Over ten years ago I was invited to a meeting where a major company wanted me to work with them in developing a link building project for their thousands of business clients. I reviewed the project and determined that it couldn’t be done PROPERLY because it would create patterns that ultimately would lead to penalization of their clients. So I walked away from a lucrative project. The problem with the SEO industry is that some major SEO agencies are willing to take the money and provide a poor service. How do I know? Because I am an independent web publisher and I get spammed by major SEO agencies. I make phone calls and investigate. I know who they are by name.

Knowledge is the best defense against poor SEO practioners.

Google has created an opportunity for poor SEO services that bring little to no value to the consumer. Google Webmaster Tools alerts small businesses about “unnatural links” which causes panicked businesses to seek out professional guidance. The problem is that the metrics used to judge how legit an SEO agency is (longevity in the business, list of notable past clients and conferences they have spoken at) are not a guarantee of quality service. Those are metrics that are easily fudged to create the appearance of competence. Here is why Google’s Penguin Algorithm is a gift to the SEO agencies: Delivering a Penguin recovery service is easy to do and it scales. Both of those ingredients, ease and scalability are essential for a process to service thousands of businesses and earn millions of dollars. Here is how it is done: A button is pushed on a service for reporting backlinks then another software button is used to identify email contacts which are collated into an email template which is then sent out to the owners of the domains, asking for the links to be taken down, both the good links and the bad links. Did you catch that? Legitimate links that help a site rank are being taken down along with the so-called bad links. This is why Penguin is a gift. It’s a simple process to scale while charging thousands of dollars.

But this process is even worse than that. The button pushing is outsourced to India. So while a business believes they are hiring a prestigious American or British firm, they are actually outsourcing to a shady company in India, the very thing a small business may be seeking to avoid. I personally know of several agencies that provide a good faith service. But I have been contacted by enough agencies to know that too many of them follow poor practices that are scalable which are outsourced to India. This is one of the dirty secrets of the SEO Industry. In order to service a large number of clients and maximize profits, large (and even some small) SEO agencies outsource the work to India.

Anytime I see the word “scalable” in an SEO article, a conference presentation or on an SEO website, what comes to mind is low quality and missed opportunities. Scalable is good for the SEO Agency and bad for the client. Scale allows an SEO Agency to take money from hundreds to thousands of small business clients while maintaining the PRETENSE of providing an agreed upon service.

What brings all this to mind is that I recently spoke with the CEO of a medium sized business who thought he was receiving top notch SEO from one of the most recognizable names in America. We all make mistakes. That’s understandable. But this particular SEO agency is not making a mistake. In my opinion they are willfully providing poor SEO services in order to feed the beast. I won’t out the SEO agency but I will say it’s one of the most recognizable names in SEO for over a decade, speaking at many SEO conferences. I contacted the business owner because I had received an email (in his name) asking for a legitimate link to be taken down. The timestamp on the email correlated with working hours in India. What’s going to happen is that this well known and “prestigious” SEO agency collected thousands of dollars to subcontract to a shady SEO in India who then turns around and collapses the client’s quality backlinks along with the “so-called” bad links. The SEO agency is destroying the quality backlink profile of a legitimate small business. This will leave the small business in an even worse situation because they will lose their organic rankings. While the SEO agency can claim it was the Indian subcontractor that is responsible, that agency should at the very least be monitoring the work to make sure their client isn’t being harmed.

I spoke to the owner of that small business and he related that they have never actively built links. Never. Their backlinks were the result of their good content. I didn’t discuss the nature of their penalty in enough detail but I suspect that Penguin was not their problem. One thing I am certain of, the work currently being performed for them will not likely have a positive outcome. How could it when their good links, the foundation of their online presence, is being dismantled along with their so-called bad links?

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