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Why SEO Disgusts Me

It's getting ugly

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Why SEO Disgusts Me
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Before my SEO friends get their panties in a wad over today’s headline, let me emphasize that I understand the practical value and wisdom of basic Search Engine Optimization practices. There are many prinicipled people in the field doing good and useful work.

What tactics frustrate you the most? Comment here.

But the competition to out-fox the search engines is getting ugly. Beyond ugly.

I recently had a discussion with the CEO of a leading Midwest search firm who described their common practice of creating fake accounts to pump client links into the comment section of blog posts and forums.

The process goes something like this:

  1. The company hires home-bound individuals or low-wage people in developing countries to freelance as professional blog commenters.
  2. The blog commenters are trained on how to pose as fake people and comment in a way that does not alert the suspicion of Google or the author of the blog.
  3. The freelance commenters are then given assignments, fake personas and email accounts to provide an appearance of legitimacy.  A 50-year-old man in Indianapolis might be posing as a 30-year-old housewife in Pittsburgh, for example.
  4. The commenters are compensated by the number of client links they can successfully work into a comment or forum — as many as five in one post.

Reality check.  Isn’t this fraud?

I really don’t pay attention to the SEO shenanigans like this on a day to day basis but now these practices are starting to impact me and my precious time. Here is an example of this practice in a comment that was salted into the {grow} comment section by “John” –

This is good post. This is some good important facts about the corporate blogs. Do you have any information on how to manage comments on the blog.  I think http://www. (web link to consumer electronics retail outlet) might have an idea.  Chech it out.

And of course this linked website did not even have a blog.  So now I am spending my time weeding out fake comments that elude the spam filter … and it happens every day.

I spoke to one of the freelancers hired by this SEO company to provide this faux commenting service. He’s otherwise unemployed and is doing it because he’s desperate for money. He’s good at what he does and rarely gets “outed.”

However as he described his work, he told me he feels guilty when people on the blogs actually want to engage with his fake persona. “I feel terrible about this,” he said. “I have to find some other work.   I’m deceiving people as part of my job. I’m not in a position to engage with them because I’m a fake, which seems wrong.”

While Google fights against this kind of practice, it is very difficult to detect, and the “penalties” are so minor the risk is ignored by the SEO’s. And the volume of fake comments is likely to get worse.  This firm alone has hired 300 fake commenters in the past 12 months and sees rapid expansion as a key competitive advantage.

The CEO of this SEO company does not consider this a “black hat” SEO practice — “it’s gray,” he said, “and we have many companies willing to pay us a lot of money to do it.” He bragged that one client has a monthly SEO bill of $200,000.

I recognize that there are many important business insights and strategies that can come from legitimate SEO professionals like:

  • Keyword research + targeting
  • Testing + optimizing content for users
  • Content strategy direction
  • Making sites search-engine friendly
  • Leadership for analytics
  • Opportunities for alternative search listings
  • User experience improvement

… and more.  But I’m concerned when it gets difficult to compete in the industry without engaging in fraudulent behavior.  This is a slippery slope that will lead to regulation.  All it will take is one high-profile case that blows the lid off these practices.  And we will all lose if we have to endure new rules and the cost of compliance.

I want to do business with people who view ethics as black and white, not gray.  I want to work in an industry where we can compete fairly without resorting to SEO fraud to cover up ineffective products, services and marketing plans. How about you?

Let us know in the comments.

Check out BusinessGrow.com for more articles by Mark Schaefer.

Why SEO Disgusts Me
About Mark Schaefer
Executive Director Mark Schaefer has 28 years of global sales and marketing experience and advanced degrees in business and applied behavioral sciences. He is an award-winning business writer, university lecturer and innovator, receiving seven international patents for new product ideas with Fortune 100 companies. He teaches at Pellissippi State College in Knoxville and serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers University. http://www.businessesgrow.com WebProNews Writer
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  • http://www.katandmouse.com Kathy Long

    I’m an SEO and totally agree with you Mark. I’ve never resorted to what you describe because I’ve never had to. However, if I had clients competing for terms like “weight loss,” I would really feel the pain, so much so, I wouldn’t take the client because I wouldn’t want to have to resort to those tactics. That’s a sad state of affairs, isn’t it? So I work contentedly with local businesses who aren’t up against competitors who can afford the $100K a month for SEO to outrank their competitors.

    But even in smaller markets, I run into problems. In my SEO research for my insurance client today who wants to gain the state market, I found a competitor who is very cleverly building his backlinks by creating his own external websites (note the s) to link from. They all appear legitimate, insurance-related sites all linking back to him with relevant links coming from a relevant site. In short, he built his own web, and Google is playing happily in his sandbox. It’s so well done that I think it will be hard for Google to detect that it’s all a fake. I can see that they even built in decoys to keep Google at bay.

    Google is trying hard to put an end to this, but clearly we are not there yet. Fraudulent sites are still being rewarded. And black hat SEOs are getting rich. But over time I expect to see social search and user feedback to become the signals that the search engines will rely more on over time as they are harder to manipulate — at least now it is.

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      Thanks for the rational and principled view Kathy!

    • http://www.seowebexpert.co.uk Dave Jenkins

      I certainly don’t condone the tactic of creating multiple websites and linking back to the primary one. There are several competitors of mine that do the same. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do it, but is it wrong?

  • Terry Van Horne

    Well you are talking about an industry with no barriers to entry that pays very well and stupid shit like this works…. for a short time. What you describe isn’t SEO it’s spam so don’t confuse that stupid crap with what legitimate SEO’s do. Just cuz they say it is SEO don’t make it so. You show your relative ignorance of what SEO is by acceptiong that as an SEO technique. Most I know don’t.

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      Suggesting that I am ignorant may be true, but at least get to know me first : )

      I am not an SEO expert but know enough to ask the right questions. I have more than 10 years of experience in web marketing and 30 years in business.

