Note: this blog post was freaking awesome until Heather Smith Friedman made me take out all the names.
Small and even medium sized businesses are used to being sold a bill of goods by slick-talking phone book reps who talk in circles and seemed to be trained in fact obfuscation. But what is happening more frequently is this:
REDACTED and other companies that capitalize on buzzterms, like SEO and SEM, are making promises that they can only fulfill by screwing the client. For example: we recently discovered a new client had signed up for Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) through both REDACTED and REDACTED. The biggest problem here is that his Adwords are competing against each other - driving up the price of each click he pays for. Hmmm.
Second, and most detrimentally to businesses, these companies, in their SEO/SEM efforts build a second company website - that most of their customers aren't even aware of (who reads all that small print?). Their PPC marketing then drives clicks to this other website. For some very small clients these cheap websites (which are mostly outsourced overseas for fast production) are satisfactory, but what happens in most cases is that there is already a website in place (good, bad or ugly) and this creates duplicate content, (which Google doesn't care for) and steals potential traffic from the customer's primary site.
Additionally, these website factories don't optimize well, have viable keywords, and also lack clear calls to action and conversion paths.
Third, in many cases they drive the paid clicks to a directory listing that the phonebook company hosts. How does this help the client? Their messaging isn't consistent, their branding isn't prominent and the customer has to click further to get to the actual website. Sure, there is a phone to call, but in general, this creates more barriers to the potential customer.
So, in recap, don't let the REDACTED reps sell your company any paid search, web services or anything other than a listing in the phone book (if you even need that). They are neither the experts in pay per click and search, nor do they have anyone's best interests in mind but their own.