Five Tips for Avoiding Deceptive SEO Companies

black hat SEO techniquesThe Internet is hands down one of the best ways to get customers to come to your business. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process through which a website can move up in search engine results and become more visible. Sadly though, too many people do not understand enough about SEO and either discount it altogether or get taken advantage of by deceptive SEO companies.

Deceptive SEO companies use ‘black hat’ or unethical techniques to get your site to the top of the search engine rankings. The techniques may work well in the short term and bring lots of traffic or great rankings. However, over time they won’t produce good, lasting results – or worse – they may get you banned from search engines. And once penalized your site may be practically worthless.

The worst part is that many small business owners are not well versed in SEO and may not be aware of the deceptive techniques a company is using. Or they do not examine what their SEO company does to get their site ranked well.

First of all, it’s important to distinguish between deceptive SEO tactics and tactics that are debated but not necessarily deceptive. Some of these include whether its better to use hyphens, underscores, or no space between keywords in your URLs. Or the best CMS (content management system) and site structure for SEO value. These practices won’t prevent your website from being well indexed.

Then there are tactics that are clearly deceptive. They usually involve trying to hide or mass-produce something that should happen naturally (or organically) over time. Google has published a lengthy list of deceptive practices.

The first sign of a deceptive SEO company is any guarantee of rankings on competitive search keywords. While they may be able to get high rankings for a keyword term that no one searches for (and that is essentially worthless), it is always a red flag when they make guarantees for popular search terms.

It’s important to remember that SEO companies do not control search results and therefore can’t guarantee anything. Instead they can take specific actions to create the best chances of ranking well amongst the hundreds or thousands of other sites.

Here is a top five list of some negative or deceptive SEO practices, based on my experience:

  1. Putting too many keywords on your web site. If a website repeats words or phrases so often that it’s unnatural to read, it’s called keyword stuffing and could get the site penalized. Some sites hide keywords in the text or code of the site which have nothing to do with their site. They might use the same words over and over but otherwise give very little information and no news value. You might find web sites that have hundreds of keywords in the footer or bottom of a web page – this is ineffective and your SEO company should not employ these techniques.
  2. Overuse of bolded text or too many links. Not only does this look terrible but it also doesn’t build trust with people or help your search engine rankings over time. Again, while it’s important to create search engine-friendly content, writing for people will be better in the long run.
  3. Hidden links. Sometimes these links are hidden in the code of a site or in the footer of a website. They code the site to hide the links or they are the same color as the background so you can’t see them. The links are often unrelated to the site but even a huge list of related links that are hidden can hurt you. My blog was recently spammed so that every time it loaded there were links to viagra sites. You couldn’t see them but they slowed down my site considerably. I got it cleaned fast because a friend of mine recently had his site banned by Google for the same problem.
  4. Complicated link schemes. Google can detect unnatural linking patterns and there are many variations of link schemes. An example is that overnight your site has thousands of links when you did nothing to deserve those links. Some people build programs that add links automatically or that create new web pages or blogs (splogs) full of spam content and links.
  5. Multiple domains or subdomains with essentially the same content. These sites or pages have practically the same information but with different keywords. Here’s an example I saw when I was looking for a locksmith. When I type in a city name the same site comes up again and again. The only difference is they have a different domain for each city or state. They are not regional but contract out to various cities. The page for Denver is the same as the page for Las Vegas, only with the words “Denver” swapped out for “Las Vegas.” There are many variations on this tactic which may work short term but long term they are risky.  Example of duplicate content:
    www.completelocksmith.com/locksmith_city.php?cid=denver
    www.completelocksmith.com/locksmith_city.php?cid=las vegas

The Google webmasters guide says: “In some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

A good rule of thumb is to create a good experience for your site visitors. This means good, original content or other elements that make people want to link to you. Anything that is artificially creating content or links or interfering with a good user experience on your site should be avoided.