      Before I published the article, I actually asked several pros in the field and they acknowledged that this did not surprise them and that the practice was fairly well known. With this confirmation, I thought it was interesting topic to bring to my readers on my blog {grow}, where this was originally published.

      Since this company is a well-known SEO firm, advertises itself as an SEO firm and has SEO as part of it name, I thought it was appropriate to call it an SEO firm.

    • http://www.oink.co.za Craig Nuttley

      Hi Terry,

      If you are gaining results on search engines, whether by black, grey or white optimization, it’s SEO. Short for search engine optimization. If gray or black hat tactics boost site into the top 10 on SEARCH ENGINES, would that not be considered SEO?

      While I appreciate your ethical approach, to ignore the fact that a site appearing in the top 10 gets there through SEO would be … uhm … ignorant.

      Do you have a link where we can see some of your stuff?

  • http://mccom.com/ Robert Duncan

    First of all most links in blog comments are NoFollow, so those link add no value.

    Second if you think outsourcing to create fake accounts are wrong. Then welcome to the internet in general. New dating websites, forums, etc… all use fake accounts. Even big sites like match.com.

    Third, have you ever heard of auto-commenting programs or blog commenting software like comment kahuna?

    Fourth, Google knows what are comments and places little value if any into them.

    Fifth, he’s lying about $200,000/month. The vp of marketing would be fired if that was the case. The company would hire a consultant to help setup an in-house team. Think about it. Plus if a company can afford that much then they really don’t need much for SEO.

    Finally, Real SEO consultants don’t blog comment. Waste of time.

    • http://www.SEOWithNick.com Nicholas Post

      I just have a few comments on some of the things you stated here.

      First off just because sites like Match.com and others use fake account, does that really make this an alright practice to purposely deceive others? In my opinion, absolutely not. If major website owners jumped off a bridge, does that mean that everyone else should do this too?

      Secondly, $200,000 a month price range may not be as big as you may think. If a company pays for SEO work as well as pay per click campaigns, they could easily rack up a huge monthly bill. Especially in areas such as insurance where individual clicks may cost more than $25 each. If spending $200k a month brings them in $400k in revenue, then the price they are paying essentially does not matter.

      Finally your last comment about ‘Real SEO consultants don’t blog comment’ is not true in all cases. A lot of times it may be the site owners who request that active participation in blogs that are heavily viewed by their target audiences. Although the backlinks may not be utilized by search engines as you stated, if just one viewer clicks over to their site and converts, then the few minutes it took to post the reply has been worth it.

      Every website is unique and what may be great for one site may be terrible for another. There is no clear cut way to decide what is good or bad unless you analyze how it applies to the situation at hand.

      You can follow me on my blog: SEO With Nick

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      Thanks for providing your perspective Robert. You might check out the orginal comment stream on my blog where this was published. Several of these issues were discussed at length. The link is: http://bit.ly/kszmwk

    • http://www.keystonemarketing.co.za Sean

      What would you recommend then to improve SE0? I am extremely frustrated by lack of results. I own a small business and can’t afford SEO consultants, but I have read heaps of articles on the subject, successfully linked my website to many directories, including the bigger ones like JoeAnt, I post regularly on industry related blogs, post articles with keyword rich links on sites like wordpress and ezine. And my web pages are xhtml strict and css compliant, and load quickly. Yet I still have a page rank of 0. What levels do you have to reach to get higher Google rankings?

  • http://www.netagence.com Referencement Rennes

    Both interesting and worrying considering the fierce war of ecommerce sellers, and traffic-worried webmasters in general. It just underlines that as in any profession one has to draw the line with their own ethics.
    SEO providers, at least good ones, know that it’s not just because it can be done that it has too. Most of these crooks here to get as much money as possible from an SEM-challenged client on then hop to the next, will eventually cause them great harm in terms of reputation, and can get them banned from Google. Oh wait, who said that’s just an opportunity to sell them e-reputation control services ? Sigh…

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      I agree. Where corruption can occur, corruption will occur. And when that gig is over they’ll move on to the next one. : )

  • http://seocincinnati.com Kevin Chamberlin

    Mark great article and this hits home as well. My wife’s fitness blog was blasted with fake comments with links and they were not even clever in hiding them, they were just trying to get links. FYI good reason to make commenting a form sign in with info. like this one and maybe even moderate and make the final call before letting it go live.

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      While I feel for her Kevin. It can be a real pain, especially when they come in waves. My filter catches most of it but on these tricky personal ones it can be difficult. And even when I block them they keep coming back with different IP addresses or something. It’s like wack-a-mole.

  • http://www.neilyamit.com/ neil

    This just shows how fuzzy the boundary between SEO and Spam is. I’m with Terry, I think you’re referring to spams more than to SEO. (But hey, spamming to get links for SEO purposes can also be referred to, indirectly as SEO.)

    Anyhow, comments like those are really annoying. What’s even more annoying is when the website link posted doesn’t even correspond to the blog post.

    I’ve now resorted to using Facebook Comments, since 95% of my visitors have Facebook accounts.

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      Probably a sound strategy. As long as the conversation is taking place, might as well take it to a safe place : )

  • http://www.kizata.com/ Jonathan cole

    I am working as an SEO and want to say that this fake work is being used today by most of the company and their clients are also happy. Apart from this you must have seen that there are many website available who are selling facebook and twitter followers, Here also you just got follower because you paid some amount, they are not following you because they like something and this following factor highly effect the search results. In this scenario what we suppose to do ?

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      People are pushing the boundaries everywhere aren’t they? Can you even imagine how much money Google has to spend to stay a step ahead (or maybe behind) the black hat SEO people? What a world!

