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Self appointed Guru's, black
hat SEO, link exchanges,
and other things that go
bump on the internet

Self appointed Gurus, black hat SEO, link exchanges, and other things that go bump on the internet
by James R. Sanders

If you have a web site and are looking for traffic, then I am sure you have done your fair share of research on the internet. With so much at stake and your web site’s success or failure hanging in the balance, there is a wealth of information to be had on the internet to fix whatever problem might be ailing your web site. But with the cut throat competition and everyone vying for your ear to give you that “silver bullet” to fix your internet web site woes, where do you turn and who can you really trust to help you with such a critical quest? You want web site success, increased traffic, a top 10 ranking with the search engines, and you want it now, but how do you find the right information to help you fix your problems and help you realize your web site goals?

Differentiating between the gurus and the self appointed gurus – If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quack’s like a duck, then it’s probably a duck, err guru.

In many ways, the internet is still a sort of “wild wild west” of our present day era. Although some things are becoming regulated and standards are emerging, there are still many things left to fall through the cracks. Anyone with some extra cash to throw around in marketing ads can put up shop on the internet and call himself or herself a guru. Many of these “good Samaritans” will part you from some of your hard earned cash and offer you a “silver bullet” to solve your internet marketing woes. The problem stems from those that are self-proclaimed, and just starting out, who lead the masses to believe they have the answers to almost any web site dilemma. With time being a precious commodity, many people buy into these self-proclaimed guru’s advice then wonder why their internet marketing woes still go unsolved. Very few people I have met online take any real time to research these “gurus” to find out if they are credible.

The problem I have always had with these types comes from the “secrets” they speak of selling you. Many tout that they have made armored carloads of cash and now they want to give something back to the world in exchange for the successes they have enjoyed, but the nature of people and business would dictate otherwise. Most business tends to guard such trade secrets to ensure their competition always stays three steps behind them. Why would they give these secrets away? Maybe it’s just a case of outdated information that no longer works, so there would be no need to safeguard such secrets. If those secrets work so well, then why is it they must sell them to us. Why not keep those secrets to themselves and continue reaping the rewards of high profits and sales? If they want to give back to the world, then why not GIVE us the secrets instead of selling them? There’s just too much that doesn’t add up whenever I think of this topic. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I just can’t see why someone would want to give away or sell the secrets that have made them money unless the secrets no longer work.

I will admit if someone in a very different field than the guru is using the information, then there is no competition, and there is no fear that the information gatherer can use the information to compete. In that case, there is nothing for the guru to loose and much more for them to gain through their sales. Say for instance, a guru imparting wisdom on marketing techniques. Unless the information seeker is running a marketing business, there would be no competition, and the guru would be loosing nothing. But, if the information seeker were running a marketing company, then the gurus would be opening themselves up to possible competition.

Another danger to the guru side of things comes when a couple people get together with large email lists and join forces. I’ve seen this one done before. They all cross-market each other to their lists and come off looking like experts in their field. Each individual builds credibility for the others and they look like the next big thing. The good ones catch email readers up in their hype clouding the facts in obscurity and making bundles of cash in the process. They prey on the naivety of the new web site designers and marketers, and wind up giving so little in return. I find that most of these types operate by getting you on all their friends’ lists, and then they bombard you daily with marketing email pitching their programs. They entice you by telling you they are running a newsletter on marketing tips and tricks, but do the old bait and switch by sending you email with links to their affiliate programs instead of the marketing tips and tricks you thought you were signing up for. It’s the grand daddy of marketing tricks. Promise them what they want and then try to sell them something to get it while making them think they were getting it free.

My point is simple. Take some time before you just buy into someone’s information and check to see if they are truly reliable. If more people did this online, there would be less people being ripped off by the hucksters peddling their garbage. The first stop would be the Better Business Bureau. Check and see if they have any complaints on file and see how successful they have been in resolving them. A good and credible company will always bend over backwards to keep customers happy because they realize their value. The not so good and credible will play the numbers game and not care about complaint resolution. They take the money over the customer satisfaction every time. If it’s a guru touting search engine placement then do searches in the local search engines on their keywords to see if they rank well. Go to customer sites and look at the keyword tags, then do searches on the keywords and check them out. If they rank highly, then chances are they are credible gurus; if not, then you might want to take your business elsewhere. Just because you see their name frequently around the net, it doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about.

SEO practices and promises – Can they really deliver what they promise?

My next favorite is the SEO’s out there that will promise you top 10 rankings in the major search engines. These guys kill me. I am sure there are some that can do that, but I question the methods they use to accomplish it. I’ve been doing SEO work for years now and have found that such top 10 placements are very difficult to accomplish especially in highly competitive search terms. Some will use ad words and PPC campaigns to accomplish this. That will cost you additional cash, usually above their service fees, and on an ongoing basis. Many of them leave that out of their marketing material though. Some will pay other websites to link to you as a means to accomplish the goal. I caution you that NONE of this is the way that search engines intended things, and as such, goes against most search engines rules. Links have become a commodity to be bought and sold.

