I was talking with a prospective new client today who got a little testy with me saying the reason he hasn’t responded to me is because he found a competitor offering the same services as us for 1/3 the cost we quoted him.
I immediately started to explain what we do, how we do it, and what lower end SEO services do to try and increase rankings, however the prospect didn’t want to hear it and promptly ended the call. So I decided to do some research to take a look at exactly what he’s been getting for the last two months from this “bargain basement SEO firm” and what I found really isn’t surprising to me, but it should be surprising to anyone out there shopping around for SEO and hopefully act as a wake up call that you really do get what you pay for.
About two years ago, Google started cracking down on “blog networks”. Blog networks are websites owned by operators of blog networks or by SEO companies that put up random, useless content for the sake of getting a link. This is a practice that has been discouraged by Google for years now, yet is still extremely popular among low-end SEO companies.
So I decided to do a little digging into this client’s backlinks, and sure enough I found a series of interesting links coming from a private blog network, including this link below which is part of the “Superman2050” site which they own. Not only is the site completely spammy and irrelevant, but the article doesn’t even make sense because it was either written by an outsourcer or generated by a computer software:
I decided to take a look and see if this blog network is something Google already knows about, after all it’s only been running since March of 2013 (this specific site at least) and after doing a quick search, I quickly learned that Google has already removed this spammy website from it’s web index, meaning these links on this site aren’t worth anything at all (and actually are likely hurting the rankings of anyone who is linked to from them):
I thought maybe I could learn a little more about the SEO company they’re using who is selling them these junk links, so I ran some reverse reports on the actual domain in question however the domain is registered through a private proxy service, so the owner is not easily traceable.
There’s some value to being listed in certain web directories, such as Manta, YellowPages, Yelp, and other similar sites, as well as industry specific directories such as medical directories, industrial directories, and other niche specific resources.
However low end SEO companies don’t use those because it takes a great deal of time to put together a quality page on those directories with relevant, unique information that will pass approval. Instead, they use auto-approve, SEO focused directories that have links to hundreds of thousands of other websites.
Upon fast glance, we found over 100 of these links to the site we examined to write this blog post, and an example of one is shown below:
Not only is there a random listing of irrelevant sites on there, but this entire directory also isn’t indexed by Google, showing that they place no value in the site or the links on the site.
Automated Link Building
Another easy method for low end SEO companies to use to achieve mass link building is automated link building. Through the use of various softwares and tools, they can setup networks of websites and mass spam hundreds of thousands of websites to try and get a few easy links. Not only do these methods not work well for increasing search rankings, but they also tarnish your business’ name and make you look like a spammer.
When we dug in their backlink profile, we located this network of sites that goes around the web, grabs content from hard working writers via an RSS feed, and reposts that content to this site then adds a link to the client’s site. This spammy method has been in use by low end SEO companies for years, and due to Google’s Panda update simply doesn’t work as these duplicate pages don’t even get recognized by Google anymore:
We also were able to locate some outsourced or automated blog comment links. These links are placed on blogs of legitimate businesses, but the context of the comment makes it complete spam and irrelevant. As an example, take a look at the link below which we found that was placed on the website of a medical website:
Spammy On-Site SEO Work
Spammy links are bad in Google’s eyes, but Google also understands to an extent that you can’t always control who links to you. However the content on your website is completely different as only you have control over it.
Low end SEO services will claim they optimize your site the same way we would, yet all they typically do is three things:
- Adjust title tags
- Adjust meta information
- Keyword stuff
Title tags are important, however there’s at least two dozen other elements that are also important that we tweak when we adjust a page’s on-site SEO elements. Additionally, Google has stated for years now that meta information is basically irrelevant for rankings. And lastly, Google has repeatedly said keyword stuffing is completely against their policies and will penalize your site, yet we saw this client’s site completely keyword stuffed to try and rank for their terms:
What We Do Differently
I could continue to go on and on and probably dig deeper and deeper to find more spammy types of links they’re using in this low-end campaign, but I think my point is pretty clear already — you really get what you pay for with low end SEO services.
Let’s talk a little about what we do differently and why our services cost a bit more than the bargain basement SEO services out there. First off, when you work with us we will never:
- Use automated link building methods
- Use spam as a means of getting a link
- Use software that puts content together that makes no sense
- Use blog networks or private sites to obtain backlinks
- Use anything that at the end of the day provides no value to our clients or to the internet
I think that last point is critical because low end SEO services are always coming up with new ways to game search engines. At the end of the day, SEO is just a form of marketing, and we strive to provide value to our clients and value to people using the internet. If you’re talking to an SEO company and what they’re saying sounds like it doesn’t add any value to the internet and is just done to game search engines, then chances are they’re a provider you don’t want to work with and if what they’re explaining even works, it’s just a matter of time before Google discovers it and penalizes sites for doing it.
Some of the things we do to actually help our clients grow their business and improve their websites and rankings are:
- High quality press releases with unique, relevant, quality information written by a content editor
- Blogging outreach to connect personally with other bloggers in your industry and get your content published on their blogs
- Submit to highly relevant niche directories that actually have human visitors searching them for businesses and information
- Help produce high quality, unique content on your website that will be linked to naturally
- Get your site listed in prominent places on the web, such as top 10 lists, collections of sites that post the latest news, or even in great resources like Google News
There’s quite a bit more we do for our clients depending on their specific industry, budget, and requirements, but the constant across the board is that what we do adds value. We aren’t doing these things to try and manipulate the latest search engine algorithms, but we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do to properly market our clients on the internet. We get to know our client’s businesses as best as we can, and in many cases act as their marketing arm, handling things ranging from SEO to pay per click to email marketing and everything in between.
So before you shop around for SEO services or online marketing services based strictly on price, stop for a minute to take a look at what you’re actually getting and who you’re getting it from. You may be surprised at how different one service is from another.