What Your SEO Company Might Be Doing To Hurt Your Rankings
Is your SEO company hurting your websites rankings?
I get it, as a business owner it’s really easy to let things like SEO and your website slide. Your phone is ringing, people are mentioning that they found you on the web, so life is good right? But if you have an SEO company, web advertising company, or anyone else that does any kind of promotion of your website with the goal of attaining better rankings online for you, it might be time to start paying attention.
Google’s paying attention to your SEO Company, are you?
You know what’s on your website, so you know what’s going on right? That kind of thinking can get your business and websites rankings in hot water with the search engines, so don’t be complacent. SEO (good or bad) involves many different factors, many of which you as a business owner would never know about, unless you knew where to look. Below we will explore a few of those places and how to determine what your SEO company is doing for you.
Off-site SEO warning signs
Bad backlink profile
Creating crappy backlinks is probably one of the easiest ways to be a lazy SEO. I say lazy because unethical, or even uneducated SEO companies can get you backlinks to your website through a variety of sleazy cheap ways, boosting your rankings for a short time, that is until Google does an update and takes notice of the links you’ve attained, devalues your website, and you lose your precious rankings.
If you’re here on our website it, you’ve probably heard of Google algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda. These updates are directly targeted at websites with shady or downright bad backlink profiles. Lazy or uneducated SEO’s will often use automated programs like Directory Optimizer (or hundreds others) to pay for backlinks to their client websites. Google has warned SEO’s and Webmasters (many times) that engaging in any type of link schemes is against their policies (read Google’s link scheme policy).
If your SEO company talks about building links, ask exactly how they do it, if it sounds unethical, shady, or manipulative, it’s probably against the rules, and if you decide to do it anyways, Google will eventually spank your website.
You can read about Google’s latest update Penguin 3.0. Penguin targets sites deemed to be spammy, especially those found in violation of Google’s guidelines about linking. (read more).
Website / Blog Interlinking Schemes
We see this, even here in the Portland and Vancouver metro area. Interlinking schemes take a medium to large network of websites that are usually controlled by one person, or group of people (SEO company, webmaster, or others). These websites will interlink their websites together creating an illusion to the search engines of a robust backlink profile. If your SEO company is linking your website to other websites in their network of customers without good reason, you should probably prepare for a loss in rankings in the future. No matter how creative and sly your SEO or webmaster may think they are, I can promise you that the folks at Google are smarter.
Google tracks users through Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Gmail, Severs, IP Addresses, Whois, even down to the last 4 digits of a credit card…but don’t take my word for it, the video below is from a very well respected SEO expert on this very topic.
Scraped Website Content
What is scraped content? Very simply, it’s content stolen from another website. Again this is also against Google quality guidelines, and many people found their websites rankings dropped because of thin, scraped, or duplicate content after the Panda update. We typically see scraped and thin content from very inexpensive web design and SEO companies. Many times these companies will outsource their website development to overseas companies to reduce costs.
A relatively easy way to find out if your website content is scraped from somewhere else is to pull a sentence or two from one of your website pages and put it into Google, read the results, if your results come up on other websites you may have scraped content on your website.
Spun or Computer Generated Content (Article Spinning)
Computer generated content, or in the SEO industry “article spinning” is a black hat SEO tactic that takes a single article, places it into a software program which creates a large number of similar articles. The software works by taking common words, then inserting synonyms in their place to create the “spun” article. An example would be:
- Original text: My SEO company is great, they put a lot of content on the web for me.
- Text after spinning: My SEO organization is incredible, they put a great deal of substance on the web for me.
Article spinning is generally a way for a lazy SEO company to produce one piece of content, spin it into hundreds of different versions, then spam it across the internet with links that point back to their customers website. The problem is first, the content that is spun rarely reads well, as such it’s not put on the web for human consumption, second, the websites / blog that accept spun content are usually already flagged by the search engines as spammy, so any links attained will usually hurt your position, not improve it. And in the event you’re put onto a network of sites that the search engines haven’t flagged yet, it will only be a matter of time before they do.
You can read more about these types of networks, also known as Private Blog Networks.
Fake Reviews or Posting Reviews For Someone Else
Posting fake reviews or submitting reviews on the behalf of customers can get you into some pretty hot water, not only with the search engines, but the law as some SEO & Small Business Owners found out in New York (SEO’s & SMB’s fined over fake reviews). Many online review websites and search engines track many different factors to determine the legitimacy of the reviews being posted on their sites.
SEO companies that post fake reviews for their customers on sites like Google+, Yelp and others risk not only their reputation being damaged if the word gets out that their reviews are fake, but they certainly open themselves up to being penalized or even de-indexed from certain searches. Read our prior post – Fake Google Reviews Can Hurt Your Business.
How to check out what your SEO Agency is doing
First – and foremost, your SEO Agency should be able to tell you in plain and easy to understand terms what they’re doing to help your rankings. Do not accept statements like “we’re getting you a lot of backlinks…” or “we’re publishing content on various websites for you.” make them show you the places they have built you links, or placed content on the web. Read the articles, read other articles on the site, do you want your business associated with these sites? Do the websites and content reflect well on your business?
Second – Check your backlink profile, This sounds like a really hard task, I promise it’s not. A quick search on Google for “free backlink checker” will return many sites, often for full backlink profiles you may need to sign up for a free trial with some of the websites. Once you get your backlink profile, start visiting the websites and pages your business has been linked on. Websites that make no sense when it comes to the content, sites that seem to be just a bunch of links, or sites that advertise directory links, PR links, or any other link schemes should be a big red flag. Basically if it feels wrong then it probably is.
Third – Ask your SEO Agency for shared access to your Google Webmaster Tools, and your Google Analytics accounts. It is very easy to share accounts on both of these platforms with anyone that has a gmail account. Any reputable SEO company should have zero problem with sharing information about your website through these two valuable tools. Once you get access, dig around in both accounts deeply, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, again a reputable SEO should be able to answer all of your questions clearly.