  • http://www.webroads.net WebRoads Directory

    I love SEO, the clean and well done one! :)

    • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

      Amen. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • http://www.best-juicing.com Rika Susan

    Amen, Mark! That goes for your heading and the last paragraph in particular. But this whole post sums up my feelings about the way SEO seems to be going. It is getting really tough for the small, honest folks without huge budgets and without the inclination to go the black hat route. SEO isn’t what it used to be.

  • Andrew

    We share the same feelings Mark. SEO is just different now and then. I am maintaining a small traffic forum on a large traffic website and I need to manually delete newly registered SEO Spammers everyday. It’s just difficult to block human SEO Spammers.

  • http://www.stardustkids.co.uk Geraldine

    Hi, I am fed up with SEO! Despite what Google says it is NOT about content but about inbound links many of which are bogus!

  • http://www.dotponto.com Steve Masters

    Mark, well done for writing this article. I have been advising clients for a long time that user-generated content is not worth having, 90% of the time. Thanks to Web 2.0, many companies now automatically assume it’s great to have a blog because people can interact, or great to allow product reviews because customers can contribute. However, at least 90% of your responses will come from the kind of people you describe.

    As a manager of blogs and forums, I am constantly deleting accounts of people who are clearly spammers.

    Unfortunately, this is not something Google should be doing something about. The responsibility lies with publishers. Individuals are finding that it may be easy to set up a website, but it is actually hard work to run it properly. The temptation is to leave it open and encourage as much commenting as possible, but in reality if you want quality, you have to shut the door to quantity.

  • Bubbles

    I agree with everyone. Check out my comments and why Obama agrees with me http://www.webpronews.com/why-seo-disgusts-me-2011-06#comments tits

    • MD

      Apart from the SEO rubbish, the worst thing about the internet is that the majority of traffic generated downloading waste-less comments such as this. This page alone is 1054 KB. Uncompressed it is 1824kb. Really? The original article is 1 1/2 pages long. I don’t want to download another 20 pages of strangers opinions, another 1 1/2 Mb. We don’t really care about what you think, what you tweet or if you “Like It”. I am against even writing this… Just write some good content for a change. If it is good, they will come. Our site has a robots file that simply contains DISALLOW: /* and we attract high traffic. SEO is the late night infomercial of the internet and any “SEO specialist” is the “I am not a paid actor” with the fake 6 pack and the orange face.

      Anyone can have good marketing, only a few have something worth advertising. -MD

    • http://stranglecorp.com Krycek

      Perfect example.

  • http://www.outsourceseoservices.com Karthik

    Hi
    Reading your comment I want to do business with people who view ethics as black and white, not gray.
    Unfortunately that is not how the world operates as we all know. Many people pay for links and not for rankings or traffic. If that is the case, then you will have such bad link building practices. We have tried to make clients be active on different social media and most of the time, they come back saying I dont have time. You do it for me. Hopefully google will have a better way to catch such bogus links and this sort of commenting will stop. Another area where you use lot of bogus commenting and linking is in Online Reputation Building
    Best regards
    Karthick

  • http://britishtn.blogspot.com/ Robert

    Thanks Mark its great that you are finding these people and speaking from the point of view of the employee’s. The reality is though the ideas and skill are taught from the top down, you mention the corporate bills of companies and highlight the reality of the people who do the grunt work for the top companies. For me this is good because it relaxes me about the way I felt these past few months, having to go into sites and delete all these back-links. If any-ones interested, I would like to explain the solutions I took with the problems to troubleshoot and a possible explanation of why this happened, and then perhaps rant on about the simple conspiracy that makes more people move into a position of being in this trap.

    First of all the title of this post explains a lot of things based on comments around the internet these past few weeks, bloggers whining about how blog posts are becoming littered with SEO input. Perhaps this is true but for any marketer it is something very essential, whether it contacting valid sources or adding valuable data into your feed there is no way around this. Might I add this blog is a great source of SEO information and has helped me articulate something as the data came in and as I got the feed back I needed to understand another acronym that stopped me in tracks like a rabbit on the road. Its ok all acronyms do this, I had the same sing in chat with OMG, PP Lol and other stuff.

    The truth is people whining about textual SEO are in fact visual people, with the cool side of images and the rise of places like Tumbler we can all understand why. We also live in an age where people by music for there computer then have a choice of which icon to use for the cover, why they could even edit it and make it even more groovy. Unlike the texters and more literate, there is an underlying urgency to go back and edit. Especially since there are so many places old stuff can be re published in new places.

    So here’s the problem, I spend oh over a month looking at the figures traffic rise, its very good, with not even a single post, you feel happy, but then the you notice why and the problems with back-end and front end traffic. So the software these guys use is back-end, that still is clunky on your server, with addition to the bonus it gives to the websites these links go-to or the wheel they are involved in. Deleting is time consuming although having spent weeks deleting then realising how much easier it was to delete I kinda realise its not that bad the life of a website Admin. Now we know most top website entrepreneurs are employing these likely lads in far of countries, and they compared to the World is flat principle they are earning a lot of money for what they do. But the key thing is education for most comes at a price, and some merits are not recognised as employable attributes in others, so its difficult to define colours grey, white black between saints, sinners or ethical practitioners, this is something for the search engines to decide and figure out. Especially since the sponsors that they deal with are paying customers to.

    Understanding the topdown approach, then receiving information can often turn out to be disinformation, now please do not think I am having a pop at WebProNews because I have enjoyed all the free stuff you have provided as well as the priceless newsletter, in-fact if anything its definitely making me feel a bit to clever. If its happening to me then I sure it s happening to others, we have like super-brains with this thing. Yes on good days we get it right and things spike. When these things pike this is when you get tracked down. By sending a load of links this inevitably causes problems. The source of these problems often comes form disinformation. For example, the comments box can be a key source of this. There are different comment boxes that provide special API keys, these keys in essence could give commentaries the ability to comment, even after the comment box is deleted, if the settings a not explained and the box is forgotten about the links can still come through that comment box and show up in the approved box. My tip is delete maybe 200 at a time instead of twenty, also try and set any comment box you join to moderate and approve after a certain amount of protocols, also I think it should be common knowledge having these posts instantly deleted have a period of time should resolve such things. In the long term I think this is why the bigger companies need to keep paying these people and keep sharing new ways of educating them. Fast cash is partly what this is all about, being smarter and thinking smarter is also very helpful. But when it comes to stories of people earning money that is where we all relate, well done Mark.

