Think of professions with bad reputations. What springs to mind? Used-car salesmen? Insurance salesmen? Telemarketers? What about SEOs?
SEO is a much maligned industry. Some of this has to do with its technical nature and the fact that a lot of the processes take place behind the scenes to appease Google’s omnipotent yet invisible search algorithm. And, unfortunately, some of it has to do with unscrupulous practitioners intent on duping unsuspecting, trusting website owners into believing that they can deliver the impossible.
It’s not that SEO is unduly plagued by these shady characters, at least no more so than the used-car industry is plagued by under-hand, below-the-belt, shaft-their-own-grandmothers salesmen.
The problem is that being online, news of disreputable practices spread like a virus (which is kind of ironic when you think about it).
Despite all the good work being done by ethically and morally conscious SEO firms, baddies still flourish by selling clients lies about the fantastic things they can achieve in almost no time.
Here, in no particular order, are the lies that are most irksome:
1) If we don’t submit your site to search engines they won’t find it.
A variation on this is the promise to submit websites to thousands of search engines and directories.
It’s so unnecessary. Google, Yahoo and Bing are not so dense that they don’t know when something new pops up. They have millions of robots crawling the net and indexing sites everyday, every second. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll slip through the cracks. If they do happen to miss you on one round, they’ll catch you the next.
In fact, Google says that even though you can submit your URL it won’t guarantee that you’ll be indexed. So it’s far better to let nature take its course.
What you do need, however, are some links. A few good links from other sites will get crawlers’ attention and before you know it you’re website will be official.
Directories are something else. You don’t want to be submitted to thousands because of the dubious quality of the majority. Many are classified as link farms and if Google catches you breeding links on them it will penalise you severely. Instead you want your site submitted to a few choice directories.
2) Guaranteed rankings
Proper SEOs hate it when snake-oil SEOs promise first page rankings to clients, especially if they guarantee them within seven days, or something equally ridiculous.
It takes time and effort to climb search engine results pages. SEOs can deliver improved search engine performance, more targeted traffic and greater ROI, but they can’t perform miracles. Nabbing the no.1 spot on Google quickly and with the bare minimum of work is nothing short of miraculous.
Hard-working SEOs also hate it when fraudsters tout Google affiliation as a guarantee to good rankings, special insider knowledge or brag about having cracked Google’s algorithm.
All of these claims sound too good to be true because they are.
3) All you need are links
Yes, links play an important part in an SEO strategy, but links aren’t all you need. Furthermore, you can’t get just any old links in any old way. Google is picky. Discerning is perhaps a better word and one which SEOs should take to heart.
Don’t believe anyone who asks you to set aside a considerable budget to buy links. Buying links is bad. Google will send you to the dog box if it catches you (just ask US-based mega-store JC Penny).
And, not all links are good. Some websites have higher link quality than others; some sites are a waste of cyberspace. Discernment is the watchword.
Bonus pet peeves
Lahle Wolfe includes sandboxing, the oft-cited oft-denied practice by which Google places new sites in a temporary purgatory, effectively keeping them from achieving good rankings. Google keeps denying it but that doesn’t stop some SEOs from using it to blame poor performance.
Kasy Allen lists her favourite lies, which include:
- We own the keywords and can lease them to you so you can get top placement on the search engines.
- We helped build Google’s algorithm, so we know exactly how they get websites to the top.
- You have to keep paying us if you want to keep your high rankings. As soon as you stop, Google won’t know who you are.
- We’ve worked in your industry before, so we know exactly how to get you ranked.
There are plenty more examples, but to delve deeper simply invites disheartenment. Instead we caution you to keep your wits about you.