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Why You Should Never Pay For SEO (And What To Do Instead)

As an established handyman business owner, I’m constantly getting cold-called by services offering to “get me to the top of google search.”  They also say things like “we are only going to work with one handyman in your area” or “we are a partner of Google.”

They are selling SEO services.

Fortunately, I know how internet marketing works and I don’t fall for this valueless money-pit of a scam.

But, it’s obviously working on other people, otherwise there wouldn’t be hundreds of these companies popping up and continuing to call me and other small business owners.

I’m writing this article for two reasons.  One, to save you from making the mistake of paying for cheap, spammy, SEO services.  And secondly (and more selfishly), to reduce the effectiveness of these cold-calls so maybe my phone will stop ringing with them!

In this article, I’ll explain what SEO is in case you don’t know.  Then, I’ll discuss why you shouldn’t pay for it and what to do instead.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization.”  Sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple.  According to Wikipedia, “SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results.”

Let’s say you are a handyman trying to market your services and grow your business.  You would use SEO to try and get your website to show up in the search results when somebody in your city types in “Handyman in your city” or other related keywords.  Which, by the way, is a very effective method for growing your business.

For a more in depth explanation of SEO, check out the Wikipedia page.

Why You Should Never Pay For SEO

#1 – These Companies Aren’t Partnered With Google

These SEO companies will talk to you like they can guarantee that you will show up in Google (the largest and most valuable search engine).  I’ve had many say they are partners of Google.

But, this is total BS. Not only are they not working directly with Google, they can’t guarantee anything. They don’t know any more about how Google’s search algorithm works than anybody else and no, they do not have any influence over which businesses Google displays. They are using scare tactics and preying upon the small business owner’s ignorance to sell ineffective and overpriced services.

#2 – 95% of SEO is about creating quality content

When it comes to SEO, content is King. Google, and other search engines, are in the business of delivering the highest quality information to the searcher. That means that the content on your website is the single most important factor for showing up in the search results.

So, if you only have a one page website with very little content, it will never get traffic in a competitive area. If your content is crap it doesn’t matter how much you pay for SEO, it won’t help you.

With this in mind, you’d have a higher ROI if you paid for somebody to create high quality blog posts, videos, or other valuable content that’s worth reading or viewing.

#3 – SEO is Actually Pretty Simple

I understand that with terms like internal link structure, backlinks, and meta-tags, it can seem like you need a 4 year college degree to understand SEO.  This is not the case.

Sure, to learn everything about SEO would be a lifelong study.  But, just like anything else, the 80/20 rule applies with SEO and you don’t need to know everything to be effective.  You can learn the most important and effective components of SEO in a matter of an hour with a good teacher or resource.

#4 – Paid SEO Services Use Spammy Tactics

Trying to cheat the system is so common that there is actually a term for it – Black Hat SEO.  This refers to any tactic that is designed to game the system.

As with anything, there are always little loopholes that can be exploited and it’s no different with search engines.  Often times, that’s what these SEO companies are doing.  Things like link buying, hidden text, and a bunch of other things I don’t even know about.

Typically, these Black Hat tactics will work great in the short term, but they never work for long and often get your website penalized once the search engines become wise to them.  So in some cases, you could be paying to actually hurt your rankings in the long term.

#5 – Most of SEO is done when the content is created.

The majority of SEO you need to worry about as a service business is completed while setting up your website.  I’m talking about do it once and forget about it.  Once your online presence is set up, there is very little to do outside of creating more search friendly content targeting other keywords and engaging in social media.

Yet, despite the fact that this is a one time service, SEO companies like to charge you a recurring fee for the service.  I was recently contacted by one of my readers who was paying $150/month for SEO on a video to advertise his handyman business.  After looking into it further, he realized they weren’t actually doing anything for that money!  They had simply posted the video with a well optimized description and left it alone (less than an hours worth of work).  Needless to say, he cancelled the service and posted the video himself.


I’m not saying that all SEO companies are bad or not worth the investment.  In fact, having somebody who has a thorough understanding of internet marketing to manage your online presence can have a tremendous ROI for your business. The only problem is that you get what you pay for, and this service is expensive. Most small businesses can’t justify the expense.

That’s why I recommend you put some effort into learning this stuff (at least on a basic level) yourself.  I’m a strong believer that marketing is one thing you shouldn’t outsource, at least not completely.