    Oh finally with the posting thing, I notice a statistical move from Words to images, its like the blogger to Tumble figures, is this something worth highlighting, I have no knowledge, but on good images I do see a remarkable amount of reposts, and is this something that perhaps these things I highlight are something that needs to be considered there to or is what you say here with the Intel you have on your end suggest that all these shenanigans are soon to fizzle out in there effects?

  • http://www.saving-a-relationship.com/ Stuart Sellars

    Hi Mark – this is a great post and fair play to you for having the pair to go with such a bold headline. When I first started looking at SEO I was determined to use white hat tactics and do things the right way. The problem is as more people adopt these strategies it becomes harder to compete with legitimate and approved tactics.

    I read the Google guidelines and then check out my competitors who are in top positions using obvious black hat techniques. The focus of my site is on relationship advice. I checked out one competitor to find that most of sites linking to him are in every genre but relationship advice. As an example there is a post about selling a property with a solitary (an obviously purchased) link at the end to his relationship site! I spend a lot of time and therefore money trying to keep legit and get blown away by people buying links – which is supposedly frowned upon by Google!

  • mike p

    Well, didn’t take long for the comment spam to appear here, did it… I use WordPress on most of my sites. The Akismet plugin is truly remarkable at catching spam comments. I was looking at one little blog yesterday and it is getting nearly 2,000 spam comments per month

  • http://toptvset.com Martin

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post. It seems that these days all is fair in love and internet marketing, people will go to any length for dominance in the marketplace. I feel fot the people who are scammed into being used in this way, desperate for money, they are working for peanuts, little more than prostitutes, exploited for their cheap labour. On the other side are all the peddlars of systems to automate this procedure, which is even worse. I believe you, as do I, abhor all this cheating, and trying to get the top spot at any expense, and the sooner someone, Google or someone else, clamps down, the better. True SEO, done legitimately will once again give the “Little Guy” a fairer crack of the whip.

  • http://www.eclicks.co.nz Grant

    This is a technique that has been widely used for a long time, is has gotten a little cleaner than it used to be, back in the day, there would be no comments at all, just links being posted. In some competitive markets the only way to compete is by going on the darker side of grey hat, or even full black hat, such as casinos, dating and online pharmacy products, you have to do this in these markets because everyone else is doing it too. In time though I do believe Google and other search engines will work out a way to make this technique obsolete, for now though, it is a good way for black hat seos to make quick and big money, so as soon as it doesn’t make them money any more it will stop happening. It would be better if they were to hire professional bloggers that were knowledgble on the subject they are writing about and would respond to comments on their posts, then the links on the posts would be of value and would also convert better. I think just paying a random person who has no extended knowledge on the subject that they are posting about is a very amateur approach.

  • http://www.charlestonwebweaver.com/ donna powell

    As a web designer, I am also appalled at the scare tactics used by the so-called consultants. My clients call me in distress as they are approached by website cruisers disguised as “consultants.” Assumming My people are informed that their SEO optimization (which is set up properly and organically)is insufficient and they are never going to be found by any search engine with immediate intervention by Guess Who.They impinge my capabilities and tell my clients I am incompetent. Then they pitch them for thousands of dollars to offer “proper” SEO set-ups with “guaranteed” optimized page rankings.In my area (Charleston, SC), I know some of these “consultants” from their nefarious previous professions. Most of them were sales reps in other fields, could not make it there, so they are now “experts” in SEO. Black hats, indeed. Black hearts also!

  • http://www.bigears.net,au Big Ears

    Big Business have been doing this for years and you only decided to speak out when it personally effected you?

    A person of your standing in the community, needed to be more proactive when you first recognised it. It has gone too far now and what’s worse is that these same bloggers are being used to destroy competitors sites as well. How they do this is simple – send thousands of irrelevant links to a competitors site and their site will be penalised by Google.

    At the end of the day the buck has to stop with Google. If Google doesn’t start policing the internet then governments around the world will just have to take over Google. This is possible under a Labor Government in Australia because it is written in their policies that they can take over any company in the country they want without paying a cent. We currently have a Labor Government. Hope I dont scare any investors away :)

    Another thing too is that it just isnt going to matter anymore in the future as there wont be any organic listings on the front page of Google for your searches, just a bunch of Google Apps like Adwords, Google News, YouTube, Maps, Suggestions, etc (probably Google Shopping as well).

    I really miss the old Google…

  • Lyman Duggan

    This is particularly true of Canadian OnLine drug companies trying to appear legitimize. None of them really are but you wouldn’t know it from what you find on the web. Most are Russian mafia controlled. Yes they hire un suspecting Canadians to answer the phones. I trusted the Maple Leaf on the website and ordered generic Plavix a blood thinner. Two months later a heart attack in Thailand. The Cardiologist recognized the drug by name and said on our government banned list as a fake. It came to me in the mail from India. These companies are highly IT educated but look at some of the domain names and see where they are registered~! Not in Canada. The Canadian government closes them down but they pop up again other places like mushrooms. And you will see lots of blogs touting how honest and good they are just like this article says~! They really should just be hunted down and shot in the night~! If I had not been near a cardiac cath lab I would have died. They could control this blog too. It is hard to know who to trust, Mark, it’s a real worldwide problem.

