Things Aren’t As Complicated As They Seem

Ever notice that  the immediate reaction to Social Media… is “oh I dont want people to know my personal business” or “that just takes too much time”… how about “I just don’t understand it, it is just too complicated”.

But any shrewd business owner or Doctor MUST know that is is imperative to your business or practice, if you are to keep up in today’s world.

I understand how it is has been easy to hire a person to do your website or blog… or the ever dreaded SEO (Search Engine Optimization). What does that mean exactly? And do I need to hire an company to Optimize my ratings???

From Wikipedia: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.

Note UNPAID or natural….

Here is a great article

By Mark Schaefer | Posted: June 28, 2011
Before my SEO friends get their undies in a wad over today’s headline, let me emphasize that I understand the practical value and wisdom of basic search engine optimization practices. There are many principled people in the field doing good and useful work.

But the competition to outfox the search engines is getting ugly. Beyond ugly.

I recently had a discussion with the CEO of a leading Midwest search firm who described their common practice of creating fake accounts to pump client links into the comment section of blog posts and forums.

The process goes something like this:

1. The company hires homebound individuals or low-wage people in developing countries to freelance as professional blog commenters.
2. The blog commenters are trained on how to pose as fake people and comment in a way that does not alert the suspicion of Google or the author of the blog.
3. The freelance commenters are then given assignments, fake personas, and email accounts to provide an appearance of legitimacy. A 50-year-old man in Indianapolis might be posing as a 30-year-old housewife in Pittsburgh, for example.
4. The commenters are compensated by the number of client links they can successfully work into a comment or forum—as many as five in one post.

Reality check. Isn’t this fraud?

I really don’t pay attention to the SEO shenanigans like this day to day, but now these practices are starting to impact me and my precious time. Here is an example of this practice in a comment that was salted into the comment section of my blog by “John”:

This is good post. This is some good important facts about the corporate blogs. Do you have any information on how to manage comments on the blog. I think http://www. (web link to consumer electronics retail outlet) might have an idea. Chech it out. And of course this linked website did not even have a blog. So now I am spending my time weeding out fake comments that elude the spam filter—and it happens every day.

I spoke to one of the freelancers hired by this SEO company to provide this faux commenting service. He’s otherwise unemployed and is doing it because he’s desperate for money. He’s good at what he does and rarely gets “outed.”

However, as he described his work, he told me he feels guilty when people on the blogs actually want to engage with his fake persona.

“I feel terrible about this,” he said. “I have to find some other work. I’m deceiving people as part of my job. I’m not in a position to engage with them, because I’m a fake, which seems wrong.”

While Google fights this practice, it is very difficult to detect, and the “penalties” are so minor the risk is ignored by the SEO firms. The volume of fake comments is likely to get worse. This firm alone has hired 300 fake commenters in the past 12 months and sees rapid expansion as a key competitive advantage.

The chief executive of this SEO company does not consider this a “black hat” SEO practice. “It’s gray,” he said, “and we have many companies willing to pay us a lot of money to do it.” He bragged that one client has a monthly SEO bill of $200,000.

I recognize that there are many important business insights and strategies that can come from legitimate SEO professionals including:

• Keyword research and targeting
• Testing and optimizing content for users
• Content strategy direction
• Making sites search-engine-friendly
• Leadership for analytics
• Opportunities for alternative search listings
• User experience improvement

I’m concerned when it gets difficult to compete in the industry without engaging in fraudulent behavior. This is a slippery slope that will lead to regulation. All it will take is one high-profile case that blows the lid off these practices, and we will all lose if we have to endure new rules and the cost of compliance.

I want to do business with people who view ethics as black and white, not gray. I want to work in an industry in which we can compete fairly without resorting to SEO fraud to cover up ineffective products, services and marketing plans.

How about you?

Mark Schaefer is a marketing consultant, college educator, and author. He blogs at {grow}, where this story first appeared.


5 Responses to Things Aren’t As Complicated As They Seem
  1. Tony Gates
    July 1, 2011 | 8:15 am

    Love it, Carolyn!! I hear the same things and it makes me crazy… I’ve learned to be patient and let the comments pass knowing they’ll be back…soon!
    I also love the style of an intro then posting an article to prove your point, I’ve recommended similar blogging techniques to clients. You make it work.
    I’m tweeting this and posting it on my Facebook wall.

    • carolyn
      July 1, 2011 | 3:59 pm

      Thanks Tony! Ironically, not 2 minutes after I posted this post- I got a SPAM telling telling me about paying for their services for SEO.

  2. Jeff Marmins
    July 2, 2011 | 8:14 pm

    Nice post with good examples. There is such a range of services that fall between “black hat” SEO tactics, like some that you mentioned, and legitimate ways to improve your search results. We have plenty in our locale, including those that do business by just listing your site on the hundreds of domains that they own for back-links.

    SEO is not my core area of expertise, however I’ve been around the practice of improving search results since Lycos and Alta Vista were relevant. The best way to have good search returns is to have relevant content of value and to post new information consistently. Yes, it pays to write smart with search engine marketing in mind – know and use the right key-phrases. Yes, it pays to develop relationships on public social platforms where your content can be shared and discussed. And, don’t forget to manually submit your pages to the “other” search engines. Register your blog at Technorati. Follow Dana Lookadoo on twitter.

    This is a real comment.

  3. Jenny Davis
    August 22, 2011 | 9:25 pm

    This is a great article Carolyn, and as someone in the “trade” so to speak (SEO is one of the services I provide) these types of practices by others in the trade bother me. Another practice that is in the “grey” area is using sub-domains. In this case the marketer uses a high-profile domain and creates a website for their client under that domain e.g. In this case the client doesn’t actually own the website put together by the marketer so as soon as they stop paying the monthly fee the site goes away along with all the rankings associated with that url/domain name.
    My recommendation to anyone looking to hire a professional to assist them with their marketing on-line is to do their due diligence and get references along with multiple quotes from different professionals.
    Thanks again for the great info!

    • carolyn
      October 4, 2011 | 4:06 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Jenny!

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