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Recently however, being upfront about how SEO works has caused some friction between myself and a few of my clients. Anyone that spends any amount of time at WebmasterWorld knows that GoogleGuy encourages people to send spam reports, typically with added advice about mentioning WebmasterWorld and a WebmasterWorld screenname. Recently, some of my clients have been pressuring me to send in some spam reports but that's just the beginning of the issue.
After much badgering from a client I did send in a report. To date no action has been taken, no response received and my client is sending me email every other day wondering why nothing is happening. It's not that he doesn't believe me when I respond that this takes time, it's that the link farm, hidden links, tiny text, etc, were so obvious that he's a bit sceptical that Google has any procedures in place to deal with blatant violations of their stated TOS.
I informed him from the start that we could overcome most of the domain farm, link farm, hidden text tactics and in truth, we have, but the cost of overcoming what is a clear violation of Google's own TOS has been passed to him. While we have several #1 positions and hundreds of 1-5 spots the core phrases are controlled by a network of sites that violate Google's TOS.
Now to the crux of the problem. He wants to emulate the tactics of the folks that are currently enjoying success using what Google deems to be inappropriate methods if you will. We could fire up another domain or 200 and use exactly the same tactics they use, with what appears to be minimal risk.
My responsibility is to my client. His take is that Google's advice to, "play by the rules Grasshopper and everything will be fine" is BS. He's right. As long as techniques that violate Google's TOS work all the lip service about reporting spam is exactly that, lip service.
I've already mentioned "long term viability" but that argument is a bit shallow, this particular network has been in place for more than a year and quite possibly much longer.
The issue goes quite a bit deeper than just one client. As long as SEOs have to work around beating those people that employ techniques that violate Google's TOS the cost of optimizing those sites that play by the rules will be higher. In essence, Google rewards sites that violate the rules and inadvertently punishes those sites that strive to follow them.
The issue runs deeper than one SEO and his clientele, every SEO out there knows that it costs more to beat a network of domain farms that it does to optimize for phrases that don't face that opposition. Are your clients paying more because Google can't seem to weed out the folks that won't play by the rules?
I used to love the smamless results that Yahoo used to give me before they buried their directory under Google search results. No algorithm will ever match human review.
We advise them of the risks and will work with them either way. It's just made clear that if the site gets the boot that is part of the risk. Since they have been forewarned, if they get booted we take zero responsibility.
There will always be ways to Spam Google and some will always do it. The client needs to make a decision and then the agency or consultant needs to decide whether or not its worth working with the client and listening to them bitch if all the hard work that went into the site gets tossed in the bin.
Any SEO going into ANY industry - makes for more competition. If everybody 'plays clean' then it's still challenging to rise to the top, if everybody is using SEO techniques. Just means you have to work harder.
I don't 'pitch' people much, but the last time I considered doing some consulting, the tactics already in place by the competition factored into my pricing considerations.
After all, if it looks *easy* to waltz to the top of the SERP, I'm not about to charge an arm and a leg - just an arm :)
But - if it is a crowded industry, with lots of serious $$$ to be made, I always take that into consideration - and then, the client would have to pay accordingly.
I agree with that, had it happen often, but what about the client that does listen, optimizes, develops content, hires copywriters and still finds himself competing with someone that has 100 domains, interlinked to build PR, uses hidden and tiny text, uses link farms and remains in the index month after month?
In the end, it costs my client in two ways, I sometimes have to charge more to optimize a site that has to compete with techniques that violate Google's TOS and he loses money to sites every month that compete with him using techniques that violate that TOS.
I'm not seeking some quick fix and I know that spam will never disappear, just kind of pissed that Google has this SEO page up that advises people to ask for an "unconditional refund" from SEOs that don't perform while Google's inability to enforce their own TOS costs my clients money.
That's part of the point, doesn't make a whit of difference to me, but it does cost my client more dough. It also perpetuates the whole 'spam" thing as evidenced by the "can't beat 'em join 'em" attitude.
>>but the individuals that build multi-site content similar PR systems, will eventually be phased out.
Hmm, just not seeing it. I track hundreds of sites and the "phasing out" process isn't happening.
So for now, I apprise client of the risks involved, long term viability, etc. and remain responsible to my clients. If they decide to "join the dark side" they know the risks, which frankly, right now, appear minimal.
but what about the client that does listen, optimizes, develops content, hires copywriters and still finds himself competing with someone that has 100 domains, interlinked to build PR, uses hidden and tiny text, uses link farms and remains in the index month after month?
It is still the same choice. Do they want to take the risk and possibly degrade the site to bump up rankings and make more money in the short term or tow the line and maybe not make as much as they could right now but still do just fine until the right spam filter drops into place at which time the may be rewarded?
It's kinda like that game show, Let's Make a Deal. Is a bird in the hand worth 2 in the bush? How much is enough?
Reading and understanding are two different things, you could come away from some of these threads and the SEO bit at google with some some very ill-conceived notions about ranking and SEO.
To be fair to clients you need to manage expectations, not likely to happen if they are not reading "between the lines".
Sometimes you just have to be blunt..."you sell widgets and quit obsessing over google, I'll keep getting you traffic so you can sell widgets".
Reading and understanding are two different things
Sooooooooooooooooooooo true. You can give presentations to people, send them to SES (where everything was "to technical" or "to basic"), send them articles, tell them how everything works over and over and over, show them on their own computers and still, nothing sinks in.
Lack of understanding isn't the issue. Lack of confidence that Google does anything to filter out blatant TOS violation is the issue. I'm not talking about anyone's definition of "spam" but Google's. Report this, report that is all yada, yada save for a few people that have actually seen a "spam" report work. Let's not go off on some false tangent about my client's understanding, he understands quite well. After a year, the results of the effect of violating that TOS is quite clear, nice positioning.
