The Era of SEOs and Link-Removing: The Sad Reality of Dancing with the Digital Devil

by Marcus Sheridan

link removing

Let me just cut to the chase here folks: For years, a large portion of SEO companies have been ripping off their clients. I wrote about good vs. bad SEO companies not too long ago, but some recent developments have got me so fired up I simply can’t hold my tongue.

I’m going to share with you an email that was recently forwarded to me from a client I’m currently engaging that was originally sent from this client’s existing SEO firm. Whatever you do, don’t skim over these few sentences. Rather, read it slowly and take it in. Here goes…

“…There is a lot going on with Google these days. I wanted to share some info with you…Remember when we used to write articles and send them out to get you a bunch of links to your site? Well those days have been over for a while now, as I am sure you are aware of. We at [company name] have not been doing this because Google has now deemed it as “not good”. Our company strives to stay up with all the Google Webmaster guidelines, and this is why we have not been doing link building lately.

The bad thing about this is now we have to go through all your webmaster accounts, and find the “bad links” that used to be “good links”. We have been manually deleting as many bad links as we can. This will actually improve your ranking, just having these bad links removed.

Most of our time has been spent doing this for the past 40-60 days or so… I have a list being built now, with all of your accounts, and which links are being removed. I will let you all know when we have completed the cleanup of the bad links.

When this is all done, we can move on and continue to SEO your sites according to the new rules; which a lot of it now, is driven by social interactions…”

Anything about this make you want to vomit?

Yeah, me too—every single word of it.

Basically, this SEO company is now charging the client to remove the crap links it built for them in the first place.

Un-freaking-believable.

And not only that, but they’re acting like this is some arduous task that requires meticulous investigation, skill, and hard work.

Give me a break.

SEO_junk

Paying the Price of Previous Sins

Sadly, this SEO company isn’t the only one charging unknowing and uninformed clients to fix dirty work that they themselves created.

They danced with the link-building devil and now their clients are paying the price. Very sad indeed.

Over the past few years I’ve helped many companies with their search content marketing efforts. And with none of these organizations have I ever once worried that we needed to backtrack and remove previous content, links, etc. If we got a link, it was real. It was earned. It was legit.

And it certainly wasn’t blackhat.

My personal philosophy is that any company (or SEO firm) that did blatant and obvious black hat link-building practices over the past decade deserves to get Google slapped.  Even before search engines developed their algorithm to better (ideally) focus on “quality” over “quantity,” it was obvious to me that one day Google and the rest of them would know if I had tried to game the system, and it would come back and bite me.

Frankly, it’s common sense.

A New Era of “Link-Removing” Services

Going forward, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this. A new era of “link-removing” will be a service offered by SEO companies. Yeah, it’s unbelievable but it’s true.

I can tell you this though: If you’ve been with an SEO company for a while and they give you a load of bull in the form of an email that wants to charge you to pay the price of their sins, fire them. Send them down the road.

And start working with a company that’s not looking to “game” the system, but rather embrace it through quality content, great communication, and consistent consumer-value going forward.

This, my friends, is what great content marketing is all about, and it’s also why it’s the future of successful SEO.

Your Turn

I’m curious to know your thoughts upon reading the email above. Also, when it comes to link-building as a major part of search engine algorithms, where do you see it all going?

Jump in folks, your opinions matter.

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim April 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

I couldn’t agree more Marcus. I learned SEO by blogging myself (originally a sports blog) and through all the changes over the years, it’s the content on my site that kept me at the top. The articles I wrote brought in links from NYTimes and other top websites with very little if any effort on outside link building.

Yes, it’s much harder to get those links today than it was back then (more competition) but high quality content both on your site and through guest post is a strategy that will never go wrong.

Google wants to serve up the information their searcher seeks, not cheap tricks designed to fool the search engines.

Now we have “SEOs” talking about content marketing as though it’s all smoke and mirrors and for many it is. Read a few SEO forums and they are spitting and gnashing at each other, angry because many former “SEOs” now call themselves “content marketers” (in name only I’m afraid). Those of course are the same people who are upset that they can’t get a webpage filled with nothing but cheap PPC ads to the top of the rankings.

