The Dirty Secrets of SEO Companies Revealed (Podcast)

If there’s anything we’ve seen in the year 2019, it’s more of the same from sleazy HVAC SEO companies. We hear all sorts of stories and tales from contractors across the US, but a handful of common tactics seem to pop up pretty consistently. So first, tune in as Jason and Nolen of HVAC Webmasters discuss digital marketing red flags to avoid in 2020. Then, be sure to listen in if you’re looking to expand your HVAC business next year.

Valuable Tips to Look Out For:

  • $300 a month can’t support sustained work on a website.
  • Stick with month-to-month pricing! Long-term, flat fee contracts often backfire if your digital marketer isn’t motivated to perform.
  • SEO for HVAC should produce results within two to three months.

Tricks from SEO Companies

It’s a sad truth of our industry. The handful of well-intentioned, productive services often fall beneath the waves of sophisticated money grabbers. Experienced sales pros learn to sway businesses with high-reaching claims and confusing jargon. So many people get burned every year by shady SEO companies that many HVAC contractors swear off online marketing altogether.

We don’t want that to happen for your business! After all, online marketing provides many valuable opportunities to connect with lifelong customers.

So let’s ensure that the sad tale of all these hardworking professionals is not your story in 2020. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common tricks used by SEO companies to trick contractors. Learn these trends, then use the knowledge to weed out candidates for your HVAC marketing team.

Trick #1: The $300 Pricetag

Somewhere in the last decade, the $300 online marketing price tag rose into popularity. It because so commonplace that our team receives questions about it all the time. “These other HVAC SEO companies offer a $300 monthly package. Why don’t the Webmasters do the same?”

$300 (or less) pricing doesn’t fund your SEO needs.

For such a small sum, digital marketers can’t afford to provide a comprehensive or sustained effort towards your website, let alone PPC campaigns and citations. Results continue to shrink as that price edges towards the $99 threshold. How many experienced web designers do you think can produce a front-page ranking site for less than $100? Zero.

SEO Statistics

Why the Low Price?

“That doesn’t make sense.” you might say. After all, why would a business advertise its services at such a low price if it can’t produce results at that rate? But, first, it’s easy for a company to buy a cheap (or even free) WordPress template and lightly customize it for a client. Second, they only have to accomplish enough work to convince the client that results are on the way.

$300 packages may coax a business into purchasing other services. However, the low price point covers a single “specialized” marketing service. Listen for fancy buzzwords that sound convincing but don’t provide results.

Red Flag Phrases from Cheap SEO Companies:

  • “For only $300/month, I can provide website development, social media, citations, PPC, reviews, blogging…”
  • “We utilize a brand new marketing technique called…”
  • “It takes a full year to produce results in SEO. We’ll get there!”
  • “I have a (cousin, nephew, etc.) who’s good at website design!”

Before moving on, here’s a challenge. Try to find an HVAC contractor paying $300 or less for SEO service who’s happy with their results. How many can you find that have stayed with their cheap SEO companies for more than a year? While a handful of low-dollar solutions provide additional functionality for already successful HVAC websites, few offer the expertise necessary to get a new online marketing program off the ground.

An SEO Company's Monthly Performance
How Many SEO Companies Show Exactly How They’re Doing in Organic Search?

Trick #2: The 12 Month Contract

Ask our company founder Nolen what he thinks about 12-month marketing contracts, and you’ll quickly see how strongly he advises against them! That’s because long-term service contracts that lock in a business without a guarantee of results lack accountability. With no responsibility, disaster isn’t far behind.

Year-long contracts are a favorite of larger SEO companies, especially those with an established sales force. The promise of a lower average monthly cost (or a simple lack of monthly pricing) draws in many HVAC contractors. After all, established digital marketing agencies must be trustworthy. Right? Sadly, dishonest tactics seem to be the norm even among giants.