In the end, one of the best ways to find out about your SEO company’s practices is to ask. Hiring an SEO firm is like hiring any service, you should always take into account what others are saying about them.

On my next post I’ll go over the traits of a good SEO company.

* * * * *

Janet Meiners thaelerAbout the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.

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Janet Meiners Thaeler


Janet Meiners Thaeler Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.

85 Reactions

  1. Janet, excellent post about deceptive SEO companies. This is an awakening article for everyone. Btw, I am wondering how much a ‘good’ SEO company will charge for SEO services? I think you must include that too so to avoid and protect other business owners from being overcharged.

  2. Janet, your post makes it easy to understand the deceptive practices and are a good reminder. I am a little surprised though that some business still discount the importance of SEO.

    The good SEO companies often have case studies to show their results and give you contact details to follow up on. They also don’t talk in jargon (as deceptive companies often do)and help you increase your knowledge so you can work together to increase your rankings. This is what our SEO company did.

  3. Great tips and advice. I have seen many websites that go into keyword overload. Ever other word is their target keyword and it’s very obvious. I’m looking forward to reading what things I should look for in good seo.

  4. @Janet Great post I will definitely keep an eye out for your follow up on best practices. I’d also add that they can’t talk about SEO in terms of value to your business. If they only want to talk about rankings and skip over goals and ROI its a red flag to me.

    @Susan It truly is amazing how many people discount SEO and it never ceases to surprise me of how many people still don’t see the value in having their business on the web in general I can’t count the number of times I have heard small business owners say “people are not looking for my products on the web”.

  5. I appreciate the article, and definitely agree the SEO techniques listed are deceptive at best. Based on the title, though, I was expecting tips a potential SEO client could use to distinguish between a “deceptive” SEO company / individual and a more reputable one.

    Certainly being wary of firms that promise guaranteed results is a red-flag item – I was expecting to see more advice like that.

    I posted a follow-up to this article on my blog, I hope it helps add to the topic:

    http://www.encarolina.com/how-to-avoid-a-deceptive-seo-company

    Jason

  6. Great tips but these are the 5 tips every website owner should know. I would be interested to hear 5 tips that most people do not know.

  7. Janet,

    Great tips!

    I am working together on a new project with a person who has been online since the beginning of the ’80s. He has developed a 10 step / point program on how to conduct serious online marketing. Read his post, Methods of Internet Marketing. http://keinu.notlong.com

  8. @Jason – Point taken and great follow-up post. My post could be more accurately titled: Five Deceptive SEO Practices to Avoid.
    I will make that the topic of another post.
    Thanks
    Janet

  9. Agree with Jason above and I’m interested to read the next post about traits of successful SEO companies.

  10. Thanks for your comments!

    @Amanda – any examples of a site with keyword overload? For obvious reasons I didn’t want to reference a client’s site. It’s hard to find the bad sites because they don’t come up high on searches. I’ve seen some horrible sites. From now on I’ll save them (screenshots).
    Matt Cutts has an example on his post – look at his elegant URL! (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/avoid-keyword-stuffing).

    -Janet

    Janet

  11. @Arthur
    I’m not the most qualified person to say what various companies charge. It’s subjective since there are a lot of variables.

    On one hand if they charge too little and promise a lot (like high, quick rankings on a competitive keyword phrase) I’d be concerned. I’d also worry if they charge a lot and you can’t see results after a reasonable time (which depends on if your site is new, your competition, your brand, etc).

    Each company has different expertise or strengths. For example, OrangeSoda targets small businesses with limited budgets. There is also an enterprise division for larger companies.

    Like any service I’d look at various companies and their recommendations. Look at their credentials. Ask if you can see a sample report of results and how often you’ll be updated on progress.

    One caveat – don’t judge solely on if they do or don’t rank highly in search engines. Being #1 for “SEO company” isn’t an indicator of quality. I have never heard of any of the companies who rank in the top 5 on Google right now.

    Google gives some good information: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291.