Links still hold their value and I don’t think they are going anywhere. It’s just that the pages on which they link to must be of value to the Google user.

I personally welcome the Panda/Penguin changes as it has moved the cheap link builders out of the way. It’s nice not to see your own content stolen and published on another website coming up higher than your original content in the rankings.

SEO is easy. Publish great content on a platform the search engines can understand and let the world know it’s out there.

(Looks like I did it again with the long comment. Maybe I just need my weekly blog post in response to your post. Now that would be some good link building.)

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Wow Jim, now that’s a heck of a comment my friend. I love it when folks like you come here and add so much value to the original post.

You rock my friend,

Marcus

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Mike Kawula April 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

I can say as a site owner and previous service business owner with a site, that if you’re not knowledgeable enough about this, its easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes.

One of my sites we were paying a company $1200 a month to have someone work on our site and product pages. I got the bill each month with a long list of all these submissions they did, keyword research and changes on my site. After 3 months I decided to change the password to our site and see if they noticed. At the end of the month came my bill and the list of work again that they did (n’t) do. Obviously upon not getting paid and my calling them out I never heard again from them.

Really makes it difficult to know what to do but through your blog, SeoMoz and few others I’ve at-least got a basic handle to avoid the wool being pulled over in the future.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Mike, dude, that is crazy. Sad too.

So glad to help a little my man.

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley April 17, 2013 at 10:16 am

Amen brother Sheridan,

The most conniving part of this email is that the SEO Company tries to act like the their “link building” efforts used to be “Good Links.” Bull spit… These companies have always known that these were crap links, Google just wasn’t penalizing them.

…and whether they were too stupid, too greedy or just simply too lazy to do the right thing for their client they need to be fired regardless.

I call it Long-form Content Marketing, you call it Search Content Marketing, whatever the term it all comes back to creating valueable content that helps your audience and consumers you serve and generating links the slow way.

Are you going to build the foundation of your house with sticks because it gets the house up quicker?

No way.

Thanks for the fighting the good fight brother.

Hanley

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Jason Diller April 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

I hear stuff like this all the time. It’s sad…super sad…

They should just do the link removals for free… and then once that’s done, find another agency…or call Marcus, Ryan or myself.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

You’re absolutely one of the good guys in this battle Jason, adn I really appreciate it bud. Keep it up man.

Marcus

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Love the stick analogy Hanley…I think we should make up our own story called, “The 3 Little Digital Pigs” :-)

Thanks for all your support brother,

Marcus

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Sheryl Kurland April 17, 2013 at 10:31 am

This is such valuable information for a relative newbie on the blogging scene. You have no idea (or maybe you do) how exhausting it is to weed out the good guys from the bad when it comes to all the chatter on SEO, content marketing, keywords, etc. Marcus, you’re at the top of the “good guys” list! Thank you.

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Mark April 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

What???? Shame on those wolves in sheep’s clothing. Time to be extra vigilant and diligent!

I am so glad that I am setting my compass to the good!

This is going to help me and my clients sift through the “crappola” out there as I start to build blog and brand.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Wolves in sheeps clothing is right Mark. Never has there been a time when more business owners were being taken advantage of due to such ignorance of the way search and digital work.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

You’re too sweet Sheryl, thank you! :-)

And just keep up the great work on your end!

Marcus

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Sally Black April 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

Look behind the curtain and see the “Wizards”. There is never enough hours in the day when you’re an entrepreneur but there are also NO quick fixes. You must do your diligence and homework. This will help you make the best business decisions while saving your sanity and assets. Trust your gut…and Marcus!

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I think you summed it up ver nicely Sally by saying, “There are NO quick fixes.”

At some point, everyone is going to learn this the hard way.

Thanks for stopping by,

Marcus

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David Frey April 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

This is a tough one Marcus. I agree, that SEO companies should have been doing legit backlinking, at the same time, Google rewarded companies for building bad links. AND you had to compete against those companies.

It was nearly impossible for me to get one of my premium sites to the top of the SE’s the legit way because of all the sites above me that were being rewarded by Google for buildling “less than quality” links.

