Friday, February 12 , 2016, 2:05 pm | Fair 74º

Paul Burri: What SEO Companies Won’t Tell You

By Paul Burri, Noozhawk Columnist | @BronxPaul |

There is this thing they call SEO, or search engine optimization for short. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. If you have a business website, I’m sure you have.

I first became aware of it around 1999 when I was busy growing my Goleta branding equipment company. We had a modest website then, and we were doing fine as far as sales were concerned because our field was fairly limited and there weren’t many branding iron competitors. We were always on the first page of a Google search for “branding irons.”

That’s where the idea of search engine optimization comes in. Wikipedia defines SEO as, “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or unpaid search results.”

Then it goes on to say, “In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list,

the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users

” (emphasis mine). Of course, you want to be on the first or second page of any web search because, human nature being what it is, people won’t go much further than about two pages if they are looking for your product. And if they don’t see you, they don’t buy from you.

Since the average search page shows about 10 entries, being on page one or page two means that there will be 19 other competitors trying to attract the searcher’s attention. Attracting attention is what gets you sales.

So, how do you get to be on page one or two? Ah! That’s the trick. But not to worry, there are search engine optimization companies out there (about 27.2 million of them by my last Google search) that will “guarantee” to get you on page one — for a modest fee, of course.

But here’s the question that I have never been able to have answered by any SEO company. Assuming that you have even a fairly narrow product line — say, pencil sharpeners, for example (which produced 2,070,000 “hits” on my last Google search) — how can all 27.2 million of them manage to get me, and all of my competitors, on those first two priceless pages?

To put it another way, I have 2.07 million competitors, and each of us wants to be one of the top 20 of a Google search, and there are 27.2 million SEO companies telling each of us that they can do that. When I do the numbers, I can’t help wondering about spending my money with a search engine optimization company.

Of course, if you are selling salami (23 million hits) or soap (258 million hits), it gets to be a little more of a problem and the question (to an SEO company) gets a lot harder.

In my next column, I will give you some ideas for doing your own optimization and how I used our website to reach our customers.

P.S. Believe it or not, there are SEO companies that are on page 76(!) of a Google search. These are the companies “guaranteeing” to get you on page one.

P.P.S. I welcome comments from SEO companies.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer, guerrilla marketer and iconoclast. He is available to local organizations for speaking engagements and to local businesses for business consulting and/or mentoring. The opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @BronxPaul, or click here to read previous columns.

» on 02.18.13 @ 09:14 AM

Respectable SEO companies don’t guarantee first page placement for keywords like “pencil sharpeners”—as you so sensibly point out, you and all your competitors can’t be on the first page. What’s more, different searchers now see different results, so “#1 on Google” doesn’t mean what it used to.

An SEO company can help you determine realistic goals, choose keywords that you can rank well for and which will bring the right traffic to your website, and do the time consuming work that gets you there while you take care of business.

And I think it’s fair to say that respectable SEO companies will tell you that. I enjoyed your article, though!

» on 02.18.13 @ 12:36 PM

Thanks for the post Paul.

First Click ( has been providing SEO and SEM services for about 6 years now.  We serve many clients dependent on strong online traffic and quality conversions.  In fact, our client Noozhawk - has seen their monthly traffic double in just over a year. 

The reality is that SEO is becoming much more of a strategic component of a comprehensive online marketing plan.  If you go around guaranteeing 1st page results, you are already demonstrating your ineptness at the true value and function of online marketing. 

We have a very cooperative approach to our business, so if you Paul, or any other SEO firm would ever like some counsel or assistance, we always keep the door open.

Best Regards,

Jacques Habra
GM - FirstClick

» on 02.18.13 @ 09:38 PM

2.07 million results for one keyword search does not mean there are 2.07 million competitors selling that keyword.  Nor are there 27.2 million SEO companies.  Stay off the Internet until you understand how to use it.

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