  • MD

    Apart from the SEO rubbish, the worst thing about the internet is that the majority of traffic generated downloading waste-less comments such as this. This page alone is 1054 KB. Uncompressed it is 1824kb. Really? The original article is 1 1/2 pages long. I don’t want to download another 20 pages of strangers opinions, another 1 1/2 Mb. We don’t really care about what you think, what you tweet or if you “Like It”. I am against even writing this… Just write some good content for a change. If it is good, they will come. Our site has a robots file that simply contains DISALLOW: /* and we attract high traffic. SEO is the late night infomercial of the internet and any “SEO specialist” is the “I am not a paid actor” with the fake 6 pack and the orange face.

    Anyone can have good marketing, only a few have something worth advertising. -MD

  • http://www.completewebsites.biz Jane Jakeman

    I would suggest that Google audit companies, big and small. They have the money. ‘Black hat’ practise would then stop.

    For example, a legitimate SEO Company employing say more than 5 SEO Engineers, would list with Google for voluntary audit against ‘black hat’ and ‘gray hat’. Google in return would PR that legitimate company. So an SEO company has a PR rating, not the website as such.

    This false blogging and false forums creates a web that detracts from reality. It’s big business. All follow Google. So Google needs to address this in a big way.

    Google, it’s my opinion that you are responsible for all of us having to wade through all of the rubbish on the web.

  • http://wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    I do my own SEO. My main focus is quality content, and trying to fill empty niches that are relevant to what I do (following the “write what you know” concept).

    I stick to white hat SEO religiously. I occasionally comment (myself, under my name) on blogs but that has little value. I do strongly believe in the concept of link bait. But good link bait requires creativity, and quality content. It helps if your link bait is something you genuinely care about instead of a trick.

    All the little tricks in SEO matter at the margins. If you’re trying to compete in a market where there already is quality content, that’s a big hill to climb. There are still many arenas where there is no quality content, and then SEO tricks might matter.

    But the biggest secret of all is to stay focused, laserlike, on delivering quality content. Over the long haul, that’s what really matters. Even the best SEO techniques (white hat or black) will not help if you’re trying to push crappy content ahead of good content.

    The ultimate problem is there are too few people interested in the hard work of producing good content, and too many people willing to pay for SEO to promote their weak content.

    I built my own substantial website, hand-coding in html, and writing every word myself. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts on my main blog plus hundreds of others on my other blogs.

    My competitors spend tens of thousands of dollars on SEO. Their SEOs push them to write content but they just can’t, or won’t, do it. In my world (law) there are many good lawyers having their websites written by non-lawyers. Attorneys who write 100-page briefs and memoranda don’t find the time to write a few hundred words of content for their website, or even one blog post a month. Then the attorneys complain when the money doesn’t buy success.

    Because ultimately it’s not about the SEO tricks. It’s about good content. And it’s not the fault of the SEOs. They do try to get their clients to write content. I’ve heard this from both the lawyers and the SEOs.

  • http://www.marinaonline.com Roy Kamen

    Mark,

    You haven’t even touched on all the software that makes thousands of blog comments automatically. That’s a huge problem, but usually ver easy to spot on your blog since its a one size fits all deal.

  • http://stranglecorp.com Krycek

    Very interesting article on a prevalent problem.
    Seems like the practice of seeding fake comments should have been expected though. Just another cold call on the phone at dinner time.

  • http://2753productions.com Scott M

    I have come across many of these fake blog links and – well let’s call it what it is: spammers. Even to the point of having some of these SEO companies approach me in my contact page offering these ‘links’. It does disgust me, and it makes it look bad for the ‘legitimate’ SEO companies out there :(

  • http://www.writeit.to Ruth Vilmi

    Thanks for this informative posting, Mark. I’ve been the victim of a hoax, and would like to avoid all involvement with such people in the future!!

  • http://davidmaynard.net David Maynard

    It looks like at least a couple comments here are indeed comment spam. Illustrates the point in a vivid way, doesn’t it? I use akismet on my sites and find that it does a very good job. For the most part, I hardly have to moderate any comments. The ones that do get through can be quite clever though!

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ james

    Holy Sensational title. I don’t really care about the SEOs. The can whatever they want.

    Its the spam filters that are starting to get to me. I’ve been systematically banned from over half the places I comment on. And these are for the most part supportive and insightful comments.

    Automates and shared spam blacklist networks have got to go.

  • http://www.oink.co.za Craig Nuttley

    Spot on Mark!

    The thing I hate the most is the “I’ll put you into the top 10 on Google” statement. The only time this can genuinely be promised is when an SEO or site already has that top 10 position.

    On the subject of White, Gray and Black areas. There should be no gray areas withn the ethics of SEO. I agree with Kathy. There is no need to drop to those levels of employing people to write psosts designed to lead people to information which A: doesn’t exist or B: Provides something different to what the browser expected.

    SEO HAS become an ugly game. and it’s not just the link seekers using those “gray” (in other words – unethical) practices. It’s also the business owner whi is affected by false promises of top 10 results etc. There are numerous ways to gain top 10 results usng accepted practices.In some instances you can be found in the top 10 overnight if you research your stuff properly and establish where to submit and how you submit your site and information.

    $200 000 a month on SEO? That’s riduculous. I could probably do the same job for ten. Someone is being screwed.

    It won’t be long before the Googles and Bings and Yahoo’s develop algo’s to weed out the riff raff. When that happens (whether it’s a through a ‘report a link’ process or other process), those that are egaging inunethical SEO practice are going to find themselves out of search results. It’s gong to be difficult to retrack the damage and make it right again.

    I wonder if SEO’s are telling their clients this.

    • http://www.troisj.com Jacques

      Craig: “The thing I hate the most is the “I’ll put you into the top 10 on Google” statement. The only time this can genuinely be promised is when an SEO or site already has that top 10 position.”

      Not true – what most SEO’s don’t tell is that the volume (people searching for that keyword-combination) will be negligible.
      E.g. including the company-name in the search (that will only be helpful if they know your name already) or they stuff your pages with unique keyword combinations first: ‘extra-elegant resort in Gauteng’.

