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Beware of “SEO Companies” & Where to start with a small budget.

Andrew: Hi guys, Andrew here. I just shot 45 great minutes of video for you, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, I only captured the first eight. So, I got my beer, and I’m gonna shoot it all over again. So let’s do this. Welcome back. It’s been a couple of months here. All of you guys are, at the very start of your season, and just gotten a ton of new business, especially if you’re one of my client, and we are super busy [inaudible 00:00:48] with you guys. We’ve probably double our client base here in the past six months. We’ve added on some next text developers and SER specialists, and we’re off to a great start of a year. Hope you all are as well.

So what I wanted to do today was answer a couple of questions that we got in, over the past month or so. I was planning on going through another face time call with Jonathan from service autopilot, but I guess we’re both swamped, so rather delay a little bit longer, I felt I should go ahead and do another video. All right, let’s get started. So, the question I got in today, or last week, was from Andrew. His question was: I have a small lawn care company out of blank. I’m actually customer service autopilot. Kudos. An SEO company contacted me today, and I was on the phone with them for about 30 minutes. The customer service sales rep I spoke with was courteous and informed. They were offering my company the top three spots on the front of Bing and Google. Good spots. Their rates were starting at $850 a month, and they said that they can keep it there at that price point. Being a smaller lawn care company with around 100 clients, and not having an extensive budget for online marketing, this pitch and price sounded pretty good to me. Is this worthwhile money being spent, or am I being taken for a whirl here? I just need some guidance to help with this online marketing thing, as it is a completely different animal than what I’m accustomed to in advertisement. Andrew, please advise me in what’s the best beneficial route I can take?”

And Andrew goes on to mention the name of the company, and I’m very familiar with them. Basically, the company that he mentions is essentially a giant telemarketing firm. They have a very small technical team, and them selling SEO services is what unfortunately gives agency like mine a bad name. They’re really sort of playing off the fact that SEO is a buzz word like the cloud, or social network, or any of these different things. People know that they need to do something with it, they should be involved somehow, but they don’t know exactly how. And companies like this really take advantage of that. So this SEO company, basically what they’re doing is they’re reselling Google ad words at an extreme, oftentimes, and extreme markup. And that’s not SEO. Let me explain the difference.

Searching and Optimization is all about making changes to your content, or your code, or both, on your website or on your listing that helps boost them in their rankings, that helps you get a favorable position in Google or Bing. And they do offer you a free website template, so if you want to use one of their websites, they’ve got a few free templates. So their version of SEO is probably putting in a couple of terms like “lawn care” or “plumber” or whatever your particular service is, they’ll put those on the page for you. That’s what their version of SEO is. So for them to guarantee you the three top positions on Google and Bing is, well frankly anybody can do that. If you pay enough for your Google ad words, which is what they’re reselling at a high markup, you could have the top position. This is something you can do yourself, if you want to. But unfortunately they misuse the term SEO, and it’s what gives agencies like mine a bad name. Oftentimes when I get new leads, new prospects calling that trying to decide whether or not to use our services, they have a bad taste in their mouth from using other guys like this, unfortunately. So they’re selling a mark-up of Google ad words. Anybody can go and set up a PBC campaign, pay-per-click on Bing, Google, Facebook, wherever you want to sell or publicize your business, you can do that yourself.

But what really pisses me off about this particular company, and I’m obviously not mentioning their name for reasons. I’m not gonna bad mouth them, but I am familiar with them. They’re not honest in what they’re selling, first of all. And what they do sell, what they are selling, they do really poorly. To resell Google ad words, that’s fine. We do pay-per-click, we do ad words management, and we pretty much charge the standard industry management fee of around 15%. That’s pretty standard across the industry. And that 15% is basically, if you’re spending $500 with Google ad words, if you’re spending $1000 with Google ad words, we take a 15% commission from that. Which is pretty standard rate, some companies charge 25, and then again there’s other companies, shady companies that charge people who don’t really know what they’re buying, they’ll charge them 50% markup on ad words. And all that they’re doing is dumping some key phrases and some generic ads that they’ve already written, that have nothing to do with your customers or where you do business, and they’re flipping a switch and letting it run.

They don’t do any split testing. They don’t create any custom landing pages. They don’t create any messages that have high click through value. So you’re really not getting your money’s worth basically, Andrew. You need to watch out for companies like this, and frankly it pisses me off when companies do this. Because they really are preying on the sort of lack of knowledge that your average person, everybody has when it comes to this stuff. I mean what we do is very technical, but the policy that I have and obviously the reason why I do this blog is because I want to be completely upfront about what it is that I do, what my company does. I generally want to help and teach other people and small businesses on how it can actually take advantage of the internet and get new leads, get new clients.

