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SEO Website Audit

10 Signs That Your SEO Is a Quack

November 29, 2006

Fantastic resource -- keep up the good work!

As you know there are a lot of so-called SEO/SEM experts/gurus claiming all
sorts of things. The analogy to me is like "quack" doctors compared to the
genuine article.

Are there 6 or a dozen questions that would expose those purporting to be

Thanks in advance - I await your answer!


++Jill's Response++

Hi Paul,

This is a great question, and one that I hear a lot from businesses looking
to hire a search marketing firm. So in an effort to help you distinguish the
quacks from the professionals, I've written the following article.

10 Signs That Your SEO Is a Quack
By Jill Whalen

There are so many SEO/SEM firms cropping up that talk a good game but don't
deliver results.  This is in part because there's so much information that
is freely available about search engine optimization.  On the surface, SEO
sounds easy -- and it really is -- once you've had a number of sites to
experiment with.  What's even easier than SEO, however, is discussing SEO as
if you know what you're actually doing (when you don’t)!

Here are 10 signs to watch out for that may very well indicate that your
potential SEO is a quack.  Please note that one of these individually may
not be bad, but if you notice more than 2 or 3 of these when speaking with
any SEO company, you may just want to head for the hills!

1.  Your SEO company talks about Meta tags and Google PageRank (PR) as if
they are the magic bullet to high rankings.

For the most part, there's no reason to even bring up the keyword Meta tag
nor toolbar PR in a discussion about what needs to be done to get better
search engine exposure for your site.  Both of them are issues that quack
SEO companies will talk about because they actually believe they are the key
to SEO success.  They are not.  I've discussed in previous articles the Meta
keyword tag’s lack of importance, so I won't go into that again here.  In
regards to PageRank, increasing the little green bar graph's number should
never be the ultimate goal of a professional SEO campaign.  A good campaign
will automatically increase your real and true PageRank (as measured by
Google) without your specifically setting out to increasing it on your own.
Since PR doesn't bring you traffic and sales (nor rankings), increasing it
should not ever be the main goal of your campaign.  This fact is of course
lost on SEO quacks.

2. Your SEO company's site (or those of their clients) has the same Title
tags on every page.  Sounds crazy I know, but I've seen this more than once!
I once got a client who had previously used a very major SEO company that
most people have heard of.  They had been with this firm for a whole year,
and yet the Title tags on every page of their site were all the same (the
name of the company).  Since Title tags are probably the most important (and
easiest) thing to change on a site, any SEO company that can't do this one
basic thing for their own site or their clients’ is most definitely a quack!

3. Your SEO company talks only about optimizing for the "long tail."  Now,
don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with long-tail keyword phrases, as
they can bring a lot of traffic when all is said and done.  But you don't
need an SEO company if those are the only phrases you're interested in --
you can do it yourself just by writing articles.  Your SEO company should
not be afraid to optimize for the actual keyword phrases that most people
would use at the engines to find your site.  Yeah, it's gonna take time and
money to go after the most competitive keyphrases, but there's usually a
happy medium.  Most sites have plenty of phrases that are somewhere between
long tail and highly competitive.  Those are the ones you definitely want to

4. Your SEO company tells you it's ALL about links (or ALL about content).
SEO isn't ALL about anything.  It's about lots of things all added together
to make the perfect combination for your site.  A linking campaign alone
will never be as effective if you neglect your on-page content, and vice
versa.  Be sure that your SEO company looks at your site from all angles and
makes sure all your bases are covered.  Otherwise, they're probably a quack!

5. Your SEO company tells you that you need a linking campaign even though
you already have tons of links and are a well-established popular site in
your niche.  Not every site needs every SEO service out there.  Just because
your SEO company likes to sell link-building doesn't mean you actually need
it for your site. Why should you pay for something you don't need?  The same
thing goes for sites that already have great, well-written, optimized
content.  If you've got that, perhaps you just need a linking campaign to
help boost your traffic and sales.  Don't allow an SEO quack to fix what
isn't actually broken.