Red Flag Phrases to Watch Out For:

  • “Sorry, but SEO does take six months or longer to produce results.”
  • “I’ll try to connect you with the website development team, but they may be too busy to answer right now.”
  • “We’ll earn you page one rank for five keywords you choose!”
  • “That’s going to include a website change fee. Is that okay?”
  • “This design change may seem small, but it’s very hard.”
  • “We don’t use clicks for our measurements. We use impressions.

Long-term contracts allow SEO companies to slow their efforts and conserve budget spend. When leads start to diminish and clients complain, they can claim that SEO takes time or create a brief surge of growth with PPC campaigns. These companies also try to discourage client requests and changes by claiming updates are too hard or expensive to achieve. As long as customers continue to trickle in, most HVAC contractors continue to pay for lackluster results.

Results of Paid and Organic Campaigns
Marketing Firms Often Earn More Money With PPC Campaigns Than SEO.

Trick #3: The Bundle Shuffle

The bundle trick is one of the worst offenders in digital marketing because it preys on the fears of HVAC contractors. SEO companies often approach businesses with a PPC/SEO bundle offer. Bundles seem like a more convenient solution to most professionals, so they buy into the package deal. The bundle often comes with third-party reporting to provide an air of accountability. But this arrangement rarely involves anything of the sort, especially with mandatory long-term contracts.

Here’s what typically happens. 

First, results start to trickle in from the PPC campaigns. Paid search typically offers fast results, so the leads are relatively simple to acquire. However, SEO companies tend to mark up the cost per click (CPC) of keywords. That markup gets hidden in the reports, but some research in Google Ads can reveal the actual CPC.

Over time, it usually becomes clear that the marketing agency isn’t showing results in organic search. While some quasi-SEO companies provide a measure of website development (mostly simple templates) and citation work with their bundle, many intentionally work as little as possible towards organic search. There’s an excellent reason for that.

Most PPC firms don’t want your website to succeed organically.

If an HVAC company website takes off and starts earning cheaper (but high quality) leads, that company will naturally lower its ad spend. Those advertisements are how many digital marketers make their money. PPC campaigns also represent a reasonably low-time investment. Those CPC markups start to disappear when PPC fades away, so why would a digital marketing PPC-focused company try to cut down on their revenue?

A Quality Website SEO Companies Might Produce
Real SEO Companies Make it Easier to Earn Cheap Leads for Your Business!

Even when these companies continue to provide poor results, many HVAC contractors stick with their existing firm because they’re scared to quit PPC. Countless PPC and SEO companies can run these ads, but few can manage an effective organic strategy. So don’t be afraid to shop around for a better marketing team.

Avoiding the Bundle Shuffle

With bundle pricing, your digital marketing company can make it look like they’re spending money (and time) to progress your organic SEO when they haven’t. For example, in a recent chat with a home contractor, Nolen found a PPC-oriented firm that hadn’t even completed their client’s Google My Business profile. That’s a primary, mandatory task for ranking in local search, and they hadn’t even touched the listing!

You can dodge the “Bundle Shuffle” in two easy steps. First, make sure your PPC campaigns are always priced separately from your organic efforts. Next, make sure your credit card for the PPC campaigns is set up directly through Google Ads, not your marketing company! While they can charge you a managing fee, this prevents your digital marketer from marking up the cost per click.

Avoid These Bundle Red Flags

  • “We provide PPC reporting through a third-party report, not Google.”
  • “You shouldn’t spend very much on SEO. PPC offers a better return.”
  • “We’re working on your website, but these things take time.”
  • “If you search your company name, it comes up in paid search.”

By the way, this last red flag is a familiar trick PPC companies use to show proof of activity. Company names are very cheap to buy in PPC. Who else would be competing for your company name?

Worried About Your Company?

If you think your marketing firm may be trying to trick you, we’d love to help. There are a handful of honest, productive SEO companies in the industry. For example, our highly rated team at HVAC Webmasters supports hundreds of businesses across the United States, earning them front-page rankings, better traffic, and higher quality leads.