Bottom Line:  The next time you get cold called or e-mailed by one of these SEO companies, save yourself some time and money and disengage as soon as possible.  Unless you can pay top dollar for somebody to create and manage your entire web presence, spend some time and effort learning internet marketing.  You’ll not only save some money, but you’ll learn a skill that will empower you and your business.

Those who understand and leverage internet marketing have the best customers, make the most money, and have the most freedom in their businesses.  Click here to learn a complete step-by-step system for successfully promoting your handyman business online.
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  • Michelle Carter April 22, 2015

    Great article. I also know a little about SEO. My husband always gets these calls and had to explain the same thing to him. Yes, they always promise the 1st place on Google. This cracks me up. Normally when they are referring to the 1st place on google they are referring to google local (I have specifically asked them to explain if they mean my website or my google for business (formally google maps) page.
    The time it takes to constantly upgrade and make new blog posts is very time consuming, and working a full time job as well as helping my husband with his business does not a lot me the time to ( and I do not have a flare for writing ) I have used services such as Odesk and Fivver. I actually found a great company on Odesk, I tell them what I want done and they do it, all “white hat” SEO. I am creeping up in the rankings, slowly but I am moving. When you are competing with companies like 800 Junk who has a hige budget for SEO and multiple on staff web designers SEO experts it is hard  and I do agree, content is king but off page SEO is important if you really do want to hit the first page. Many handymen do not have the time to learn this so paying a trusted partner really can pay off. I know without me, my husband would never ever be able to create a website, write blogs and know what directory’s to submit our site to. Also understanding that Google looks for things like, does the site have a Facebook, Twitter and Google plus presence? They also pay attention to reviews ( for the Google local listings anyway ) Knowing how to make sure google knows these account belong to your website blah blah, it is hard, the more you learn the more you know you do not know. So while I agree wholeheartedly with your post, doing you own SEO is not for everyone.

    • Dan Perry April 22, 2015

      Thanks for the comment Michelle. I think you make some really good points here and I appreciate that.

      Learning online marketing is something that may be tougher for some people to execute than others, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done/learned. Eating healthy is also harder for some people and takes time that it may not seem like we don’t have, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for everyone. When it comes to your business, online marketing is something that should be understood (at least on a basic level) by someone internally.

      That being said, I think you’ve made some smart decisions with how you’ve handled it by outsourcing the parts that you don’t have time to do.

      • Michelle Carter April 22, 2015

        Excellent point, is is good for peopel to understand what SEO is and how it works. I did not notice at first that you have a course on SEO that peopel can take. This is a brilliant idea, as most SEO articles online are geared twords people who already understand the basics and/or are not local business specific.

  • Wade April 22, 2015

    Great post as usual. Keep them coming. I stopped my online marketing for various reasons. And I’m as busy as I can handle. That being said I need and want to fire it back up to attract the quality clients.
    I relocated last year and all of the online marketing I implemented before paid off 100 fold.

    • Dan Perry April 22, 2015

      It’s good to hear from you again, Wade. I’m glad to see your efforts paid off although I’m not surprised. Online marketing is one the highest leverage activities you can do for a business.

  • Roger Kugler April 22, 2015

    Great article, Dan. You’re right on all points!

    Too bad we are all GOING TO DIE due to MOBILZILLIA that attacked our websites yesterday (April 21)…….. or not.

    You might want to remind your readers to update their websites to be mobile friendly and to check it with Googles’ Mobile-Friendly Test at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

    BUT DON’T PANIC since MOBILZILLA only affects searches done on a smartphone or tablet (for now….) BUT do have this on your priority list since 40-60% of all Google searches now are done on those devices and the numbers are increasing.

    Searches done from a laptop or desktop computer are NOT AFFECTED ….yet.

    Google actually has some good advice about this at the link above.

    Enjoy your podcast and emails. Hope your busy!

    • Dan Perry April 22, 2015

      Hey Roger,

      Good point. Maybe I’ll write an article about Mobilzilla in the near future. As you may have noticed, I actually updated this website to prepare for it. However, since I’m not taking any new business as a handyman (too busy), I’m purposefully not updating my handyman business website just to see what happens.