6. Your SEO company is almost surely 99% quackish if they tell you that they
can rank your brand-new site in Google for keywords that will bring you
traffic within a few months.  In fact, if they claim they can do it in less
than 9 months, they’re either inexperienced or lying.  Google has an aging
delay that is most certainly related to the age of the site, as well as a
certain trust factor.  It is only the very rare and wonderful site that can
get around this delay.  But if your site is like most, you're going to have
to look to the long term for your Google results, regardless of what the
quacks might try to convince you of.

7. Your SEO company never mentions that they may very well need to redo your
site architecture so that your important pages are prominently featured
within your site navigation. In this case it's very possible you're dealing
with an inexperienced, quack SEO.  This is usually something that is not a
quick fix, so most quacks are reluctant to discuss it with you (if they even
know it's important).  But if your site architecture is not
search-engine-ready, everything else you do will have much less impact.

8. Your SEO company can't provide you with any quality references.  This one
pretty much goes without saying, but do be sure to get references, and do be
sure to actually call them.  Yeah, a reference may very well turn out to be
their cousin, but you should be able to get some feel for the company you're
choosing if you can at least talk to some references.

9.  Your SEO company tells you that you have to have a DMOZ listing or your
site will never be able to get high rankings.  Sure, a DMOZ listing is
great, but it's a link just like any other.  Submit and forget about it.  If
you don't get in, it's no big deal -- there are plenty of other links you
can get instead.

10. Your SEO company's site mentions that they'll get you high rankings in
AltaVista, Fast, Inktomi, Lycos, Excite, HotBot and the like. If it does,
you are 100% positively dealing with a quack!  'Nuff said!

Post Comment

 Ramesh said:
Hi Paul,
Some of the points mentioned above are valid but not all.For example
"Your SEO company can't provide you with any quality references." What a new company will do if they don't have any reference? How come it can be concluded that if an company don't have big reference then they are quack?The whole article give a wrong impression for new companies.

 Jill said:
Ramesh, as long as the company hiring you knows you're a new company and therefore have no experience and may or may not be able to provide them with the increased targeted traffic that they are looking for, then it's fine.

But if the new company is pretending that they're not new, then they are an SEO quack.
 Ramesh said:
Hmm Jil !! You are underestimating the things again- How come you again concluded that a new company means no experience mean to say that a person having no value in the company..
For example if tomorrow you join another new company then as per your logic the new company will be a quack ---even when you have expertise in seo from last many years.

See nothing in the SEO is SOLID everything is gaseous or liquid which can be molded as as when required by any one.Even when was launched it was also new!

Advice you to NOT to generalized the things at least in SEO!
 Nick said:

I thought this was a great article and I have definitely seen some of these signs with "seo consultancies" before. As a previous commenter mentioned before references may sometimes be hard for a new company (like mine), but as you mentioned I think its not so much a sign of quackery if they are up front about it.
 Consultor SEO said:
Very nice article! I made the check directly :)
 litchinut said:
Ramesh, I think Jill is totally right about the references. She even said that if you are new company you just need to be up front about it. But I think she's being too nice. Even if you are a new company you can always do some small projects or pro-bono consulting for a charity that needs your expertise. \

And for those that are experienced in SEO and switch jobs or start a new company, they would surely have references from colleagues, former clients, etc. and with social sites like Linked-In you can display your references on your profile so they stick with you not the company where you worked.
 Terry Van Horne said:
Jill I had my company site ranking for terms within a month. Of course I had three links from authority sites I owned but... good content can get links just as easily provided the content is link worthy... problem is most SEO's don't really know how to judge the value of their content in the niche they are participating. They wouldn't know the difference between premium copy from someone like you over some firm in India because they are too busy looking at the keyword density to judge it based on the value a user will give it. I agreed with your premise about users and it's the mantra coming from the "do it only for SE's crowd" that is driving the foolishness you describe.
 Jill Whalen said:
Hey T, this article was from 2006 when the aging delay was in full force. It's no longer there.