Sometimes, I hesitate to admit that I do SEO, because so many so-called practitioners are snake-oil jerks — at best. Sometimes, they believe their own promises, which is even worse.
Here are 5 signs of snake-oil SEO that should have you running in any direction except the course plotted for you by your agency:
- Meta-Keywords Matter
You receive an audit that discusses the meta-keywords tag in any detail at all. Or, worse: Your audit says your lack of meta-keywords — a back-end HTML tag not visible to users at all — is a “High Priority” for remediation. The audit continues by instructing you that every page on your site should have exactly 6 keywords in this field.This tag has been ignored by search engines since at least 2009. It has occasional use in driving taxonomies or site search functionality, depending on your site architecture — but that’s an internal element, not an external element of any use or value in driving position on Google or Bing. It’s busy work that they want to bill you for. Run away.
- One-Per-Page Keyword Optimization Rules
You’re optimizing! Hooray! Success is in your future, right?Maybe not. Your SEO team has decided that they will optimize for the singular of a term on one page, and the plural on another. Or they have decided that they will set up a page for “car accident lawyers,” and another for “car accident attorneys.” (Or, worse yet: 4 pages — one for the singular, one for the plural, for lawyer and attorney.)
This kind of optimization is terrible. It encourages writing duplicative, keyword-stuffed content that reads like it was written by robots with bad grammar. Google also has several algorithms that disdain these approaches, the most well-known of which is known as Panda. The user experience for humans and robots is terrible. The user experience for you is terrible too — you’re paying to sound terrible, and perform terribly. Ugh.
- We’ll Guarantee Link Building Volume
Inbound links are the key to success, they say. They aren’t entirely wrong. But they rapidly descent into wrongness when they offer an amazing deal, like they guarantee 10 links a week to your site, or they’ll submit you to 500 high quality directories.Think about it. Can you name 5 high quality directories? Is it even possible there are 500 high quality directories that you, your mom, your cousin and your 300 Facebook friends have never heard of? Unlikely. And a guarantee of X links per week makes finding quality links sound like an easy endeavor and a pure numbers game. Neither is true. Good links take content, outreach and relationship building. And 1 good link beats out all 500 “high quality” directory submissions.
- You Have to Redesign or SEO Won’t Work
- Code Density and Keyword Density Matter
Whether it’s code-to-content ratios or keyword densities, some SEOs and agencies cling to an idea that density of keywords (number of times keywords appear in page text) or the amount of code used to generate the page matters. In general, not so much. Sure, if your code delays your load time, it matters. And if you’re using terms on your page that aren’t valuable to users, it won’t perform for search queries made by users. But that’s not density — that’s construction of code, or construction of content. Not density.
Really, there are hundreds of myths about SEO these days. Some are based in history — things that have been true, but are no longer true. Some are based in misunderstanding. And some are based purely in trying to get some billable hours. If your agency won’t explain their reasoning, that’s the biggest reason of all to run away. But if they do explain, confirm. Look online. Ask second opinions.
The good SEOs don’t mind. Because we’re not in this to sell hocus pocus. We’re here to sell you results — actual sales for your business that justify every penny spent on marketing and SEO.