not a “Google Qualified Placement Partner” – there is no such thing. Their company is a Google AdWords Qualifed Company which means they have at least 2 employees who have passed the AdWords Qualifications test and have quarterly Adwords spend of over $100,000.

SIDENOTE: Don’t ever judge an ad or marketing agency on how much of their client’s money they SPEND…judge them based on how much revenue they GENERATE for their client. I just finished running a very successful campaign for a client in which we spent a total of $13.30 which generated 70 clicks for a $165 service.

Second, the telemarketer would only say they guarantee first page placement and he never specified whether it was for Sponsored Links, Local Listings or Organic Search results.  It turns out the service they are selling is AdWords or Sponsored Links. I’m not sure why he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me this. Maybe he was “ordered” to only say “first page results” or maybe he didn’t know enough about Google SERPs. Without having the actual contract or terms and conditions,  I can only assume they leave it open to cover their bases.  In the event your business ends up on the first page of the Local or Organic results, they would be off the hook.

Third, they do not guarantee placement on Page 1 for a set of keyword terms but for ONE EXACT KEYWORD TERM – and it is a keyword term they choose for you. I’ll explain in detail why this is a huge deal shortly because it’s the basis of their scam misleading pitch.

They find an EXACT keyword term that SOUNDS like it would be something used by a good percentage of your customer base. For example, during the call he asked me to type in the EXACT keyword term “homes in albuquerque nm”. He was proud to tell me that his client was the first listing in the Google sponsored links.

That sounds great, but what happens if someone searches “Home in Albuquerque” (note the spelling difference: Homes vs. Home) or uses types in New Mexico instead of the initials NM. Or doesn’t type in either NM or New Mexico – just “Homes in Albuquerque”?

You get the point. Of course I tried these very basic search modifiers and his client was no where to be found. Not on page 1, page 2, page 3 etc.

Now ask yourself this, how many people do you think are going to type in “Homes in Albuquerque NM” each month – exactly like that?  Then out of those people, how many are going to click the sponsored link? CTRs (Click Thru Ratios) for sponsored links are quite low to begin with. Do you think they’ll design your ad with the intention of it getting a lot of clicks? Doubtful. Next ask yourself how many of your competitors are isolating their entire campaign on that same exact keyword? And finally, how low will the click through ratio be for that term if you were the last sponsored result on the page?

They never made any guarantee about traffic…just that your ad listing will show up on the first page. They are not selling you a service based on getting traffic to your website. Isn’t that the point of running an internet marketing campaign?

I’m assuming the company does some keyword research and they look for exact search phrases in which the search volume is decent, the pay per click competition is low but the perceived value is high. Once they have isolated the best value for THEM, they get their $10 an hour plus commission telemarketing team on the phone to “sell, sell, sell” that keyword phrase. Once you agree to the fixed monthly fee, they set a monthly budget under the agreed monthly fee (their profit) for that EXACT phrase only. Theoretically, they can also control the pay per click bid so that your ad is positioned towards the bottom of the sponsored results on page 1.Remember, the less clicks your ad gets, the more profit they make.

So why did I write this blog post? Not to bash NetBiz but more to educate you on what to be aware of and to think through the telemarketing and email offers you are exposed to. My hope is that you avoid dealing with companies like this. Be aware that more and more of these companies are coming out of the woodwork every day, just to make a quick buck.

Reasons to avoid doing business that sell flat rate search engine placement services.

  • They usually do not care about your Click Through Rate – being on page 1 for one keyword term does not necessarily mean your website is going to get traffic from it.
  • They usually do not provide you with any performance reports. They do not want you to know how good or bad your ad is doing. They only want your credit card payment each month.
  • They do not care about increasing the Quality Score of your ad.
  • They do not care about your Conversion rate of the traffic you might actually get.
  • They do not manage or optimize your landing page to increase conversions or Quality Score.

All of the aforementioned elements are critical to the success of your pay per click campaign. One can hardly call what NetBiz does an actual pay per click campaign since it so granularly insulated. A campaign is monitored and optimized while their model is more of a “Set it and forget it” monthly fee.

Internet Marketing is all about tracking, optimization and conversions. Unfortunately a lot of business owners will happily spend the $75 a month for the convenience and comfort that their business is now listed on Google – even if it is just for one exact keyword phrase.

The bottom line is this: When you receive an email or telemarketing call from a firm selling internet marketing services, most of the time they are going to be more focused on SELLING YOU rather than offering an internet marketing solution that will help find you new customers.

Again, it is not typical of me to bash the competition but writing this post has been therapeutic for me. Maybe my next post should target the web design firms who say they do search engine optimization yet don’t know the first thing about keyword research (which is the foundation of SEO).