Another example of SEO Malpractice done recently for a dentist in New South Wales. Please read this cautionary tale, and check your SEO Agency’s practices. You should be able to expect your Agency to be transparent with you about what they are doing, and their work needs to comply with Google’s guidelines at all times.
I’m reviewing some SEO work that a very well-known agency had recently been doing for a dental practice in NSW. It was such an outrageous example of SEO Malpractice, I really felt I had to share it.
The Back-Story: Backlinks
Links from other websites back to yours (hence ‘backlinks’) continue to be an important signal to Google about the importance, relevance, and popularity of your website.
Google;s search algorithm gives credit to links that are either earned (given freely by another party) or serve a legitimate business purpose.
Links to your website from QUALITY online business directories like the Yellow Pages, Start Local, and Hot Frog clearly have a purpose: local people will visit these directories for information about local businesses. People might also use industry-specific websites to locate a new dental practice.
You list your website in these directories because they are a potential conduit for local people to join your practice as new patients.
However, you wouldn’t waste your time listing your practice in a low-quality online directory that contains hundreds of thousands of other businesses from around the world. The likelihood that you’d ever get any business from these directories is zero.
The only reason you’d even contemplate adding your business to these would be if there was another benefit.
Say, an SEO benefit. Because of the backlink you’d get.
This tactic used to work like gangbusters…
In the old days (up until 2012) creating directory listings by the dozen was a classic SEO tactic. It didn’t matter where you got your backlinks from- the more backlinks you had, the higher up in the search rankings your website would soar. SEO Agencies often outsourced this work to offshore workers: it was work that could be easily leveraged and would cost the Agency very little. $50-$100 would buy a lot of directory listings, and the Agency could onsell their work to their clients for $500, $1,000, $2,000 per month.
Google started putting a lid on this in February 2012 with the Penguin Algorithm Update. Low-quality backlinks started to be filtered out, which meant their impact on the search results were lost.
Then Google started to penalise websites that used this tactic: a backlink profile filled with low-quality backlinks from directories showed up as because they were very unnatural. Google started to either demote these websites in the rankings or to remove them altogether.
However, it seems lots of SEO companies still use this outdated, ineffective and potentially dangerous tactic.
Here’s an example I found today. I’m not going to identify the SEO Agency: I will let you know that they are Australian-based, well-known and that this particular piece of work was done as recently as September 2015. I’m still working through their SEO reports- I’m sure I’ll find more examples of this type of work.
Today’s Example of SEO Malpractice: Using Low-Quality Online Directories To Build Backlinks
The screenshot below shows one of the directories they submitted the practice’s details to.
It’s a non-local, non-industry-related directory. Why would you list a local dental practice in it?
It’s a very low-quality directory – a classic “built for SEO backlinks site”, exactly what Google doesn’t like.
Yeah, I’d definitely want MY business listed in a directory that shows ads inviting me to browse 10,000 single Asian women’s profiles. Real classy!
The good news is that this practice’s potential clients are very unlikely to ever see the listing.
If you’re lucky, Google will just ignore the backlink completely. This means that your SEO Agency has wasted their time and your money building this particular link, but it could be worse…
If you’re unlucky, you’ll be penalised.
Your website will either drop like a stone in the search results or will be removed from the search results altogether.Note that it’s YOUR website that will cop the penalty. Your Agency’s website will probably be just fine! Google can’t stop Agencies from doing this sort of thing directly: there only hope is to make this unscrupulous activity seem so ineffective or cause such chaos that the Agency’s clients get pissed off and the Agency goes out of business.
What Happens If Your Website Is Affected By SEO Malpractice?
It’s often a long road to recovery from this type of penalty. You need to try to undo all the work and then ask Google’s forgiveness. It’s time-consuming and costly. Google will make you jump through hoops, to ensure you won’t ever do it again.
If you need some pointers or support with recovery, please get in touch with us.
The Moral Of This Story
Some SEO Agencies seem to have no morals. Or perhaps they don’t keep up to date with best practices. Maybe their activities haven’t yet been picked up by Google, so they think they’re bullet-proof. It’s a little bit like all the dentists out there who thumb their noses at the Advertising Guidelines, thinking they won’t get into trouble because AHPRA doesn’t have the manpower to police them.
I like to think of SEO (and the Advertising Guidelines) this way…
You know the road rules. You know that if you break the signed speed limit, you are breaking the law.
You also know that it’s quite likely you’ll get away with speeding from time-to-time because there aren’t enough police officers or cameras to patrol every road all the time.
But if you speed and you are caught, you will be penalised.
If you think the penalty of having your website removed from Google’s search results is worth the risk, then you might continue to choose to pay for SEO malpractice.
I wouldn’t risk it.
Regardless, you NEED to know what your SEO Agency is doing!!
And if they are STILL doing this type of SEO, in my opinion, fo what it’s worth, you need to get rid of them.