    Hope this helps-
    Janet

  12. Hi Janet,
    Rock solid post here. Thank you. The one thing I repeatedly find with all businesses and SEOs is the expectation that once on Page 1 of Google, always on…. Not so. SEO is a fast-moving animal and you can pop to the top for a short time and then drop to back to page 20. The key is not only slow and steady, but to basically incorporate a long term strategy for your SEO efforts. That often means that a company will have to do some of the work themselves or hire an internal person to handle some of it.

    At times, bringing in an expert can boost things, but it can get quite expensive to always have to pay someone with the basics of SEO. The SEO work a company does and will continue to have to do is not going to change — it is simply something that has to be nurtured and developed continually.

  13. Thanks Janet. What’s the concern about dashes, underscores or no spaces in the url (note mine has dashes)? I just like the way it reads better with a dash. I look forward to the next post on traits of a good SEO company.

  14. Very helpful checklist. Webmasters and owners should watch out for these to evade from being banned by the search engines.

  15. Janet, this post could not be more timely. An acquaintance just a couple of days ago showed me a report prepared by a cheap SEO company pledging the world for her budding Hawaii wedding photography site. Among the billed activity was the following, as they wrote it: submission to 25 top search engines; backlinks from 525 sites; 1,578 posted articles (check out that number!); links from 120 blogs; listings in 185 major directories; and signups (just that) on sites that include Zoom, Technorati and Wikipedia. The company also prepared a Website Grader report, a word-for-word copy and paste of the report generated by the real Website Grader’s free online tool but billed to the company at an hour’s “work.”

    Unfortunately, the partner of this acquaintance was not persuaded by my comments about how ridiculous these claims were, the preposterous use of the Website Grader report, and the long-term potential affects. His reply, and this is direct: “is the work this company is doing for us going to help get the site ranked highly (top 3 or so for our keywords), even if they plagiarize and fudge? If the answer is yes, then it’s worth it for us.”

    While I would love to send back a link to this very article, you see what we’re up against here. Unfortunately, I think the fallout of these practices for their small business may be the better lesson.

  16. Janet, thanks a lot. It’s really a big help.

    Honestly, I too have that misconception that if they offer SEO services, their own profile/website should have good SE rankings. However, shouldn’t they grab that opportunity to gain trust from prospect clients?

  17. I think Janet is right on track with this article. As one of the original website pioneers (BackBeNimble.com) from the early 90′s, I have employed every imaginable method of search engine optimization, although at that time, no one had a name for SEO. In all honesty and regretfully, myself and my programmer tried things that would today be considered black hat SEO techniques. To my knowledge, we were the first website to utilize “hidden text” for keyword stuffing and not even Google had experienced such before. Six month after having great benefits from doing so, Google caught on to this new, less than kosher technique and we were dropped from their search results. Our number one technique from the beginning was offering valuable, unique and thorough content. After 15 years of writing such compelling search engine and people friendly text, it is still apparent that that is by far the single most important SEO technique one can implement. By the way to Janet who wrote this article, say Hi to my friend Trina who works at Orange Soda as well. Her parents are great friends to my wife and I. ….Dr. Brad Lustick, your friendly text writer at SearchResultsPro.com

  18. I just generated 1000s of unnatural spam links to OrangeSoda.com overnight. Think you’ll be banned now?

  19. A very good article. But there are so many versions on why one needs to work with SEO companies, yet my experience most don’t live up to expectations.

    Only solution –keep plugging away at doing the best in content and hopefully over time, the traffic one needs so badly will improve.

  20. @Brad wrote:
    “To my knowledge, we were the first website to utilize “hidden text” for keyword stuffing and not even Google had experienced such before. Six month after having great benefits from doing so, Google caught on to this new, less than kosher technique and we were dropped from their search results.”

    Brad – that is GREAT. Nice to meet an original keyword stuffer! I’m with you though, for sustainability you’ve got to build things slowly and the key is through good content which is optimized.

