Beware of False Profits
Something which I had hoped was dead and buried is the idea of “Guaranteed SEO” specifically “Guaranteed Rankings” as a sales hook by shoddy, shitty, SEO companies.
It’s true, in the UK/US these types of SEO offers are rare and the markets are, for the most part, mature enough to understand the multiple fallacies of such offers. However, in the emerging markets these kind of offers seem to be quite the norm.
Working in Dubai, the SEO market is very underdeveloped. I have worked with several companies that counter any legitimate SEO offer from myself with examples of guaranteed rankings SEO offers.
The basic premise is very simple “We guarantee to rank you first place for your target keywords within x weeks/months” typically with an extremely attractive caveat “Or you pay us nothing”
Frequently this is often further segmented by listing “for xx number of keywords” further highlighting an abject misunderstanding of enterprise level SEO.
Take, for example, the sales patter of: Mapto Media:
100% Guaranteed Money Back SEO. How can you possibly lose?
Sadly the 100% guarantee does not extend to their use of grammar.
The above offer type is aptly described in their sales video here: Guaranteed SEO Sales Video
The video hits all of the above points:
- Guaranteed 1st page of Google
- For 50 keywords
- For as little as AED1,999 ($544USD)
When taken at face value the offer above is surely a no-brainer for any marketing manager, right?
You only pay when the agency delivers you the results. If they don’t deliver, you pay nothing. Any other rival offer would pale in comparison.
Surely any agency that can offer such a promise would be the biggest SEO agency in the region, if not the world, right?
Let’s start looking at the mountain of bullshit that is behind such an offer.
Settle in, it’s going to be a long ride.
Google Explicitly warns against this type of sales pitch
Sure, Google and SEO’s have a turbulent relationship sometimes, but when Google gives out advice to webmasters on how to choose an SEO agency you could do better than to openly flout that very same advice.
Google themselves explicitly warn webmasters:
Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings
The man from Google, he say “no”.
It seems Google are quite clear on this point. Link to Google advice to webmasters
So, to start with, you are dealing with an agency that openly goes against the best advice of Google.
Alarm bells ringing yet?
Well, let’s delve a little deeper.
This puts your SEO agency in a direct conflict of interest with your own goals
“How can this be?”
You might think.
“Surely the agencies interests and my own are perfectly in line! They need to improve my rankings or not get paid”
Oh, deary me…
By setting such a goal and tying it with a 100% money back guarantee the agency absolutely puts itself in a conflict of interest with the website they are servicing. Allow me to explain why;
Imagine you want to have a house built.
You survey a few builders and one offers to build the house in 3 months with a 100% money back guarantee.
Other builders warn you that it is not possible to build a house in 3 months, that such a building would not be safe, but you dismiss this. After all, you have a 100% money back guarantee, you literally can not lose on this.. right?
Work commences and the house starts to take shape, all is going well and 2 months goes by.
In the 3rd month, there is a lot of rain, and several days of building work are lost due to the weather. The concrete in the house is not setting due to the damp conditions. Furthermore, some supply issues plague the development and the fixtures and fittings you want are not available for another 6 weeks. The builders assure you that the work will still be done in time, and the alternative fixtures and fittings for the house will be just the same.
The final week of the build comes, and truth be told there is easily another 4 weeks worth of work to be done, due to the problems that have plagued the build, none of which are the fault of the builders.
The builders now know that they need to finish the house within the next week, or not get paid a penny
Given the capacity of the building company, the only way to complete the house within the next week would be to make significant savings in terms of quality, and safety, and deliver a house that is unsafe and unsustainable.
In the above example, the builders have every incentive to rush the work, deliver an unsafe, and low quality, product because the only alternative is to receive no payment for the entire project.
In this scenario it is plain to see that the interests of the SEO agency and the website commissioning the work are entirely conflicting.
“This is a good story, but we are not building a house”
Quite true, you are building the online presence of your business.
If the agency in question is failing to deliver the results as promised, they will be forced to resort to increasingly dangerous tactics in order to achieve those goals.
Many tactics in SEO can lead to quick wins in terms of rankings, but are absolutely fatal to the long term development of your website.
Don’t believe me? Ask BMW…
In 2006 they employed underhand tactics to rapidly increase their search engine rankings.
They were promptly found out and REMOVED FROM GOOGLE ENTIRELY this can be seen in a BBC news article from the time BMW given Google ‘death penalty’
This is but one prominent example, in reality there are hundreds of thousands of cases where actions have been taken to boost a website in the search engine results by shady methods. All of these are found out eventually and Google applies very stiff penalties to the offenders.
Consider this; Google had no qualms in applying a ‘death penalty’ to one of the largest multi-national auto manufacturers in the world.
A company that spends millions of dollars on Google Advertising annually.
They will do the same to your business without a moment of hesitation.
If, as an agency, you have a week to go to boost a client into the first page of Google, or not get paid for the previous 3 months of work, plus lose any future work from the client; You have literally nothing to lose by attempting shady tactics to boost the site temporarily as the great risk of serious long term damage.
Interests could not be more in conflict in this scenario.
Even if things go to plan, the agency clearly doesn’t understand modern SEO
The above points should already be stark enough warning that the agency in question is toxic for your online business. But what if you strike it lucky and don’t run into any problems, how are the agency working towards those goals?
As we have seen in the first part, the agency clearly past scant regard to Google’s advice, so it should come as no surprise that the methods employed are equally misguided.
Take the agency given as an example here:
Let’s look at what they have delivered for their clients.
Remember, I am in no way related to them and have no access to any data that they have not made available.
Google has access to this very same information.
As per Google’s Terms of Service, Buying links is strictly forbidden.
Building your own websites to link to your promoted sites (link farms, link networks, etc) is equally frowned upon.
By running a reverse Whois lookup I can find 2 other sites that were previously linked to “Mapto Media FZ-LLC”
Unsurprisingly, these sites both appear to be shill websites used to push links to businesses in the UAE..
It appears abundantly clear to me that the following websites are paying clients of this agency:
I’m sure there are many more if you care to browse through the 2 listed shill sites
Looking at the backlink profiles of these sites reveal some absolute howlers.
Many of the target sites are linked from places such as the following:
There are MANY more sites like this, I list the two above simply to give you an idea..
Unsurprisingly.. all of these spam sites are registered the same person:
Admin Name: Dan Bertel
The very same Dan Bertel who’s own Google+ profile lists him under “Employment” as:
Mapto Media FZ-LLC
SEO manager, present
Hurrah, let’s chalk up another breach of Google’s own guidelines!
A very, very, poorly hidden, poorly executed link farm designed to manipulate links to promote client sites in the Google results pages.
IF the client sites rank at all, they will not be visible at all for much longer.
If I am able to identify these spammy sites and connect them all back to MaptoMedia, you can be sure Google is also abundantly able to do the same..
At which point, your poorly built house comes crashing to the ground around your feet.
To then come to a reputable SEO agency to run your SEO campaigns is going to be much more expensive and labour intensive as first they have to go about manually undoing all of the dangerous work that the previous SEO company has done.
In many cases it is easier and more cost efficient to start from square one with a brand new website.
And that, boys and girls, is the true cost of a “Guaranteed SEO Service”