by Terry Young
Don't accept the jargon, ask for evidence!
There seems to be a growing trend out there in Convention-land, where 'experts in your field' web companies set up booths and give presentations on how your web site really needs their help.
In last year, three clients in different professions have returned from conventions with the same story.
In each case, the expert company states that they can help our clients' ineffective web site get better results. The most amusing and distressing methods these companies use is to offer free site reviews. They print out pages of bullet-point reasons why your site doesn't work. They list things such as your pages are the wrong size, your domain name is the wrong length, or you are missing obscure 'meta-tags.'
One review contained 18 pages of items which were allegedly making our client's site not work for them. I must note that their site gets about 11,000 hits a month, and has about 250 free first page search results. This review gave them a low 33.9% on the company's "SEO ranking and usability" scale.
Of course, their initial paragraph states that if your rating is below 40%, you really need to call them today so you can sign an expensive, long-term contract for their services.
I must state that there are genuine, experienced companies (like us) who can help your site if it isn't getting you the visibility you need. But, it is vitally important to read between the lines of any jargon and not just get taken in and make an impulsive decision while caught up in the moment at a trade show.
It is vitally important to read between the lines
You can avoid mistakes by taking time to go over any materials they give you. Look for non-commital terms like 'can,' 'may,' and 'might.' As I repeatedly tell prospective clients, if a company says they can do something, they will be proud to prove it. I advise prospects to call our clients first hand. We will happily show our clients' great search results and traffic stats for as long as it takes to put them at ease.
On a humorous note: When I received one of these bad reviews my first action was to go to Google and search for 'their company name complaints,' and 'their company name reviews.'
The very first link was to a page which looks like it was generated from the same place as they reviewed our client. This page listed all the ways that the expert's site was lacking, and gave them a 31.8% score! On further investigation, the experts' site had been registered only about three months prior. They didn't even have a portfolio, just demo images with no real web sites.
The saddest thing is that there are so many web companies who rely on double-talk and buzzwords rather than demonstrating actual measurable results. Our clients are lucky that they can see for themselves how many visitors they are getting, and from where, so are not fooled.
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,