I recently scheduled a visit to the eye doctor; I can’t see two feet beyond without corrective lenses but I behold some insight regarding human nature and “customer” service.  I sought the services of the eye doctor because I had a need, yet the service provider exhibited horrific customer service, “misplacing” my records, making me wait over forty-five minutes (I arrived ten minutes before my scheduled appt) then wait another fifteen minutes in an inner-office room (the second waiting room), ultimately offering no sentiment of apology or recognition of the value of my time and as a patient (consumer), as if I was inextricably under the mercy of my circumstances.  I’m not; I changed doctors after my experience.

While an online marketing company addresses primary needs of clients, it’s important to expect a level of recognition, respect, and Web-side manner from your SEO providers.

Analysis

Sometimes we seek the assistance of doctors because we’re immediately sick, while other times we go for “checkups.”  When you first approach an online marketing company, you should expect an initial analysis.  SEO practitioners will analyzed the present condition of your site, diagnosing immediate issues and providing suggestions as to how to make sites healthier, attracting more exposure and better rankings.

Would a doctor state you’re sick if you’re not?  Would a doctor suggest unneeded medicine?  Not a legitimate doctor, thus nor would a provider exhibiting proper, initial Web-side manner.

Strategy Development

What if you went to the doctor and were diagnosed with an ongoing condition?  You would want your experienced professional to help you develop a strategy to heal, improving your present condition.  Expect the same level of concern and strategic provisions from an online marketing company.  However, you want to communicate in terms you understand, free of SEO jargon and IT-centric speak.

A provider needs to clearly illustrate your needs then develop an easy-to-ascertain strategy to resolve Web-related issues.

Implementation

Some things you can do on your own, such as take medicine, in other cases, professional implementation is required.  You wouldn’t do surgery on yourself, would you?  Unfortunately, there are some Web masters, with little search engine optimization understanding and experience, who go ahead, implementing their own tactics, in some cases, making their Web sites increasingly in need of “professional” attention.

Management

After some time, conditions improve and the immediacy of concern ebbs.  Additionally, you may learn more about your respective state of health, better understanding how to self manage.  While some services provided by an online marketing company are “evergreen” needs, others do have a lifespan and end while others can be self managed or facilitated by SEO consulting.

Conclusion

I have bad news and good news.  Let’s start with the bad; it’s likely your brand’s Web site and online marketing methods are “sick” or “unhealthy,” in need of wellness and medicine.  The good news is an online marketing company can make you better.  However, realize you have options; choose a provider exhibiting excellent Web-side manner.  You and your brand deserve it.

Yesterday, I urged you to snippet good.  Today, I want you to realize the potential of abuse; try to detect and neglect it.  Not too long ago, great posts on improved snippets and implementing them using Schema.org were posted.  Perhaps many Web masters took heed, realizing it was not very difficult to implement rich ones, using a variety of available formats.  Google encourages the use of rich snippets, as they aid browsers in securing desired information.

Shape it Up, Get Straight

However, the Web is not always a perfect place.  There is a dark side, a place where outlaw Web masters don shaded caps and attempt to manipulate browsers, a place where fake snippets are a reality.  Once Web masters realized snippets could be misused, an onslaught of unscrupulous implementation took hold.

But why, mad-black hatters, why the misuse?  Well, it’s likely the notions of keyword stuffing (to ostensibly rank higher for desired terms) and fake reviews (to lure the attraction of unsuspecting consumers) were in mind.  Can you immediately apply fake snippets, hoping to game the system?  It’s very likely.  However, we’ve seen Google “discipline” Web masters before -no reason snippets and other SEO 2012 topics are not on Google’s immediate agenda.

