New Graphic Designs

We’re in the down time for wedding season, so I’ve been getting busy with some new designs for my Etsy shop.

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shes-mad-mug-blog

bluebird-magnet-blog

all-this-time-mug-blog

after-all-magnet-blog

but-first-coffee-mug-blog

but-first-coffee-magnet-blog

drink-the-coffee-mug-blog

dumbest-adult-mug-blog

cant-even-mug-blog

google-it-mug-blog

google-it-magnet-blog

 

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More On SEO Scammers

If you’re a small business owner, then you know all about being harassed by people trying to sell you SEO services. You probably get at least two phone calls a week from people trying to talk you into paying them to “help” you. They tell you that they’re a Google certified partner, that they guarantee a front page Google listing for your business and that they know secrets that other SEO companies don’t.

They’re relying on our lack of knowledge. But let’s remedy that. Let’s educate ourselves so that none of us waste our money on these useless services. Services that we can, and should, be providing for ourselves.

Let me tell you about the phone call we received today from Empire Marketing Solutions. (I’m not providing a link to their website because I don’t want to help their SEO or drive clicks to their website.)

The call came in through my husband’s cell phone. He is much nicer than I am and tries to tell SEO companies “no” in a polite and courteous manner. (I usually just hang up on them.) The caller was a woman, and when she started in on her shpeel, my husband listened to her for a few seconds before saying, “I appreciate your call, but we’re not interested.”

She proceeded to tell him all about the advantages of her company’s services. My husband told her that we have no advertising budget and that his wife (me) does all of our SEO. He told her that all she was offering was to run a Google AdWords ad for us. Something that we’ve done ourselves, and it produced less than nothing in terms of business or revenue. He finally got so frustrated that he put his phone on speaker and walked over to me so I could hear how aggressive the lady was being.

I asked him to hand me the phone. I told the lady that I’m the one who manages our SEO, so I should be the one she speaks to. I told her that I’m quite up to date on affective strategies to further our SEO and that I am capable of providing every service they are offering, thank you very much. She replied that she’s sure I am educated, but if I really wanted to succeed, I needed their services, because they know a lot of stuff I don’t. Then she started giving me her pitch and I started refuting all of her claims.

At this point, we were both raising our voices and speaking over each other. During a pause, I could hear a little voice in the background saying, “End the call! End the call now!”

Her parting words were, “Well, I guess you know more than me.

To which I replied, “Yes I do.”

To be fair, she has a job where she gets yelled at and hung up on repeatedly all day long. That can’t be easy.

But let’s talk about why I got into an argument over the phone with some lady from Oregon that I don’t even know. (Besides the fact that my husband is too nice to hang up on annoying people.)

Here are the facts:

1. They claim to be a Google certified partner.

Yes, this is actually a thing. As to whether they are a Google certified partner, or are just selling you a line of crap is whole other thing. I did a little search on Empire Marketing Solutions and I couldn’t find any information on them being a GCP, which is something they would probably announce proudly. Although, it should be said, partnering with Google does not guarantee that you’re legit. When I was searching for Empire, I ran across several weight loss scams that had registered as offering SEO related services. So the main point here is, do your research. It’s super easy. Google offers a listing of all their partners and helps you locate the one that’s right for you. That is, if you decide you don’t have the time or patience to do it yourself. Might I suggest Naked Lime? I know absolutely nothing about them, but their name is awesome!

2. They guarantee a front page listing of your business on Google. 

This is a little shady because there are several ways you can be listed on the first page of Google. Here are a few:

a. You provide a very specific service with very specific search terms (i.e. Crime Scene Cleanup + Your City = The only people in your town with the worst job in the world)

b. You type your company’s name and city into the Google search bar (Cheater)

c. You pay for a Google AdWords ad and are automatically listed at the top of the page as an advertisement on certain predetermined search terms in specific locations (These ads are designed to look like regular search results)

d. You hire a shady ass SEO company and they send out mass spam messages to legitimate websites, which temporarily hikes up your SEO rating (Look! You’re number one! Until you get blacklisted.)

When I started talking to the lady from Empire, her wording made it sound like they were going to work on my SEO over time. But as it turned out, they were just offering to design and place an ad on Google for me. This is something that is very easy to do on your own. Google even provides you with your own assistant that can answer any questions you might have and help you decide on what search terms to use and what areas to target based on your location and type of business.

3. They know stuff you don’t know.

That might be true now, but take a day on the internet and you’ll be just as smart as they are. This information is easily accessible, and most of it can be found through Google itself. Some people see Google as this creepy, secretive company in the back pocket of the government (well, that might be a little bit true), but they really do care about providing you with information. They provide the same opportunities to reach the top of their search results to Wal-Mart as they offer to the little guy down the street. You just need to do your homework. And having a few million dollars never hurts.

What can we take away from all of this? Don’t try to be nice to SEO scammers when they call. It will just put you in a bad mood and inspire you to write snarky blog posts.

Does Facebook Have It Right?

When I search for a new backdrop for my photography studio on Google, Facebook suggests that I might like B&H. When I look up ideas for fixing my back deck or building an island in my kitchen, Facebook suggests that I might like to take a look at Lowe’s Home Improvement.

I know my internet activity is being tracked and I’m fairly ok with it. I’m not trolling anyone or looking up how to make bombs. If Facebook wants to make suggestions about where I shop, fine. I can ignore it, or use it as I like.

But recently, I’ve been getting suggestions that are making me a little bit concerned.

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I just turned 37 and I still have all my parts intact. I get regular check-ups and exams. My GYNOB says that I have at least 5 more good baby makin’ years, if I so choose. So, where did Facebook get the idea that I’m ready to hear about “the change”? Do they know something me and my doctors don’t?

