The Engenius Blog

Ideas & tips on business, marketing, and using the Internet effectively.

SEO Snake-Oil: How to Recognize and Avoid the Scams

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Working in web development and digital marketing, you deal with a lot of acronyms. As a graduate of Furman University, I’m no stranger to them. On campus we had an acronym for just about everything – we called the Dining Hall the DH, the Physical Activities Center the PAC, and the Furman University Police Officers FUPO. Bringing someone else on campus, I would use these terms without thinking about how much they might confuse someone unfamiliar with the school. And so it goes with web development, and one of the most confusing and elusive of all the acronyms – SEO.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of improving a website’s rankings on popular search engine sites like Google and Bing. Unlike Search Engine Marketing (SEM), where you pay for an ad to be displayed at the top of search results, SEO causes your website to appear organically when someone searches for a keyword related to your business.

Some business owners understand the necessity of SEO, realizing that a great website needs a way to drive traffic. Others don’t even know what SEO stands for, let alone understand the impact it has on the growth and success of businesses.

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SEM (Google Ads) vs SEO (organic search results)

Then there are the companies that perform SEO for other businesses. Some of these organizations follow best practices and bring tangible results, while others make empty promises and can actually make a website’s rank even worse. We’re here to help you tell the difference.

If you talk with an SEO company or consultant and they make any of the following claims or practice any of these techniques, they are trying to sell you what author Colleen Jones calls “SEO snake-oil”, and you should keep your distance.

The Unsolicited Email

We were actually inspired to write this blog post because of this tactic. Everyone hates spam email, especially when it manages to masquerade as legitimate offers and services. You may have already received emails from SEO consultants noting how poorly you rank on search engines and how they can solve all your problems with their great and unknowable power. We receive these emails, and we provide SEO services for our clients! Treat such correspondence as you would any other spam – no Nigerian prince is going to give you his riches, no diet pill is going to miraculously cause weight loss, and no legitimate web agency is going to bombard you with emails you didn’t ask for.

Guaranteed Rankings

No one can guarantee a specific ranking on search engines. If a company says “we will get you to the #1 spot on Google” or “we will get you on the first page of results”, stay away. It is impossible to deliver on such a promise. Google even says so. The only rankings that can be guaranteed are for long keyword phrases that you would get without paying.

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SEO can improve search rankings, but nothing is guaranteed

Some companies will take this a step further and guarantee a top rank within 48 hours. This is ludicrous for two reasons. First is the one we explained above, that no ranking can be guaranteed. The second is that it takes time to get results from search engine optimization. Normally months need to pass before you see any sort of change or trend in your rankings.

The Inside Man

Google needs to be wary – they have a mole in their organization. They must, considering how many SEO organizations claim to have a man on the inside. Whoever this mole is, he must be brilliant. He would need to understand the 200+ variables that control the Google algorithm and constantly review them since the algorithm is changed several times a week. How does he manage to maintain his day job without being caught by Google in the process?

The answer is that there is no inside man, and that there is no way to “crack” the Google algorithm. Shocking, I know. Sure, an SEO expert should understand certain aspects of the algorithm. But no one should claim to have a special relationship with Google or have some sort of understanding of the algorithm that is unavailable to everyone else.

Secret SEO Techniques

Remember those SEO wizards I mentioned earlier? The ones that use their great and mysterious power to get you to the top of search results. Well, they’re the same ones claiming to have secret techniques that they cannot and will not disclose. It’s reasonable if a business doesn’t want to share all of the tools they use or exactly how they practice SEO, but they should outline their strategy and give you clear deliverables. Otherwise, how do you know that they’re doing what you paid them for?

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Know where your money is going

These are just a few of the techniques used by untrustworthy SEO companies and consultants. Stay vigilant, for they may accost you at every turn. Hopefully, with this knowledge at your disposal, you’ll be able to tell the good from the bad. SEO is a legitimate practice that can help drive traffic to your website, ultimately increasing leads and conversions. When done right, it can be an incredible boon for your business. If you not only want more leads, but more qualified leads that actually have an interest in what your business does, SEO could be just what you’re looking for. But there are no shortcuts, no cheap tricks, and no easy answers. SEO takes hard work and time to be implemented properly.

If you want to start learning what you can do to improve your SEO, click the image below to check out our free eBook “25 Website ‘Must-Haves’”


25 Website 'Must-Haves'

How to Engage Your Community

UI Event

Getting your company actively engaged in your community brings a lot of great perks. It increases brand awareness, attaches your brand to a positive image, and it works toward ensuring your employees (and clients, if you have a local client base) have a great community to live, work, and thrive within.

Businesses are a vital piece of our community, too, and it’s difficult to be insulated and operate within a bubble. The education available through community engagement affects our future workforce. The cultural experiences available affect our employees’ quality of life – and the ability to recruit out of area employees. The overall economic picture affects your ability to grow your business among local clients. While the community is made-up of much more than just the business community, it is vital that we as businesses operate holistically and understand that we cannot work in a vacuum.