The ONLY way for me to get to the top an overtake them were to play their game. So I did. And yes, my site got slapped and I’m in the link removal game right now. And yes, I have to pay for that service…and it’s not as simple as one might think. I’ve submitted to Google three times now and they keep denying my site back into the SE’s. I can’t force people to take down bad links.

It’s kinda like America trying to win the Afganistan or Iran war. They don’t wear uniforms so you don’t know who you’re enemy is. So to win, you are at a serious disadvantage.

The only way to beat them is to play their game, but better.

That’s what I and thousands of other sites did. We had to play their game to win. If Google had STARTED OUT playing by their current rules, we would not have this mess!!

But I also understand your point of view as well. It’s a catch 22.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm

David, so great to see you my man, and I appreciate your transparency here explaining the debate you had trying to duke it out with your competitors.

Yes, it’s a tough call and tempting, I won’t lie. Heck, there were moments when I contemplated some of these techniques as well. But each time, my impression was it would come back to bite.

Sadly though, the “gaming” of the digital marketplace will never go away. We’ll just now move to the next phase, which will be social media gaming and link building.

This is exactly why I think inbound links will eventually be eliminated from all search algorithms, as man will eventually eat their own, as we often do. :-(

Marcus

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Brian L April 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

Well said Marcus. I have dealt with my fair share of unethical SEO firms as well. Some of them are fairly well known in the marketplace as well. I had a client tell me that their SEO firm was writing articles for them to increase their SEO rankings, but the client had never seen the articles! I conducted a search and sure enough there were numerous articles linking back to their site, but they were badly written in broken English and coming from free blogger and wordpress sites that were obviously setup for backlinks and keyword value. The content was junk and would be an embarrassment for anyone actually reading the articles and associating them with the target business. I have written some basic SEO tips for my own clients here: http://theinkblog.net/category/seo/

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I think a lot of so-called “good” SEO companies will soon be facing their moment of truth Brian, that’s for sure. It’s almost like all those banks that gave away bad loans during the bloated economy. Most all of them knew exactly what they were doing, and what might result because of it.

Thanks for dropping by man,

Marcus

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Leah Rattray April 17, 2013 at 11:25 am

You know, about a year ago we were involved with an SEO firm who was pretty much the master of black hat tricks. At the time, we were pretty ignorant on how the whole system works, and as Mike Kawula mentioned, it’s easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes when you’re ignorant. To our credit, though, we did feel uneasy and dishonest about the whole thing, even though they promised that there was nothing wrong with it, and we ended up discontinuing the SEO service completely. I’m only hoping that our ignorance doesn’t come back to haunt us.
Since then, we are completely committed to the idea of just providing open and transparent education that clients are asking for. You won’t get in trouble for doing the right thing, and eventually, that’ll be the only way to get ahead :-)

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

A big, fat “AMEN” to that Leah!! :-)

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Tara Geissinger April 17, 2013 at 11:26 am

We have been seeing this a lot lately too. Clients have a long list of places that they have been told they need to remove their links. It’s not always the sites that the content is posted on that are the culprit, it’s the linking strategy overall. It’s not “normal” to have hundreds of links coming into your website all using the same exact keyword as anchor text. If you had truly gotten those links organically, there would be variations. Google’s algorithm has gotten “smarter” and can now recognize those nuances in linking.

But, the answer isn’t to remove all of the content you’ve published over the years! Every user-generated content site isn’t evil. There’s a good chance that some of those articles, Hubpages, press releases, etc… are still working to bring you visibility. What you CAN do, however, in many cases is log into your profile and edit those older articles. Change up your linking strategy to include a variety of keywords. That way those pieces of content are still holding their ground and working for you!

Of course, that’s assuming that you’ve been creating quality, useful content and publishing on reputable sites. :)

And Mike — Man, that’s rough. I’ll bet you couldn’t *believe* it when you got the bill that next month and you knew you had caught them!!

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Tara, great thoughts indeed. So many are so lost in this mess they’re forgetting the core– the basics– and that will always be the key to success for the long haul on the web.

