Leprechaun Repellent and Guaranteed SEO Companies – The Disturbing Link

When researching SEO companies, it is tempting to choose any company willing to offer guaranteed SEO services. It is human nature – people love a guarantee. This holds especially true for purchases where the buyer is purchasing something outside of his or her area of comfort. When companies first consider pursuing search engine optimization (SEO) as a potential marketing channel, particularly when there is an ongoing cost involved, they get a sense of comfort from purchasing “guaranteed SEO.” Unfortunately, with many SEO companies, this confidence in the guarantee is ill-placed.A lot of questionable SEO companies offer what I like to refer to as a “leprechaun repellent” guarantee. In other words, it’s a guarantee that is easily attainable – if you purchase such services and are not subsequently harassed by a pesky leprechaun, the guarantee has been met. How can you complain?The truth is that SEO companies do not control the major search engines, and any firm that claims to have a “special relationship” that gives it sway over the natural search engine results is simply counting on your ignorance. Fortunately, this does not mean that guaranteed SEO is impossible, especially when the guarantee has to do with aggregate results and the methods used to achieve them.What follows is a partial list of some of the more popular types of guaranteed SEO out there – some of them roughly as useful as leprechaun repellent, and some of them actually meaningful.Questionable GuaranteesThe “Leprechaun Repellent” Keyphrases GuaranteeMany SEO companies boast that they will achieve a certain number of top rankings in the organic results of major search engines. This type of guaranteed SEO can be tempting, especially to those who are investigating SEO companies for the first time. After all, high rankings are what it’s all about, right? Isn’t that the goal?The answer is an emphatic “No.” Quality SEO companies will point out that the real goal is to bring high quality traffic to your site. It’s quite simple to guarantee top positions if you choose non-competitive or obscure phrases – for example, “leprechaun repellent.” Want proof? Enter “leprechaun repellent into your favorite search engine. You will almost certainly find this article dominating the results (caveat – if you are reading this article immediately after its release, the search engines may not have indexed it yet. Wait a week and try again.).It is extremely easy for SEO companies to achieve high search engine positions for phrases that nobody uses. Such rankings might impress your friends and neighbors, but they won’t send you quality traffic. They likely won’t send you any traffic at all. It’s important to note that the phrase “leprechaun repellent” is used only for demonstrative purposes. Many unpopular phrases may not sound absurd. There are surely countless phrases out there that sound extremely relevant to your business that are never typed into search engines. Good SEO companies will avoid such phrases. “Leprechaun repellent” practitioners will embrace them – it allows them to attain their worthless guarantees.There is also another aspect of this type of guaranteed SEO in which SEO companies will guarantee you first place positions on unspecified search engines for more competitive phrases. Unfortunately, this type of guaranteed SEO often involves obscure engines that have very little market share and are not sophisticated enough to quickly eliminate web pages that use spam tactics. In a few documented cases, the guarantees involved search engines that the SEO companies actually owned and operated!There are really only three major search engines at present – Google, Yahoo, and MSN. There are a handful of minor engines that are also worth mentioning, including Ask Jeeves and AOL Search. Any guaranteed SEO should involve prominent engines, not obscure ones.The “Company Name” GuaranteeThere is also a common guarantee that shady SEO companies will use that guarantees that a company will show up for a search on its company name. This, much like the “leprechaun repellent” flavor of guaranteed SEO, offers no real value. Sure, if your company name is “Acme,” it may actually be competitive – but chances are that if your website does not already show up near the top of the search engine results for a search on your company name, there is an easily fixed technical glitch that will resolve the issue. Quality SEO companies will address this area immediately. Moreover, ranking highly for your company name, while obviously desirable, provides only a tiny fraction of the potential value of search engine marketing. The real benefit for most companies is that search engine marketing attracts potential buyers who are not already familiar with the company name. Unless your company is a household name, it is unlikely that having your company name figure prominently in the results is going to have a huge impact on your business.The Pay-Per-Click GuaranteeSome SEO companies will offer guaranteed SEO services that promise top positions for certain keyphrases on popular engines, but they are counting on dealing with prospects who do not understand the difference between natural search engine results and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. With PPC, it is very easy to guarantee a number one result, but this result will appear in the “paid” or “sponsored” results of the engine. Say, for example, that your company installs custom swimming pools. While a competitive phrase like “custom pools” might be difficult to achieve in organic results, the SEO company is not concerned with organic results. All it has to do is outbid the current highest bidder (using your money, of course), and your site will show up as number one in the “sponsored” results. Studies have indicated that sponsored results are held in a lower regard than natural results by savvy web searchers who recognize them as advertising. Also, as soon as you stop paying, your ranking disappears.The “Submit Your Site to 50,000 Search Engines” GuaranteeThere are many variations on this offer, primarily involving the number of engines promised. Regardless of the number, this is probably the most pervasive and persistent type of “guaranteed SEO,” and it is basically a scam that preys on ignorance.Companies that believe that they have high quality websites are predisposed to believe that the only thing holding them back from search engine success is that the search engines do not yet know that their sites exist. However, search engines measure quality in a much different way than a website owner does. A properly optimized site does not need to be submitted to search engines at all (I refer to actual “spider-based” search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and MSN, not human-edited directories such as Business.com, the Yahoo Directory, and the Open Directory Project). Engines prefer to find sites on their own.This “solution” offers no real value, except of course to the SEO companies offering the service. Also, as previously mentioned, there are not 50,000 search engines – or at least 50,000 search engines worth worrying about. Do SEO companies that offer this service meet this guarantee? Certainly – they use automated programs to do the submissions. Is this type of guaranteed SEO worthwhile? Not for search engine positions, but it may keep leprechauns at bay.Meaningful GuaranteesGiven the preponderance of “guaranteed SEO” that is meaningless, the seemingly Wild West nature of the industry, and the reality that SEO companies do not control the results of any major engine, it may seem that guaranteed SEO can never be a worthwhile endeavor. However, this is not the case. If you note the examples above, they are primarily involved in specifics – top positions, a certain number of submissions, a certain number of engines. However, good SEO companies, understanding that they have no control over individual results, should be confident enough in the results of their work in aggregate and in the safety of the methodologies that they use to offer guaranteed SEO that lives up to its promise.The Custom GuaranteeIn very rare cases, certain skilled, experienced SEO companies will be able to develop for you a custom guarantee derived from the analysis of your current traffic data, the competitiveness of your industry, and the status of your site. You will ideally be offered this type of specialized guarantee from the beginning of your dealings with an SEO firm because it ensures that you will be achieving targeted, meaningful results based on your specific situation, rather than on generalities that could apply to any business in any industry. Some SEO companies may tell you that a custom guarantee is not possible because they have no direct control over search engine results. However, SEO companies who have been in business for a while know how to weather the algorithm shifts and understand that there is more than one popular search engine. Such a firm will be confident enough to create and back a custom guarantee for you.The Targeted Traffic GuaranteeSEO companies dedicated to showing value to their clients will take a baseline reading of current search engine traffic at the outset of a campaign. While, as previously mentioned, SEO companies do not hold sway over search engine results, they should at least be confident enough in their overall skills to promise that their clients will see an increase in targeted search engine traffic based on popular phrases relevant to the business. If the firm offering this type of guaranteed SEO charges on a monthly basis, any month of the engagement where traffic for targeted phrases does not, at a minimum, exceed the baseline should not be charged. After all, you are paying on a monthly basis to protect and improve your positions. While major algorithm shifts that make results on individual results unstable can and do happen, they rarely happen on all engines at once. You should feel confident that the firm you are paying has a very vested interest in making sure it adapts to the changing nature of search engine algorithms, and few things inspire such confidence as knowing that it will not get paid otherwise. If your prospective firm is unwilling to at least guarantee that it will send increased traffic to your website from targeted phrases, every month, it may be time to look elsewhere.The “White Hat” GuaranteeSEO companies are commonly broken up into two camps – “white hats” (practitioners who remain solidly within the search engine’s stated terms of service) and “black hats” (practitioners who work to unravel the latest search engine algorithms and base their optimization techniques largely on technology, regardless of the engine’s terms of service). Both approaches are legitimate – after all, there is nothing illegal about exploiting a technical loophole for results. However, black hat SEO companies put their clients at risk of penalization or even outright banishment from the major engines. Getting back in can be a long process, and sometimes it is not possible at all. If you are concerned about potential penalization, get a guarantee from your firm that they adhere to the stated terms of service of all major search engines. If you can (and this is rare), get a guarantee that your site will not be penalized through any action of the SEO firm. This is harder for a company to offer, since the major engines frequently update their terms of service, and techniques that are acceptable today can be deemed unacceptable tomorrow. However, a confident firm that always errs on the side of caution when optimizing client websites will offer this type of guaranteed SEO services, since it will not use techniques that have a potential for penalization in the future.Abusing the Metaphor (Beating a Dead Leprechaun)Guarantees have been around for at least as long as leprechauns have been hoarding breakfast cereal and starring in bad horror films. So have guarantees that are essentially meaningless but sound respectable. A good guarantee should not only appeal to the base emotion of a potential purchaser, but it should also afford some real protection that the purchase he or she is making will provide meaningful results. Many of the most popular types of guaranteed SEO do not, and that’s a shame. The industry already has a questionable reputation due to “leprechaun repellent” practitioners – make sure you don’t go chasing their rainbow. After all, it’s your pot of gold they are after.