    For some reason people say SEO copywriting is dead (so is the press release and various other marketing techniques). It’s not dead unless you make it spam by overdoing it.

    I heard a Google engineer speak last week. He said create good content and use a few keywords.

    @Kit – though content is vital there’s a little more to the story. I’ll start with that and tell you what else you need to know in a future post.

    Thanks
    Janet

    By the way to Janet who wrote this article, say Hi to my friend Trina who works at Orange Soda as well. Her parents are great friends to my wife and I. .Dr. Brad Lustick, your friendly text writer at SearchResultsPro.com

  21. @ArcherTC

    She should ask to see one of the articles. If they are poor quality and duplicate they won’t have a lot of value to her link campaign. Google notes the quality of links (source) as well as the quantity. It sounds like the company she uses doesn’t understand that.

    I’d also be concerned (as you are) about my reputation. If the quality is bad what makes a potential client think her photography won’t be too?

    She’d be better off blogging and posting a link in her posts to her home page using a keyword phrase as the link text. If she can’t do that then hire someone who gets this (like OrangeSoda or an individual) to write the posts.

    One link quality link I got for a client got them more traffic than anything else they had done online. It was just a lot of people but people who were likely to be potential clients or decision makers.

    -Janet

  22. @David Kyle
    I hope you’re not serious about the spam links, David. I was looking at your Twitter profile and seems like you are just disagreeing with Janet, but not acting maliciously. If you don’t mind, explain a bit more about what you’re trying to say so we can all learn from your experience, too. I don’t want to try and summarize your thoughts from Twitter — you can explain it much better i’m sure.
    Thanks
    TJ

  23. Thanks for a very informative post. With the multiple domains with essentially the same content, I have had to use this strategy to be able to rank well for local domains, with the same website copied for a global site and local sites for Australia, New Zealand, Japan, HK, China, France, Belgium, Middle East etc. Each site has been rewritten to avoid the Google duplicate content filter but I’ve found this to be the best way to target specific locales so that the Japan site will rank well for Japan and the Australia site will rank well in Australia. Is this the same kind of thing that you are talking about in point 5? If so, I didn’t realize that this could be classed as black hat or deceptive. Any comments would be appreciated! Thanks :)

  24. @TJ

    sure TJ. Statement #4 is not quite true. What she described in #4 is bad, and any SEO company who would do this should be avoided.

    However, I am pointing out that it is not something that could get you banned. If it were, a lot of site sabotage would be going on.

    For 50$ you could order up 1000s of links in a known link scheme network, and have them go to your competitors website. A small price to pay for an unscruplous website owner wanting to knock out their competition.

    Please understand I agree with the overall theme of Janet’s article.

    I know I’m nitpicking here, but I can’t help being a technical purist. To say offsite factors can ban a site is not correct.

    It’s not good to do, but it won’t get you banned. The bad links just get devalued if they had any value to begin with.

  25. ok let’s be serious…

    Is this post for clients or people who do SEO?
    I’m guessing since they’re the people who are looking for SEO companies.

    Almost everything you have written is ‘another language’ to a client needing SEO. If they understood half the stuff you wrote then they’ll probably not need your services.

    #2
    “Not only does this look terrible but it also doesn’t build trust with people or help your search engine rankings over time. ”

    That’s the most ridiculous statement I have heard in SEO. Why does having 1,000 links look bad? How does even having 1 link or 10 million links build trust with people? Backlinks are for SEARCH ENGINES not people.

    How about buying old domains for the sake of its age?
    Orangesoda.com was a MP3 site, and now it’s not.
    Common SEO teaches that shouldn’t do this but it’s not the truth as your site proves this.

    Just like having 1,000 links given to you overnight….that has not been proven. I have seen someone get thousands of backlinks in a couple of days, and STILL ranking high in the search engine.

  26. @Robert
    The post is for clients who need SEO. It’s true many companies we reach aren’t going to read this. If they do they may or may not want to do it themselves.