Locked out of Gmail

My husband and I decided to use Gmail for our business email instead of the one provided through our website. It has great features and it’s free. But we came across something today that we were perviously unaware of. Gmail has sending limits. 

Today I was sending high-resolution edited photos to a client. After sending 5 or 6 of them, I got this message:

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We thought maybe we had overlooked the existence of sending limits because we didn’t read the service agreement. I mean, who reads those things? But there’s no mention of it in there. So I googled “Gmail sending limits” and found out that if you surpass your daily limit, your email account will be frozen without notice.

So now our business email is locked for “up to 24 hours”. There’s no one to contact for help and I have no idea what else I can do. So, I guess this is a learning experience and I will use Dropbox when I need to send someone photos.

Regarding SEO Tricksters

I am not a business expert. In fact, most of the time I feel like I’m lost in the woods. (Thank goodness my accountant husband has a level head.)  I didn’t go to school for anything business related, though I wish I had. Who knows in their early 20’s that art school won’t pay the bills? So I’m trying to educate myself now that I’m all grown up and have started my own business. (This is thanks to my husband. Without him, I would have continued to give my art and talent away for free.)

We started our photography business with a professional camera and a dream, but no money in the bank. So I had to learn as much as I could, and save money by doing things for myself. I created our logo, built our website, designed our business cards and advertisements. But what good are all of these things if no one knows you exist?

From the very beginning I was thinking about ways to get our name out there. And speaking of our name, that was a strategic decision based on Google searches. Our last name is Young, and my super smart, but very cheesy husband wanted us to be Forever Young Photography. I Googled that name and found that my husband isn’t the only sappy person with that business name idea. There are thousands of businesses called Forever Young Something-Or-Other. Thank goodness I had a legitimate reason to veto that dreadful name. (Love you sweetie!) I started thinking of ways to play on the word Young. How about Youth? Then I thought about what kind of business we wanted to be. My husband always calls me a rebel. On our third date, I made him hold my shoes while I climbed into a fountain to retrieve quarters so I could do my laundry. (Don’t judge. Remember, I was a broke artist.) I’m also drawn to the marginalized and unusual in our society. And so…Rebel Youth. I Googled that and got some coffee table photography book from the 1960’s. Woohoo! We had a winner! Not only did it incorporate our last name, it also represented who we wanted to be as a company and it wasn’t already used by anyone else.

Now, I just had to learn how to get this awesome name out there. So, of course, I Googled it. That’s when I started learning about Search Engine Optimization. I read everything I could find. How-to’s, how-not-to’s, link backs, and so on. I’m not an expert, but I did learn a lot. And here is where we come to the point of this post. I want to share with you the most important thing I’ve learned. It is this:

You do not need to pay for someone to run your SEO for you. All you need is some knowledge and a little patience. 

We started out small. We ran an ad through Google Adwords and worked out a deal to run an ad in a newspaper we work for. We started networking through business associations and friends and family. I blogged about our photo shoots and provided links back to any company or person we worked with. We began a Facebook page. I spent hours filling in the Meta Data for each of our photo shoots.

All of these strategies have worked…except the ads. The only thing we’ve gotten from the ads are phone calls from other people trying to sell us their services. People call us to run ads in their newspaper or magazine. They call to say they are the best tax attorney/financial planner/life coach/snake oil salesman in the country and we’d be stupid not to give them money.

But the worst, the absolute worst, out of all the cold calls we receive, are the people offering help with SEO. We get at least two calls a week from these wankers. This is how the conversation goes:

SEO Wanker: Hello! Is this Rebel Youth Photography?

Me: Yes.

SEO Wanker: Hello! This is Mumble-Mumble Blah-Blah-Blah! I’m calling from Some Bogus Company! We are partners with Google, and we offer guaranteed listing on the front page of Google. We currently show that thousands of people are searching for services like yours in your area. And right now, your company is showing up on the 20th page of Google.

Me:  Ok. Listen. I’m the person…

SEO Wanker: We can offer you the top spot on the front page of Google…

Me: No. Listen. I’m the person that handles all of our SEO…

SEO Wanker: Oh really?! Wow! We guarantee…

Me: Seriously! You need to listen to me! I do not need your help! I know for a fact…

SEO Wanker: With our services…

Me: NO! Listen up!!! I know for a fact that you are not affiliated in any way with Google. Google DOES NOT make cold calls from India. I do not need your help! I’m doing….

SEO Wanker: With our services you are guaranteed…

Me: Stop reading from your script for a minute and be a human being! I am doing everything your company is offering. But I’m not doing it in a dirty, underhanded way that will get my website blacklisted from Google. Now say goodbye before I’m forced to hang up on you!

SEO Wanker: With our services…

Me: Seriously?!? You’re going to make me be an asshole? I said, NO THANK YOU! Please don’t make me hang up on you!

SEO Wanker: With our services…

Me: Click…

Me: FUMING!!!!!!

I’m fairly even tempered. I hate to get raging mad because it takes me forever to calm down. And it messes with my inner peace. But these ass clowns ensure that twice a week I will become an infuriated lunatic, stomping around my house, cursing under my breath.

I really wish I had more followers so I could get this message out to more people. You DO NOT need these people! They will take your money and could cause more harm than good. Their tactics are shady, and they have nothing to do with Google. The best way to increase your SEO is by working hard. It takes time, though. You might be sitting in your office/house praying that some one will want to hire you soon before you’re forced to live in a van down by the river, but these tricksters are not the answer.

Here are some links I’ve found useful:

Search Engine Land

Moz Blog