When choosing your SEO company, ethics should play a major role.
The difference between White Hat and Black Hat SEO could cost your company dearly.
Here at Impact Media Solutions we perform a combination of White Hat and Organic search engine optimization methods. White Hat SEO means that we follow the rules and guidelines set forth by the search engine companies, mainly Google. If you have been put in charge of finding the right SEO service for your company, you will want to do a little research and make sure that any company you are considering has a reputation for high ethical standards. If you choose an SEO service provider that tries to circumvent the rules or blatantly break them (referred to as Black Hat SEO), then you are putting your company at risk of losing a considerable amount of business. Interflora is a great case-in-point.
Recently Interflora, which is a UK based flower delivery company, was unexplainably dropped from Google’s search engine’s organic results. Organic means naturally occurring so in the search engine world, these are the results that follow the paid ad section at the top. If you were to type Flower Delivery UK into the Google search engine, Interflora was nowhere to be seen. The omission went on for eleven days and later we learned from Barry Schwartz’s article on SearchEngineLand.com (click here for article) that a few bloggers had posted tweets that Interflora had asked them to remove any links back to the Interflora website. This led to our assumption that Interflora, or their SEO service provider, was involved in paying for pages that pass PageRank (through gifts or monetary means). What that means is they were paying bloggers to write posts that included a link back to the Interflora website. This is a huge violation in the Google rule book. If a blogger wants to write about your company and add a link, then that’s their business, but to pay them to do that creates non-organic search results and is a highly unfair practice.
To take the explanation a little further, we are now handling the SEO for a local based carpet and upholstery cleaning company. It is operated by two men who have taken a very scientific approach to the process and they have built a solid clientele based mostly on word of mouth. Now let’s say that a large carpet cleaning company comes into town and they have a monster marketing budget. We’ll call them Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning. Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning begins paying bloggers to write about various carpet cleaning topics and in each post they include a link to the Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning website.
Imagine one night you are enjoying a glass of red wine and you accidently spill some on the carpet and now you need to get your carpet cleaned. You go to Google.com, type in carpet cleaning wine stains and out of the first twenty results, 15 are blog entries about how to get red wine out of your carpet and they all inexplicably link back to Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning. This does two things. It greatly reduces the chances of any other cleaning company like our client from showing up on the search results. Secondly, it gives a psychological advantage to Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning. We know that 75% of people who use search engines do not go past the first page of their search results ¹. We also know that people typically do not read the entire content snippets returned in search results, but rather they scan them for names and adjectives. If they see Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning over and over again, then they are going to assume it’s a great, well known company unless they see negative adjectives accompanying the listing. In essence Super Ultra Carpet Cleaning has created a search results monopoly and this is highly unethical.
Back to Interflora… It took 11 days before they were reinstated into the Google search results, but when they came back, they ranked 9th for “flowers”…7th for “mothers day flowers”…8th for “flower delivery”…9th for “flowers delivered”…& 10th for “roses” ². Imagine how much money they lost in those omitted 11 days and now they are ranking below six to nine other companies where before they always ranked in the top three of each category. When an SEO company does things the wrong way, it can cost your company dearly.
When you are searching for the right SEO company, make sure you ask for references. Then search for those references on various search engines and see what you find. If there is an inordinate amount of material from bloggers not affiliated with the company that all include hyperlinks back to the company’s website, or if you find pages that have links to the website, but the content has nothing to do with what the company does, then that should raise a red flag. Also make sure to call the reference and ask if they are happy with their return-on-investment. If their answer is yes and the searches return clean, high ranking results, then chances are you have found a good, ethical company to deal with.
¹ This statistic was collected from Eric Siu’s article on SearchEngineJournal.com (click here to read the article)
² These statistics were collected from Matt McGee’s article on SearchEngineLand.com (click here to read the article)