      Used-car salesmen turned to the web – but the business owners can only blame themselves for not researching this…

      It’s a cat-and-mouse game: no matter what the algo’s come up with, it will be exploited. And result in another Panda-update – hurting legitimate businesses in the process.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception Danny

    Slightly hypocritical…and MARK, if you don’t like SEO you would not have comments enabled on your post.

    • http://www.mdlwebsolutions.com Milo

      Hahaha – Danny, I found your comment hilarious. It’s a good point in more than just your comment.

      • Jonathan Howard

        Danny, were you paid to submit your site to a crappy “submit to 100 search engines” website? No. Did you hire someone to do it for you and train them? No. Your comment makes no sense about this topic. Don’t look now, but having made that off-topic comment on this article, you increased the author’s SEO. Next time you post, remember, bad publicity is good publicity.

        If people stopped commenting on articles they don’t understand, I think the internet would be a much better place.

        • Falcon

          His comment made perfect sense, it is you that has taken offense to such comments.

          “Your” comment above makes no sense as you are referring to a comment above that you have purposely removed from the original post that he made. Seems rather odd. You are not Jonathan Howard, you are controlling this post and its outcome. Writing about such antics, now that’s good content. :) SEO that. Screenshot taken.

          • Nyla G

            Hmmm. just finished a blog on Danny’s comments on this post. You are right! The first sentence of his post has been removed. Very interesting.

            Danny’s comments were:

            “Well, lets be honest the only reason we are all here is because we submitted our site to a crappy “100 best search engines” submission.” Slightly hypocritical…and MARK, if you don’t like SEO you would not have comments enabled on your post”
            Danny June 26, 2011 @ 8:49am webpronews.com

        • Steve Ryan

          Ha, Johnathan. Nyla seems to have caught you out. Bad publicity, good publicity? You mean like O J Simpson. No I don’t think his comment has increased the SEO of this content at all mainly because this post is on every other “SEO expert” blog post.

          You do realize that the only keywords in this page are “search,seo,spam”.

          You Johnathan are the one who should not comment on topics you do not understand.

          This article is on businessgrow.com, www.xydo.com, hubpages.com, www.squidoo.com, www.netbuilders.org, www.thecodebakery.com, adsenseadwordsseo.com, www.engineclique.com, www.europerank.com, www.seo-pro.co.il, seowebneturls.info, www.shooanswers.com, www.businessfountains.com, www.alexa.com

          By the way, “webpronews” ranks 21 in that list.

          Unsubscribe thanks

          • http://www.webpronews.com/ Rich Ord

            Steve – We have a blog partner relationship with Mark Schaefer, where WebProNews republishes certain articles from his blog. This is beneficial to both Mark and WebProNews.

            The other websites you list above are either scraping WebProNews content or are linking to WebProNews content. That is easily discernible by looking at their sites.

            If you search Google for the title of this article, Why SEO Disgusts Me, WebProNews actually ranks number 1, not 21.

            I think the fact that this article has over 150 comments is indicative that the WebProNews audience believes this article is worth reading.

            Thanks,
            Rich Ord
            CEO, iEntry, Inc. & Publisher of WebProNews

        • Rick

          It makes sense. He’s just pointing out (or was, until his post was edited) that most SEO is spam. Why does the fact he uses those methods himself invalidate his point that the article is perhaps hypocritical?

  • http://www.ozihelp.com.au Ozihelp Admin

    No wonder i am not getting the best search results with appropriate keywords.

    Oh well, i guess i just have to spent more time developing better contents instead worrying about these shenanigans.

  • http://www.insurancesuffolk.com Long Island Insurance

    This is just one aspect of “black hat” SEO practices…and there are many out there that exist. As an SEO webmaster and owner of an insurance brokerage in New York, I find myself spending more and more time submitting spam reports to Google than working on my site and blogs.

    Here are two examples of other shady practices I’m seeing, and which Google appears to be turning a blind eye to:

    -Keyword stuffing in semi-hidden pages (and I mean OVERWHELMINGLY BLATANT stuffing)
    -”For Sale” websites (seriously?)

    The two bullet points mentioned above represent two of my top-10 competitors of my primary targeted, long-tail keyword phrases. Now while I can understand keyword stuffing spam reports can take a long time for Google to analyze due to many “grey areas” associated with them, how can Google allow a site to exist with a main image banner of “This Website Is For Sale”? In fact, if you e-mail the webmaster of this site (which has no contact phone # by the way), no one ever gets back to you. I tested this by e-mailing a request for an auto insurance quote and never got a response.

    I understand the SERP’s war is fierce but things are getting way out of control.

  • Harold Michaels

    There are many people and companies who are recruiting and paying chump change to people on Freelance work sites. The “job” often being that where one has to post to as many forums or blogs as humanly possible and they’ll get paid for doing a hundred submissions… which of course all get checked up on so if one of the comments get deleted before the “employer” checks it, you WON’T GET PAID. Quite a con.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception Sarah Barker

    @MD Great Commments here!

    MD says:
    June 26, 2011 @ 8:20am

    Apart from the SEO rubbish, the worst thing about the internet is that the majority of traffic generated downloading waste-less comments such as this. This page alone is 1054 KB. Uncompressed it is 1824kb. Really? The original article is 1 1/2 pages long. I don’t want to download another 20 pages of strangers opinions, another 1 1/2 Mb. We don’t really care about what you think, what you tweet or if you “Like It”. I am against even writing this… Just write some good content for a change. If it is good, they will come. Our site has a robots file that simply contains DISALLOW: /* and we attract high traffic. SEO is the late night infomercial of the internet and any “SEO specialist” is the “I am not a paid actor” with the fake 6 pack and the orange face.

    Anyone can have good marketing, only a few have something worth advertising. -MD

    • Pete

      Nice comments. Too the point and quite right! Sorry for commenting though..had too.