    #2
    “Not only does this look terrible but it also doesn’t build trust with people or help your search engine rankings over time. ”

    Let me clarify. I’m talking about if the SEO company creates content (to be used onsite or offsite) that has a lot of links in the copy or bolded words. It looks like spam. Just like too many keywords.

    In general getting a lot of backlinks to your site is good. However, as @ArcherTC comment points out if your SEO company focuses on quantity of links alone that’s not a sign that they’re doing quality work.

    How about buying old domains for the sake of its age? I’ve done it. I can’t speak for OrangeSoda – don’t know if they had the domain first and then repurposed it or bought it from someone.

    Thanks
    Janet

  27. Janet,

    This is an excellent article to re-emphasize the tactics that have been considered “blackhat” for years. Unfortunately, when I use any search engine, including Google, these tactics still somehow seem to move worthless sites into better positions in the search engine results than they deserve.

    Eventually, the search engines will improve to the point of completely eliminating this junk, but for now it seems there is still work to do.

  28. @Business Attorney said:

    “Unfortunately, when I use any search engine, including Google, these tactics still somehow seem to move worthless sites into better positions in the search engine results than they deserve.”

    True, techniques like this can be effective. But they aren’t sustainable so they’re risky. All it takes is for Google to change or your competitors to report you and you’ve lost everything.

    I interviewed a famous internet marketer who lost his entire business overnight when Google made changes in how they ranked sites and he was delisted.

    Another site I know of was reported and delisted after they created thousands of spammy links that had nothing to do with the site content. Their competitors reported them and the site is worthless. But in the short term it worked great on a very competitive keyword phrase.

    If you’re consistently doing quality work you’re a lot safer.

    Janet

  29. Hi Janet, I think you might have missed my question so I have to repost it here.

    Regarding this: One caveat – don’t judge solely on if they do or don’t rank highly in search engines. Being #1 for “SEO company” isn’t an indicator of quality. I have never heard of any of the companies who rank in the top 5 on Google right now.

    Some SEO companies I have known claim to offer SEO services yet their own website does not have good SE rankings. Don’t you think they should at least grab that opportunity to gain “little” trust or confidence from prospect clients?

  30. @Arthur
    SEO companies probably should rank well for their own keywords. OrangeSoda started out reaching small businesses. They were unlikely to Google our name and more likely to hear about us from offline sources.
    I’d be most interested in how their clients are ranking. Of course I agree that the company should also rank on phrases that are important to their markets.
    Thanks
    Janet

  31. Yes. Exactly Janet! Thanks!

  32. Janet wrote:

    For some reason people say SEO copywriting is dead (so is the press release and various other marketing techniques). It’s not dead unless you make it spam by overdoing it.
    ——————-
    Thanks for your response Janet. I don’t believe SEO copywriting will ever be dead. Proper communication is always going to be more important than anything else. It was important in the early 90′s and still the most important technique for improving the visibility of websites. By definition of the term: “SEO copywriting”
    it would exclude overstuffing of keywords. Each page, other than perhaps the home page should should be composed in consideration of one or two long tail keyword phrases. If one needs to market another keyword phrase, they need to write an additional page. If this advice is followed, it will almost always serve as the foundation of good on page optimization.

  33. “Sadly though, too many people do not understand enough about SEO and either discount it altogether or get taken advantage of by deceptive SEO companies.” – Very true. Search Engine Optimization requires a significant amount of time and industry knowledge. Providers that guarantee first page results overnight should be avoided!

  34. Search engine optimization firms will always say that they can bring in the goods. But of course, we need to do our part and do research.

  35. SEO is very crucial which comes with a richly content website. RedHotFranchises is professionally SEO Compliant, with hits of potential Franchisee’s everyday which makes it very easy for Franchisors to gain traffic.
    A Good SEO Company should only charge $300 dollars a month.