Go Forward, Move Ahead

My personal advice to Web masters:  Don’t use SEO and online marketing initiatives in a rogue fashion.  Our industry doesn’t offer shortcuts; it offers optimization, a way to enhance your online presentation of goods and services.  The sentiments of business ethics and reputation management do not ebb online; theoretically, an SE could be gamed, but what happens when consumers acknowledge your online exposure and snippets are just another variety of SPAM, not aligned with the quality of your products, services, and overall brand experience?  Burned consumers and competitors can contribute to universal-Web awareness with the help of a tweet or other social media post; is immediate increased rankings worth the doom of your brand?

It’s Not Too Late…

Hopefully, I’ve persuaded you from the dark side and helped you realize “fake” snippets are not worth your brand’s time, but proper implementation is great for facilitating a better user experience.  As touched upon yesterday, there are a multitude of sites that can enrich available SERP information through snippets.  Consider a few example situations where snippets enhance browsing.

-          Craig Bradford included this image in his SEOmoz-Schema.org post, urging news sites to include snippets to help readers recruit more immediate information regarding single posts.  I see more and more sites embracing copywriting, producing industry-specific news.  Snippets are another way to grab browser attention and educate them.

-          Are you hosting an upcoming event?  Implement snippets to spread awareness about charities, festivals, concerts, business expos, etc.

-          Some readers judge a post by its author; enhance the SERP stats of popular site authors using rich snippets.  Include awards, social media stats, professional degrees, etc.

-          Ecommerce site often host scores of pages, all unique and vying for consumer attention.  Help browsers find desired services and products by listing additional, germane information into snippets.

 Thanks for reading.

Search engine optimization has always attracted outsider interest regarding the dichotomy of black and white-hat SEO specialists, the former party delivering unethical and SE-questionable practices.  As industry literature explains, black-hat practitioners give the industry a bad name, helping clients “game” the search engines.  Black hats help “game” the system; but, I think mutually ethically-questionable brands, using the unethical black hats are ultimately getting gamed and getting well-deserved desserts.

I endorse white-hat methods and a practitioner’s alignment with best, SE practices; I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the existence of black-hat professionals within the industry, though I loathe such practices exist.  Alternatively, as a consumer, I somewhat celebrate the use of black hats, because in some ways, the rogue troupe illuminates the mutually-inclusive contrast between well-ranking pages and some pages’ alignments with sites, services, products, and brands of poor quality.  In many cases, aligning your brand with black-hat methods eventually calls attention to your brand’s “darkest” secret – your value.

SEO Does Not Always Equal Success

Quality, natural SEO practices are slow burning, giving a brand more prevalence on search engines.  A well optimized campaign aligns a client’s pages with good rankings and better browser traffic.  However, any browser, clicking a high-ranking SERP result but finding the page to be very inadequate, may have an epiphany, realizing the page’s rankings and value are not equal.  The slyest of black hats can’t compensate for a site’s lack of provisions; SEO equals opportunity, not guaranteed success.

Social Media

I wrote a post last week regarding branding and the public’s immediate impact made possible through social media outlets.  Blind-sighted brands are likely to seek black hats because of the short time needed to create exposure – especially within social media platforms.  However, brands, producing poor services and products, seeking the illegitimate help of black hats, are only accelerating the inevitable – the public’s reception and likely devaluation of poor services and products.  Congratulations, you just accelerated negative exposure!

Reputation Management

Online marketing birthed a new service, reputation management, founded on the need for businesses to keep up with online discussions regarding brand names, executives, products, and services.  Why?  Consumers share information and impressions of brands every day.  It blows my mind to understand the rationale behind securing black hat services; the public has so many options of expressing sentiments about a brand.  It’s too easy for customers or competitors to deflate the reputation of a questionable brand.

Conclusion

In some ways, I must thank you, black hats, not as a search engine optimization practitioner, but as a consumer.  You’re making it easier for me to weave through brands of poor quality.  In addition, white hat SEOs are producing more information all the time, educating consumers of all industries, helping more of them escape poor brands, feeding them information on how to differentiate between authority, trustworthy sites and questionable ones.  You can hide your black hats but they can’t put proof in your pudding.