I recently found that a contractor that I must have spoken to on the phone had written in a roofing forum that we believe that search engine optimization is a scam. While I see where they may have gotten that idea, it's not exactly what I meant.
Yes, there are reputable companies out there whose focus is SEO, and I'm certain that people have had good experiences with them. But there are also companies who will promise the moon and not deliver anything. Remember this: There is absolutely nothing that can (or should) take the place of good content within your website. This means that you should be constantly updating your website with good, informative content that your customers can use. Search engines will sit up and take notice.
What was the Penguin Update?
Google survives and thrives by delivering the most relevant and current content to your potential customers. Over the years, SEO experts developed methodology that allowed them to get sites ranking based several factors that were never really intended to rank your site higher. This meant that while they were getting you good rankings, it wasn't necessarily because they earned the position. They simply found a way to circumvent the system and it worked.
When Google saw the rampant overuse of these practices to gain rankings, they realized that this was not delivering the best results to the end user. So they adjusted their algorithm to check for this behavior and many, many small businesses suffered. Not only the SEO companies, but more importantly the companies who had been paying them handsomely to get those rankings in the first place.
So What Happened?
When the Penguin update algorithm went into effect, many small businesses lost their rankings overnight. Imagine that you had been paying an SEO company who had been delivering great results. So good in fact, you dropped your Yellow Page ad. Obviously since you were getting great results from the internet, dropping the Yellow Pages freed up more money to put into your site or your pocket. But what happens when the search engines correct for the abuse? You lose ranking instantly and the phone stops ringing. It happened to tens of thousands of businesses, and unfortunately the owners of those small businesses had no idea that their rankings were inflated by bad practices.
So What Can A Roofer Do?
Just like any industry on the planet, there are good businesses and bad. You will need to weed out the bad to find the good. Talk to other business owners around you to see who they trust. And don't just go with a recommendation because they are someone's friend or brother-in-law. If they are stuck in the old way of doing things, they can do more harm than good. Remember that if the person recommending an SEO company is actually using them and getting good results, there is a better chance that you will also.
Beware the Cheap Sell:
SEO is a time-consuming endeavor. I see ads all the time on the internet (and receive tons of spam emails) from people who promise to get me to the top of the rankings for under $100. This is most likely a scam. They will take your money and assume that since you have spent so little that you won't ask for it back. They are simply playing the percentages, doing very little (if anything) to help you, then moving on to the next person. But make no mistake, those dollars add up over thousands of customers, making it worthwhile for them to do so.
I hate to think that I may have given a customer the impression that all SEO companies are scammers. It simply isn't true. But I do get calls every week from someone who has recently fired their SEO guy and are looking for recommendations. Personally I won't recommend anyone simply because a bad recommendation would reflect poorly on Roofwebs. I know there are good ones out there, and you should be aware that there are also bad one. Do your homework and be sure before you lay out any amount of cash.