This is Part 2 of the two-part series How the West Was Won in the World of SEO. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can do so here.
In Part 1, I stated that I’d be breaking down the top two most recent and important Google algorithm updates and giving you a list of the top 5 warning signs of a bad SEO agency, so here it is!
In February of 2011, the Panda algorithm update was released. It has since gone through 25 iterations, with the last iteration released in March of 2013. The aim of Panda is to suppress thin sites which contain low-quality content and punish overzealous practices that pander to the algorithms instead of a quality user experience.
Panda’s main targets are:
More recently, however, was the Penguin algorithm update. Released in April of 2012 with three iterations (the last of which was rolled out in October of 2012), Penguin’s aim is to decrease search engine ranking of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques.
Whereas Panda’s main targets were on-site SEO quality, Penguin’s main targets are off-site SEO quality as it strives to reduce the credit websites achieve via inbound links from suspect sources.
Penguin’s main targets are:
The bottom line is this: the age of low cost SEO, especially from low quality link building, is coming to an end. No matter how many links you buy and how much money you spend, that end cannot be foregone. Low cost SEO simply does not work anymore.
Google is making a very concentrated effort to replace or devalue anchor text use with niche and content relevancy of linking sites as the primary gauge of how much value should be given to sites for any one link.
Although it seems like a no-brainer, link building should focus on quality over quantity. If you think like Google and keep in mind that the primary purpose of Google’s 500+ yearly algorithm updates is to improve its visitors’ experience when navigating the World Wide Web, the outcome of quality over quantity will follow naturally.
Given the above, I often find myself amazed by the number of SEO agencies that continue to offer low cost SEO services driven by pre-Panda and Penguin (and often pre-90s) tactics. What’s more perplexing, though, is that people continue to keep those agencies in business!
So, how do you avoid getting involved with a bad SEO agency? Take a look at the following top 5 warning signs of a bad SEO agency:
1. “We guarantee a ranking of X or a top ranking in X-amount of time!”
Do not do business with anyone that promises a particular rank, or ranking at all in a short time frame.
Ranking is done periodically by Google and there is virtually nothing that can be done to force a pre-determined ranking in a timeframe you personally set.
I’ve always been told that ranking a site well for your target keywords could take as much as 12 months to achieve, and to not expect a damn thing concerning ranking within that timeframe.
This sentiment is maintained by practically every good SEO. Quality takes time. As long as you’re constantly doing quality work, the specifics on when you rank don’t matter. The rankings will come if you put in the work 9 times out of 10.
2. “We guarantee X-amount of links to your site!”
As a general rule of thumb, anyone who claims they will build X-amount of links (especially if the X is hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands) to your site is building those links through methods that Google would consider low quality or unnatural and thus worth practically nothing.
What’s more, those X-amount of links could penalize your site faster than you could rattle off George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV.”
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Any SEO worth their salt understands that. Quality link building efforts take time out of necessity.
3. “We’ll optimize and promote your site for a flat-rate or low monthly fees!”
Experienced and knowledgeable SEOs know that time is money and wouldn’t even think of devaluing their time by offering their services for a flat-rate or low monthly fee. Every site is different, and as a result, every site requires an SEO strategy tailored to its specific wants and needs.
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in the world of SEO which is exactly what flat rates and low monthly fees rely on.
A good SEO will read your sites’ content, and will study your industry and competition before even entertaining the idea of putting together a proposal.
4. “You can try our services for free for 30 days!”
Picture this: You’re casually browsing the Internet one day for an SEO agency to help flesh out the web presence of your brick and mortar garden gnome shop. Suddenly, you come across an agency offering their services for free for 30 days and requesting you hand over your login information so they can begin working on your site. Do you take them up on that offer?
If you said yes, please send the keys to your car and house, your debit and credit cards (and their PINs), and your first-born child to Houston Barnett-Gearhart, c/o Blue Polo Interactive, One Penn Plaza, 53rd Floor, Suite 5320, New York, NY 10119, and I’ll begin working on that site of yours.
5. “We have an inside contact at Google!”
No, they don’t.
Armed with your new-found knowledge about the two most recent and important and what they target, as well as with the top 5 warning signs of a bad SEO agency, you’ve got enough artillery to hopefully avoid SEO scams in the future.
Fly-by-night SEO agencies are a dime a dozen and function a lot like the Lernaean Hydra. As soon as you cut one down, another two sprout up to take its place. Just remind yourself that much like the winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, some things are just too good to be true!