Written By: Adam Dince
There’s an interesting post over at SELand regarding an SEO agency being sued for harming their client’s rankings through bad link building practices. The gist of the lawsuit is as excerpted below:
The action is based on the fact that, at the time that the defendants were promoting this marketing scheme to the Victim Firms, they knew that the techniques they proposed to use were in violation of the guidelines already well-established and published by Google; knew that Google was moving rapidly to crack down on violators; knew that use of these techniques would not only fail to enhance the likelihood that the Victim Firms would rise in Google’s rankings but would actually be downgraded to the point where the websites being used by the Victim Firms would become ‘contaminated’ for search engine purposes; knew that they intended to use automated programs rather than direct personal effort to create the appearance that links to the Victim Firms web pages (the key to rising in search engine rankings) were being generated in the numbers represented; and knew that they intended to cloak their schemes in allegations of ‘trade secrets’ to avoid the balance of the scheme from coming to light. Source
Back in the day, when I first started in organic search, I was fortunate to work with one of the most honest guys in the business. The first thing he taught me was to never put clients at risk. To me it seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, why would you ever do anything to jeopardize a client’s success or standing with the world’s largest search engine?
Taking the philosophy of not putting your clients at risk is easy, the challenging part is keeping up-to-date on the ever-changing set of Google’s guidelines. As an example, a few weeks ago at MozCon, it was brought to light that Google doesn’t want guest blog posts to be used as a link building strategy. This was a tremendous blow for those who used guest blogs as an SEO tool for passing PageRank and relevance. However, if you understand Google’s quality guidelines, this shouldn’t be such a shocker.
If part of our job incorporates organic search, it’s our responsibility to understand Google’s guidelines and follow them. Keep in mind, that our task is two-fold:
- Improve our client’s performance
- Protect them from the pitfalls that can cause harm
I grow frustrated when I see SEOs up in arms about the premise of a client suing an agency for “doing what it takes to get them ranked”. But folks, that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. If you’re not able to take your clients to the next-level through legitimate organic search practices, then you’ll be out of the game soon. Especially, if you’re engaging in these types of tactics intentionally.
If your client(s) has unreasonable expectations and the only way to reach your goals is through a violation of Google’s guidelines, reset those expectations. If you’re a brand that is actively pursuing an SEO strategy, make sure you know what your SEOs are doing. Please don’t accept the “trade secrets” excuse as a reason why an SEO won’t tell you what they’re doing to improve your results. It’s your right as a paying customer to know. And finally, if you’ve got an SEO that’s doing the right things for your brand/business–make sure you take care good care of them.