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Dan Bischoff April 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

Dude, you nailed it. This kind of junk drives me crazy. Another thing with this: why are they wasting all that time removing links (or in other words, crowdsourcing bad links for Google) instead of actually doing something of value, like building good links?

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm

That’s exactly it Dan…plus, it doesn’t take that much time to remove the stupid links (disavow them) anyway. These dudes have no concience. Seriously.

Good seeing you bro,

Marcus

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Walter Pollard April 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

I started vomiting on…”Remember when we used to write articles and send them out to get you a bunch of links to your site?”

Unfortunately, the client looses out on these blackhat techniques. The so-called SEO experts, move on with a unethical business model.

Thanks for lighting a fire under these bandits.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Appreciate it brother. It amazes me they’d even put that type of copy in their site because it admits guilt in the first place. Oh well… ;-)

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Lee Kirkby April 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Sad part of it Marcus is if a company & an SEO company decided to cheat the system on the way in, why would we be surprised if they decide to cheat their clients on the way out. Unfortunately, its an ugly world out there and some people don’t bring a great ethic to the party. Thumbs up to you for calling it out.

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Appreciate that very much Lee…we’ll just keep fighting the good fight bud.

Marcus

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Sophia April 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

This is a great article about SEO. Do you have any posts about online marketing and PPC? That would be very helpful. Thanks!

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

My entire eBook that’s free on this site is about online marketing Sophia :-) As for PPC, I’ve spoken very little on the subject.

Thanks,

Marcus

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Chris Doelle April 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Well said, I just wrote an article that touches on the same thing. I have been railing against these SEO scammers for years and its great to hear it from another source.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Chris Doelle

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Marcus Sheridan April 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Love it Chris! And thanks for doing what you do!

Marcus

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Kyle Clouse April 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Good stuff Marcus. I would be curious to know how many SEO companies are still operating pre-Google update.

The one thing I have always disliked about SEO companies and their link building is that you can never see what your paying for. Nothing tangible.

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Sarah Shepard April 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Loved this blog! I couldn’t agree with you more!
Thanks Marcus

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Andrea T.H.W. April 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I think that Google should just not consider bad links instead of ranking down websites because no webmaster has the possibility to decide who can link or not to his website. If I want to throw down a website I just have to put links everywhere on dubious directories and the game is done. Then someone can complain with Google or directories but it would take eons before fixing it. Generalizing a bit.

I did SEO by myself and made a lot of errors but at least I kept the money in my pockets and I learned a couple of things in the process.

As for the social influence in ranking content is the second worst thing beside blackhat techniques and link schemes. We’ll get into a world where everything will be related to Bieber and such thanks to social influence.

Until a new search engine will come and throw Google out of business, if someone still remembers something called Yahoo. :)

I’ll stick with keywords and content even if I know that I’m pretty lacking the social thing but I simply can’t write, comment and be social.

I have a life. :D :D :D

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Kadee April 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Marcus – I’ve been following you for quite some time and I couldn’t agree more with your philosophy on linkbuilding and content marketing. I’m curious, reading through this, what you think of resources like: http://www.linkbuildingbook.com/link-building-resources.html#Introduction that tout guest posting, link removal, infographic directories, etc. These are definitely link building tactics and not content marketing. Are these considered black hat? Or are they useful to find broken links or images that aren’t attributed correctly, etc.? I’m fairly new to SEO and really trying to understand and develop my values and opinions.

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Brent Kelly April 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

This is great information Marcus. The positive aspect is that this information will hopefully lead to better quality content as a whole. Plus, I hope it will damage those businesses that serve themselves vs. their customers. All the best.

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Scott April 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Sometimes, doing things the hard way is the only true path to success. There is no get-rich-quick formula, in SEO or in life. I am a firm believer in the success of content marketing. And it has come through lots of hard work, writing for our blog and other very reputable sites. As always, Marcus, you are absolutely spot on. These SEO quacks are deplorable.

