As a follow up to our recent mini-series on how to choose an SEO, I thought I’d share a little story about why it’s so important to choose your SEO company well - and why you should be very wary if you’re offered a bargain.
If you have a website, or even an email address, you’ve probably had emails, written in broken English, promising to get you to the top of Google. Despite working for a digital agency and having been an SEO professional for almost 15 years, I get them - in my work inbox. That’s probably the first sign that it’s not a good company - they haven’t looked closely enough at the website they’re asking to optimise in order to realise that it’s the business of a company that specialises in SEO and that there’s nothing really for them to do. Nonetheless, I got this one just the other week:
Now the first indication this probably isn’t a good company to do business is that the email is coming from ‘Patricia Lane’ and signed by ‘Amrita Badoriya’. But we thought it would be interesting to hear what they had to say, so I decided to troll ‘Amrita’ and I replied:
I got a reply pretty quickly:
...you get the idea.
Now, considering that on-page SEO is extremely important, and Google checks spelling and grammar when crawling and indexing web pages - the fact that this email is grammatically incorrect, almost nonsensical in fact, should warn you that you should steer clear. But then we get to the services they’re offering:
- Article submissions
- Blog submissions
- Search engine submissions
- Fasttrack submissions
- Classified submissions
They’re just naming things that exist on the web - or used to exist (such as search engine submissions). Much of this stuff, at best won’t help you at all, and at worst will actively get you removed from Google’s index.
For example, article submissions - back in 2010 and 2011 it used to be standard practice to write syndicated content which had links embedded in the text. You could find loads of article directories which ostensibly existed as pools of free content which any webmaster could use on his or her website. So if you had good articles in loads of article directories, you might end up getting loads of free links. Except mostly these article directories consisted of badly written content which had been written for the purposes of SEO. Often that content had been ‘spun’ through an automated system, which meant that the copywriter would do one version and then the software would ‘rewrite’ the article multiple times, so you could submit it to multiple directories and it wouldn’t be ‘duplicate’.
So, even if your content was useful and beautifully written, it was still unlikely anyone would find it amidst all the garbage. At the time, though, everyone assumed that if your content itself was fine then the links were also fine - because you were offering something useful to readers, even if it was hard to locate amidst all the garbage.
When Google rolled out its Penguin linkspam update in April of 2012, that pretty much killed off this technique. If an ‘SEO Agency’ is promising this in 2017, run away as fast as you can.
My favourite in the list above has to be ‘Web 2.0 Optimisation’. Now, Web 2.0 was a term used about 10 years ago to describe interactive sites that featured ‘user-generated content’, in particular social bookmarking sites - like Del.icio.us and Digg - most of whom are now gone or have changed their purposes entirely. People also used it to refer to early social media sites. So what this company means is that they’re going to share your site through all of their spammy sock puppet accounts. This won’t do much for you either seeing as these accounts don’t have a genuine footprint - they don’t have conversations.
Oh, and if you’re going to outsource your social media accounts to a company in India who don’t really know anything about you - you’re asking for whatever trouble ensues.
My second favourite thing was their item about ‘Content Duplicity.’ I think they mean ‘content duplication’ but I like the idea of some agency going around and dealing with duplicitous business waffle.
I was curious, though, what would happen, if I asked for a bit of clarification:
A bit cheeky this - clearly sarcastic. I assumed they’d realise at this point they were being trolled and stop responding. But, nope - they still didn’t take the time to do their homework and look at what sort of company I-COM is. Instead of responding to my questions, they sent me a massive sample report which consisted of a giant Excel spreadsheet with things like this:
So, basically, they’re the guys submitting hundreds of sites and webpages to garbage sites. Have you ever been on “webarbiter.com” or “grabpage.info” for any reason? Would you? If the answer is no, then why would you want your business on those sites?
I didn’t follow up quickly enough so I got chased. I asked again for clarification on my questions and this was the reply:
To give you an idea of the quality of what they’re offering then, is to submit articles to a site that contains this gem https://www.articlesbase.com/news/the-best-way-to-dell-tech-support
Helpful, thanks. Just where is the United State?
But, to be fair, the article example they give to prove they can write well is this;
Yep, beautifully written. No grammatical errors in that paragraph.
Amusingly, they also didn’t seem to pick up on my cheeky question about duplicitous content and tried to explain how they deal with duplicate content.
This is the point at which I got bored and decided to blog about it.
I suppose that my purpose here is to show the dangers of paying for these sorts of cheap SEO packages. They may sound appealing to a small business with limited funds for marketing when faced with the prospect of spending thousands of pounds a year for just ensuring the SEO basics are covered. There’s a reason that decent agencies charge what they charge, however. Doing SEO and digital marketing right takes time and effort, so it costs accordingly.
If you’re really struggling with your budget, there are good freelancers out there who charge less than an agency. I’d vet them the same way you would an agency - here’s Google’s guidance on that (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piSvFxV_M04).
Google also has a great guide on how to get started on doing your own SEO http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf. If you’re a small business with a small website, you can certainly get many of the basics in place on your own - if you have the time.