  36. Great post Janet. With web searches being so popular and crucial to livelihod of businesses, I think this post does a great job on educating those who may be desperate and start looking at one on these SEO companies. You do a great job on pointing out the facts of these deceptive companies and what to stay away from. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Janet, excellent post about deceptive SEO companies. I agree with you completely. But thing there are companies who provide SEO services which follow White Hat only. They have business ethics to do so. I prefer client or any service acceptor need to know methods and steps followed by the companies. Then i dont feel there will be any issues.

  38. Nice primer Janet

    Guarantees of first page rankings or even number one in Google are sprinkled all over the web… and since the average person knows nothing about SEO, it is tempting to sign up.
    And of course if someone is paying out hard earned money, they want guarantees!

    Keyword stuffing is the other annoying habit, in title tags or in the body text.
    Trouble is… I see lots of keyword stuffed title tags that rank well in google. And it does tempt you..

    I look forward to your follow-up post.

  39. Nice post Davis. 1st and the 4th point were quite appreciable. Highly effective. But the most important thing that I liked in your post is getting a dedicated IP address. This factor is almost never being addressed by any company who searches for the web hosting companies. It might be possible that your website might be hosted in a domain where other site which are considered to be inappropriate socially, having begrimed content may affect your website. Search Engines like google, Microsoft, yahoo etc would also consider your website as one of the non- suitable site though your site does not contain any malicious content. So a great care should be taken before selecting a Web hosting company. From the experiences that I have with many web designing and marketing companies, its my wise suggestion to host and design your website from a renowned and experienced companies like http://www.medicalwebexperts.com. As this is one of the prominent medical website designer and hoster, your site might be placed within the domain where many other medical website would have been hosted. And this is considered to be a very positive point in the eyes of search engines. This may also increase your page rank. And also medical websites are one of the toughest website to be built; your website design would be on the safe hands.

  40. Thank you for this well written article Janet, I personally almost lost my first client to one of these guys who “claimed” that for $800 flat he could guarantee my client’s web site would be ranked #1 in Google for “Seattle Real Estate.” Of course when I heard this I contacted the guy (probably shouldn’t post his name here) to ask him how he could possibly guarantee this??? And what methods exactly he used to achieve this. Turns out he was mis advertising his SEO skills and actually was trying to snow my client into an expensive and highly competitive PPC campaign. Trying to explain this after the fact to my client, like the difference between organic and paid inclusion, took awhile but he was willing to listen ,lucky for me! Small business owners, especially right now need to educate themselves before signing up for these types of “black hat” marketing techniques. It saddens me to think that they could wind up actually spending their limited marketing budgets on something that could not only hurt their “rankings” but their good business name and reputation all together…. and who can afford to risk that?

  41. well-written… the market is today flooded with SEO companies which give fake guarantees based on black hat SEO… the above-mentioned tips should be kept in mind while selecting a SEO company.

  42. Janet – great article. I was at a presentation for a company that “optimised” web pages the other day, the guy stood up in front of 25 other business and showed Google search results for “Lincoln Metal Furniture” and his clients website in the number one slot – desperately I tried to get a signal on my blackberry to check the Google Keywords tool for “Lincoln Metal Furniture” – alas I never got a signal – I asked him how many people he thought searched for that phrase and he replied “around 400 a month” – when I got back to the office I checked…..”No data” (which I believe is a polite way of saying none!) – What really gets my back up with these companies is that the business owner will put in “Lincoln Metal Furniture” and see his site at the top of Google (and then wonder why he actually gets NO business from his website). To me that is tantamount to fraud – no different to these Google Adwords companies that set up a google ad for a phrase not searched and charge the client

  43. Another method is to check their keywords in meta tags and see if they do well. (this is usully my first test)

  44. Janet,
    I thought you did a fairly good job, but your article neglects to remember a few things…

    1) Google can lie…or, maybe lie is a bad word…they can “protect their index” by not fully revealing all details or even misleading at times

    2) You stated a whole lot of criteria, but had absolutely ZERO test data to back it up.

    we are all in the same boat out here, trying to guess google’s algorithms…no one, but no one, knows except google. you should at least put that in as a disclaimer.