Engenius has been community-driven from day one, and there are five key areas we’ve focused on for community involvement:

1. Encourage employees to be on boards. Time for key company leaders and executives is limited – and there are fewer of them than employees as a whole. By encouraging and supporting board involvement for employees, you can spread a wider net and stay engaged with community needs, keeping an eye on the pulse of local happenings. Additionally, the connections gained and leadership experience developed from board service will aid your company far into the future.

board meeting

2. Participate in leadership initiatives. There are many great leadership programs in existence. Here in our backyard, Leadership Greenville is a premier program that I can attest is one of the best in the country for teaching budding community leaders the needs and inner-workings of our entire community ecosystem. The connections gained through this program are great – but even better is the wisdom and perspective your company gains through each participant’s experience.

3. Find creative ways to ‘give back’. Engenius is a leading web design and digital marketing firm. Early on we saw this as a huge need within the nonprofit community and started our annual grants program. We select one or two deserving nonprofits in our community to give top-notch websites, marketing consulting, and website support. Using our existing skills and bandwidth helped pave the way for us to give back, and further engaged our employees with the organizations and causes we care about.

4. Engage within your sector. Chances are strong you’re not the only company doing what you do in your community. You might do it in a unique way, but there are plenty of other companies with similar set-ups, operations, or even within your broader sector. Engage with them. Most sectors have industry-specific groups to network with your peers, learn something, and gain valuable connections for the future. If you don’t have this group for your sector, consider creating one – whether formal or informal.

5. Be a great place to work. When businesses think about supporting their community, they often overlook the fact that by just being a good company they are already giving back. Providing jobs and a tax-base is as valuable a contribution to our local ecosystem as anything else. Going a step further, make sure those jobs are good jobs that promote employee satisfaction, professional development, and an atmosphere that leaves them feeling fulfilled. Jobs are one thing; jobs that make a difference in people’s lives are truly a contribution to the community as a whole.

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We keep our team happy with plenty of caffeine and sugar

No matter how you do it, get your company engaged with your community. It doesn’t require you to be a huge firm with hundreds of employees. Even relatively small teams with a dozen or so employees can make a mark – and Engenius is evidence of that. It will lead to a stronger team, a closer connection with your local clients and vendors, and ensure the community you call home is stronger and more vibrant for years to come.

Engenius Grants – Giving Back to Local Nonprofits

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You know one of the things I love about Greenville? That on any given Saturday there is a 5K with hundreds of runners supporting a local nonprofit organization. That same Saturday you might see others all dolled up for a gala supporting another organization. Have you been driving around lately and noticed blue pinwheels everywhere? You guessed it – those are showing support for another nonprofit right here in Greenville.

But let’s back up, this wasn’t always something I loved about our city. Confession: before I began working at Engenius I was pretty unaware of the nonprofit organizations serving the Greenville community. When I joined Engenius, we were in the process of building the websites for our 2013 grant winners. During my first few months on the team I received a nonprofit 101 overview from our CEO (and local nonprofit Executive Director), and I was hooked.

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A grant winner’s site, Warehouse Theatre, before & after

Through my connections here at Engenius I have been able to plug in with an arts organization that I’m very passionate about. I’ve had the opportunity to sit on their board and serve as secretary. This has given me an up-close and personal look at the nonprofit world and the good it’s doing. I’m so grateful Engenius believes in our community and allows us, as employees, to take time out of our work schedules to pour back into the community that gives us so much.

Engenius Grants was the brainchild of our founders over 6 years ago, spurred by a great need in our community to meet nonprofits where they are and help strategically and professionally improve their digital marketing efforts.

Through the years we’ve helped 11 (going on 12) nonprofits through our grants program. I’ve been lucky enough to be around for the past 3 grant cycles. I’ve participated in the grant selection committee for 2 of those cycles, and over the course of my time here I’ve supported all 11 websites in one shape, form or fashion.

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I’ve worn many (let me emphasize – many) different hats while here at Engenius, but each of those hats has allowed me to get to know our clients from different perspectives. Now, almost 3 years later, I can’t imagine working for a company that doesn’t value community involvement in one way or another.

Year-after-year we hear from our grant winners that their donations and volunteer base increase through their new website.

Through Engenius Grants I’ve been able to dig deep into what these nonprofits do and how their missions help Greenville continue to thrive. I’ve learned what their values are, how they were formed, and how they’ve grown and changed. I love it.

The Warehouse Theatre, Blue Tent, Ronald McDonald House of the Carolinas, and Soteria are just a few of our grant winners that come to mind.

RMHC-Before&After

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas site, before & after

I encourage you to check out their websites (and all of our grant winners). Read about their mission and volunteer opportunities, and see how nonprofits you may not be familiar with are making a big difference in the Greenville community.

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