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When to Run Away from an SEO Company

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You probably shouldn't be charged for a couple things that many "back alley" or "strip mall" SEO companies and consultants still offer. In some cases, even larger marketing organizations are trying to push value into some tactics that are outdated or simply don't work to help rankings.

No two sites on the Internet are identical. In rare instances, some of the below tactics may work. But most of the time, if your SEO company is pushing these services on you, take a good hard look at what you're paying for.

SEO Tactic Octogenarians: Time for Forced Retirement

1. Submitting Sites to Search Engines: There's a big difference between submitting your site to the search engines and submitting your site to directories. Directory submission is a very important part of link building, and has continually proven to be valuable.

Submitting your sites to the search engines isn't valuable to SEO. This simply offers another way for the search engines to find your site. If all you do is submit it to the search engines and sit back and wait, you likely won't see any rankings, other than potentially for your brand name.

Search engines no longer need you to submit to them, although they still provide the functionality for you to do so. As Google says on their submission page, however, "We do not add all submitted URLs to our index, and we cannot make any predictions or guarantees about when or if they will appear." Google and the other engines are fine taking this additional information, but if you're paying someone to do this once, or even monthly, then you're wasting time and money.

As Google also states: "Only the top-level page from a host is necessary; you do not need to submit each individual page. Our crawler, Googlebot, will be able to find the rest. Google updates its index on a regular basis, so updated or outdated link submissions are not necessary. Dead links will 'fade out' of our index on our next crawl when we update our entire index."

2. SEO Landing Pages: Another outdated tactic is building landing pages just for SEO, although this is a temporary solution that e-commerce companies sometimes choose to take rather than spending the time fixing the actual site and navigation. In most cases, if you want long-term results without sacrificing user experience consistency, you should optimize your actual content versus trying to create circa 2001 "doorway pages."

3. Reciprocal Linking: The last outdated tactic is using reciprocal linking as a primary link building tactic. If your SEO company or consultants requires that you place an outbound link to every site that is linking to you, then you should run away. Some reciprocal links aren't bad, especially ones that occur naturally -- just be worried if this is the only link building tactic presented.

SEO Tactics on the Bubble

1. Social Bookmarking: One tactic that has very few concrete results is social bookmarking. Some people will likely argue this, but we've yet to prove ranking lift from the addition of a URL to a Delicious or StumbleUpon. These and other links appear within backlink reports, but that alone doesn't indicate that the link is helping from a SEO perspective.

Yahoo-owned MyBlogLog cleans out their bookmark links on a regular basis. As seen in this FAQ, they provide a good reason for this: "New with Me is a moving river of updates. We are not trying to re-create the Internet. We store the last 100 items and up to 25 'clusters' of events. If you're interested in looking at older updates, we direct you to the original service provider for the full archive."

It's very important to understand that not all links are permanent. Thus, to build lasting SEO value, the majority of links developed should be permanent and carry some sort of authority.

Of course, a "natural" pattern would be that some links come and go. But if you spend a large amount of time (or are pay someone else for) building links using social bookmarking or other "expiring" link tactics, you won't get full value from your time investment.

Please note that some people do this at an almost "industrial" level to help boost rankings, by building literally thousands of links, and "refreshing" the links with new ones as they age or get stale. This would only look natural to a search algorithm if the target site has tens of thousands of existing links. Those using this tactic need to keep building links over and over, and have likely budgeted hundreds of hours to support this task with the amount of hours that it would need to provide long lasting value.

2. Article Syndication: Other tactics that are "on the bubble" include large-scale article syndication and "press release over-optimization." Articles that are relevant to your site and contain links pointed back can be valuable if syndicated on a limited basis to hand-picked partners, but using mass syndication services doesn't often yield the kinds of backlinks that could be garnered from a more personalized approach. The jury is definitely still out on this tactic, but a custom approach (which takes longer) provides value.

3. Over-Optimizing Press Releases: Press release "over-optimization" is something that many readers have probably seen after setting up an RSS feed to monitor a particular word or industry phrase. I always laugh when I see the same SEO company put out a press release every time it signs a new client, because when I check even month later, they haven't climbed in the rankings for the terms they seem to be targeting.

The use of press releases and syndicating through PR Newswire or PRWeb can be valuable, but like article syndication, this tactic must be leveraged in moderation. If you're concerned about how many press releases you've sent out to support your SEO efforts, consider if you're overdoing it. For large companies with lots of relevant news, however, this is a different story -- these companies may be OK with up to two to three press releases a week, and you might as well take the time to optimize them.

Please share your opinions and experiences in the comments if you have examples or scenarios to discuss. As with all articles about SEO (or any other subject for that matter), any advice should be taken with a grain of salt.


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