Obviously, not everybody watching wants to become a client of ours, and that’s quite Okay. But the clients that we do have, oftentimes, they’re too busy running their business to manage stuff like this, and what we do is very time intensive, it’s very labor intensive. So if you have a small lawn care company, you might be able to mange it yourself. But at some point you’re gonna reach a size where you need a company that can really nail these things, and really handle your entire online marketing strategy and consistently get you the new leads, the new customers that you need every month. Especially now in March, when it’s super important to be getting those new customers that you can keep for the entire year. So it’s really important. So obviously not everybody watching is going to become a customer. That’s fine. But I want to educate you guys on the fact that they are a lot of wolves out there that are preying on your lack of knowledge about the business. So just keep that in mind.

I wanted to, here in just a couple of minutes, I’ll mention a couple of things you should ask these SEO companies that call you. But first, Andrew did ask: “What’s the best route to take, especially with a small lawn care business without a big budget? What can I do right now?” This is a great question. It’s something that I often get asked, so let’s cut right to it. So the first thing I do if I was just starting a lawn care business, or if this is my second year whatever, and I’m trying to grow this year, I would do local listings. That would be Google Places, that would be City Services, that would be a handful of other important sites, Yelp, different sites like that. But, you need to pay attention to a couple of different things. It’s more than just getting listed in three sites. The way that we do it, there’s about 50 to 65 sites that are different in every market in every city. The ones we use in Canada and cities in Canada, they vary from city to city, they’re local listing sites, and you need to place your information in there in a very specific way, in order for them to have value to your online marketing campaign, or in order for you to get leads in there.

So there is a bit of sort of optimization, if you want to call it that, optimization involved of your local listing, to really have benefit. And doing 50 of these sites, doing 65 of these sites take huges amount of time, and we have a full team that’s devoted, that does that for our clients. Everyday they sit there and do it day after day to very specific checklists that I’ve developed over the years and years of doing this. That gets them a rank and has the intended effect that we wanted to on the ranking of their website in their other properties. So the first thing I’d do would be local listings. After you do that, I would set up a really basic website. You can do one pretty cheaply through service autopilot, if you’re one of their client, if you’re using their software. And then there’s a bazillion places where you can get a decent website. Choose a really good domain. I’ve gone over this in some other videos as well. And the next step is I would do some search engine optimization of that site.

Obviously you want to pay attention to key phrases readership. I’ve gone over that in another video, as well. But make sure you choose the right key phrases. Then after that, I would focus on paper click advertising. And something, now that I bring up paper click advertising, I just like to mention again, is something that most people don’t understand is that, people don’t click on search results pages evenly. This is something that’s really important, that I think a lot of people don’t realize. You have a search results page. At the very top you have your Google ads at the very top, and then along the side you have your Google ads. Then below that you have organic listings, and you’ll have probably more local, and then you’ll have more organic again. And the number of people who clicks on the ads at the very top, and the number of people who click on the very first organic link, and the local links is hugely disproportionate number.

For instance, the average percentage of clicks on that very first top listing that you’re paying for, for $850 a month, if they’re top listing is probably only getting 1% to maybe 3% of the clicks on that entire page. It’s doing worse than the first organic listing. Which is probably getting around 36% of the clicks. These numbers fluctuate, obviously, but keep that in mind. Not all links are created equally, on that first page. So when you’re paying a huge fee to do a Google ad words reseller, you might not be getting your value’s worth. So you really need to pay attention to your return on investments, and just keep that in mind when you’re doing Google ad words.

That said, we do recommend Google ad word to our own clients. And when we do that, we do that as the third thing that we generally add to their account. We’ll do the local listings, we’ll do the organic optimization of their main website, and then after that, we’ll try to do some mini sites. Which are extensions of their main site, that are optimized for very specific cities and key phrases and services, that will get them multiple first page rankings on Google. Then after that, we will recommend generally, that they do some pay-per-click advertising. This is really a supplement to what you’re already doing, vut again, you want to pay really close attention on your ROI, your internal investments. You want to make sure you’re getting new customers from the $500 or $1000 or the $2500, that you’re spending a month on your ad words campaign. You gotta pay attention to that. And if you’re using some of these other guys, they’re not doing any split testing, which is extremely important. Split testing is testing multiple versions of your ad words headline, your body, your link text, every element of that ad you’re testing, with a different variation of it and determining which one is getting more clicks and then you’re going with that one. That’s what split testing is. And so they’re not doing that, and you’re generally not getting your value’s worth.

Part two… Coming soon…

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Andrew Pototschnik is the founder of Lawn Care Marketing Expert, the largest online marketing agency in North America specializing in marketing strategies for the lawn care and landscaping industries.

Google Partner
Facebook Marketing Partner
Service Autopilot
Official Consultant of PLANET Conference