  • Matt April 22, 2015

    So I can’t let this article go without mentioning the Yoast plugin. If you’re using Wordpress for your website, this is the ultimate SEO solution. It’s free and easy to use, especially for non-technical folks. I definitely agree with you that any paid SEO marketing company might be a waste of money if you’re not spending big bucks – in the area of $20,000-$50,000 as most medium-sized companies do. It’s waay overkill for the average local business and most anything below that can be done effectively using free tools like Yoast, Google Webmaster Tools and just having great content on your site. At the end of the day, the only reason to hire an SEO company is to save you time from piddling with it so you can get back to work!

    • Dan Perry April 29, 2015

      Nice call on the Yoast SEO plugin. Thanks for mentioning it.

  • Khorev October 19, 2015

    Hi colleagues, how is everything, and what you wish for to
    say concerning this post, in my view its in fact amazing in favor of me.

    Search engine optimization isn’t as easy as it might seem, and there are a lot of no-nos
    that don’t work or that can cause you to be penalized or deindexed by the search engines.
    By reading a good SEO tutorial, you can learn more about these “no-nos” so that you won’t waste your time on them or reduce
    your chances of improving your ranking.

  • Jeff December 17, 2016

    Funny I should come across this as I have just been told by a web site designer that I do not need to pay for SEO on my two sites. birminghamnorth.mr-electric and eicrtesting.com I accept the 80/20 rule but many people are just not internet savvy and have no interest in SEO. Question is should they pay for basic SEO whatever that is. Hard for someone like me to know if I’m throwing money away.

  • Christian April 12, 2017

    It’s not fair to label all SEO companies as scammy, spammers who guarantee #1 Google rankings. There are plenty of reputable SEO companies, large and small, myself included in the latter category, who use solid, clean on & off page SEO tactics that actually produce results for small businesses. Yes, if your onpage SEO & content is junk, then you’re fighting an uphill battle for improving rankings, traffic and potential clients/leads. However, realistically, how many small local plumbers are going to have the time or interest to blog on a weekly basis about backed up toilets and leaky faucets? My guess is almost none. So if you have a 5 page local service website, it’s all about optimizing it for the most appropriate keyword searches and building quality backlinks in the form of local directories, citations, and other link outreach opportunities. If you can mix in some social media all the better. My point is, there’s no reason a small handyman, plumber, dentist office etc., shouldn’t consider using an SEO service to improve their website visibility and, more importantly, increase their active leads & potential clients. It’s all about finding the right SEO company.

    • Fred Harrington October 28, 2017

      You’re absolutely right Chrstian, but the problem is it’s almost impossible to differentiate between the good SEO companies and the scammers. Worse, it can be difficult for the good ones to compete with the bad ones.

      >I will build good links slowly and get you ranked in search engines over time
      >I will use super secret techniques and blast you to the top of the SERPs in a week!

      To people who know nothing about SEO, which one sounds more appealing? :/

  • David Riewe October 29, 2017

    You can have the best content in the world but if your domain has no authority from quality backlinks then you probably will not rank well if in a competitive niche. As far as local businesses go, they need to first and foremost get properly registered with Google My Business and Bing Local if they want to show up in Local Results for searches that have local intent.

    If this gets them to show up in the top 10 of the maps searches (where 70% of mobile users search now for local businesses, probably because that view shows them more businesses to choose from) then they are probably good. I know a lot of people really sell the value of being in the local search pack, however, How many people you know wanting a plumber, electrician, roofer, ect are going to limit their choice to the three that show up in the search pack? Maybe I am old fashion, but for most service businesses I want more than three to consider.

    But what if your business is not showing up well in the local results? That is where understanding what the Local SEO signals are that the search engines look for.
    MOZ Documents these well here

    For the business owner who is not ranking, I recommend finding out who is ranking in the top 10 for the 5 most valuable searches they would like to rank on. then compare the local search ranking factors of those 10 sites with his own.

    This will reveal where their local seo needs improvement. They may need better citations, more backlinks, more reviews… It’s never simply as “You need more citations” or “You need more backlinks” or “You need more content”. You need what your site is lacking in comparison to those outranking you.

  • David Riewe October 29, 2017

    PS: What do you think about Google using HTTPS as a ranking signal?

  • Steve Advent November 2, 2017

    We get these calls all the time promising to get us to the top of google. We do all our marketing and seo ourselves. Some very good points in your blog.

  • Deepali Phadnis November 4, 2017

    After spending my future on SEO I realised that it’s waste of Money and time . This is totally true No SEO company helps doing SEO we have to do it ourselves. They just create blackhat inturn making website rank down .

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