If you have a Twitter account, you by now know what a “social media expert” is. They profess endless knowledge of the search engines while sporting a minimal client base and a dubious background. I’m often asked about social media, having a bit of background in this field, so here are some hard facts about it and myths that need to be dispelled.

1. Nobody Can Guarantee Results in the Top 20

The search engine results pages are like waves on the ocean. Any effort at search engine optimization will raise your results, but nobody can guarantee top 20 results without using dubious methods, such as spammy directory listings and reciprocal link programs where your site is being linked to 500 others without your knowledge.

The only thing that an SEO company should be guaranteeing is that they will be spending a certain amount of time on your account for a certain amount of money; it is this time, and not simply entry into their spam database, that will yield solid and lasting results.

2. Black Hat Methods Are Short Term

Black Hat refers to methods such as the ones used above. Some businesses will actively seek out black hat SEO companies in order to get good results, as they want them at any cost. In the end, that “any cost” may be too high. Sure, if you are just selling a flash-in-the-pan ebook or are marketing for a event that takes place on a certain date, Black Hat SEO may actually be your friend. For the average business that wants to rank more highly on a consistent basis, you should not be actively seeking this kind of firm out.

3. White Hats May Actually Be Black Hats with a Mask

Some white hatters do legitimately use methods that may be considered “grey”. Realistically, there is nothing wrong with that unless you are sitting firmly on a very high horse. However, there are some companies out there who market that they exclusively use “white hat” SEO methods when they are actually anything but when you check out their business.

To see if there is some shadiness going on, check out their client sites, and if they won’t let you see their client sites, that is a red flag right there. Check for any links to website directories; a common method used to gain rankings is to turn all of your client sites into a giant link farm that may help client rankings, but will bleed valuable Google Page Rank away from your site because you are linking to an untrustworthy internet ghetto rather than a lovely, trustworthy neighbourhood.

Check also for consistent keyword-stuffed copy on site pages. This was a common early 00′s method to raise website rankings, and many SEO companies still use this outdated and much frowned-upon method. If your words are not human readable, your site is not trustworthy, and people will not buy from you.

4. Real Social Media Experts Offer to Train You

Social media is not a mysterious beast that only a chosen few can master. If you can surf the internet, you can use social media. A real social media expert won’t set themselves up as being a master of an occult art; rather they will be approachable and offer to educate you on how to do it yourself, sometimes for a fee, sometimes as a part of the project that they are working on for you. Granted, not everyone is tech-savvy, but they will at least try to put the tools in your hands that you need to succeed with social media.

In the end, good use of social media such as Reddit, Stumble Upon, Twitter and the rest in conjunction with well-written content will win over both customers and search engines. There are back-end code issues that may be affecting your search engine optimization efforts, and any good web design firm will be able to sort those out for you. If you want me to recommend any, just drop me a line.

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