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Barry April 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Great article Marcus. The whole SEO thing makes my head hurt. I am a business coach, speaker and trainer and blog 4 times a week. What is the simple straight forward answer to “what do I do regarding SEO?” Would love to hear your thoughts. I don’t know what to do!

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Bob McCarthy April 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm

So Marcus, I’m confused.

If companies have used black-hat link strategies in the past, should they NOT try to remove those links from their site?

Is is even possible or practical to remove those links? If it is possible, is it worth the effort?

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Keith April 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I think I was lucky when I started my site three years ago that my SEO guy said, “blog all you want” and “think like your customer”. He didn’t mess around with keyword stuffing or link building or any of that so-called black hat stuff. It was all on me to do it the correct way and that is what I did.
I can understand why you’re burned up with these seo companies. I would be too.

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Michael April 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm

This discussion has me thinking about the Linky Parties I’ve been seen a lot of in craft blogs. On the surface they appear to be a good way to share with like minded bloggers. I’m wondering what your take is on these and is this something likely to get a hammer slap from google in the future?

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Kadee April 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Great question, really interested in this one too as there are agencies out there representing clients that pay bloggers to host these types of parties as well.

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Patti Hale April 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I’m confused as well. I understand and agree with building content that will just naturally get linked to but in order to get linked to there must be traffic driven to the content. Basically, all I really do now is comment on blogs and participate on the major social media sites. At one time I shared links on every social bookmarking site I could find and wrote articles on Hub Pages and Squiddo-are these not “good links” anymore? Is commenting on blogs still a “good link”? What’s the difference between writing an article on Squiddo that has a PR6 and guest posting for someone with a lower PR?

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Johnny Bravo April 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

It’s sad to say that there will likely always be SEOs like the one that sent that letter. Where their entire business is centered on shady practices that try to game the system. Especially with the recent updates they have likely done the opposite of what their clients pay them for. As mentioned above I too welcome the Google Updates to clean up the mess.

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lena sjogren April 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm

You are clearly retarded.

a) you wrote the article to get traffic …..and engagement. Thus you know enought about SEO in the broader context

b) taking down links is part of the game…. you want to rank. you pay what it takes – results driven

c) what about the fuckards who sold the links…. ever thought they might be charging to take them down?

Seriously, the web is like anywhere else: EVERYTHING has a price

Of course, this is a negative comment, and you will not be loving that….seen as you operate in an advisory role…..course all your advice is on the money

really…..

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Heath Rost April 18, 2013 at 1:08 am

Hi Marcus,
First off, thank you so much for posting this for the world to open their eyes to. In response to your question/SEO company’s email–my opinion is that there are no bad links.. only links that build. We’re creating a database of knowledge and although not all links are substantial to our core (I.E.–they are “features”) they only add credibility to our end product. The task the SEO company from the email is stating about something needing to be done is just a front to tell the customer they don’t feel like generating new content for them, so they’re going to do generic website maintenance on articles not receiving enough hits to essentialize them as part of their whole. Pish-posh. They aren’t getting enough hits on the articles they’ve already written so they’re seeking excuses for it. They could rebrand (re-title) the articles and clean up fluff content–instead they take the easy way out. Its down right laziness. The good news is there are people like yourself exposing them which will speed up the process of great companies growing and mediocre companies dwindling. Continued success, Heath

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Mohd Aktar April 18, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hey Marcus, nice topic dude….. This is absolutely correct. Nowadays this is happening. One of my friends SEO office also faced the same problem.

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Anshdeep Verma April 18, 2013 at 6:37 am

Nice article Marcus, you said in this article is absolutely correct and when I was reading the mail you’ve included in this article, one of the SEO company was coming in mind who lost they clients due to this reason.

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Ben Landers April 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

Online marketing is a bit like sports…

If you’re smart, you’ll pick a sport in which you can be one of the best in the world (if you can’t tie this back to business, go read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great). You’ll set long-term goals and train your butt off. When you lose in the beginning (which is normal and to be expected… and budgeted for), you’ll use the losses as an opportunity to learn and to motivate you to train harder.

