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Don't Waste Money on a So-Called SEO Specialist

Mark Jackson
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For those who read my column for actionable and practical information for how to improve your SEO (define) efforts, I'm afraid today's column will disappoint.

Today's Rant: American Express isn't an Open Book

The Cuban Council interactive marketing agency wrote an irresponsible article in the American Express OPEN Book, "A Practical Guide for Business Growth."

Specifically, folks from Cuban Council wrote, "Don't waste money on a so-called Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.) Specialist."

What?

I tried to get a comment from Cuban Council, and received the following: "I don't think we have anything to add. Good luck on your article!"

So much for digital advertising agencies entering the mainstream.

As an American Express cardholder, I thought I deserved to hear a response from those who put this guide together. Rosa Parks in public affairs at American Express was kind and gave me some (PR driven) feedback:

"Thank you for your feedback and inquiry. OPEN Book contains articles written by small business owners for small business owners. The point of view expressed in the article, Net Gains, regarding how to develop Web presence that will drive sales and reach new customers was contributed by the Cuban Council, an expert in the field.

"We acknowledge there might be other opinions on this topic and welcome you to share your views on OPENForum.com, which is a marketplace for ideas relevant to small business owners. We value your point of view and your business and we acknowledge the sentiment you expressed after reading the article. Again, thank you."

The SEO Rant: Uncut and Uncensored

Rosa, thank you. I've taken you up on your offer (and kudos to you for finding a way to spin this into generating new traffic for your forum, which shows as still being in beta). For those of you who don't want to visit OPEN Forum, here's my (unedited and unexpurgated) post:

This is my first post to the OPEN Forum, so I'm pretty sure that most people reading this will not know who the heck I am.

Aside from running my Interactive marketing agency, Vizion Interactive, I write a weekly column for searchenginewatch.com, where I write about search engine optimization (the practice of helping websites to be found -- organically -- in the search engine result pages of Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask and others).

As an American Express cardholder, I received the OPEN BOOK - A Practical Guide for Business Growth, recently. I found one contribution made to be both irresponsible and incorrect. You will find this on page 59 of the OPEN BOOK "Practical Guide" or at this URL: http://www.youropenbook.com/growing.php?p=4. Here, the contributor says "Don't waste your money on so-called Search Engine Optimization specialists."

I have been involved in over 200 search engine optimization projects and almost without fail, these have delivered terrific return on investment for my clients (there are always cases where results aren't where you'd like them to be, but I think that's true of any marketing initiatives).

I have received comment from the head of Public Affairs at OPEN BOOK, in which she stated that they published opinions from a leader in their field. First, I should say that this comment does state "in my opinion," nor could I ever consider this company/person a "leader in the field."

Not to give myself too much credit, but I have been involved in a lot of SEO/SEM initiatives, I speak at Search Engine Strategies and Pubcon conferences. I might have made for a good resource for this (or a number of my esteemed colleagues from within the Industry).

So, I am starting this post so that others can share their experiences with search engine optimization with the hopes that the folks at OPEN BOOK might consider PROMOTING search engine optimization/marketing rather than scaring small business owners away from it.

IT ABSOLUTELY DOES WORK! If you don't believe it, do a Google search for "credit cards" and see who shows up in the natural results. Not AMEX. Not Mastercard/Visa. Not Discover Card. Not ONE of the major companies (well, Bank of America shows #9 for me). Search Engine Optimization is the great equalizer and the small business owner's friend."

As an American Express cardholder, I received this "practical guide" filled with "beneficial" information for "Mr. and Mrs. Small Business Owner."

As a small business owner, I want to help other small business owners. I know from experience SEO can make or break companies. Several small businesses only do SEM (define) (both organic and paid) and do pretty damn well for themselves.

American Express: Don't Leave Home without SEOs

For American Express to publish a "Practical Guide" for small business owners and have their "expert" bash SEO is unfortunate. If this column can further the awareness of SEO as a legitimate method of marketing a business (small or large), then my time's well-invested.

If American Express doesn't see the same Google search results I do for "credit cards," then I may want some of what they're smokin'. That's not an "opinion." That's a fact, Jack.

Being a "so-called" SEO specialist has never been easy.

Some people sell snake oil in our industry. There are Web design firms that "say" they do SEO, but have no clue what it really is (the "add some words to the title tag" people). Other SEO firms churn and burn (the "take the money, and run rampant on your site, causing harm" people).

We must overcome irresponsible journalism. When a "practical guide" published in a trusted source (American Express) gives bad advice, the entire search industry suffers. If, as American Express stated, this guide features "opinions," then they should've titled this book "OPEN Book -- A Bunch of Opinions from People Who We Think are Experts in their Field."

It's our duty -- fellow ethical SEOs -- to get the word out. SEO really can be the most effective and efficient form of marketing. It's a legitimate use of marketing funds. SEO can make a difference for companies, both small and large, in direct response, branding, and reputation management strategies.

Share your opinion in the Search Engine Watch forums and OPEN Forum thread, especially if you're an American Express cardholder.

It's time to step out of the shadows and have SEO become mainstream.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.


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