Medical Billing Software – 10 Questions To Ask Before Making Your Purchase

Avoid buyer’s remorse. Do your homework before purchasing medical billing software for your practice or billing service. Review and think about these 10 questions prior to scheduling software demonstrations. Make your buying decision based on facts rather than emotion.What are ALL the costs associated with this purchase?When buying a medical billing software system, the software itself is only one of the costs in the total purchase price. Other initial costs include hardware, installation, and software training. Ongoing costs include software upgrades, technical support or maintenance, and electronic claims billing. These costs vary depending on the type of system.Some desktop systems require expensive hardware. Web-based medical billing software has fewer hardware costs but higher monthly maintenance costs. Avoid costly surprises by obtaining all this information in writing prior to making a commitment.Is the software easy to use?A medical office is a very busy place. You don’t have the time to spend on the phone with Technical Support trying to figure out how to bill a claim or reprint a statement. Software should be intuitive and easy to use. Naturally, you have to expect to spend some time learning the nuances of your software, but most functions should be intuitive.How long has the software been in use?I ask this question because, there is no such thing as bug free software. The longer the software has been around, the more likely the bigger defects have been worked out.How long has the company been in business? How many employees do they have?If a software company is too small, they may not have a staff that is large enough to handle big upgrades or unforeseen system problems. The longer they have been in business, the better.What type of software training program does the vendor offer?Online training is best because you can schedule shorter training sessions. Periods of 2-4 hours are ideal for new system users. Avoid the full day, on-site training sessions when possible. They are convenient for the vendor but not cost effective for the practice. The office staff tends to burn out by the end of the day and forget a lot of what has been covered. Most people learn by doing. Don’t schedule your training until you are ready to use your system.How good is the Technical Support?When I first start working with a new software vendor, I pick up the phone and call Technical Support and start the timer. How long does it take for them to answer your call? Also, beware of companies that rely primarily on email and fax support. Software vendors cut costs by handling their technical support this way but it is very inconvenient and time consuming for you.What EHR (electronic health records) software does the medical billing software integrate with?One of my clients decided to buy an electronic medical records software package that did not link to his medical billing software. The salesman told him that it was no problem. They could develop a link for him. A year later, they have no link and his office staff is still entering demographic data into two systems.The best medical billing software is one that has a built-in HL7 link that will integrate with several different electronic health records systems.Does the software address the critical needs of your type of practice?Just because the software works great for Dr. Smith’s office down the street, doesn’t mean it is automatically the right software for your practice. Let’s say Dr. Smith is a specialist and you are a family practitioner. A software feature that allows you to lookup CPT and diagnosis codes by description isn’t all that important to him, but it certainly is to you. Make a list of the features in your existing software that you love, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to have.Expensive software is not necessarily better. It’s a fact that most people use only a fraction of the features in their software. The question to ask yourself, do I really need all the expensive bells and whistles?Keep in mind your most basic features: scheduling, HIPAA compliance, electronic claims, patient statements, Aging Reports. Advanced features will include medical coding software, revenue and insurance denial management, automatic EOB posting, and insurance eligibility.Can you take a test run of the software or is an online demonstration available?Typically, an online software demonstration doesn’t give you the time you need to adequately review a medical billing software system. Don’t be shy about asking for access to a sample database to play with. Some software vendors offer downloadable demos that you can install and try out. If that option is unavailable, find out if there is an office nearby that uses the software and ask the office manager to show you the software. Most people are quite agreeable to do this.Get references.Most people make purchases based on emotion. Salesmen are salesmen and they will offer you the sun, the moon, and the stars to get you to buy their solution. That’s why it is so important to obtain SEVERAL references of practices that have been using the software for at least a year, not just a few weeks. If the vendor can’t provide them, walk away.

