SEO: Scams, Dark Art or Niche Skill?
Spam SEO services emails don’t niggle me as much these days, but there have been a couple of occasions I have replied just for the giggle. Call it market research, call it trolling, I need to have an insight as to what to expect to enable me to commiserate with a potential client shrieking down the phone that they’ve spent £300 every month for a year, yet their online business remains unprofitable.
The field of Search Engine Optimisation is viewed by many as a scam, and a dark art. In my 14 year career I’ve heard bucketfuls of chronicles of hard earned cash going to an SEO agency or individual with zero ROI or worse, a domain that’s suffered a Google penalty as a result of backlinking from bad neighbourhoods.
SEO swindles usually start with responding to a cold, or spam, email.
After answering those type of spammy emails offering SEO services, desperation and fire fighting comes into play. Trigger reactions include: setting up Google ads yourself, paid advertising on social media and getting earache from your partner. So, the important question is:
How to find a trustworthy SEO Freelancer in Great Britain?
I do feel sympathy when someone’s livelyhood is at risk, but when I drill deeper into the situation and the customer informs me “I can’t find any good or trustworthy SEO’s, it’s maddening, my last guy ghosted me and has stopped replying to my emails, phone calls and texts”.
Unless money has been given to a company with nothing to show for it, chasing anyone to that level of annoyance is a gigantic turn off for me.
Sometimes a client makes poor choices when deciding on a freelancer, but it’s not my job to convince you to pay me.
UK SEO Case Studies, Reviews and Referrals
Trusted SEO UK Freelance Consultant est. 2008
Hesitant potential clients who feel they have been ripped off before by an SEO agency always take longer to convince to part with yet more money. Especially when my fixed fee structure is shared with them.
I’ve quit trying to convince people. No longer will I take phone calls without a booking becase someone doesn’t want to pay for a Zoom SEO Consultation. Maybe it’s the menopause, but I feel jaded now when I am expected to almost beg for a chance to work together.
Want to learn SEO for free? Here’s how: Any Digital Agency with a team of staff will happily chat for hours, answering the usual questions of “How long will it take me to get to Google page 1?” and “I don’t understand SEO, can you explain?” so search online for your local town or city and bend their ears, not mine.
I don’t give free advice, and sometimes rather than a client interviewing me, I’ll interview them.
Let’s flip the coin here and play devil’s advocate. I decline to quote early on in the enquiry process when I spot client red flags, more on those in a moment. My time management must be on point as a sole trader, helping website owners for free is not something I’m willing to do.
Yes I may appear abrasive, often this is the only attitude that penetrates the thought process of some business owners. Anyone can start a business, but a harsh reality is that the vast majority of people rush to launch their new website and brand, then reality sets in when they realise their wonderful idea of making money online comes with Search Engine challenges. “Everyone else is already at the top of Google, how do I knock them down and replace them with my website?”.
At least I’m honest!
You can have cheap SEO and you can have effective SEO. You can’t have cheap and effective SEO.
Ask for case studies, it’s imperative to view researched and documented case studies that are confident in naming the brand or business. Case studies should also include tracking search phrases before and after work has been done. You are then able to search online for these search phrases yourself to check whether the domain is still outperforming other websites.
My case studies can be anything from 2 months data, to 5 years. A quick case study would be migrating a WIX website to WordPress, and implementing on and off page SEO in a month, so two month’s data is sufficient to demonstrate success in this scenario.
How to find a genuine, honest SEO Freelancer
Ask an SEO the question “How long will it take me to get to Google page 1?”.
Should they respond with a numerical answer, they are not offering the truth and you should step backwards into a hedge, Homer Simpson style.
Any SEO worth his or her salt will always decline to answer; Search Engine positive ranking is the aim of every digital marketer, but there are no promises, guidelines, guesses nor predictions at any stage of the process. I prefer to sidestep my answer, when my methods have been implemented and the client website is pushed high in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), I’m chuffed to revel in over delivering without over promising.
How does an SEO Freelancer attract new clients?
I’ll begin by saying that I don’t use paid advertising. I don’t have a mailing list, I don’t collect emails to market my services, and I certainly don’t pay for lists nor send unsolicited emails cold calling for new business.
Any SEO company that emails out of the blue should be reported as spam and deleted. Please don’t respond, and most importantly of all: do NOT forward the email to your current SEO. Thinking it’s a good idea that you’ve spotted something your SEO freelancer hasn’t considered is very, very bad.
Likewise, after a 6 month campaign and asking the question “Is there anything else we can do?” infuriates every single digital marketer I’ve spoken with. Maybe you’d like us to say “Actually, yes, there’s this secret I’ve been keeping from you for the last half year, let’s do X, Y and Z”. The answer is always “SEO takes time” and you can’t manipulate search engines, or have quick results.
Local website ranking is easier than Nationwide ranking, so a geographically targeted services company would have quicker results than an eCommerce targeting the UK as a whole. SEO case studies can be ongoing and updated every year, or just as a one-off project when there’s been a case of NSEO (Negative SEO) or in other words, a malicious attack on a website by injecting URL’s that redirect to a dodgy domain, or in a more direct manner such as creating toxic backlinks in the thousands to a competitor’s website.
