Marketing Folks—Don’t Get Taken in By an SEO Con Man!

Written by Nick Stamoulis

I know most marketers are incredibly busy folks. Depending on the size of the organization one or two marketers might be responsible for the entire marketing program including offline advertising, SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, tradeshow marketing, and more. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning! With so much to stay on top of it doesn’t surprise me that even the most creative and dedicated marketing professionals look to hire an SEO agency or consultant to manage their SEO programs. There are so many little details to keep track of (and the “rules” have dramatically shifted in the last few years) that outsourcing their SEO work to an agency is sometimes the only way a marketing manager can ensure it gets done.

Unfortunately, getting the SEO work done and getting it done correctly are not the same things. The SEO industry is full of amazing, talented, honorable, and passionate professionals that care about their clients’ success as much as their clients do. These people can make a huge difference in your online success. At the same time, there is no real barrier to entry in the SEO world. Anyone can launch a website and call themselves an SEO expert. These SEO con men and snake oil salesmen are the ones that give the rest of the industry a bad reputation; they churn and burn clients and more than one site owner is left with a manual or algorithmic penalty because of their SEO con men’s actions.

If you are responsible for the long term health and success of your website (and for most marketing folks the buck stops with them) you have to be 100% positive that the SEO firm you are working with is doing nothing that could damage your online presence! You do not want to be the one who has to go to your CMO or CEO and explain why your site has vanished from the SERPs. While I don’t expect every marketing professional to also be an SEO expert, it pays to keep an eye on the ways things are progressing in the industry so you aren’t totally in the dark. The more educated you are the less likely you will fall for an SEO con man’s pitch.

For instance, we recently started working with a client whose old firm told them their link building actions were “proprietary” and therefore they never sent over any link building reports. Because the ranking reports they did see looked good they never questioned their SEO firm’s actions. The marketing director we are working with had her reservations, but the C-suite was happy with the numbers they were seeing so they let things continue on…even though they didn’t really know what was going on. Fast forward a few months and the site is hit with a partial manual action penalty and now we are stuck in the reconsideration phase, going back and forth with Google trying to undo the damage their previous SEO firm has wrought.

In the case of this client, the marketing team smelled smoke but the C-suite didn’t think that meant fire. Unfortunately they were wrong and now they are dealing with the fall out. They trusted their SEO firm (as you should be able to do!) to follow the Webmaster Guidelines and legitimately build their online organic presence. Had the C-suite known that “proprietary” link building tactics isn’t really a thing (there are no industry secrets we SEO people are afraid our clients will learn) they might have been less confident in their partnership. Had they cut ties sooner they might have escaped unharmed.

Again, a marketing professional should be able to trust their SEO firm to do the right things, but at the same time there are too many SEO con men out there waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting site owners and marketing professionals. You don’t have to know everything but at least know what the red flags are!

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