Friday, June 26, 2009

Great Analysis on Web Companies That "Guarantee" First Page Placement

There are a number of PPC firms that are now promising to guarantee first page placement under the sponsored (PPC) results for competitive search phrases - for a set fee. This is how it works - you buy a handful of exact search phrases and they guarantee first page placement for those exact search terms. It sounds great and I have had a number of client who have done this with firms like TNT Media or

The sales pitch is always a hard sell in that they promise to work with only one criminal or family lawyer in a given metro and that you have to make your mind up by the end of the day or they sell it to someone else. Throughout the pitch the salesperson hypes the popularity of these keyword phrases, often using Google's own inflated numbers (see my article on keyword exaggeration). Once they have you on the hook they start to upsell by adding new keyword phrases to the mix. I have had many attorneys call me up and tell me about the great deal they just struck. It always sounds way to good to be true - and it is.

Any type of guaranteed paid placement service is a very bad idea and a waste of money! These placement companies make a lot of money on this model because they know what I know - that even the most intuitive legal searches are far less common than one might think and they will receive very few clicks.

The Test
I had a client ask me to review his guaranteed placement program. He had purchased 22 exact word phrases in the area of family law and divorce. The terms were impressive; "Phoenix Divorce Lawyer" "Phoenix Divorce Lawyers" etc Complicating my analysis, though, was the fact that this particular client held a dominant position in the organic and Google map results for many of these same divorce phrases. I could do a keyword report for the last year and pull all of those exact keyword phrases that led people to his site, but I would not be able to differentiate what was organic and what was coming from their guaranteed sponsored placement. But I did have another client who was right below him in the organic ranking for those same phrases, a client who never did pay per click of any sort. Therefore, I could compare the keyword report to help determine how many clicks customer "A" was getting from the guaranteed sponsorship program.

The Results
So I ran the report for customer A for his two top phrase; "Phoenix Divorce Lawyer" and "Phoenix Divorce Lawyers". Those two exact phrases generated just 89 clicks, in a year! When you consider that customer "A" generates well over 1400 total clicks a month, this is a shockingly low number. Customer "B", who appears lower than customer "A" organically, received just 41 clicks from those same two phrases. Does that mean that customer "A" got 48 clicks from his guaranteed placement company? Hardly. With a much older URL, customer "A" typically averages 40% more traffic than "customer B" so the actual number is likely far less, 20-30 in a year. This would be consistent with the studies that have been done on online behavior, which show people are 80% more likely to click on the organic results vs PPC - due to a built in bias against paid advertisements. Of the number that we can subscribe to his sponsorship program, how many clicks were the result of click fraud? competitors? sales people?

Guaranteed placement companies are not interested in you getting clicks or increasing your business. They simply want to SELL you first page position for certain keyword phrases - knowing full well that those phrases will cost them very little. If the phrases tun out to be popular and begins to cost them money - they can reduce their bid and bury your listing on the bottom of the first page (remember they only promise first page listing). This is the case with customer "A". It is instructive to read the testimonials found on the TNT website. Most of the lawyers talk about a company that does what they promise. A laudable goal to be sure but if the lawyers were educated on how little traffic their investment was getting them, they would likely sing a much different tune. In fact I will offer a free analysis for any FindLaw client that uses this service. Just send me the list of "keywords" you purchased and I can tell you how little you are receiving from the investment. You will find that you would be much better off doing PPC yourself for the premium your paying. Another client of mine was paying $500/month to another "guaranteed placement company" for a handful of phrases including "Scottsdale Criminal Defense Attorney" - a phrase in which the top organic ranking site received just 2 clicks in a year.

No matter what the phrase, guaranteed paid placement is a bad deal, particularly when you consider the alternatives.

Source: This is from a consultant I work with out of Phoenix -

SEO Consultant Firm - Law Firm Website Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


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