When Doing Well in Search Engine Advertising is Too Good to Be True

SEO and AdvertisingSince the early 2000s, when search engine marketing first took off, marketers have been sold on the idea that the key to gaining customers in the Internet-age is through online promotional methods rather than through traditional methods, such as television advertising, direct mail and sales force cold-calling. In particular, marketers have bought into the notion that to be successful means a brand or company must not only advertise on search engines but must utilize specific techniques that will enable their ads to appear near the top of a search results page.

As the importance of doing well in search engines swept across most industries, many marketers and business owners, who possessed very little knowledge of how search engines work, asked a basic question: “How exactly can my ads appear high in search engines?”  To help answer this question, a market of specialized search engine optimization service providers was born. For a fee, these providers would apply various techniques that, they said, would improve search engine ad performance. While 10 years ago the number of specialist offering these services was relatively low, today there are thousands from around the world offering the promise of better search engine ad results. In fact, everyday KnowThis.com gets inundated with unsolicited emails wondering if we are interested in these services. While the words used by these service providers vary, the message is almost always the same: “We can get your ads to appear higher in search engines.”

For marketers, who already are fully versed in search engine marketing techniques, these solicitations are simply considered junk mail. However, for the uninitiated and, particularly those in smaller businesses, these promises have attracted their attention. Unfortunately, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal story, many who have agreed to use these services are largely left with little improvement in their ad performance and a depleted bank account. The story presents several examples of small businesses who feel they were taken by service providers who, in their minds, never delivered on the promised results. Of course, the providers do not see it that way and their comments offer an interesting insight into their business practices.

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