I’ve resolved every problem that I’ve agreed to work on, a case study is a highly effective way of attracting new clients.
How much does a good SEO Freelancer in the UK cost?
Be acutely aware of anyone claiming to be an SEO, especially if they are pushy about their services, or immediately offer a discount on a package. I do not offer discounts, at parties I tell people that I work online from home vaguely, and I never work for friends, friends of friends, and you can forget working with family. My social media accounts feature my cats more than self promotional posts.
A good SEO Freelancer won’t be able to start immediately, unless they have just quit the employee status and are at the start up phase. They should be able to showcase case studies to give you confidence in their abilities.
Red Flags: Is the client telling the truth?
Every week there’s at least one new enquiry begging me to be available to work because of an emergency.
Earlier this month a client contacted me as he didn’t have Google Analytics installed in his website that is 7 years old. I remember it was a Friday afternoon, for me it’s a ten minute task to install and test and is easy money. All was well, happy client, happy freelancer. The next step was a Zoom SEO consultation wherein I heard the familiar cry of “I can’t find a good SEO, they don’t reply to my emails any more” which is in my personal top three indicators of a client mismatch – too many times I’ve taken on projects because I feel sympathetic towards the client.
I always resolve complex situations with regards to account ownership of data, consolidating several email addresses to a single login, or the challenge of unpicking the mess of poor SEO practices, only to find the clueless client expects me to fix their iphone.
It’s common for people to assume I’m able to design logos, fix HTML or CSS errors, or worst of all send me ‘helpful’ SEO articles on the internet about disavowing links in Search Console when there’s actually no qualifying criteria in their domain data.
Solving a client’s predicament can be tiresome, especially if the client has made poor SEO choices by responding to spam emails, or attracted by a cheap website promotion offer that looks like a bargain.
‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten’- Benjamin Franklin nailed it with his famous quote.
Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring. Scratch that – Panic!
Let’s imagine this scenario: A client finds me online using my target search term ‘SEO Freelancer UK’ and sends me a message via my contact form, waving £ signs and clamouring for a telephone conversation right here, right now. They explain they have been paying an overseas agency to help their website rank in Search Engines, but their rankings are stagnant.
“OK” is my reply “What search terms do you track? Which page of SERPs does your domain currently sit at?” following which is a little back-and-forth only to discover the SEO hasn’t agreed target search phrases. The client is confused, then the lightbulb moment pings. There is no evidence of on-page website work, so when they verbalise “I want my rankings to improve” and I request a bullet point list of search phrases, they respond with “I don’t know – you choose!”.
This situation is akin to buying a top of the range tablet and asking the Sales associate “Show me what it does” when the question should be reversed. You know your business better than anyone, you tell me what you need.
Then the client panics. They realise their digital marketing campaign has flopped before it started, as there were no Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) in place. Personally, my favourite KPI is pushing a website higher in search results, as opposed to a 100% increase in traffic. Why? The biggest factor I’ve found is the website design isn’t a positive browsing experience. Technical SEO implementation over a few months may see your domain out performing all of their online competitors, but if the website design doesn’t visually impress in 4 seconds you can be dominating SERPs but no one will want to purchase.
Sometimes SEO can’t save your business
If your homepage headline is worded “Welcome to my website” then search engines and humans alike have no idea at first glance what you are selling. Be bold. If you have an eCommerce store, inform visitors they can buy online, a good call to action would be “Buy matching shoes and handbags with free delivery”. Likewise, with a local services page your homepage headline should read “Carpet Cleaning Bristol and Somerset”.
I’ve seen an international client selling drone piloting footage and amazing videography work globally have a DIY website design with a prison-grey background. At first glance I honestly thought it was a guy with an Argos drone wanting to make a few quid selling aerial footage of local landmarks, as it happened he turned out to be a talented wizard with editing software, capable of video production worthy of a TV documentary.
4 Seconds: Impress or Digress
So you have a YouTube video embedded in your homepage that autoplays? Oh please no, stop it. Flashing neon graphics? No photographs, just stock images? Uninspirational yawn-inducing websites will result in a high bounce rate. Note: A ‘bounce’ is a visitor to your website who doesn’t engage and does not click to visit other pages within your website. Kind of like a rain check. Nope, not for me.
Time on site is a great indicator in your website analytics data, if you can see that people come to your homepage and leave in under 3 seconds, then the 4 second rules applies:
If you don’t impress in 4 seconds to encourage further engagement, visitors will digress and bounce away from their landing page.
This circles back to the KPI of doubling your website hits in X months. I can push you to the top of search results, but if you’re unwilling to change the way your online storefront looks in terms of design, colour scheme and effective call to action, you’re setting yourself up for failure with depressing and distracting design.
It’s a sad fact that millions of people still believe that buying backlinks will rank a website above all others at the expense of on-page SEO elements. I’m not going to explain more in this article but do feel free to reach out should you wish to book a remote consultation.
Summary: Never reply to emails offering SEO services, avoid the temptation to reply “No” to be taken off their mailing list, don’t buy backlinks and take time to educate yourself and learn about your competitors. Learn from their success, from UX to an enticing call to action, to stalking their digital footprint to glean information why their website is ranking at the top of search results.