As a partner of a Los Angeles based SEO company, I’m writing this post NOT to “OUT” my competitors, but to point out a few flaws in the way Google’s new algorithms evaluate websites in certain niches. As Google matured its algorithms along with the Panda and Penguin refreshes, it still seems that Google rewards SEO practices that it so openly refers to as “SPAM”.
So here’s my rant….
As online marketers, we want to believe that Google gets it right more often than they get it wrong.
But the sad fact is that – at least for now – practicing low-quality online marketing tactics can still put a website in the top banana position in search results (yup, I said “Top Banana”). It’s not fair, but it’s a reality.
As a company we make sure to stay updated on the latest trends and best practices as they relate to search and social marketing. Personally (clear disclosure) I’ve tried every single SEO technique over the last 5 years and YES at times I was stupid enough to implement some “questionable” practices on our own website. And YES we did pay a hefty price when Google caught on to us.
We’ve since moved away from local acquisition, but from time to time, I check out (spy) on the competition and to my dismay, I see Google awarding page one positions in SERPs to websites that are clearly practicing these “questionable” tactics. Again, this post is essentially a rant and is not meant to “out” anyone in particular.
So, if I were trying to compete for “SEO in Los Angeles” without any morals, ethics or long-term outlook, how might that look?
Well for starters I’d buy an exact match domain that has “Los Angeles SEO” in it and choose a really keyword-rich H1 header that reads like a bad hangover for human visitors. Something like:
“SEO in Los Angeles! Our SEO Gets You Ranked in Los Angeles Quickly!”
Once I’d firmly established that I care more about Google’s crawlers than human beings, I’d start cramming keywords into my content at every available opportunity, with no regard that my content would be read by living, breathing people after they clicked on my search result.
I’d also bold every instance of our keywords, just to hammer home how little we care about the user.
It might read like this:
“Trying to find the right Los Angeles, California SEO company can be really hard. But if you need search engine optimization services in LA, look no further! TopHatRank can handle any Los Angeles SEO project you need, whether you need enterprise-level SEO or you just want local SEO services for your Los Angeles business.”
Of course, the copy would need to be much, much longer – and equally useless to customers at every step along the way. I’d spend a lot of time using keywords, but almost no time differentiating myself as a business or explaining what we do (except that we do SEO, and we happen to be in Los Angeles).
The title tag of my website would have to be something keyword-rich (and incredibly generic) like:
“SEO Los Angeles | SEO in LA, California | Search Engine Optimization LA | Get to #1 Fast!”
And, just to be safe, I’d put “Los Angeles” in every header on our page. As an extra bonus, I’d cram keywords into our image alt tags as well – you can never be too certain, and even though those tags exist to help blind people browse the web, I’d rather use them as dumping grounds for my target phrases.
Then, I’d crank up the link spam machine!
Create useful content? No thank you! The next step in my diabolical plan would be to start churning out all kinds of spammy links with rich anchor text (the actual text of a link).
My evil plan would be three-fold:
- Submit my website to a whole bunch of low-quality, general directories that don’t require human approval and have nothing to do with SEO.
(This used to work back in the day, but it SHOULD NOT work now, and is one of the fastest ways of getting a manual action from Google!)
- Create a whole bunch of fake forum profiles and toss my link in there, too! Who has time for engagement and conversation when you can annoy forum owners by signing up for bogus profiles? The best part is, the links go live right away!
(Again, according to Google, this practice will not positively effect rankings.)
- Start spamming people’s blogs with barely-English comments, linking back to my site along the way, using an exact match keyword in the “name” field. Relationships with bloggers don’t matter, right? No need to make friends or contribute to the conversation, just throw your link in there and hope nobody notices.
(Matt Cutts actually spoke on this topic, see this article from Search Engine Watch back in Nov of 2013)
If I was feeling particularly lazy, as many SEOs in Los Angeles are, I’d use a tool like Xrumer to blast out my annoying spam to the far corners of the web. None of these links would ever bring me an ounce of traffic – but all I’d care about is the anchor text and the oh-so-addictive “link juice”.
If you are doing this, your life is going to suck once Google catches up to you. Cleaning up bad links is a pain in the ass, I know this cause we do it on daily basis.
But I’m not done yet! It’s time to fake some friends!
As you may have read (Not from Matt Cutts), social signals have a role to play in any SEO campaign. But because I’d rather not spend the time to create things people want to read, treat my visitors like human beings and ESPECIALLY don’t want to actually waste time having conversations with potential customers, I’m going to need to fake it – just like the top competitors in the results are.
First, it’s off to Fiverr.com to buy some Facebook “Likes” from fake accounts.
Next, I’ll spend a few dollars with an overseas “Google +1” company to bump up those Google+ sharing metrics. As a final stroke on my masterpiece of crap marketing, I’ll have spambots on Twitter tweet out generic marketing messages and retweet my company’s benign (and machine-written) blog posts!
And there you have it, folks! A winning strategy for ranking in Google for “Los Angeles SEO”.
I’ve been pretty sarcastic here, but the fact remains that Google is still playing “Catch Up” – and if you have the testicular fortitude to implement these strategies you might still see results. Are these results going to crank out long-term ROI? Probably not, but meanwhile the guys that still do this and are getting away with it are making big bucks.
Google has a long way to go before they’ve cleaned up the messes their link-heavy algorithm has made. Meanwhile all of us on the cleaner side of SEO business have to deal with companies that offer $90/month SEO plans. And I am okay with that, because in 3 – 4 months their clients are going to be searching for companies that can actually deliver real results for clients with realistic expectations and budgets to support clean, ever-green SEO camapaings.
But as a marketer, the question you need to ask yourself… If practices like the ones I’ve described are still working why would I not do the same thing? The answer is simple… when it comes to SEO, long term results outweigh instant gratification and at one point, Google is going to catch on to you.
I’ve been to the dark side, I’ve made these mistakes, got my website in trouble (which was not fun). Our rankings suffered, our phones stopped ringing, and we totally felt the effect of Google’s Wrath on our bottom-line. Thankfully TopHatRank was built on a client retention model and because we are awesome at what we do, we did not have to cut our staff or get rid of all the little perks (like employee group health insurance) to compensate for the decrease.
So If you are like me and care about your Brand then you need stay away! But if your business model is based on short term acquisitions with no long term SEO results for your brand or website, and can survive potential manual or algorithmic actions/penalties from Google because you have another “Throw Away” exact match domain website that’s ready to go, then this is the way to do it.
By the way, this post/rant was inspired by a G+ post I published last week: