Many SEO firms are running out of ways to draw in large clients, especially when so many offer little to no value over the next firm. This dilemma has led to growth in the "special services" sector of SEO-based specialties, especially in the past year. These offerings can be a great tool to improve your rankings, and set an agency apart. But beware: there are some unscrupulous agencies using these in ways that can sometimes be a threat to your rankings.
Large companies are tired of seeing the standard pitch: "Since we optimized this and that site, we can do it just as well -- if not better -- for you." They've seen it before: the top team delivers the pitch, but what they wind up with is an account manager who is either fresh out of school or has little to no search experience. Thus, they're learning at your expense.
Many of these firms must keep their best people on their top-level clients, or risk losing them from an overall lack of responsiveness and/or competence. This dilemma has given birth to new and sometimes unscrupulous offerings.
Content is King
Many times, when a person is researching SEO, they come across some basics, which they keep on the side while speaking to firms. Primarily, "content is king" is a commonly spoken-about issue that is very difficult to address.
With the content services segment of SEO at an all-time high in terms of cost, short cuts are commonly used. Some firms still sell the idea that content from other sites can be used to raise rankings. So they may scrape content from competing sites and place this content on the client's sites.
Search engines, especially Google, have a technical ability to pattern-match content across any site in their index. Thus, they usually know where the content is from and who deserves credit for the content.
Some of these content services can be disguised as comment, review, and consumer updates, to name a few. They'll act as a repository for one client and place the same reviews and or information on competing sites in order to raise their presence in search engines. Not only is this misleading, but many times a new site will get involved with such a service just to lose credit for all of that hard-earned content.
The client has no idea what's happening, while some other site that has been around a bit longer may be taking the credit. The agency wins in both directions: both parties are paying them, and they did what they promised.
Links are the second most talked about form of SEO strategy. Most large agencies will typically push a client to use paid links, a strategy that is heavily discouraged by engines such as Google. If abused, this can result in removal of the site from the index, which may cost a client a huge amount of traffic and revenue for an unknown period of time.
The simplest form of these links are easily detected, because they have several common factors. They're usually posted on the navigational parts of the page, left, right, or footer. Secondarily they also tend to appear on every page of the site.
Among other algorithms that determine compatibility, this can be an easy identifier. That doesn't mean you should rush to remove the links in your footer from a sister site. It just means if a high enough volume appears, it could have negative results.
There are certainly legitimate ways for SEO firms to offer content and linking services. They can be very valuable additions to your SEO strategy. As with any tactic, it's important to understand exactly what the agency is offering to do for you, and to understand any risks involved with what they are planning to do.