A while back, in 2011 we published a Slideshare about SEO entitled a ‘Guide to bad SEO.’ I accurately predicted that most blackhat or spammy Agencies didn’t know what really was whitehat or blackhat. With the learning curve on Search Engine Optimisation ever on the increase, there’s never been a shortage of companies selling a box of tricks and calling it SEO. Similarly, there was nothing to stop a company taking €500 a month off you and paying a company in Asia €50 to do ‘some SEO.’ There are also plenty of agencies, who’ll take €5,000 a month from you and do the same or worse.
Who sells SEO?
There isn’t just a distinct SEO industry. Most SEO is sold by Digital Agencies, web designers, PPC account managers, Social media agencies. Less than 20% of all SEO consulting in Ireland or the UK is probably sold by a dedicated specialist SEO agency.
Blackhat affects us all
Blackhat isn’t something that the “SEO industry” occassionally dips it’s feet into. Spam is something we’ve been fighting for as long as I can remember. Every industry we enter, we end up competing against spam and blackhat-SEO. It’s very easy to level a crossbow at SEO and take a swipe with a tar brush but let’s look at things from a practical point of view:
There are many, many digital agencies that offer SEO in some format. Call it “SEO lite” or “SEO Built-in” or “SEO Starter Packs.” We have a little bit of experience in this area and this has always made us cringe. If you’re getting €100 per month in SEO for your retail site or your gift store or your golf course or your dental practice – where does this monthly fee incorporate the different levels of competition. For us, SEO and the input needed is based purely on search competition and geographical markets. Others have prices based on links, keywords and other fudge. Fudge, that’s going to get them into trouble.
Most companies who use spammy SEO techniques or employ agencies on their behalf – don’t understand it and probably don’t care. Over the years, I’ve had people just wanting a price – no idea about what their website looks like, what they do, where their customer is. How do businesses develop this kind of attitude? It’s not from us and it’s not from any of the SEO’s I know.
Who is the real culprit?
If you’ve hired an SEO company and you’re site has dropped or been penalised (and only manual penalties come with a notification by the way) – did you understand what happened? When you got a fixed price quote – did they inform you who the person performing your SEO was? What country they were in? That maybe they’re doing SEO for 2000 different businesses maybe? That they’re really just paying some company in India (or Malaysia, or Pakistan, or the Ukraine) and they don’t know what they’re doing?
SEO Audits – a new feature
We started doing SEO Audits way back. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have some on this PC that date back to 2005. It’s scary. Looking at the list of the things we considered important, dangerous, iffy, critical, helpful – the list has only grown. A few things, very few things would look out of place, but not entirely ridiculous. For the most part, SEO hasn’t changed.
Penguin – levelling the playing field
Except. For one. Little. Thing. Penguin. This has changed the game. Before you start thinking content marketing, authorrank (this is made up by the way) – SEO hasn’t changed – Google has just finally decided to dig deep on over optimisation. The SEO we did, apart from co-citation, hasn’t changed. We don’t buy links, we don’t write crappy articles.
If it isn’t the end, then the end is nigh. I read a recent take on eConsultancy, who’s articles vary from excellent to amateur gargle, and Kristian Banister has summarised his view “With Google so keen to cut down on webspam, where does SEO go from here?”
Well, SEO isn’t webspam. Blackhat SEO is often strongly reliant on spam but Whitehat SEO would surely preclude it. Not only that, but neither blackhat nor whitehat needs to use spam. Spam is quite often just laziness.