If you’re not so smart, you’ll select an event that’s not too far away and fail to adjust your expectations. It’s like being obese and deciding that you want to win the Marine Corp Marathon… when the event is three months away. Or maybe the sport you select is one that you’re just not built for? Either way, when you focus on the short term and have unrealistic expectations, you end up taking those initial losses and saying, “you know, this isn’t fair… I trained a little bit and got nowhere.”

It’s at this moment that some people start to look for a jump on the competition… for the magic pill… for the special shoes… for the silver bullet.

If history has shown us one thing it’s that, over a long enough timeline, the cheaters always get caught. Sadly, in today’s society many cheaters win on the way up and win on the way down (Lance Armstrong anyone?).

And this is the heart of the issue.

BUT just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

At some point, you have to decide what type of business you want to build. Look at the companies that are already there. Are they creating profiles on online dating websites and linking back to their website using target keywords? Are they hiring overseas companies to write sh*t blog posts that do nothing but add to the cesspool Eric Schmidt sees online?

The companies that look like the company I’m building are not.

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Ben Landers April 18, 2013 at 7:10 am

PS – Am I the only one that finds it incredibly ironic that several commenters have keyword-rich links in their posts?!?!

As the Aussie’s say, “WTF mate?”

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Craig McBreen April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi Marcus,

I worked with a client years ago. Developed branding and a completely new website for them. They invested a lot of time and money in the entire process, from logo ID to copy to site development. They were very involved in the process and the owner was a dream client really. Great guy.

But he was too nice. An “SEO firm” rep got a hold of him and convinced him to completely change his site. I honestly pleaded with the guy not to, but I guess this particular rep was very convincing, but was indeed the master of black hat practices. I later found out that he paid a small fortune for this “service” and was not at all happy with the results. (this was a guy who’s business was really struggling at the time). So whenever I read an article like this I get a really bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, at the time I was very ignorant as to how this entire system (um, scheme) worked, but am learning more every day, thanks to people like you. When this took place it was obvious the company was unethical, the business owner was desperate though and they pounced on him. Argh!

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Gloria Rand April 18, 2013 at 10:25 pm

SEO companies like this drive me crazy! I tell my clients that I don’t do link building. If they’re concerned with that, they can hire a big SEO company. As an SEO copywriter, I’m much more concerned with putting good quality content on their website, including writing well-thought out blog articles. Thanks for highlighting this issue!

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Ben Johnston April 19, 2013 at 3:33 am

Marcus,

This is a great post and a really sad indictment of the way the industry I work in sometimes behaves, and, tragically, it’s not the worst thing I’ve seen.

Firstly, let’s get one thing out of the way – my team does not work like this. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that we have not done a single thing that manipulated the search engine guidelines since I started working at my current company.

However, I’ve worked both sides of the line over the years; I’ve seen it done wrong and I’ve seen it done right. The key problem is that doing things “wrong” often brings quicker returns on the thing that clients still seem to focus on above all – rankings.

We can argue back and forth that clients should understand that rankings are not the metric that they should focus on, that they should be looking at traffic, overall search visibility and conversions etc, but ultimately, the job of an SEO is still associated with rankings for a few specific keywords. This is compounded by the fact that in a lot of cases, clients seem to want SEO to be done in some kind of vacuum where they don’t need to be bothered, don’t need to answer any questions, don’t have to work with you on any content and only really care if their rankings have gone up, whether those rankings have actually made them any money or not.

All the time clients and prospective clients aren’t going to take the time to educate themselves, to look at SEO as a vital marketing channel rather than something that they just pay for and forget, this kind of “work” is going to keep happening.

The key thing is education. Good SEO’s should start educating their prospective clients about the metrics that matter as early as the first sales meeting and keep them up to date with these things throughout the course of the campaign.

Ultimately, if a client’s not expecting bad work, they won’t get bad work – at least, that’s what I always hope for.

Thanks again for the post.

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Mitch April 19, 2013 at 6:27 am

Asusual a very nice content Marcus, I’m regular visitor of your site and always I find something very informative and interesting. Keep going dude!

