Can we just talk about the frustration of SEO “magic”? Maybe I’m the only one that finds this frustrating, but the insane amount of spam that’s been on my blog recently triggered my distaste for SEO link-building campaigns. I know that spamming it a black-hat version of SEO, but it does contribute to the overall view of SEO in general. Most people who know nothing about Search Engine Optimization think that you just pay some company a fee, and you end up at the top of the search engines the next day. It’s like magic! This, in fact, is not the case. Search engines are optimized using a number of criteria, including amount of relevant content, quality of content, links/trackbacks, and “secret algorithms” formulated by the search engines to offer the most useful results. In theory, companies can manipulate a lot of the factors, with the exception of the “secret algorithms”. The problem is that now EVERYONE is using optimization techniques, so there’s much less advantage to including key words and meta tags today than when SEO first gained popularity.
However, now that it’s mainstream, everyone seems to want it. And, since most people aren’t educated about how to get it, they end up with companies employing black hat techniques like spamming random bloggers for “link-building” campaigns. Others will advise putting a whole block of keywords in the footer of every page, so that the algorithms will think you have more relevant content. I’m no SEO expert, but I do know black hat when I see it. So, here’s a few quick guidelines when determining whether a certain SEO provider might be a profitable partner:
1) What kind of timeframe do they promise improvement? SEO is a long-term strategy, so any company that promises quick results may not be the best provider. I usually budget 6-8 months for maximum results.
2) Do they promise to make you #1 in all search engines? I’ve found that most reputable providers can promise improvement, but rarely promise to make you the first result, all the time, on all search engines. Because search engines use “secret algorithms”, it’s nearly impossible to influence all results all the time. Be wary of a company that over-promises.
3) How do they do link-building? Are they setting up a special website for the sole purpose of trackbacks? While this isn’t the biggest red flag, it might raise concerns. Imagine, if a friend or family member ONLY recommended one brand for EVERYTHING, wouldn’t you begin to wonder if they were paid to endorse that brand? And, wouldn’t it make you a little less trusting of their opinion if they were endorsed? It’s a similar feeling with link-building… if all links on a site point to the same website that is selling something, potential customers might not trust the “recommendation”.
4) Do they recommend on-going services, or just a one-time outlay fairly often? SEO is an ever-evolving process, so most reputable companies will offer some sort of maintenance plan. You might want to dig a little deeper on companies that offer a one-time “foundation”, and then require a huge payment to “update” it every few months. Again, SEO is a slow and steady race, not a series of sprints to the #1 spot on a search engine.
As I said, I’m no expert, but I’ve had enough experience to know poor SEO when I see it. The “link-building” attempts by spamming my blog sparked my frustration once more, so I hope you will use the afore-mentioned guidelines to ensure that your company is not employing black hat SEO techniques that result in angry bloggers!