Let me start off by saying that I am strictly white hat SEO practitioner. That means that I adhere to the SEO guidelines established by the search engines. Even though it might take me longer to see results I know the progress I make for both my SEO clients and my own SEO is legitimate and long term—black hat SEO tends to favor quick yet short-lived success. With Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, black hat and grey hat SEO is getting harder and harder to practice without getting caught. I know that some sites get away with it, but to me the risks aren’t worth it. All that time you spend trying to trick the search engines and stay one step ahead, why not just do it right from the start?
However, when it comes to small business SEO I’d almost rather have a site owner invest in black hat SEO that is going to produce some kind of results in the short term then give their limited budget to an SEO firm that is just going to rip them off. In some cases, bad service is worse than black hat SEO.
There comes a point in a small business’s life cycle that the owner realizes they need to invest in the SEO, but they may not yet have the budget to pay a full service white hat SEO provider. They have a couple options at this point. 1-They can take matters into their own hands, learn the basics of SEO for themselves and go it alone until they can afford outside help. 2-They can hire a white hat SEO firm to optimize the website and create a link building strategy that the site owner executes on their own. 3-They can hire a cheap full service SEO package and hope for the best. In my opinion, option 3 should never be considered a real option. A small business owner’s best bet is a combination of 1 and 2; learn the basics of SEO, then hire a white hat SEO to take on a more consulting type role to show you the way.
Why am I so against bad service? One bad experience with an SEO firm can sour a website owner for life, making it that much harder for any legitimate SEO firm to build a strong and trusting relationship. SEO firms that don’t take service seriously often take a client’s money and disappear. They don’t send reports or strategies, schedule meetings or set hard and fast deadlines—the client is left hanging and hoping their money is actually buying them a service. Six months later the site owners don’t see any progress being made, so they assume SEO is a waste of time and money. At least a black hat SEO company that admits its black hat is going to do some kind of work for their clients! As a white hat SEO practitioner, I can do my best to undo any black hat tactics that might be hindering a website’s progress, but it’s hard for a burned site owner to get over bad service and trust that I am their partner in this.
If you’re a small business owner that doesn’t have the budget to hire a white hat SEO company, don’t start looking for full service solutions that you can afford. Chances are it’s going to come back to haunt you in one way of the other. You’re much better off finding a company that can do ½ (or even ¼) of the work you need done, while simultaneously teaching you how to manage the rest. As the SEO starts to work and drives more targeted traffic to your site (hopefully with an increase in conversions and sales) your SEO budget might get a little bigger and you’ll be able to afford to pay your SEO provider to shoulder more of the responsibility.
About the Author – Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO firm Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com). With nearly 13 years of SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge about white hat link building and social SEO by writing for the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 op-tin subscribers.