Why are you wasting your money on an SEO agency?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (sorry about that) – I’m halfway through the middle of trying to rework out the purpose of this blog, who the audience should be and what it should look like. But in the meantime I thought I’d share some things that I’ve been looking at in the SEO world.

Recently I got an email from a nameless company about a specific page on my site that pointed towards their site:

It’s possible that you’ve had an email like this recently too, if you are a publisher. Of course you might also have sent an email like this if you are an SEO person as well.

What is wrong with this email? This company is asking me, on my blog where I write about stuff to do with web analytics, to remove a link to a page to a jobs board that contains jobs specifically in web analytics. If Google thinks that this link is causing problems for this company then something has gone seriously wrong at Google. Of course they don’t, they think it is a good link and probably upweight the page because of it.

Moreover this is also a web site about SEO, so you would have thought that I would know a fair bit about SEO and would actually think about this. Clearly the person who wrote this email either:

  1. Thinks that they are right and the link is bad for them
  2. They didn’t bother to read my site, but just sent a boiler plate message 
  3. They just got told to do it by their search agency who are probably getting paid a fortune*
I’m not inclined believe number one on this, I am more likely to believe number two, but I’m most likely to believe number three.
(Of course this is likely to be the same agency that was doing link building for them before and caused them to have a number of bad links and resulted in them tumbling down the rankings and losing market share.)
And I’m not the only one receiving emails like this. Here is an article from Aaron Wall at SEOBook who has also been having similar emails. Notably his one was from a domain name company who had lots of thin pages indexed:

The big problem for Buy Domains is not backlinks. They may have had an issue with some of the backlinks from PPC park pages in the past, but now those run through a redirect and are nofollowed.

Their big issue is that they have less than great engagement metrics (as do most marketplace sites other than eBay & Amazon which are not tied to physical stores). That typically won’t work if the entity has limited brand awareness coupled with having nearly 5 million pages in Google’s index.

Of course the site that linked to me has more pages indexed than Buy Domains and many of them are also thin content pages with little engagement for the user. Incidentally, the page that I link to is indexed and is the top page on the site if you search for ‘[company name] web analytics’. You’d have thought they’d be pleased with the favour.**

I disagree with Aaron that this is something that is Google changing the rules and killing small businesses. A good SEO person will always come up with long term strategies to get a site to have good, long term content, that people will want to link to from relevant places and find ways to promote it to those people.

The problem is that in the past bad SEOers went around begging, buying and swapping links to poor quality content from places that aren’t necessarily relevant in an attempt to satisfy clients who had poor metrics for a job well done. An SEO person should not be getting paid by the link, they should be getting paid for getting better conversions from quality visits from related search terms.

Bad Links

Whatever the past, the way I see it is that it is possible that you now have some bad links that have resulted in you dropping down the rankings. Emailing people asking for them to be removed is a waste of time. You’re almost certainly going to use the disavow tool as well, so just do that.

But you should use the saved time to work out whether the links are bad or not. If you just disavow everything then you are throwing away good links along with all your bad ones. You’ve just lost yourself the good value as well as the bad ones.

Work out what is wrong

In 90% of cases I think that the problem isn’t going to be bad links. You will need to think about user journey and how it affects the users. You want to look at providing value for your users and churning out boiler plate pages with thin content isn’t the way. This incidentally was something that was also picked up by Google as being bad.

Spend time creating unique, interesting content. If you want to get visits to your web analytics jobs page, then you would be better off spending time creating some unique content on web analytics jobs than you are asking people to remove links to it. Of course this is something that you have to invest in because you’ll need to update it over time. Maybe you could email a resource who has linked to your content and ask them if they would be able to help.

Google has always been aimed at providing good quality results to users. SEOers have always aimed to making their site be the top of the rankings. Find the ones who will make your content better for the site, rather than artificially promoting it through short term tactics (or of course both).

The reason that SEOers are now getting closer to Analytics is because the good ones are realising the above. If your SEO agency doesn’t talk to you about what your conversions are, how you are obtaining them, what sort of reporting you have available, etc then you are talking to the wrong SEO agency and you should be getting rid of them.

If you SEO agency is talking to you about how they will get links, how they can identify bad links, how they can get you to number one in the rankings or how they can beat Google, then you are talking to the wrong agency.

This applies to small companies as much as it does large companies. There are good people out there who will spend time on your site if you are small and give you great advice on how to get more search traffic that will convert on your site. There isn’t, I’m afraid, a silver bullet any more. The only way to do well at search is by having good quality content and through hard work maintaining and promoting it.

* Yes I do realise that I work for a consultancy whose job it is to tell clients what to do and get paid a fortune for the privilege

** No I haven’t removed the link and I will be responding to the person in question

Posted in SEO, Web Analytics

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