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Neil April 19, 2013 at 7:53 am

I totally agree that SEO companies have been riding thw wave but Google is making changes that are causing publishers and agencies to go back and ‘fix’ perfectly good content. Here’s a pretty good summary of the problems that publishers face: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/62564-three-reasons-why-publishers-hate-living-in-a-post-penguin-post-panda-world?utm_medium=email&utm_source=daily_pulse

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Myhox April 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

Actually, This is an Era of SEO Marketing and Link Removing. It is thr great challenges for every SEO company that, keep their serivice as qualitive and effective ways. They nned to understand the real scenairos of the SEO status in the internet marketing.

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Chris Johnson April 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I actually think you’re being unfairly charitable towards SEO companies. I would believe that 95% of them aren’t worth anything.

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Jon Loomer April 22, 2013 at 1:21 am

Word. This stuff is everywhere — not just Google, but Facebook, too. These “SEO companies” are entirely reactionary. They think they’re ahead of the curve by knowing which “tricks” can help you manipulate results. In reality, they’re incredibly short sighted.

Create good content that people will want to find and share. Attract quality backlinks. And do so with a conscience.

If you’re always reacting to an algorithm, it’s a sign that you don’t get it. And I admit that I love it when these folks get burned.

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Ben Landers April 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Again… look at all the links being stuffed in the comments on this blog! Marcus, you better get ready to have a bunch of people email you asking you to remove them ;-)

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Shireen Louw April 23, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hi Marcus. Thanks you so much for being a great source of information. I have just recently started to experiment with content marketing and have found your stories really inspiring.
I have met with a few SEO agencies recently but am quite sceptical because of what I have read. For now I will stick to adding valuable content to my site and keep my eye on the results.

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andy nemetti April 25, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hi,

I originally came here (the latest post), because or so that I could let you know I left a long, wordly (hopefully interesting) comment on your “Profanity, Blogging, and Communication Etiquette in 2010″ yes, please go there and let’s talk.

but, even this blog fascinated me — and, I have a couple of comments:

First of your ‘spot on’ on they like to say here in New Zealand. (I’m American). I wish that I was more computer savvy to understand all the lingo, but with the comment section I was all the more thoroughly educated.

Google is run by the N.S.A.
The N.S.A. is 10 times bigger and frankly more efficient than the C.I.A.
The Art of War is really being reinvented with The Art of Piracy which is now The Art of Robbing.
There is a Secret Brotherhood out there willing to profit at the death of any business, place or person, and thing.
They are not practicing stupid, ignorant, or unbelievable business-craft.
They are following a prescribed, or formulated precise plan of attack that rewards the coached intelligent seeming-inept with huge silent kick-backs.
I pray that the powers that be (God) who has so far allowed us to use the internet against them, enables us a way to rally together to create our own freedom-loving and liberty-living Internet free of Government Control.

Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etc. are all control centers as you know.

Check out Startpage.com for your present liberty safety concerns.

Sinserely,
Andy

Please go to “Profanity, Blogging, and Communication Etiquette in 2010″ and let’s talk.

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Mitch Mitchell April 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Good stuff Marcus. I’ve been getting lots of email asking me to remove links placed by SEO companies for others and that’s why I’ve drastically altered my present comment policy. However, I’m not overly nice to the people asking me to remove these things. I won’t go searching for them so I make them tell me exactly which post & which link I need to remove, since lots of them were comments, although a few were in blog posts on the one blog of mine that I accept guest posts. And I never write them back to tell them I did it; just irks the heck out of me.

It also points out that my early beliefs were correct. I’ve done some SEO work here and there for local folks and I said early on that I wasn’t one of those people who was going to go chasing links. Sure, Google likes seeing appropriate linking to help them value online properties but sometimes the correct fit just isn’t there and it’s more of a one-way directional request that doesn’t really benefit both sides.

Still, Google’s the one that promoted doing things that way so they have to take a lot of the blame for it.

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Nisha May 1, 2013 at 12:55 am

Google is NOT God. All these problems that you mention here come to exist only because we all act like our very survival depends on the scraps that the mighty Google doles out to us.

