Most of you probably already know this, but I thought it worth mentioning here that SEO fraud appears to be increasing rapidly, along with Google Adwords fraud.
Businesses across the spectrum are anxious, to say the least, to increase business. This might be one reason that the amount of daily calls, emails and other detritus of SEO fraud that crosses my desk everyday increases exponentially. Also, someone must be making money off this scam to have it explode in popularity so quickly. Essentially, all these SEO pitches say that the fraudsters have found the secret formula and can help you improve your page rankings on Google search.
First, the ‘success’ of SEO fraud speaks directly to the fact that a lot of people think that improving your rank on Google search pages is a black and mysterious art. It’s not. You must simply work hard at creating content that other people find interesting and link to. But when you tell people that content is the key, they look at you like you’re a high school English teacher asking for a three page essay due the day after prom. Believe me, it’s worse than that. Content is a three page essay once or twice a week if you really care about search rankings. It also means spending time reading and understanding the subject matter. You have to make yourself part of a larger discussion, and you have to add something meaningful to the discussion.
We still run into people who think they can increase their page rank by hiding keywords in the white areas of their site. This does not work. At least not anymore. Back when we used Alta Vista search this was a common practice, judging by the weird search results we used to get. Google owes the value of their franchise to the fact that they eliminated this nonsense. They created algorithms that allowed us to find “relevant” search results. Relevant is obviously a very rare commodity on the web, judging by the money Google makes. They could also help their cause by making it more obvious how they are search your web pages. They have done some of this the last few years, but as long as legitimate marketing agencies can say, with some honesty, that they have figured out what the Google crawlers are looking for, SEO is going to have a fraudulent underbelly.
By the way, if you want to learn more about SEO fraud and what specifically to watch out for, just Google it.
If you have a NetSuite website (disclosure: I own a NetSuite Consulting business) or are in the middle of implementing NetSuite, you should really take the time to understand the SEO attributes before you start setting up the hierarchy, or importing your items. There are several fields that are very important for SEO in the system and it makes sense to understand them well before you have too much setup. Take notice of URL components, page titles, meta tags and your sitemap.
Ultimately, the SEO fraud will spread to other areas of Google’s franchise. There now appears to be a fraudulent Adwords practice surfacing. These come in two flavors. First there are groups that pay people in the third world to click on Adsense and Adwords ads; or they may use a machine. So I guess there are people in internet cafes just clicking all day on ads on those dummy sites. The owner of the site gets a small cut when Google charges the ad owner.
The other fraud is similar to the SEO fraud, wherein the fraudster makes a pitch that they can increase your PPC traffic and conversions because they have the best copywriters, the best knowledge of Adwords, etc. Obviously, you must be very careful when giving someone access to your Adwords account, because once they are in it they can setup campaigns that cost you thousands while netting them hundreds, or even thousands. Since Adwords has your credit card, this can be a very dangerous situation.
Obviously we all need to be better buyers of services, but the marketing industry also bears some responsibility here. SEO should be part of your typical web design and development practice, not a black art that you pitch to prospects. As long as legitimate marketing agencies try to make a buck on the SEO, the marketplace will be full of the plain old fraudsters.
(Cross-posted @ Sightings in SaaS)