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.