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Dissuade Nils From Dubious SEO

I have a friend. Let’s call him Nils. Nils is the CTO of a software company–let’s call it Purple Monkey Dishwasher Software. He’s desperate to beat his competition in the search engine wars. So desperate, that he’s ignored my advice about blogs and constantly creating compelling content (thank you, Roland) and spent a lot of money with a search engine optimization firm.

This firm’s latest strategy is to, for still more money, include Purple Monkey Dishwasher in a whole swack of ‘directories’. Essentially, this sounds like a thinly-veiled link farm strategy.

Now I understand why this kind of spamdexing doesn’t fly. The search engines are clever, and constantly adjusting and can’t be gamed for long. They’ll turn around and punish Purple Monkey Dishwasher for dubious linking. I know that, in the long run, this strategy won’t work.

However, Nils is a pragmatist. Like most other humans, he’s not drinking the Koolaid–he just wants results. All he sees is money = better search engine ranking. How do I dissuade Nils from using this SEO approach? I’ve got the big picture view I described above, but I’m not telling the entire story very well.

12 Responses to “Dissuade Nils From Dubious SEO”

  1. Justin Mason

    There’s Roger Ebert’s ‘Boulder Pledge’, for one — :

    Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the
    result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters,
    petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This
    is my contribution to the survival of the online community.

    While SEO-spam != email-spam, I think many would consider them a similar pollution of the commons, a reprehensible behaviour, and a reprehensible thing to support.

    I certainly would, and I’m no spittle-flecked rabid anti-spammer; and there have been several occasions when my purchasing decisions have been affected by the Boulder Pledge.

  2. Richard Eriksson

    Have you shown him example searches?

    Off the top of my head, Urban Vancouver is currently #3 for ‘shoe store vancouver’. Boris Mann is #1 for ‘vancouver technology consulting’. If you count the two Boing Boing links directly to you, you’re the first 4 results for ‘ups shirt’. You’re #10 for ‘geoffrey beene shirts’ (though I would have predicted higher).

    He’s right that as long as he pays money, he gets search ranking. As soon as he turns off the tap, so too goes his ranking. You, Boris, and Urban Vancouver spent close to $0 on SEO and we’ve had ranking as long as we can remember. Not theory, actual results.

  3. Justin Mason

    Oops, hit submit a little too early there!

    ‘Like most other humans, he’s not drinking the Koolaid—he just wants results.’

    IMO, that’s not pragmatism — gaining ‘results’ through abuse of common property is abusive and anti-social, not pragmatic.

  4. Peter

    I agree with Richard. Show him some real world examples where blogger’s results rank higher than others.

    Get the bloggers to talk about and link to your product and you’ll get the search engine juice. Just make sure that your product is good so that the bloggers don’t say too many bad things about it.

  5. Andrea

    Exactly. I’m well ranked for various Dairy Queen products, despite having no plan to be. I’m also top-ranked for various bizarre terms.

  6. Darren James Harkness

    Good Google ranking comes through good copy, and effective (relevant) naming techniques for your files, domain, title tags, and hx tags. Linking is also important, but not the be-all and end-all of SEO. (I’m in the top 3 results for Edmonton web development through nothing but copy and title tags. I haven’t spent a dime on SEO.

    SEO providers are, for the most part, snake-oil merchants. They will give you the exact same information as I did above, and charge you thousands of dollars for it (in some cases, as I experienced with a previous employer who hired an SEO against my advice, your search engine ranking may actually degrade).

    My advice? Take the same amount of money and put it towards a contract copy writer and a marketing campaign.

  7. Rob Cottingham

    It’s always great to deal with clients who are swayed by the threat of bad karma. (“Nils, have you seen ‘My Name Is Earl’? Then you know what could happen to you.”)

    But not everyone particularly cares about Doing The Right Thing. So with this client, I’d be tempted to set out the two paths he could take.

    Option A: You go with the SEO. From here on in, your life is a war with Google, Yahoo and the search engines — because they’ll be doing their best to punish you for using unscrupulous tactics. (Chances are good the SEO won’t share all of those tactics with you, either, so you’ll have no idea what crap your name is being associated with.)

    Now you’re in an endless cycle. Your SEO finds a loophole to exploit, and your ranking rises; the search engines plug it and punish the wrong-doers, and your ranking falls drastically. The net impact may leave you no further ahead — and, as soon as you stop paying the SEO, much further behind — than if you’d done nothing at all.

    Option B: You tear up the cheque to the SEO. Instead, you invest that money in generating useful content on your web site and, if there’s any cash left over, promoting it. Your search engine ranking rises, and people start coming to your site.

    But unlike the results with the SEO, they’re going to find a constant stream of interesting, useful content. Which means they’ll come back — maybe even participate in the conversation through comments — and you’ve opened a dialogue with potential customers. They’ll link to you from their own blogs and web sites, and your search rankings will rise again.

    You’ve created a virtuous circle of traffic, centering on a core of lively, engaging content. Better yet, your site can become the home of a thriving community — and your brand becomes part of the conversation.

    Best of all, you will beat out the SEO-goosed web sites on Google every day of the week.

    It’s your call. Once the dust clears, what would you rather have to show for your investment? A temporary blip, dirty hands and nothing else, or lasting success, a bigger, better online presence and a deep well of goodwill with your potential customers?

  8. Monique

    Tell Purple Monkey that it is like having too many girlfriends. Eventually they find out about each other and get really pissy. Then Purple Monkey will have no girlfriends and no reputation and will have to start again.

  9. donna

    To go along with the other “actual examples of results” — I’m the #2 search for “arwen”. This, after three of the most successful movies ever, featuring a pseudo-lead character of that name. (Sure enough, every other ranking in the top ten is “the other Arwen”.)

    This, even though leads directly to a redirect page that takes you to the main page. :)

    8 years of having the same address helps, though….

  10. Janet

    Fear usually works for me. Tell him if he does get banned due to link farming, he may never get back into Google. Basically the web kiss of death. Not worth the risk.

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