The SEO sector has been busy the last six months. Google released their ‘panda’ and more recently their ‘penguin’ search updates, both focused upon the spammers and those trying to manipulate website search page positioning.
Not all SEO companies are honest or know what they’re doing
This is what Google is trying to block and it appears to be working. The Penguin update targeted all the dubious practices employed by most search engine optimiser software and/or SEO ‘gurus’. It’s been commonplace for the past 10 years, getting paid links or spinning content articles and distributing them just to improve rankings.
Now, simply by playing by the rules and recommendations long outlined by Google, you can be handsomely rewarded. Millions of clean, well built websites with good content have seen improvements in their search page position over the last few weeks, as dubious competitors that were placed higher on the page (by buying backlinks and manipulating things), have been banished.
The lure of instant traffic is always tempting
The sad part is that many reputable companies were sucked in by these people and are now, unfortunately, paying a heavy price. One of the highest profile cases of this was JC Penny in the US, which employed a company that used dubious SEO practices, which ultimately cost them millions in lost sales. (read more)
What does a typical spammer offer?
I had a classic example today from a comment link on one of my clients sites. It was a rare one that got past the WordPress sites akismet comment spam filter. The link took me to a webpage that made some bold promises. (right). The bad grammar and spelling is often an early sign of trouble ahead. For those in India, China or the Ukraine, English is their second language. However I’ve seen a couple locals doing this too using slick, quite believable sales pitch.
For only $29 I could get a thousand PR3 backlinks. This is good right? I checked this website to see if it did what it said, a key indicator being a high domain authority.
The result stunned me, with a figure of 89/100. This is very high. I thought, maybe I should get out my credit card? It would take me years of work to get a page authority like this. However in reality, this is simply a reflection of an ‘expected ranking’, using simple math, based upon the number of backlinks. Google may have a different figure.
Did it Work?
However the end goal here is to rank high in a search page result. This was the promise made for the $29. Normally, a good website that had a high page authority like this would get hundreds of results and lots of traffic.
But a quick check using other diagnostic SEO software (below, right), showed me this promotional site that obviously used its own system, in spite of all those thousands of backlinks, received only two page rankings, both being it’s own url, which doesn’t count
I would safely conclude that those buying into this service would have the same outcome. In fact in many cases it would do them far more harm than good. If they had pages that did rank, adding in this service would at some point send it plummeting down the search page result. i.e. Get it banned by Google.
All this work by Google is good news for the average small business trying to be found online. However I still worry that some businesses are being sucked into this. People are getting these sorts of offers by email every day. Some provide bogus SEO reports on your existing website, saying it needs to be fixed in some way. Several of my own clients get these and then start to question my work! (Annoying to say the least).
If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is
Many firms that currently have a basic brochure website built that usually gets little traffic anyway think why not just try this? It surely can’t do any harm. And it’s a ‘better deal’ than that local SEO company that wanted to charge a $1000 or more and take months to get good traffic.
But the sad reality is that it could make things far worse. There’s thousands of such schemes and websites out there like this, circling like vultures for their next hapless victim. Yes, they offer ‘money back guarantees’, but it’s also likely that the websites selling this junk could disappear tomorrow, leaving you with a site that is banned from the Google index.
Don’t be sucked in by these SEO ‘experts’. Google WILL punish you
It can get quirky too, as some have reported great traffic results for several weeks, and site owners bask in the glow of their success and a wise investment. But then it suddenly crashes, as the Google algorithm kicks in. And once your site is banned by Google, it takes a very long time to get it back into shape and ranked for anything. Removing those bad backlinks is a near impossible task. If you want traffic, you’re often better to start a new website, under a new domain name. Yikes!
However for spammers it’s a numbers game. If 1 in 1000 people pay up the lowly $29 or even the $998 ‘gold package’ above, that’s good income for them. These are precisely the schemes Google is targeting. But pity the gullible website owner or marketer taken in by it all. I guess some people are just too trusting.
Beware - It’s happening Downunder too
Sadly, it’s not just those from India or the Ukraine you have to worry about. Monitor SEO forums on linkedin and it’s clear many are not listening. Some are even signing a petition for Google to roll back their latest penguin update. That’s the last thing we need!
I also came across an Auzzie guru last week that in one of his brand new SEO training videos, talked about building backlinks, including those from link and content farms. Amazingly, he even acknowledged that it carried a risk since it was against Googles terms of service. But he STILL recommended his clients do it as it had worked for him in the past!
Clearly some people have their heads stuck in the sand and are both deaf and dumb…