Automated Forex System Trading – Maintaining Positive Expectancy

What is Positive Expectancy?Positive expectancy sounds like something a motivational speaker would talk about or a psychiatrist. In fact, there are some people that use the term for those reasons. This article is about using the term in the context of Forex trading strategies, STATISTICS, and MATH. One of the major advantages from using an automatic Forex trading system is built in discipline that maintains a high POSITIVE EXPECTANCY that can lead to large profits. Positive expectancy defined in its most simple form, is that on the average, there is a probability that you will make more money than you will lose.If the Forex trader gets nothing else from this article the MOST IMPORTANT POINT that must be understood is that WITHOUT POSITIVE EXPECTANCY in any Forex trading system automatic or otherwise, there are no money management procedures or trading techniques that will prevent you from losing all your money.Most traders confuse positive expectancy with the probability of winning. Forex traders and especially Forex system developers love to brag that their system “picks winners 97.3% of the time”, and fall for the easy but incorrect logic and “feeling” that a high percentage of wins means a high profit. Sadly, this is NOT TRUE! Winning 97.3% of the time will not generate Forex profits if the 2.7% of losing trades wipe out your account. Confusing win probability with positive expectancy is what ultimately leads to Trader’s Ruin.Trader’s Ruin is the mathematical certainty that over time the trader will lose all his money to the market if he trades without positive expectancy. Many very successful traders and auto Forex trading systems have a win probability of about 40%, with a high positive expectancy that returns huge profits.If an automatic currency trading program wins 9 out of 10 times (90% wins!), and the average win is $10 but the average loss is $100 – that system has a negative expectancy and will lose money!If an automatic Forex currency trading system wins once every 20 trades (5% wins!), losing an average $5 each losing trade but makes an average $100 on each win, that system has positive expectancy and over the long run will make money.Did that tie your brain in a knot? Let’s explain a little further.To be able to say an automatic Forex trader, or any system, has positive expectancy means that on average the system will make more money than it loses. On any given trade, it may win or it may lose, but the average over time and many trades is profitable. This should include costs and slippage and be measured over an absolute minimum of 30 to 100 trades, preferably many more.This analysis assumes the Forex trader and the Forex trading tool are properly capitalized and the trades are properly sized to reasonably ensure the system will survive the inevitable periods of losses.”Properly capitalized” means you have enough money in your account that you can make properly sized trades and survive long enough for the average returns to grow your account. If the account is too small, it is much more likely a run of losses will wipe you out before you have time to generate profits.”Properly sized” trades means that the average size of expected profit on any trade is large enough to cover expected average losses plus trading costs and still have positive expectancy.”Exit loss” will be defined for this article as the amount the trade will be allowed to move against us before it is “stopped out” by our stop loss setting and we exit the trade. This applies to both winning and losing trades.”Costs” in Forex trading are usually in the form of “bid/ask” spreads, Forex brokerage fees or commissions are usually small or non-existent. There are still real costs that figure into the expectancy of the system.”Slippage” is defined as the difference between the price a trader expected to pay when a trade is ordered and the actual price paid. The Forex market is always moving and if the market moves against our trade, the time between our contract order and when it is executed in the market may allow the price to change. A good Forex automated trading system has an average known slippage value figured into the system also.To make this easier to understand, let’s put some numbers to it. These are simplified examples to illustrate the concept and the numbers may or may not match real FX trading strategies.If my automatic Forex trading system follows a set of rules that allows an exit loss of $10 before it is stopped out, and my costs are $10, and my “slippage” averages $5 then my average loss will be: $10 exit loss + $10 costs + $5 average slippage = $25 average loss per losing trade. These trades are generally trades that immediately move against the trader.If the trader executes each trade at $1000/trade and if my Forex trading system has an average winning trade of $50 (which includes the $10 exit loss), after costs and slippage we have $50 -$10 -$5 = $35 profits.Now all we need to figure out our expectancy is to know our probability of a winning trade. Let’s start with a system that has a 50% chance of winning. So this system has the same winning average over time as flipping a coin.The Expectancy EquationPp = Probability of Profit
