SEO ethics was a hot topic this month. The afterburn of Google’s de-indexing of several link building networks, such as BMR (Build My Rank), and the outing of GoDaddy by SEO superstar Joost van der Valk, left tempers flaring and heated debates in its wake. The story has been regaled (ad nauseam) thousands of times on the web, so I’ll spare you yet another version of it.
The point is just that black hat SEO doers and followers have been a thorn in the sides of ethical SEO experts, webmasters and website owners for quite a while now. It is easy to get fed up when fly-by-night Norman Nowhere websites manage to bamboozle their way into poll position on the back of unethical SEO practices while the rest of us, who are trying to build real and sustainable businesses, have to painstakingly edge our way up the ranks. Unethical SEO industry players like BMR callously hijacked the process to the detriment of the rest of us. From what I understand, their clients (among others) have been left link-less and for the first time in a long time the score has changed: Heroes 1 – Villains 0.
Black Hat is not sustainable. Don’t believe for a moment that these Black Hat SEO companies are blissfully unaware of the fact that their snake oil rackets will be shut down at some point in time. They know it full well. The search engines employ very smart people to find those who don’t play well with others and they do find them. Every time a coconut. The big losers at the end of a black hat bust, are usually the clients. Contrary to popular belief not all Black Hat SEO clients are in on the act; some are completely ignorant until after the fact.
And that is why you have to err on the side of caution when selecting an SEO professional to help you optimise your site. In spite of these de-indexings and oustings and what-not, purveyors of SEO snake oil still abound and are likely to continue flourishing given the gap in the market left by, among others, BMR’s demise.
How to spot the SEO scammers
If any SEO company claims any of the following things, you should be smelling a rat:
- Too good to be true ‘guarantees’
- Number One Search Engine Ranking on Google
- Indexing within 2 days / 48 hours
- Promises of hundreds or thousands of links to your site within a short time frame
- Listing your site on hundreds of directories
- ‘Secret’ SEO methods (probably means Black Hat techniques)
- ‘Special’ contacts at the major search engines
- Pay once, rank high forever…or at least for a very long time
- Insistence that they handle your web content (Copywriting quality as well as brand-, patent- and copyright infringement risks)
- Suggestions to employ ‘shady’ content strategies such as fake product reviews, spamming and scraping.
How to spot the SEO hacks
- Poor keyword choices
- Lack of direct answers when you pose a direct question
- Know the buzz words, but can’t explain them intelligently
- Opaque, infrequent or no reporting
- Incorrect advice
How to identify an ethical SEO business
Research. Research. Research. And then research some more. Ask around. Speak to industry insiders such as your copywriter and your web designer. They might not know all the bad guys out there, but they definitely know who the good ones are. There are many of them.
Sadly there is no governing body to protect you from SEO villains. Sure, you can alert the search engines or try to sue if the offending party is on your own turf. But it is going to be awfully difficult and expensive to execute if they are safely tucked away on foreign soil.