      • Tim

        Yeah Pete, I can’t believe you just left a comment…I never comment on … oh wait.. er… doh!!

        • http://www.75-c.com Jim

          Using that in your robots txt file means your whole site isn’t getting indexed or crawled by search spiders. Must be nice to have a large PPC budget to rely on (I include banner ads in this, not just Adwords).

          Kinda seems like cutting your nose off to spite your face, especially since you imply that you have a lot of good content on your site, that apparently would rank highly in organic search results but the spiders are ignoring it.

          To each his own I guess…

          Jim

          • sam

            I think they know that their site is not indexed if they state that their robots file contains disallow /*. Ha, well you would hope so! Wish I could do that, that takes b@lls!!

            Kinda understand their point a little though… Remember, the internet existed before SEO and people found stuff back then, didn’t they? SEO is only what a search engine “thinks” is good and does not imply quality content, it only implies popularity and as people interested in “computers” we should not put much weight on “popularity”. Remember the popular girl at school is now the chick that nobody cares about. She had the “keywords” but now lacks the quality. That makes no sense. Good article Mark.

  • http://www.knittingnotionsmline.com catherine

    Agree with you absolutely! It’s hard enough to compete as a business online without the big guys unfairly stacking the deck in their favor. Also, agree that bringing in the regulation, which stifles us all, because of some who abuse their freedom burns me up.

  • http://kercommunications.com Nick

    I for one (and sometimes I feel like the only one) am all about ethics in SEO.
    I absolutely agree that comment spam, paying for poorly written junk-blog articles, etc are all ridiculous. Not only are they possibly fraudulent, they also make it very hard for those of us who practice ethical means of promoting websites to do business. People either don’t trust us, or want us to do the black hat crap so they can compete immediately. I have a much more patient philosophy – let the competitors hang themselves with their own tactics…
    I get the same automated, butchered-English comments too, but I try to have a little fun with them.
    A while back, I had one particularly good comment on a post about ethical SEO which praised me for my “understanding on article articles” and telling me “you is rocks!”

    The post and ridiculous spam comment are here.http://kercommunications.com/seo/ethical-seo-guaranteed-search-engine-results/#comment-161

    Comments like that are almost as much fun as the SEO spam emails we all get. But you are right – this stuff is going to make trouble for everyone. I’d really like to see the companies who offer that kind of “service” get slapped. I am also tired of doing damage control for new clients who have tried some fly by night SEO and ended up with ridiculously bad blog articles about their business appearing on spam blogs.

    I keep my comments in a jquery collapse to try to minimize the spam so look for the link at the bottom to view comments.

    And yes, I is rocks and you is rocks too.

    • http://MyNYCBirthday.com Bill Gaines

      Hi Nick. I’ve dealt with some similar issues, and pondered what to do when my “article articles is very good information great and other good things around”, but as I asked Mark in my comment below, what do you think should be done. I’m curious about the “slap” you would like to have take place, and how you think it could be enforced. Just wanted to get your take. All the best.

  • Sylvie Dale

    I agree – when I first started doing SEO for a large company, that kind of linkbuilding was a common practice and it made me uncomfortable to do it. Instead, I went way beyond the requirements of the job to create good blog posts that were on-topic for my clients – blog posts I proudly showed them and they approved. As a former online editor/Web content manager, I had the journalism training to do this well. But this left a gap in the linkbuilding work; luckily I was helping clients that had no prior SEO so they needed the foundation first – proper setup of the website, well-organized and plentiful content, getting their blog set up, etc. We got good rankings in these little niche markets and I was able to largely avoid the blog commenting.

    Now I work for a company that prides itself on honest SEO work; following best practices and cooperating with search engines and not trying to trick them in any way. With Google’s Panda updates, I tend to agree with others that content will be king – but it’s got to be relevant, interesting, and unique!

    Perhaps there is still a place for talented journalists who are flexible and enterprising.

  • webmarketingmaster

    This is nothing new. I’ve been using spam blog comment links for years. There are even complex software programs available to automate the blog commenting process on a massive scale. Some of the software can scrape the search engines for specific blog posts to comment on based upon the topic or keyword….then post a spun comments while rotating the urls and anchor text all on autopilot. And these are just some of the basic features of these products.

    If you want your site to rank in the search engines you need links. The fastest and easiest way to get the links is to outsource it or automate it. Your not going to get them organically.

    Blog commenting links are just one strategy for getting links. There’s article marketing, bookmarking, directory submissions, link exchanges, paid links, and more. There will always be people out there buiding links and more and more sophisticated software to automate the process. Since higher search engine ranking = money people will do what ever is needed to get the links and the money.

    • Pete

      Nice scarf homo

      • Rick

        http://www.philosophy-religion.org/handouts/homophobia.htm

  • John

    This is good post. This is some good important facts about the corporate blogs. Do you have any information on how to manage comments on the blog. I think http://www.google.com/ might have an idea. Chech it out.

  • http://www.abnnewswire.net tim mckinnon

    well said. anyone who puts their professional integrity before making a buck is doing the “right” thing.

    • Andy

      Basically, the opposite of a receptionist.

  • http://www.studioc5.com C4

    Good article, thank you. This is just one of the many ways so called seo providers scam the system. Some create fake linkedin profiles to seem as if they have larger companies, its silly really. Good news is that corruption never wins, and people like this will eventually be discovered.

  • http://carsinia.com cagdas

    I totally agree – this is disgusting. Another one I hate is the text generation. There are many “blog” sites where the blog is actually generated. When you read them they do not make sense – clearly it is automated but they just have one link in them. And Google indexes these sites. Seriously, it is getting ugly.