Ap = Average Profit
Pl = Probability of Loss
Al = Average lossExpectancy = (Pp x Ap) – (Pl x Al)In our first case:Pp = 0.5
Ap = $35
Pl = 0.5
Al = $25Expectancy = (0.5 X $35) – (0.5 X $25)= ($17.5) – ($12.5) = $5So this system trading at $1000 per trade has a positive expectancy of $5 per trade when traded over many trades. The profit of $5 is 0.5% of the $1000 that is at risk during the trade.Now let’s examine how our Forex trading techniques, rules, and behavior can affect our profits. First let’s pretend we have experienced a run of losses and we are low on money because we are not properly capitalized. What happens if we lower the amount of money at risk and only trade $500 per trade? This cuts our profits in half but does not affect costs and slippage. An average winning trade is now $25, after costs and slippage we have $25 -$10 -$5 = $10 profits. This is a big hit to profits, but it is still a profit… right?If we examine our expectancy our numbers look like this:Pp = 0.5
Ap = $10
Pl = 0.5
Al = $25Expectancy = (0.5 X $10) – (0.5 X $25)= ($5) – ($12.5) = -$7.5 !!!This system trading at $500 per trade can be expected to lose money on the average of $7.50 per trade.NEGATIVE EXPECTANCY ! By trying to conserve money we have ensured that we will lose money! This illustrates the importance of having a properly capitalized account for the size of our trade, and the importance of watching the effect of costs and slippage. Trading many small trades can push a good Forex trading system into negative expectancy with costs and slippage.Let’s now make a different assumption, let’s double our trade size and start our trading at $2000 a trade (assuming our account is properly capitalized to do this). An average winning trade is now $100, after costs and slippage we have $100 -$10 -$5 = $85 profits.Pp = 0.5
Ap = $85
Pl = 0.5
Al = $25Expectancy = (0.5 X $85) – (0.5 X $25)= ($42.5) – ($12.5) = $30We doubled the amount of capital at risk, but it has increased our net average profit per trade by SIX TIMES! The percentage gain is also increased to 1.5%, an increase of profit per dollar risked by THREE TIMES. This is a very good result.Let’s examine one more case and double our trade amount again to $4000 a trade (assuming again our account is properly capitalized to do this). An average winning trade is now $200, we are assuming costs for this remain the same traded as one lot, after costs and slippage we have $200 -$10 -$5 = $185 profits.Pp = 0.5
Ap = $185
Pl = 0.5
Al = $25Expectancy = (0.5 X $185) – (0.5 X $25)= ($92.5) – ($12.5) = $80Another nice average profit per trade. We doubled the amount of capital at risk again, but this time it has only increased our net average profits by 2.67 times. The percentage gain is also increased to 2.0%, an increase of profit per dollar risked of only 1/3 of the previous increase. From this point on, increasing the size of our trade, assuming that fees and slippage stay the same, has only a small, gradually diminishing effect on our trade efficiency as it gets larger and larger. Gross and net profits will increase, but the average percent return on our capital at risk will stay about the same.The examples above are simplified to make the arithmetic easier and to illustrate the concepts. Lot size, leverage, and many other factors complicate the equations in real world trading but the basic concepts remain the same. Without positive expectancy, the trader is assured of losing his money.This demonstrates that the small Forex trader needs to carefully examine his trading techniques and exercise “iron willed discipline” in his trading to ensure that he can effectively “stay in the game”. Trying to do “on the job” Forex training while making small timid trades with a “too small” account is not a way to “increase or protect your money,” in fact it may be the sure way to Trader’s Ruin.The joy of automated Forex trading systems and mechanical trading software is that it enforces trading discipline that keeps losses small, and lets winning positions run with built in positive expectancy. It is Forex made easy. There are websites that do online reviews of several automated systems that have the capability to do simulated Forex trading online, on a Forex demo account, so that the average trader can test them for 60 days with no risk and each has a 100% money back guarantee. Many offer suggestions for the best Forex broker compatible with their online Forex trading platform and offer full support for setting up your Forex demo account.The beginning trader, just learning Forex trading, can learn a tremendous amount just from the running the demo accounts and can learn which is the best Forex system trading software for his or her goals. Rather than spend money on Forex training, a currency trading seminar, or trying to create your own FX trading strategies and implement them, the astute trader can let the experts do that and just test their work for profitable results. Then sit back and watch the Forex autotrading robots make money while you relax and rake in the profits.