A while ago we were approached by a marketing company who had come across one of our websites in Google, now at this point you need to bear in mind that this particular site was a type of test bed, we had not done much to promote or market it apart from standard stuff, to be totally honest it was a bit poor by our standards as we had used it to help train staff up on design etc so it wasn’t really a pretty site but it was functional and taking orders.
Anyway the marketing company had found it hanging around page 2 in position 11 and decided to contact us to see if they could offer us their marketing services. They had no idea that we owned another website selling the same products that was lavishing in the top 5 positions for quite a few keywords and I wasn’t about to tell them. I also didn’t tell them of the experience my partner and I had gained over the years of studying the search engines and played the call as if I had no idea! Well that’s how you see the reality in some people, some will be honest and open and some won’t!
Often these types of calls start with a guarantee of No1 position in Google,….. let me tell you right now that no one can guarantee you the first place in Google (unless you pay Google with PPC/AdWords) but we will come on to AdWords and PPC later on. So if you receive a call and the sales person says we can guarantee you first place in Google and all major search engines just hang up, you can have a litter snigger first if you wish but don’t waste your time listening to any of the dribble.
I have taken too many of these calls over the years and it got to the point where I started to spin the conversation back on the sales person usually saying “ok if I pay you the £1000 deposit and you don’t get me to the top for my chosen keywords then you will refund me my money then! Yes?” and predictably the answer is always NO! Mmm! Time for a recap, here is a company trying to take my hard earned money based on false promises of No 1 position yet with no guarantee of a result!!! What is wrong with these people, you wouldn’t accept this anywhere else would you? You wouldn’t employ a painter to paint your house and allow him to keep the money if he didn’t complete the job; these people really do twist my melon!
Anyway this call was somewhat different, the sales person started the call with a line I had longed to hear for years, he said ”if we don’t deliver top 5 positions it’s a money back guarantee…” whoa there! Stop the clock!… did I hear that correctly? I nearly fell of my chair. A top 5 position or your money back!....”Ok I said, you now have my full attention” quietly thinking that usually when it seems too good to be true it generally is.
As the conversation went on it transpired that it’s not actually a cash back promise but they will guarantee to work for free until they achieve their promise which to be fair I had never been offered before. To say that I was dubious is an understatement but curiosity was getting the better of me. I don’t profess to know everything, maybe I could learn something here from these guys, and after all they were making big promises backed up with a guarantee in writing. After a few discussions with my partner we decided to let them loose with our test bed website, we felt we didn’t have much to lose by giving it a try so that’s exactly what we did.
They wouldn’t tell us what they planned to do or how they planned to do it but we were comfortable knowing that we have enough tools at our disposal to basically follow their strategy and as soon as they had completed the work we would have a full picture of what they were doing. A little bit underhand you might think but it is a dog eat dog world in cyber space. Plus if they could deliver us with a good ethical marketing plan that worked then I would pay them to continue no problem.
We paid the deposit and sat back and waited for the results, fully expecting them to fail. But, much to my dismay our test bed site that was an ugly sister of our main site began to move up the listings and in a short space of time we were at position no 3 for quite a competitive keyword. This defiantly seemed too good to be true, we could not wait to put our tools to work to see what was happening.
By running one of our analytic tools we could see that the inbound links had gone up in number so we needed to dig a bit deeper, we ran some link analysis to see where the links were coming from and that’s when we realised that we were dealing with black hat marketers. They were putting links in some very dodgy websites, dodgy directories, porn sites and many other sites that Google would just hate, they were even hacking into other people’s blogs and putting coloured text links without the owner knowing (this practice used to be common, they put a link in the home page, usually the most powerful page but they then put the text colour the same as the website site so the human does not see it but the search bots do, clever but a big no no!).
You may be wondering why this is bad if the website is rising through the ranks, well it’s a very short term fix, they put your website through their dodgy network and you climb, then Google crawls the links and realises that this is just link manipulation and penalises the website in question by dropping the ranking down and often Google will mistrust the website so it will be hard to get it ranking again if at all.
When I approached the marketing company and asked them why they had done such a dodgy unethical linking strategy when they must realise that Google will destroy the site once it catches up as it inevitably will and they simply said Yes we know but we just buy another domain name and redirect your website and start the whole process again!!!
This strategy may kind of work if you can sell a lot of products whilst you have a short visit up near the top of the listings but for medium to longer term it’s ridiculous and unethical and playing a cat and mouse game that Google will inevitably win in the end as your site leaves a digital signature everywhere and there is no real way to hide.
We checked our Google webmaster tools and we were seeing warnings from Google saying unnatural links etc. Google sussed it within a couple of weeks and spanked our website which was pretty much destroyed and disappeared from the listings. Luckily for us we had the experience not to risk our main website or we would have been out of business, I guess this is a clear cut example of why SEO albeit black hat can bust your company. Be very aware of who you deal with and if your website is trusted in Google don’t be tempted to cut corners or it will quite possibly come back and bite you on the bum.
In our next post we will discover how Adwords and PPC can strip your budget very quickly.
By: Johnny G
Posted: October 1, 2014, 2:01 pm
Strategic Digital Media LTD are based in the Hunslet area of Leeds UK, The company specialise in local and national SEO services and social marketing to drive more visitors to your website. We also...