Avoiding Stupid SEO Tricks

December 9, 2010

I’ve written before about how to spot and avoid SEO sleazebags—the type who give an honorable and critically important profession a bad name—in Just Say No to Bad SEO and The Wrong Way to Build External Links for SEO (which seems somewhat quaint and naive now only due to the recent rapid growth of link spamming).

The hucksters and snake oil salesmen continue to expand their bag of “tricks” designed to dupe business owners into buying magic SEO pixie dust instead of investing in real and time-tested but somewhat less sexy SEO tactics. If you want your website to perform well in search over the long term, steer clear of these gimmicks:

“Submit Your Site to 350 Search Engines!”

Good grief, why? First, Google and Yahoo+Bing account for more than 98% of all search traffic in the western world. Quick—name the fourth-largest search engine. Can’t do it without looking it up (probably on Google)? If you can’t name #4, why would anyone care about #200, or #250, or #350?

Second, direct submission of a site to search engines hasn’t been a crucial SEO tactic since the last century. Today, as long as a website is linked from pretty much anywhere on the web, the search engines will find it. Linking a site from social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon is now among the fastest ways to get it crawled.

“Get 1,000 Backlinks for $140!”

Sure, you can buy cheap links. You can buy cheap health insurance too, but do you really want to? The same warnings apply; any offer that seems “too good to be true” almost always is. Quality links take time, effort, and therefore yes, money, to obtain. Super-cheap links are at best from a bunch of PR 0 or 1 sites that provide marginal if any SEO value, and at worst are from link farms which risk getting your site banned from the search engines.

“Get a Free SEO Evaluation!” (spam emails)

Few if any reputable SEO firms promote their services through email offers of a “free site evaluation.” This type of offer is usually questionable. Often, it’s little more than a repackaged WebsiteGrader report, which anyone can run for free in less than five minutes.

Quality SEO firms tend to generate business through tactics like blogging, social media, referrals, and speaking at business events, not through unsolicited emails. As evidence of how unsophisticated some of these SEO spammers are, I’ve heard of instances where such emails have been sent to real SEO firms—which is like trying to sell a Whopper to the manager of a McDonalds, or a Chevy to Scott Monty. Trust these spammers with website optimization? As Forrest Gump noted, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Effective SEO is a blend of art and science. A reputable SEO firm will be able to explain their tactics, provide a realistic timeframe for results, and have a track record of success. They won’t offer guarantees or “secret” formulas for success. And they won’t be found using the tactics above.

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10 Responses

  1. You nailed it, Tom. If they need to resort to spam, their SEO skills probably ain’t too hot.

  2. very well said, Tom. I guess when people takes seo as synonym to links then things like spamming happens. I can guarantee that with a proper and valuable onpage, which majorly include content and structure of website, you can have a sustainable good ranking in Google or in any other search engine. You just need a handful links, which can easily be attainable if you website actually provide some value to the end users. :)
    Great post!

  3. Tom 

    Haseeb – Thanks for the comment and positive feedback. You are spot on; links are important, but a modest number of relevant, high-quality links mean much more for SEO results than a large quantity of spammy, irrelevant ones.

  4. You’ve written about one of my hot buttons! I’m constantly running interference for my small business clients with these companies. They prey on the owners hoping their sales tactics work. I’ve taken a few calls for my clients and it’s amazing some of the things they are told from the sales folks. But unfortunately, these tactics must work or they would do something else. All we can do is keep educating people about the risks.

    Thanks Tom.

  5. Tom 

    Thanks for the comment Debra. I hope my post helps in the education effort!

  6. Agree 100%. Website owners are too eager for easy traffic and search rankings. Not only are these tactics bad for pursuing your goals, but they hurt the reputation of your site. I won’t shop from a company that spams, and I certainly won’t do any kind of business with them – they care more about links than they do sales.

  7. Great article and very wise words! keep up the good work!

  8. I think it’s very important to have a transparent marketing strategy. You can fool your customers once, but can you fool them twice?
    Insightful article!

  9. Maria 

    Hi there,

    I agree with Haseeb Najam that people have started taking SEO as the synonym for links, which is a job of crazy person. SEO is a technical concept for driving quality traffic at your webpage and hence this process should be understood with quality and not cost!

    My Blog:-buy wartamine

  10. Tom 

    Hi Maria – links are important, but quality is at least as important as quality. A professional public relations program can create a substantial number of high-quality links more effectively than just a “link building” campaign. And having valuable, original content is still the most important single factor for ranking.

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