How can you promise, to everyone essentially because you run it in your add and anyone can see it, that you can get them top 10 rankings? Take for instance the term web site design. The competition for that set of keywords is so staggering that to get a top 10 ranking for it is next to impossible. Even if you do get one, the chances of tweaking your page to get it and then keeping that rank without ongoing maintenance is virtually impossible. SEO’s don’t put out there, up front, that ranking takes time, and there is no way to really guarantee a top 10 placement especially with highly competitive search terms, and especially if you are new to the market. They might give you that information before they sign a contract with you, but they tend to leave it out of their marketing materials. You also have to ask yourself what happens if they have eleven or fifteen other customers in your market. Who wins in that situation? I can guarantee you that big SEO companies do have that many customers in the same market.

My preferences are the ones that put all the information right out front and tell you the facts. You need to pick someone that can provide you with real life examples and isn’t afraid to tell you how they accomplish their objectives. Once you have those real life examples, go to your favorite search engines and do a search on the keywords provided. If the sites rank in the top page or two, the keywords are competitive, and the company has ranked more poorly in the past, then you have probably found yourself a competent and reliable SEO company. I like SEO’s like this because they have nothing to hide, so that shows me they use ethical and accepted market practices to help their clients rank better. I especially like the ones that tell you they can help improve your rankings, but do not guarantee you top 10 placements. In my opinion, these are the realists of the SEO market. These are the ones that have been around long enough to know what works and what doesn’t, will do the best to help improve your ranking, but aren’t going to make promises they can’t deliver on. These types will always hold a credible place within my mind. Any SEO company reluctant to tell you how they are going to gain you the rankings or who won’t provide you real life examples probably has something to hide. Even worse, they probably use black hat SEO strategies that could get your web site banned from search engines. Stay away from them and find someone who will be honest with you.

Link exchanges and other urban legends – Finding things that will actually work.

My next favorite urban legend is link exchanges, just as bad as the others I’ve written about in this article, and just as confusing in the amount of information to be found about them on the internet. In fact, most the topics in this article have to do with increasing web site popularity and traffic, but finding the reliable information to do it. And this topic is no different from the others. The biggest problem with this topic is the potential for abuse, and the lack of targeted traffic you will get out of it. What sense does it make to increase your web site traffic if the traffic is not targeted, won’t click on your links, and is therefore generally useless? Why would I say such a thing? I say it because of an article I recently read from Exact Seek’s AllBusinessNews newsletter.

I recently opened my email client to find an article entitled “Traffic Exchanges: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Ensuring Successful Campaigns”. In this article, the author suggests setting up 10 accounts and linking the ten accounts together. His example tells you to link #1 to #2, #2 to #3, #3 to #4, and so on until you get to ten. Then he suggests spending an hour a day clicking on your own 10 links for about a month. He figures that by the end of this time you should have about 500 page views across 10 exchanges for 5000 page views per day. Therefore, that’s 5000 page views a day from one webmaster just clicking links to elevate their own program. What happens when it’s 100 webmasters, or 500 webmasters or more, doing the same thing? I’ll tell you, lots of pop-overs or pop-unders doing absolutely nothing for your web site. None of those clicks are targeted, and none of them are going to help you to sell your products or services as affectively as spending your time on other targeted means of generating web site traffic. Worst of all, they are all clicks from webmasters who aren’t looking to buy anything, but instead trying to elevate their own traffic exchange program at the expense of all the other program members.

Yes, I admit this scheme will get you some traffic over time, but again, if this traffic is not targeted and looking to purchase your offers, then what good is it to you? The only thing it will get you is some higher rankings in Alexa or some of the other traffic reporting sites, a hosting company that could start charging you more for your hosting, and a whole lot of useless traffic that isn’t going to buy a thing you are promoting on your site. Your time would be better spent developing your web site content or working with a reputable SEO company to increase your site ranking, or finding other web sites and webmasters with comparable non-competing content to link to your site. On the other hand, maybe you could spend the time writing some articles for submission just as I do and get some valuable one-way links to your site. Almost anything else is going to be better than using such link exchanges, especially if it is time in reading reliable articles to educate yourself to get the most out of your web site design or promotion time.

Other things that go bump on the internet – How to avoid nightmares after parting with your hard earned cash.

It’s amazing the amount of information to be found on web site design, marketing, and affiliate programs. It’s all rather scary when you look at it. Everyone wants your attention so they can pitch their “silver bullet” to cure your web site woes. There are so many people and companies out there making so many promises that it’s really quite difficult to separate the fact from the chaff and hype. They all want you to think that their solution is the end all to your problems, and although any one of them in particular might actually have that solution, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between the honest businesses and the quacks. If it sounds too good to be true, then remember, it probably is too good to be true. About the only thing guaranteed to solve your problems is either self-education that allows you to understand and fix your own problems or never ending deep pockets full of cash to pay the “experts” to fix the problems for you. The problem becomes finding the reputable “experts” that can truly help you, or do the work for you, to fix the problems that ail you.

Take the time to do the research. Don’t be fooled by the hype, learn to look PAST it. Don’t get caught up in the emotion, which is what the web site designers and marketers WANT you to do. If they can get you caught up in emotion, they can convince you to throw caution to the wind and buy their products or services without much thought. Take the time to do the research on them. It could mean the difference between finding the solutions you seek and loosing money to a quack.

About the Author
James R. Sanders is the owner of Sanders Consultation Group Plus. He has been a webmaster and web site designer since 1997, and involved in self-employment ventures since 1992. He is presently a contributing author of NewbieHangout, and has been published through WebProNews. You can email him at webmaster@sanders-consultation-group-plus.com.