>>This, Grasshopper, is the Zen of White Hatism.
No one will ever accuse me rightfully of residing in a White Hat camp. The dark side beckons...
I have to laugh at people's mentality. There can only be one #1 position for a keyword but everyone whose site is about that keyword thinks their site deserves that #1 position. Unfortunately, only one site can have that position (and of coarse a similar argument applies to to all the top positions). To get that position, you have to pay. You pay with money or you pay with SEO efforts or you pay with the cost of spam penalties. One way or another you pay. It's just not going to be yours for free because you think your site deserves it.
If a spammer is beating you out, you haven't paid enough. Spend some more money for SEO or spend some risk money for spamming or spend some money for PPC or Adwords or PFI etc. But spend you must!
So true...so true. It's funny how people think everything on the net should be free.
Instead of paying to get better, it's much easier to fill out a spam report and try to remove the competition.
I'd hate to be the guy that has to look at all those spam reports. Talk about working long hours.
P.S. My site really does belong in the #1 spot. Seriously, I'm not joking.
Ya know, sometimes I wonder if people even bother reading all of the posts or just skim down to something they can yack about. My client has no qualms about paying, never mentioned anything about getting something for free and spends quite a bit on regular updates, SEO and marketing. He's upset because the the best advice he gets still has him competing with sites that violate Google's TOS. It's not about getting anything for free, it's about not delivering on their own TOS.
All the pros know it's a game, but how can Google ask pros to play by the rules unless they enforce them? Until they can enforce those rules, they need to shut up about reporting what they call "spam" and actually do something about it. Or should surfers ask for an "unconditional refund" if they find a site in the index that violates Google's TOS?
>>>All the pros know it's a game, but how can Google ask pros to play by the rules unless they enforce them?
I agree with that. I do think google can be vague about things and leaves the definition of "spam" open to interpretation in most cases. So what happens? Google gets flooded with spam reports because everyone defines spam differently.
The real spam gets buried in the pile.
If you find a site that violates Google's TOS, and it stays there for a few days, - perhaps a whole week? - and if it doesn't drop, you get to surf advertising free for - perhaps a month?
Two? Dunno, but that is a bit more like it :) Since after all, they want US to be able to make money on their index, as well as themselves...oh, wait.
I don't think they (meaning Google) wants ANY site to use it's database for 'purely commercial reasons' or something to that effect. Isn't that what their TOS says? Or similar, I'm sure.
But therein lies the rub: we've got commercial sites, we did NOT submit them, and then we find that the traffic is good. :) So, we want more.
And more...and more. It makes us money, it makes clients money, and because they are smart people too - the traffic Google has makes THEM money the same way - through people looking to BUY stuff.
It's a bit of an awkward situation, isn't it? Everybody wants to make CASH, but then Google had to wax, shall we say, philosophical about it? Even though their goal is to produce the world's BEST SEARCH, which they have. And - then they go wanting money again, because they have a lot of employees that all help to create that search.
And yes, it all comes back to money. There's money online...well, I say - spend more, do more - break the rules. :)
Until we come up with a 'perfect search engine' (isn't gonna happen till it's truly personalized) then we have to live with THEM deciding how to index stuff - and on automation.
They can't catch all the spam, all the time, whatever the 'spam' is...so, you do kind of have to talk out of one side of your mouth, when it comes to clients.
So does Google. At least, we can understand...Google is in the uncomfortable position, (imho) that they feel they have to LIE about stuff in public. he he he.
Just some random thoughts...
That's what I'm yakking about. It's the clear violations of Google's TOS that remain in the index that remain a problem. Not the vague stuff, that's what clients hire me for. :)
Then we get from GoogleGuy; Anyone who knows of a site that seems to be using guestbook signing successfully, drop a note over at the spam report form. We'll tighten up the algorithms. "
What? They can't deal with clear violations of their TOS and then solicit reports on something they never mention in their "guide" or their TOS? And people can take action on that? Make Google "tighten up the algorithms".
[edited by: startup at 9:24 am (utc) on Mar. 28, 2003]
Let's say your professional labor is worth $100/hr. and opening a Hotmail account so you can email a complaint without getting your own dodgy site eyeballed takes you 15 minutes, then that first spam report costs you $25, and maybe ten dollars for each additional report from the same Hotmail account. Lets suppose there are ten sites outranking you, then the initial spam reports are costing you $115. Your chance of success at getting anyone booted is only 10%, so there's still nine sites left outranking you and it has cost you $115 to move up a notch.
You open another Hotmail account under another alias and repeat the cycle. Finally, after about ten cycles you've moved up to number one, at a labor cost of $1000 or so.
After the next Google update, you drop down five places because those spammers you got booted expected it an had new sites in the pipeline.
Adwords starts looking like a bargain if you can't deal with frustration and don't want invest in learning how to beat out the spammers.
Maybe my illustrated techniques and numbers are all wrong, but running an effective spam report campaign is going to cost you and my point remains you have to spend to move up ... it's just a matter of deciding what route you want to take.
At least spam reports "tighten up the algorithms" so to speak. It's a chance to refine what the algo doesnt see IMO.
Not that I'd want to bring up the spam issue myself, as there seems to be bigger forces at work here....hopefully all "white" and good ones ;)
Google hates SEO
I don't know if I'd go that far, or that general for that matter...
I think Google hold no ill will towards 'responsible' SEO. In fact some of the things they suggest on their own site falls under the term 'SEO' -- things like not using session tracking in URLs for example.
All SEO isn't bad, it's the spamming type of SEO that I'm sure GG has on his dart board.