July 2013 update: The website I discuss in this article no long ranks #1 😉
“If you’re so great, why don’t you rank for SEO Perth?”
I used to run into questions like that quite a bit when I worked at a dedicated SEO services company. I recall whispering “serenity now!” under my breath, taking a deep breath, and enlightening dear prospect.
The truth of the matter, in my experience, is typically twofold;
1. SEO Companies Infamously Neglect Their Own Sites
Often because we’re too busy focusing on paying client work. I think we’ve justified it in the past to some extent because SEO is the type of service where the best leads come via referral. Having someone vouch for your services provides instant credibility. That is no excuse of course, and I firmly believe all SEO companies should drink the Kool-Aid.
2. The Dark Side
SEO keyword rankings for phrases such as; ‘SEO (location)’, ‘SEO services (location)’ and ‘SEO company (location)’ are some of the most obsessed-over and spammy online. The bragging rights of being able to demonstrate to potential clients that you practice what you preach is too much for the common SEO to resist, leading to a dark, downward spiral of reckless abandon!
“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”
Want an example? Let’s take a look at an example close to home. I’m going to review the site currently (08/04/2013) ranking for the locally prized term, “SEO Perth.”
I’m not going to outright name them, but it wouldn’t be difficult to find out if you really wanted to. I’m not interested in ‘outing’ them, just ‘outing’ the shady tactics that are prolific in SEO.
Let’s review two of the most heavily weighted factors for Google search rankings, on-site optimisation, and backlink profile.
Homepage Title Tag
“SEO Perth, SEO Company, SEO Australia, SEO Melbourne”
The keyword ‘SEO’ is repeated four times in the homepage title, an SEO play to rank for each of those important key phrases.
Let’s review this title tag in light of Google’s own optimisation guide lines:
Page titles should be descriptive and concise – The title is concise, yes. Descriptive? No.
Avoid keyword stuffing – Questionable, I’d would lean on the side of caution myself.
I’d probably go with something along the lines of:
“SEO Services Perth and Melbourne, Australia –
It still contains all of the words used in their title, and I believe it is reads better (which may lead to a better click-through rate) and the term ‘SEO’ is only repeated twice.
“Australia’s most trusted Search Engine Optimisation Company, delivering Guaranteed Results in SEO, SEM, and SMM for Clients in Perth, Melbourne and Australia.”
While the description isn’t keyword stuffed, it does contain a couple of superlatives in; “Australia’s most trusted” and “delivering Guaranteed Results”
I’m not a huge fan of such claims, (Australia’s most trusted? Based on what?) and I think any time the word “guaranteed” appears within the context of SEO results, it sets off red flags.
Nonetheless, there is nothing technically wrong with the description from an on-page SEO perspective, meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor, but they are typically worked on during the optimisation process to improve search result click-through.
“SEO Company, seo company perth, seo perth, seo services perth, search marketing perth, seo agency, seo agency perth, seo companies, perth seo company, seo Australia, seo company Australia, seo services Australia”
I don’t even write meta keywords anymore, Google doesn’t use them as a ranking factor. But I have to say this stinks of old school keyword meta tag spamming. Irrelevant though because it doesn’t work.
Homepage Text Content (not including title, metas, image alt tags etc)
The term, “SEO” appears no less than 34 times on the homepage (wow!)
The terms, “search engine optimisation” and “search engine optimization” appear no less than 8 times on the homepage
The term, “SEO company” appears no less than 7 times on the homepage
And then there’s this:
Backlink Profile Review
I simply ran the site through OpenSiteExplorer for this data.
My biggest concern here is an ethical one: A ‘borrowed’ page about SEO Services on the Perth Zoo website: http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/seo-services/
That page is linked to throughout the Perth Zoo website via a a keyword rich anchor of “SEO Services” in the footer. The page links twice to the company in question’s website.
Why does Perth Zoo need a page on SEO Services? It doesn’t.
There’s no justifying it. The object is purely to game an extremely high value link from a popular government site.
How are they getting away with this blatant and unethical practice?
No idea, I can’t speculate, but it smells fishy.
2. Keyword-rich footer links on other websites.
Checkout an example from a popular restaurant in Perth, Fraiser’s here, pictured below:
Another one on the Indiana site.
SEOs know the value of links, which is one reason I’ve never been comfortable with with SEO companies placing footer links on client websites. This practice was made popular by web design companies. I was fine with that practice when used as a branding exercise. But when web design companies started implementing numerous keyword rich text links on websites, it began to look like graffiti, and was only done for one purpose, gaming rankings.
3. Loads of blog comment (and pingback) spam.
Many on sites that aren’t even in English. Just a few examples:
I think that’s enough, I’m growing ill just looking at those sites.
Anchor Text Distribution
Notice a common theme in the anchor text of the spammy comments? That’s no coincidence, checkout OSE’s anchor text report:
That’s over 20,000 links, from over 3,800 domains with the anchor text of either ‘SEO Perth’ or ‘Perth SEO’ – in my experience that is an extremely high ratio of ‘money keywords’ as anchor text.
Tying Up Some Loose Ends
While undertaking the backlink profile research, I noticed a couple of Perth web design sites kept popping up in conjunction with the site I was reviewing. Enough to pique my curiosity and have a quick look at them. Turns out all three, two web design and one SEO company, are all running out of the same office address in Perth. It was no surprise then, that the Perth Zoo site was designed by one of the web design companies at this address, and Fraser’s by the other.
So, considering all of this, how is this site ranking #1?
I’m a little surprised myself, especially in light of some more recent algorithm updates designed to penalise dodgy backlink profiles. Google admits it isn’t perfect and is constantly working on improving ranking their algorithm to detect spammy on-site SEO and link profiles. Waiting around for Google to improve may not be the best solution while the undeserved outrank companies who employ best practices, but unfortunately, there isn’t much more you can do.
Google does provide a spam report feature, but I’m not sure how effective it is. Historically manual penalties (as distinct from algorithmic penalties) have just been a short-term slap on the wrist. A lot of SEOs aren’t keen on reporting others in the industry. I guess an analogy might be the way some people view reporting crimes to police. Some people are pro-active and report crimes they’ve witnessed to the police, others believe they don’t need to assist the police in doing their job, or maybe they believe someone else will report the crime so they can stay out of the whole affair.
Then, there is a possibility that the company in question has attempted to repent for their sins and beg forgiveness from almighty Googlebot. This can be done via a relatively new tool provided by Google that lets websites owners ‘disavow’ spammy links they’ve built in the past. Could they have undertaken a massive backlink review and disavowed most of it? Possibly.
I hope this mini-audit has helped shed light on the practices used in the battle for coveted SEO keyword rankings.
Finally, if anyone from the company reviewed happens to read this, don’t be mad – you have the top spot and winners are grinners, right?
Besides, I just conducted an audit of your site, free of charge! 🙂