Every business wants to see their website at the top of Google search result pages, but in many cases they’ve got no idea how to climb the mountain. That’s okay. After all, search engine optimization isn’t their job. But it is their problem.
If the phone calls we get from prospective clients are any indication, SEO ignorance is a problem that some amateur and irresponsible digital marketers are exploiting with unrealistic and even unethical promises that ignore SEO best practices in favor of digital snake oil.
The challenge is that there’s no quick fix to nailing the first page on Google using SEO. SEO is a journey, not a destination. It takes the work of a deft hand and a diligent eye to keep a website’s content fresh, relevant, and indexed.
Bad SEO companies that use outdated, uninformed, or devious black-hat tactics could produce results that are at best ineffective and at worst do incalculable damage to your website. By avoiding SEO best practices and attempting to game the system, your website could end up facing steep penalties.
To give you an idea of the absolute garbage that’s being peddled by some SEO companies out there, here’s our list of top 5 worst things we’ve heard bad interactive marketing firms tell their clients, as related by some of Forthea’s best and brightest. If you hear any of these claims, hang up.
1. “We know someone at Google who can help us get your site ranked.”
Jon Bowers – Team Lead
“I stick my neck out for nobody.” – Rick Blaine
The 1942 masterpiece Casablanca is a timeless love story framed by a mass exodus of Europeans trying to escape the advancing Nazi forces. In the film, the featured route runs through French Morocco and requires letters of transit to secure safe passage to America.
The film’s protagonist and “man to know” in Casablanca, Rick Blaine, stumbles upon two of these letters and receives a litany of offers for them. In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Rick does the right thing and freely gives the letters of transit to the people most deserving.
Wait a minute, you interject. Isn’t this supposed to be about search engine optimization?
It is. It so is.
In this scenario, Google is Rick Blaine.
Google is the “man to know” when it comes to getting your site a great organic position. They are what you build SEO best practices to, what you optimize for. And getting penalized by Google is potentially devastating for any business.
Anybody in their right mind would want to have a secret insider at Google. But, like Rick, Google sticks their neck out for nobody.
Google’s goal is simply to deliver the most relevant search results on the most deserving websites. In fact, they’ve been making it tougher and tougher for SEO companies through a number of algorithm changes. They’ve also become more aggressive at seeking out those who try to game the system and get higher rankings through unethical, or black-hat, methods.
In reality, no inside relationship will take you to the top of any search engine.
Reputable SEO companies follow industry trends and keep up to date through any number of sources. Industry shows, SEO blogs, and white papers are some of their best resources. They also review site data and trends internally on a regular basis to gauge the effects of the SEO best practices they put into place for their clients.
Through research and proven methodology, reputable SEO companies help your site deserve the top placement, regardless of how many folks they may or may not know at Google.
2. “I’ll always get you ranked on the first page in Google.”
Zach Doty – Digital Marketing Specialist
Simply put, no one can make this promise.
Like a good lawyer, an SEO professional can’t guarantee a favorable verdict. We can research, prepare, employ SEO best practices, and generally do our due diligence, but, in the end, the ruling is out of our hands.
An SEO company can’t assure you a position or rank because Google’s algorithm is a complex, living formula that can’t be gamed. And no reputable SEO company would claim otherwise. The best we can do is build a long-running track record of positive outcomes.
Reputable SEO companies understand that while they can’t promise you’ll always be on the first page of a Google search result, they can do their utmost to ensure a client’s website becomes more visible and generate more revenue than before their stewardship.
3. “We are experienced enough to work around Google’s algorithm.”
Shannon Rasberry – Senior Copywriter
Um, no you’re not. Google is algorithm. There’s no working around it. It’s like saying you can connect to the internet without an internet connection.
Fact is, because you can’t work around Google’s algorithm, you have to try and work with it. The problem is Google’s algorithm is proprietary and they don’t like to share. And, not only is the algorithm locked down tighter than Fort Knox, they tweak it an average of 1.5 times a day.
As a result, an entire global industry, worth billions annually, has sprung up to analyze and strategize and form best practices to try and understand how SEO really works with Google and its customers. This industry didn’t grow to the massive size it is today because Google’s algorithm was something that could be worked around.
Anyone who says anything to the contrary is shoveling you-know-what.
4. “All you need is social to rank well in the search engines.”
Katrina Kokoska – Team Lead
Anybody who says “all you need is [insert any digital activity here] to rank well in the search engines” is ignorant about SEO best practices or is being willfully unethical to try and get your business. Either way, the people behind such claims are walking a very thin line that will ultimately cost their clients dearly.
While social media marketing activity can have a positive impact on search rankings, it’s just one piece of a very large, constantly evolving puzzle.
Problem is, Google owns the puzzle and never shows us what the completed image will look like. We can see a corner here, a section there, but search engine optimization has evolved to encompass all aspects of digital marketing. You’ll never complete the puzzle by focusing on a single piece. Instead, your brand must take a longer view by consistently engaging in a robust variety of activities.
Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. If you focus on only one aspect of digital marketing and the search engines change the way they look at it — and they inevitably will — the repercussions could be catastrophic.
5. “We’ll submit your website to 20,000 search engines and directories. That’ll do the trick.”
Terri Stevens – SEO Specialist
SEOs used to say this years ago. Unfortunately, we’re still hearing about mass directory submissions. If an “SEO professional” tells you they can get a great ranking for your website simply by submitting it to a bunch of search engines and directories, you should laugh, sadly shake your head, and politely thank them for their time.
The only thing that strategy will do is mess up your SEO and cause you or us to undergo the lengthy process of cleaning up a ton of spammy links. Do the right thing: REFUSE!
Anyone working in search engine optimization today should be well aware of the Penguin update to Google’s algorithm, which was first launched in 2012 to combat websites using this very tactic to spam search results. If you aren’t familiar with it, read these refreshers: Google’s Penguin Update Changes the Game for Website Page Rankings and Google Penguin 2.0: Link Building in Google’s World.
As a strategy they may have worked years ago, but today mass directory submissions will end any hopes you have of visibility in search. An SEO professional who builds links today should only do so on relevant, quality sites selected for their potential to send referral traffic and build a brand, neither of which can be achieved through mass directory submissions.
As for search engines, you can submit a sitemap but you don’t need to submit your site to thousands of search engines. Build a quality site and the search engines will find you.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of outrageous SEO promises out there to keep this post going for a long time. If you’re a company that’s been fed a line, share it with us. If you’re a colleague who’s heard their fair share of terrible promises, let our readers know what to avoid.