Thursday, February 12, 2009

Internet Marketing - Are You Tired Of The Hard Sale?

By Damian Papworth

I entered the internet marketing industry around 2003. It all started for me with an affiliate program and a pay per click campaign. Back in 2003 there were not many savvy Australian internet marketers so I had very little competition for my campaign for quite some time.

I was quite successful at this in the beginning and then had the pleasure of watching the market flood with new entrants, all doing the same thing, forcing keyword bids up. I also had the pleasure of watching Google continue to refine their rules to make their search engine perform better, often at the expense of affiliate marketers. I watched and modified my approach until the time required to exist in the market, was no longer compensated by a justifiable remuneration.

So I changed my approach. I started to build websites and learn about search engine optimisation. I still used PPC marketing, but to drive traffic to my own websites while they optimised in the organic search terms. The result for me was half a dozen highly optimised and profitable website businesses. Of these, only one has its own product. The others either promote affiliate programs or sell advertising space.

As my skill grew, so did my reputation. The result of this was a continual stream of business owners who, having heard of my expertise, wanted to hire me to sort out their web presence. These business owners all had two things in common. They all saw the potential the internet had for their business and they all had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous internet operators who took their money yet added no value. So I took them on and applied the same strategies to their websites that I applied to my own. Much to their delight, their websites now create business for them.

These clients of mine all had a pretty negative view of the internet industry when they came to me. Unfortunately they'd all been ripped off by one operator or another. That's the problem with our industry though, its unregulated and we are all, by and large, self taught. There is no standard of quality, this lets the poorly skilled earn while their clients suffer.

These charlatans contact me every week trying to sell their services. I can see clearly their modus operendi. They base all their actions on the fact that most business owners are pretty ignorant when it comes to the internet. Therefore, a few nice graphs and some confusing industry jargon is all they offer and expect it to be enough to make a sale. This is despite their general lack of substance when it comes to delivery.

For example, my tourism business hires out surfboards on Australia's Gold Coast. Do a Google search on "Gold Coast Surfboard Hire" or even just "surfboard hire" for that matter. I'm sure you'll find me, mine is Gold Coast Surfboards. Clearly for the product I am selling, I am very well optimised in the search engines.

Despite the fact that this business is optimised in the search engines for the phrases that are relative to the product, I still get SEO "professionals" contacting me trying to sell their wares. I get contacted every week. Its crazy.

I've worked out exactly what they do. They find my website and recognise it as a small business. They'll do a few Google searches and see that I really am well optimised, so then they set about finding some search phrases that I am not optimised for. In their belief they know more than me, they then try to scare me into buying their optimisation services for the less relevant search phrases. Phrases such as "surf accessories" and "holiday rentals".

This sort of thing really scares me. It makes me realise that there are people in my industry who manipulate our clients to make a quick buck. They are quite happy to modify a website to attract irrelevant traffic in order to make some money, with little care of the damage this does to the customer's business. To embellish, if I had have listened to these hard selling conmen, my website would either be attracting lots of people who needed surfboard wax or fins, or in the Holiday Rentals case, people who are looking for hire cars or accommodation at goodness knows which destination. One thing is for certain, people visiting the Gold Coast would not be hiring my surfboards.

If you are under pressure from an internet salesman to sign up for their optimisation services, my advice is to first get a really good understanding from you clients, as to which search phrases they use on the internet when they are looking for your product. If the salesmen are trying to get you to optimise other phrases, don't do business with them. At the very least they have not researched your market enough to work on your website. At its worse, they are just manipulating you in an attempt to wring some money out of you. Either way, it will damage your business.

If you are thinking about doing some work to your website but do not know where to start, ask around. The really good operators work on reputation and do little self promotion. When you do this though, be clear that you are looking for an internet marketer, not a designer or developer. Its one thing to make a masterpiece for the internet like many graphic designers do, but a whole new kettle of fish putting it where all your clients can find it.

If you are an internet professional reading this article, its time for all of us to smarten up. We need to look after the industry and we can only do this by being ethical in the manner in which we operate. So please, stop going out trying to extract a pound of flesh, go out to add value to your clients. Once you are adding value, the new clients will come, following your reputation. Continue operating as you are though and soon no-one will talk to internet professionals anywhere. - 16651

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