"Your online sales are poor because..."
Does that sound familiar? I get one of those messages every week or so now, and they go straight into my junk mail folder, mostly I think because I don't appreciate the tone, but partly of course because, how the hell do they know what to do? Show me a company that buys addresses from e-mail harvesters and I'll show you a kid in his bedroom desperate for work.
The SEO myth
As soon as you find out how to completely master the Web, let us know won't you? The fact is, no-one's really an expert. Many people will try and tell you that they have the secret to getting listed in major search engines for example, but what most of these "companies" succeed in doing is getting you banned, because one of the methods they use is something called "link farming".
"On the World Wide Web, a link farm is a large group of web pages created that contain hyperlinks to one another or a specific other page. Link farms are normally created by programs, rather than by human beings."
Search Engines are very sensitive creatures, and very easy to upset. The fact is - and I don't think many people think about this - search engines are not developed for webmasters. They function to allow people to find websites, and not as a marketing tool, so you can often land yourself in very hot water if you treat them in this way.
So how do you do that search engine voodoo?
It's been said a fair bit, but I think it's true: the best way to get good search engine listings is with good, plentiful and interesting content. You need people to link to your stuff, because one of the ways to improve your position within Google is to increase your PageRank. So if your content is good, people will want to read it, link to it and so on. Plus it means that you'll get more return visitors - people want to know what you've got to say, if what you've said before was interesting.
Another way is to swap links with a few sites, and I can't emphasize few enough. At msomedia.com we have a short page of links which we've chosen ourselves, to help improve our PageRank. Many of them involve swapping links or services. For instance, planetnumbers.com gave us a free 0870 number in exchange for a graphical link somewhere on our site, and we've got ourselves listed in a few free directories using the same method. If you don't know how to achieve this, have a word with your web designer..
Search engine ranking is a lot like money: nearly impossible to make from scratch, incredibly easy to lose, and there's no quick scheme to get hold of it that won't land you in trouble.