I have a confession to make. On occasion, I'll search [search engine optimization companies] on Google to see just who is showing up. I hold out hopes that, one day, my website might actually earn a top position for this keyword phrase.
But maybe I've got it all wrong?
Apparently, in order to rank for [search engine optimization companies], I should:
- Get links from foreign sites.
- Participate heavily in comment spam.
- Be sure to use exact match anchor text.
- Hack sites / inject links.
- Incorporate Trackback/Pingback tactics.
- And – do a lot of all of the above (plus lots of other stuff).
Let me explain...
Top SEO Company or Top Spam Company?
In the past, you might have seen the infamous site TopSEOs.com here. The good news is that it appears Google isn't giving them much "love" lately:
But another company has seemingly held the top position for this keyword phrase for many, many months now: MainStreetHost.com.
Let's check out their backlink profile:
According to Moz's Open Site Explorer, nearly one-third of their backlinks (linking domains) have the exact same anchor text of "affordable seo". Another third of their backlinks have the anchor of "seo services."
So, you might think "perhaps they're not penalized because of the quality and/or relevance of these links"?
A quick study of a few examples suggests "no":
An example link (from a French site) for MainStreetHost (from September, 2013 – this isn't something they did "back in the day," this is current stuff):
And, a Chinese example:
But, guess what? It gets much worse!
Here's a screenshot of another link:
Click on that and the first pop-up you will encounter will say "XSS". This stands for Cross-Site Scripting; a well-known black hat tactic (it doesn't get any more black hat that this). It's essentially hacking a website to embed links.
The next pop-up you'll come across:
And, after a look at other keywords these guys are performing against, it's pretty compelling (data via SEMRush.com):
With data like this, you might be inclined to "do whatever they're doing, because it obviously works". But honestly, after reviewing MainStreetHost.com's backlink profile, I have not – yet – found a single "good" (i.e., "normal") link to their website. It's mostly blog comment spam.
And, with a little extra digging, it turns out that Search Engine Watch has written about MainStreetHost once before when it was reporting on those companies who were busted for writing fake reviews.
Google, You've Got Some Explaining To Do!
So here's a question for Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts: why does Google like this site so much? Should I do the same things that those who are obviously "outperforming me" do to improve my ranking?
It's no wonder why people don't trust SEO (as an industry). Google is ranking the sites that they say should be penalized.
We (the "good guy" SEO companies) keep saying that you "can't do this" (and we have seen penalties and know this to be true), but when the common person is searching for "search engine optimization companies", you would think that after all of these years (and especially with the new "bad ass" algorithm updates of late) you wouldn't have this kind of crap surfacing and causing headaches for those of us who actually do work hard for a living and try to direct webmasters/business owners/marketing directors into the "right way" to do SEO/market a business via digital channels.
So, should we do what obviously works? Or should we continue down the slow and steady path with the hopes that the search engines may actually reward those of us doing the right thing, one day?
What say you?