  45. Richard
    Thanks for your comment. I didn’t cover everything in this post – and gave no data. People don’t usually share data, certainly clients don’t. If you have any to share, please do…

    I wrote:

    “The first sign of a deceptive SEO company is any guarantee of rankings on competitive search keywords”

    I could clarify and say WHY they can’t guarantee anything. That’s your point. No one knows exactly how search engines work. No one controls them. It’s a complex and dynamic mathematical equation.

    Janet

  46. Here’s a great litmus test: Do they even have a web site of their own? I get spammed all the time by “SEO” companies who don’t identify their own web site in their email. Can’t imagine who would take them seriously without one, but the spam keeps coming…

  47. Fantastic article thanks. I think search is becoming so competitive that companies will use loads of under hand tactics to push websites to the top. Like you said, they’ll only have short term success.

  48. lapel pins:

    how is this different then any other business? business in general ‘outsources’ work (aka employees). It’s all the same. The end RESULT is what matters. Did you MAKE MONEY with the money you spent? That’s all that matters.

  49. The question that always sorts the men from the boys … “What guarantees can you provide?”.

    Some will reply with “I guarantee you that …”, others will say “There are no guarantees”. The good SEO’s will say “No Win, No Fee”. If you [as an seo] can’t say this to your clients, you shouldn’t be in the business.

    Cheers

    Col :-)

  50. On the keyword stuffing point, there is no set science as to what percentage is considered stuffing and what is not. It really depends on the competition and what their keyword density is for leaders in your particular industry. An interesting point I wanted to share and get your feedback on.

  51. It is so true, there are a ton of seo companies out there that are unethical and don’t care about the client. That is why you need to do your research and find a reputable seo firm with proven results before signing any contracts. Get referrals. Keywords are imperative to proper SEO but you should check the content to make sure they are not overusing keywords as this will put up red flags and be counterproductive. Google looks for fresh, new, interesting content not over-saturated pages.

  52. SEO should really be called ‘Search Engine Manipulation’ because, if we are honest about it, that’s what it amounts to.

    We are attempting to win an online popularity contest. But many SEO practices can make you the loud, obnoxious, one at the party, trying to sell life-insurance to the other guests at the buffet table.

    Search engines, such as Google, are trying to play sherrif in a REALLY wild west cyber-frontier. Keeping the dross to a minimum wherever possible. Not an easy task, given the garbage which litters the ‘net. How many times do you see ‘[whatever keyboard you've types into the search engine] is it a scam?’ as some ‘marketer’ holds yet another fake venus fly trap review site up for our inspection?

    Although some SEO companies do attempt to deceive, for the most part it is their ignorance of the true nature of the search engine algorithms which fuel their practices. It’s not actually their fault, as only the search engine engineers themselves really know what criteria is required. For it would be carnage for everyone concerned if that information ever became public.

    There’s no getting away from the simple truth that unique, original and organically grown content is the lifeblood of a successful web enterprise.

    Anything else is just stacking the deck. But not eventually in your favor.

    • Hi Graham,

      Great content is the lifeblood, yes — but I’ve seen plenty of sites with great content not get very good search engine position. I think you have to start with great content (and don’t try to shortcut it). Once you have that, you still need to understand how to present it and how to market it.

      - Anita

  53. I agree with Anita. Good and consistent content is the safe and best way to grow online. I know of to many horror stories of so-called seo companies using shady tactics just for quick results. Must have patience in this business.

  54. If you really want to check the work of a website designer or a medical SEO company here is a good check:

    1) Get a profile on SEOMoz
    2) Set up a campaign for a website they give you as their example
    3) Plug in keywords
    4) See results of their work

    Now do the same for your own website once you start with them:
    1) Set up a campaign on SEOMoz
    2) Choose your keywords
    3) Watch their rankings improve / decrease / stay the same

    Never fails.

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