    • You will

      You should suck my balls and then see what is generated. Has anyone replied? Seriously, nobody reads comments. SAVE BANDWIDTH, DISABLE COMMENTS ON WEB PAGES. @theinternet

  • http://www.route72.com Email Lists Dude

    Any business or web professional that knows and understands SEO will get the SEO triggers he needs overtime if the website is worthy and adds value. All the stuff we read about is essentially teaching us to orchestrate SEO tactics to bring us up in search engines. If we sit back and wait for others to blog, social bookmark or comment about us we will be missing the boat. Companies coordinate their own SEO triggers so they become successful. Sitting and waiting will get you in the poor house. That’s the reality of the real world whether you like it or not.

  • http://www.mm2publish.com Michael McCarty

    You are correct Mark. Some SEO methods are very deceiving, and should be illegal, but some SEO companies that provide natural methods are now having to work twice as hard to compete with these illegal overseas linksters. It’s not fair to my clients to have to charge more because these overseas blogsters are driving up prices for legitimate SEO companies. I don’t know where it will all end, but I don’t see them closing down those overseas companies. Where there’s money to be made they will be there, and if you closed one then 5 more would pop up to take it’s place. This really does hurt small businesses that are trying to compete with the corporate giants.

  • Chris

    Honestly, there’s so much BS out there, I’m often tempted to give up.
    You never know what’s real and what’s not. Disinformation, black hat strategies, people that seem to dislike you for whatever reason, one person who tries your product and it doesn’t work for them–so of course they comment on a social networking site, on and on…make a small time entrepreneur like me want to give up. Sometimes I hate the Internet.

  • http://www.whiteoutpress.com Whiteout Press

    With 15 yrs at a big-time Ad Agency in Chicago, before hitting 40 and being replaced with a bunch of hot 22 year olds, I saw first-hand what Fortune 100 clients think of Blogs, the web and SEO. And it isn’t much. I would chalk it up to curiosity and buying into new promotional tactics via slick sales reps (including their trusted Ad Agency who’s selling things they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about).

    Using our top 5 clients as examples, each had a yearly marketing budget of around 5-20 million dollars. Of that, they each spent about $20,000 on web activity. Granted, these are CPG companies that sell in-store, just scratching the surface of web orders. When you consider these clients spend anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million just to place ONE coupon in the Sunday coupon section, $20,000 to experiment with web marketing matches what they spend on liquor alone for just one of their after-parties. It’s not even on the radar.

    After watching curiously, I noticed that our agency-run client blogs are complete scams. For $20,000 we round up maybe two dozen blog posts over a couple weeks, most if not all of the posts are our employees using their personal email accounts. To the clients however, it’s all about ROI and profits. You’ll be safe if you always use that fact as your measurement of success.

    With blogging, link-seeding, etc., there is little or no ROI, especially for companies who’s whole world revolves around getting their products on Walmart’s shelves. And for clients like ours, selling $0.50 candy bars over the internet is a financial loss. Thanks to the magic of ‘channel partners’ like wholesalers, brokers, stores and distributors, CPG companies can sell millions without any cost at all. And without the headaches of the internet, which none of the corporate execs understand anyway.

    My theory is that we are still in the middle of the global ‘test’ and that test will fail miserably. Again, unless your company ONLY sells via the internet, the internet is simply not worth the hassle. One example is corporate branding and logo standards – which CPG’s take VERY seriously. It’s easier and cheaper to manage one national retailer or agency to insure brand and logo standards are being followed than it is to manage and babysit thousands of individuals, many of whom don’t even speak English or care.

    To make a long story short, too late I know :), Fortune 100 clients are currently being less than honest when they smile and pat their agencies on the back for their SEO, blog and web efforts. Privately, they see these efforts as a financial loss. However, due to their lack of understanding of the internet and the unpredictable future of it, they are still sticking with it, for now. But it’s only a matter of time before they officially admit that paying agencies to blog and create a web presence for their products and brand isn’t worth it and only creates more headaches than profits. When that finally happens, I think the rest of us will be able to go back to the basics and let the dishonest SEO market concentrate on the thin layer of clients that benefit from it – porn sites, gambling sites, pharma, start-ups, etc.

    For the last 6 or 7 years, the cry was , “we need to create a brand experience” or “we need to make a personal connection with our customers and keep them engaged with our brand”. But the fact is, teenage girls don’t want to download corporate jingles from their tampon manufacturer, little kids would rather watch real cartoons than dumb agency-created clips, and teenage boys would rather play actual video games online than play pathetic corporate-generated games where the most they can do is choose which corporate colors to use to dress the brand’s mascot. If it’s all about ROI, SEO and blogs should being going the way of the dinosaur very soon.

    Until then however, we’re going to keep our eye on the ball. Our website and news outlet is only two months old. Rather than spend our time and efforts on tricking Google into referring more readers to us via bogus return links, we spend all our time accumulating REAL links from REAL sites and genuine referrals from legitimate sites who’s readers actually value and follow-up on recommendations. That way, no matter which way the tricks and trends of SEO go, we should be okay. We’ll never be on the top of the search list. But as long as we concentrate on delivering content that people want and enjoy, we believe we’ll always be in the thick of things and that’s good enough for us, especially knowing our internet web isn’t hollow and fake. It’s real. It’s passionate. And it’s what SEO and web agencies all PRETEND to have. All we can do is hope that the old tried and true will always be the rule – quality products and services create repeat business. SEO and marketing scams only create customers who feel misled, used and tricked. You don’t get much repeat business that way. And in the world of business, repeat customers are the future, not bogus web links.

    • Walmart

      This comment is better than the article itself! Sorry Mark, even with your so called 28 years of sales and marketing experience http://www.whiteoutpress.com/ seems to know a lot more about this topic than you. Surly with a qualification in behavioral sciences you should understand that smart people do not tolerate stupidity.

    • http://MyNYCBirthday.com Bill Gaines

      That is a pretty remarkable comment and well-written. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jim

    I give up long ago on SEO, who really has the time to constantly wade though this stuff…

    I build my websites with good content… then turn on paid advertising…

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