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Time To Name And Shame; The SEO Rip-Off

Feb 4, 2008
Many years ago the life insurance industry had to clean up its act, years of mis-selling pensions and insurance led to a market that was awash with bad experiences and products sold under false pretence. Of course that industry has a regulating body with very strong powers and the cleanup was swift and full of retribution, of course that industry is complex and so there are still a few well published misdemeanours each year.

SEO is different but has many of the same characteristics that give the potential to rip people off. The one stark difference is that there is not a regulatory body and of course no retribution or accountability. You see with SEO, life insurance and pensions the people purchasing and making decisions do not know what they are getting, they do not understand the subject and cannot make educated decisions. This means they are at the mercy of the person selling the product or service and have to trust best advice, furthermore the excuse of outside influence affecting performance and thus accountability is also present.

Another important factor in the current SEO environment is that marketing directors are also making decisions on who to use and where to place their hard won marketing budgets; these are people responsible for millions of pounds of collective spend. They think they know about SEO but sadly they don't know nearly enough to make decisions on who is the right agency.

What is worse they pick up on buzz words and terminology and attach completely irrelevant importance to it, then when the so called service is implemented they don't know whether it is competent or not. I have seen many websites that show almost no discernable signs of SEO yet companies have spent thousands of pounds with optimisation agencies, when I ask these companies what did they pay for and what was done they cannot really tell me.

This then leaves the market ripe for mis-selling and abuse, subsequently SEO agencies are having a field day; to compound this problem the same level of incompetence is also prevalent in paid search services although this is a subject itself for exposure.

So what is the best way forward? Education about SEO to marketing directors will not work; the rapid change of this industry will mean they are always out of synch, in addition, unless you live optimisation day by day it is impossible to fully understand it.

Perhaps large companies should have in-house dedicated SEO professionals? This won't work either since there is no guarantee they will have enough expertise to choose the correct person for the job let alone pay what it is worth.

Self regulation? Is this the only option because there are a few recognised professional SEO agencies who could put together a real panel of accreditation experts and a kite mark of competence could be granted as people reach required standards.

The problem with that solution is that there are already some so called bodies of experts and badges of excellence but they are influenced by subscriptions, currently you can wear the badge just on the merit of paying the right fee not on whether you are competent.

That would then give a grey area again, which kite mark is credible and which is not, how would any marketing director make the correct decisions based on a system where most accreditation is bought.

Perhaps the only real solution is to publicly name and shame, the publicity from this could be a driving factor into getting agencies to clean up their act and apply SEO correctly. Very often the clients gets let down due to SEO companies wanting to do too little even though they know what SEO good practice is, they know much more needs to be done but are happy to spin the client for as long as it takes and meanwhile sign another 10 up. This is usually because of understaffing, something which prevents the agency from spending the real time and so they just do the makeover and take the money.

When I see websites that have been subject to the makeover I am inclined now to find out what agency was responsible and then name and shame them, perhaps others will follow suit and the selling and application of SEO and SEM in general will finally be cleaned up.
About the Author
Search engine expert Thomas Pretty looks into the SEO industry and what can be done to improve business practices. To find out more please visit http://www.highposition.net/
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