I’m waiting. Still waiting. Yet, still waiting.
If I’ve offended any SEO companies by that statement…too bad!
Unfortunately your reputation precedes you because your industry is littered with controversial tactics.
Mark Schaefer wrote a fantastic article on the topic, Why SEO Disgusts Me. I highly recommend it.
Earlier this year, retailer J.C. Penney was busted by the Google police because the SEO firm it hired was placing hundreds and thousands of fake links to help boost Penney’s search rankings.
Now the retailer is lucky to be found organically on Google page 500. It will take them a long time to get their get-out-of-jail-free-card, if only sooner because they spend millions a month with Google on paid search.
So in this case, the big guy got busted, will do its time, and then will likely be given a pass because of their deep pockets.
But what about the little guy? Once blacklisted by Google, I’ve heard it nearly impossible to get your rankings back. The small business cannot afford such a mistake and yet they are hiring these SEO companies left and right to gain position. Perhaps they do it out of fear and don’t realize there are other legitimate ways to get your website found and compete.
What’s worse, is that in most cases I don’t believe that small business owners really know what and how their SEO companies go about doing business!
A Case In Point
If there is one thing that bloggers can relate to, it’s comment spam. We are constantly cleaning our inbox’s of the stuff. Thank goodness for the spam filters that catch most of it! Adrienne Smith wrote a terrific piece on blog commenting rules to call-out the ongoing electronic refuse.
SEO companies use blog commenting as a way to build links for their clients. Blog comments can definitely help with building link authority, but what these SEO companies do is hire people to write fake comments, to pose as real people.
It’s usually easy to spot these comments in one of two ways. Either one, the comment is super short, and without much command of the English language. Or two, the comment is about something not nearly related to the article itself.
Recently, my blog was under assault from one such company, and being a fellow small business owner, it saddened me to see what these comments were doing to the reputation of the small business being promoted. The reason I bring the following to your attention is not to be vindictive, or even a plain ol’ jerk. I think it is important to educate people and small businesses on what is unfortunately the dark side of SEO.
Here are just a few of the fake comments I received:
So apparently All-Star Plumbing was in need of some link building to help their search rankings.
Now I don’t know about you, but as saddened as I was as to the potential damaging of this companies reputation, I also got a bit perturbed about the fifth or so spam comment in.
I decided to write the owner of All-Star Plumbing. I thought it would help with my frustration, and at the same time, perhaps shed a little light on the subject and hopefully steer them in the right direction.
Here is an excerpt of the email I wrote to All-Star:
I didn’t know what to expect from the email. All I was really hoping for was for the steady stream of spam to cease. To my surprise, I received a response from the Plumber, and my wish was to come true. The spam was to cease. The response was short and to the point, and I would be a happy blogger again.
Why Did I Have to Go and Dig Deeper?
As a passionate inbound marketer, when I’m coaching other companies for web success, I tend to dig deep into their web marketing past. It really helps me to know where they came from, so I know where they need to be going in the future.
Although I was happy with the result of my request with the plumbing company, I couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. I started digging into the links they had left and I was shocked at what I found!
You see, one of the links that was left on a comment linked back to a YouTube video. Being the curious person that I am, I followed the trail and here is what I saw:
Now I know I tend to be a tad bit cynical at times, but something was off with this video testimonial. Is it me or did it seem a bit too rehearsed, and not genuine?
Perhaps I could have left it alone at that point, if it weren’t for the six other testimonial videos that looked very similar to the first. Try this on for size:
Now do these look like your typical plumbing customers or what? Interestingly enough, the first video had 152 comments. All 1-3 words in length. Very interesting indeed.
This last video only had two comments, and boy were they a doozy!
Here is the video the commenter was referring to….you decide?
I never did reach back out to All-Star regarding the videos. I had offered my help (no charge) in the letter, and apparently they didn’t need it.
People Who Live in Glass Houses……
One of the qualities that I promote for myself as a web coach is that you can learn inbound marketing from someone who has actually done it. I have written many times how it has literally transformed my recession-born sign and graphics company into a market taking machine.
My point is that one other benefit of having “done it” is that I love to test and measure marketing strategies. Yes, you get to learn from my mistakes! I once contracted with what looked to be an “ethical” SEO firm for a few months to see what they could do for our web rankings. That was until they sent me the first monthly report of their activities and I dug deeper. After seeing what they were up to, I immediately turned it off!
Was That Trip Really Necessary?
Blog commenting and YouTube videos can be a great source of traffic and link building. Here are some ethical, white hat, inbound marketing tips for implementing these strategies, and actually building your companies reputation at the same time.
- No need to hire someone to leave fake comments. You and the people at your company are experts at what you do. Find relevant blogs (perhaps this one) and leave thoughtful, related commentary. You’re comments will get approved, you’ll develop relationships with others in your industry, and earn some link juice along the way.
- Making up fake testimonial videos is so yesterday! You can buy video camera for less than $100 these days. In fact, most smart phones have HD quality video built in!
- Need customers to give you a testimonial video? Just ask them! If you’re company if providing the value and service worthy of a testimonial video, it will be hard for anyone to say no!
- Post the videos onto YouTube (be sure to use good SEO in the titles, description, and tags). Then embed them on to a customer testimonials page on your website.
Lastly, I offered it once, and I’ll offer it again. If All-Star Plumbing would still like help with their web marketing, I’d gladly help them…free of charge!
Is this the type of reputation you’d possible risk for the reward of higher search engine rankings? What would your first impression of this company be if you came across their blog comments or “testimonial” videos? Have you had a good experience with an SEO company? I know there are some good ones out there. Have you run into any fake comments, videos, or reviews? How did they make you feel?
Thanks for taking the time to read my rant! If this article provided you some value, please share
image credit – Social Media Managers Inc