So what if a craft blog wants to do a Linky party? I say it is a great way to connect within their own community. What if I am a blogger who is just starting out and I cannot even dream of getting a word in edgeways with the big boys and cannot guest post on their blogs to increase visibility and direct some traffic to my blog? Do I wait around twiddling my thumbs, churning out content and foregoing opportunities to connect with other beginners, hoping that I will get noticed by the exclusive club which may then choose to (if I am incredibly lucky) open its gates to me?

I say balls to Google. Search is just one small aspect of the online marketing strategy. If you have been link-building using articles which was OK by Google’s books not too long ago, you have clearly been doing it wrong because all you’ve been doing is trying to please Google. Similarly, if you are going to be more “social” now, because apparently that’s the flavor of the month at the Google camp, you are again doing it wrong (being accidentally right is not quite the same thing as being right).

Most of the Google-is-watching-you load of crap is applicable only for blogs that make money purely by search traffic volume. They are virtual, they exist only to make money for the people who are running them. Real businesses that deliver a valuable product or service to customers are better off concentrating on building genuine relationships with their audience. Who gives an eff if a few members of that audience unfortunately happen to have low PR blogs?

Focus on delivering real value to your customers, not on pleasing Google.

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Pitt Goumas May 2, 2013 at 4:24 am

My thoughts on the email above…Yes, it does make me want to vomit.

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Helene Poulakou May 9, 2013 at 1:02 am

One more thing that bothers me in the email cited here:
The Past Tense
(“we have been doing this for the last 40-60 days”)
No previous notice. No choice for the customer (like, ‘Taking my business elsewhere — thanks, but no, thanks.’)
This is black hat… marketing!

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LeadGenix May 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Thank you Marcus, I couldn’t agree with your post more. Having great content is the most important part of a website. If an SEO company suggests to make a site worse for the user but better for Google, then they should be fired. This article shows a great example of how doing things the right way will pay off in the long run.

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Mike Brooks May 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I am a recovering black hat SEO. I admit it.

I did some stuff in the early days I am not proud of. But I got out of the ickiness a long time ago.

In my defense, all the black hat stuff I did was for my martial arts school. I really didn’t know any better.

But then I had other local business owners asking me to do the same stuff for their business. They wanted to get my results.

So I started a side internet marketing business. I loved it so sold the school to go full time in the marketing business.

But by the time that happened, I understood a lot more and got out of the dark side. It’s one thing when I was doing it for my own business. But I couldn’t sleep if I did it for someone else’s.

Here’s the problem (from an insider). It is much cheaper to hire outsourcers from over seas, or buy some black hat scam system that churns out crap links then it is to do it right. It is incredibly easy to get into the business. And most business owners don’t understand it and can be easily fooled by unscrupulous opportunists.

But there is one more ugly ingredient. Everyone wants overnight results. They want to hire an SEO firm and be number 1 on Google for whatever term by the next day. And many SEO companies use that marketing to hook them in.

This isn’t reality. Good SEO is natural with a strong content strategy. And it really always has been. This is nothing new.

Not all SEO companies are bad.

Unfortunately we pick up clients all the time who have declining traffic due to either bad content, bad links or both. But we have not and never will send a note out like that to our clients.

A client just hired us because his traffic was declining for months. Turned out his SEO guy was buying low quality links.

So when Google penalized him, he didn’t understand why so he bought more low quality links. The traffic declined even more.

So guess what he did? You guesses it, he bought more low quality links. He didn’t know what he was doing was causing the problem. It’s like trying to cure cancer by throwing more cancer at it. This problem is rampant.

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Pawan August 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Well, I partially agree with you, one must create such website which is better for both i.e Google and users too, if you are creating website which is really very good for users but bad for Google then that’s of no use and Vice-Versa.

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Kumar August 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Also, if I forgot to tell that these days giving best to users to the new SEO.

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Arbaz Khan October 9, 2013 at 2:30 am

A website should be created with an intention to help people out with their problems and not with an intention to make money. If you are looking for the latter than Google is going to slap you hard and no SEO company will help you with that.

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bala murali March 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

yes, you are right , if the Google used to giving ranking without considering back-links then the most of the SEO experts get in to the trouble

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