One of our clients sent us the following email in November:

I received an expensive, fairly impressive, piece of marketing in the mail a few weeks ago [Figure 1]. When you open the lid, a video starts playing (although not the best video).

video mail
Figure 1: Photo of the marketing piece our client received in the mail

About a week or two after receiving it, the company called me to schedule a phone call with one of the owners. I accepted merely because I was impressed by the piece of mail and wondered why/how they could spend so much sending these out. I scheduled a call . . .

The call lasted about an hour, during which they presented a report about the website. They said our organic had some ‘on page technical indexing issues’ and they recommended using their Meta Data Technology, whatever the heck that is, which costs $2,000+ per month. They did offer a free Meta Data Assessment, again, no idea what this means.

I’d be happy to discuss this with you over the phone. I’m sure you understand this lingo more than me and maybe it will be useful, or maybe it’s a bunch of crap.

Preying on business owners’ fears

As soon as I received this email, and read the notes the client sent over, I jumped on the phone. What I found amazing is how much money this company spent to get a one hour phone call.

But, I was angry, too; not so much that another agency was pitching our client (which is fine; competition keeps us on our toes). It’s that the company was preying on a business owner’s fears that the website wasn’t up to snuff. The person on the phone used technical sounding jargon, which was used to scare our client versus inform him.

Worse, the company was offering an unneeded service, with a fancy-sounding name, for $2,000 to $2,500 a month!

Here’s what the company said was wrong with the website, and how this type of mis-information is easily debunked.

Meta data indexing issues

Most people, our client included, know the basics about “meta data,” the information found in the html source code: e.g. title tag, description tag, image alt tags, social media tags, no follow, etc.

One very important tag is the “No Index” tag. If this tag is configured incorrectly, it effectively stops search engines from indexing a website.

You don’t need a costly service to determine if Google sees errors with your website. All you need is Google’s Search Console – which is a free tool. Within it, you can access a report showing the pages Google has indexed (or excluded) and any issues with the pages (Figure 2).

search console
Figure 2: Search Console Index screenshot

For example, if Google detects an error with a page that prevents the bot from crawling it, you’ll see a “Crawl Issue” notice. You can then use the debugging tool to determine what is the issue and fix it.

Organic search terms

The marketing company told our client that the website wasn’t optimized for 437 search terms, that it had an “Index Base of 16 – 22%,” and that this “base” should be much higher given the number of pages on the website. (Even we aren’t sure what this means – again, technical jargon used to scare someone with limited knowledge.)

Google’s Keyword Search Tool shows that 99% of these 437 search terms were either not-applicable or secondary search queries that aren’t important to the client.

Tips for performing due diligence

If you receive pitches like this, we recommend the following actions:

  • Determine if the company is legitimate — A funky Gmail or Hotmail email address is one giveaway, as are typos in the email or an opening that reads, “Dear business owner.” Delete immediately and move on.
  • Don’t be swayed by scary sounding data — Many of the people pitching you notices about what’s “wrong” with your website use free tools from Moz or other providers. If you’re told your website isn’t optimized or that it has mobile issues, and you know otherwise, delete the email. For our client, it was the “meta data indexing issues” which grabbed him.
  • Always, always, always rely on your own data — No one pitching you an SEO program or other service has access to your Google Analytics or Search Console data. Before talking to any agency or company, review your own data first. If you review your analytics regularly, you’ll know right away if Google has an issue with your site.

Contributing Author: Rachel Cunliffe

Other pieces we’ve written on this topic:

What is meant by “ongoing SEO”?
Why we don’t like or use automated SEO reports