Most things in life carry an element of uncertainty- some risk. Without taking a chance, we’d still think the world was flat, as we read the day’s tabloid via smoke signals, from the tribe at the other end of the valley. Search engine optimisation- the process of making a website attract higher organic Google rank, and subsequently more traffic- works well when it adheres to a precise set of rules. Break those guidelines- and the website, the business it represents- and the people who depend on that business for their livelihoods, are all in serious trouble.
Lured by the promise of cheap SEO, unsuspecting victims fall for scams all the time. Business owners don’t familiarize themselves with what to look for when appointing an SEO provider. We have done many rescues on local business websites, for owners who have been scammed by SEO providers offering bargain priced services.
Our penalty reversals and disavow requests have been instrumental in recovering lost traffic and rank.
Here are some of the key takeaways we’ve accrued along the way.
It Generally Starts With “The Deal”
Most business owners will tell you how much they disrespect clients who shop on price- yet you’d be amazed that many proprietors of businesses use price as a criteria for selecting an SEO provider.
Search engine opitmization, is something you cannot compromise.
When you cut corners, or try to rank a website quickly using questionable means, you’ll always get penalised.
That penalty will end up costing you most- if not all- of your website traffic and eventually- your business.
At the start of a cheap SEO campaign, you’ll likely see some gains in rank and traffic. This will continue until algorithms detect bad linking practces and spammy content- which are characteristic signs of compromised SEO.
What Happens Next- When Questionable Methods Have Been Detected?
If you’re lucky, you’ll only drop rank, for any keywords that matter. More often than not, you’ll get a manual action, which generally means a 100 place demotion within the search engine results pages (SERPS)- or your website will be removed from Google’s index.
The second outcome is becoming the norm- Google is tightening its stance and not forgiving easily.
Back to the SEO people who caused the problem. They usually convince the business owner that a higher spend level is needed, and the owner complies. There might be a momentary push forward, but it’ short lived. The business proprietor stops paying because he’s either:
- Got nothing left to pay with or
- Realized something’s wrong with the whole idea of working with that provider
What the business owner didn’t notice- was that the people he was paying money to, charged an amount not quite high enough to make him lose sleep at night- which probably dulled his sense of audit.
How do we know this?
Because people signing up for our search engine optimisation training tell us what lead to their website losing rank.
The unfortunate thing is, in their quest to save money, the business owner has paid someone to send them broke which can never be good.
Recovering Lost Rank
We start any project which arrives carrying a problem, with a thorough audit. If bad prior search engine optimisation is to be reversed, we need to know exactly what we’re fixing. Sometimes a client’s website gets hit so hard, they have no choice but to start again on a new domain name.
The process of initiating a disavow request is not quick. We need to audit all inbound links, make several attempts to contact each webmaster of the inbound linking website- and document it all. The contacts need to be spaced apart- that means more time is lost.
The idea is that before submitting a request to Google, documented evidence should exist to back up our claims of trying to reverse these links manually. Google doesn’t make any guarantees of forgiveness either- so website owners should think carefully whether or not a fresh start would be a smarter choice. Each website’s circumstances and breach of best practice are unique. Some case-specific research is needed to provide an accurate recommendation for moving forward. An appointment with a search engine strategy consultant will determine the best course of action.
The Rocky Road to Disavows
Website operators who have hosted bad links will often ask for money to remove those links. So you end up paying a scammer twice. Once to scam you- and once more to reverse the work.
You can report them- but to whom? They operate from countries akin to the wild west, and nobody will ever find them.
It’s not in Google’s interest to forgive easily or quickly, when such a heavy breach of ethics has taken place. Spam takes up a lot of energy back at Google HQ- and those resources could be deployed elsewhere.
If you have an established brand and domain name, it might be painful to let it go. We’re not saying to do that. Just don’t expect organic greatness from that website until it comes up “clean”.
You might be better off registering another domain name, and starting afresh, especially if your original domain has been registered for less than two years. And resist the temptation to pursue cheap search engine optimization. It’s certainly not worth the real cost.