SEO Community Watch: Why We’re All Responsible for a Quality Industry

Since Google’s Penguin update, links have been in the spotlight. It has always been our position that proper links are earned, not purchased. Earning is tied to quality, and quality takes resources and expertise. A link is a definite byproduct of being an expert and having content worth the link. Anything else is simply not OK.

I thought it was time to write this post; a post on why protecting our SEO community is everybody’s job. But first, I’ll touch on the background of the issue: quality SEO versus deceptive SEO, so anyone who might be new to the topic is brought up to speed.

Companies claiming to be “SEOs” have sprung up over time; not focused on improving the quality of sites on the Web and earning links, but instead focused on the easy way out; doing things like buying links.

Buying links cheats PageRank intent and allows businesses (and affiliates seeking easy money) to gain rankings without creating their own quality content.

Many businesses do not understand that SEO is a discipline; it’s hard work and takes time to perform the right way.

Many businesses think SEO is easy, off-page and cheap, because these are the types of services cheating SEOs are able to inexpensively sell.

Site owners believe what these SEOs tell them, and most likely don’t even know they are breaking Google’s policies.

Businesses have and are going to continue to be harmed by SEOs who cheat the system, and many will be hurt beyond their ability to recover.

What I find particularly distasteful about these SEO schemes is that they are knowingly going against Google’s guidelines to yield fast, easy cash for the SEOs and short-term, dangerous results for the clients.

These types of SEOs do not invest in the quality of the site, and believe they’re clever enough to hide from Google – at least until they have pocketed money from clients. Companies selling link-focused SEO should be penalized.

I believe that SEOs who openly engage in a practice that was always doomed are intentionally harming their clients, and this is grossly unethical.

What’s even more unfortunate for site owners is that the repair on their sites with paid links usually costs more than the original damage. If a site owner spent $200 per month to buy links, they’ll likely spend 10 times that to correct damage bad links have caused, plus the loss of business until it’s fixed. The easy way out has led to a long, hard road to repair.

The demand for an SEO penalty audit service is very high now, and the cost is significant – perhaps hundreds of hours (we happen to know; we offer a cleanup service ourselves).

For example, if you are a well-known brand and your site has sufficient value, the repair can begin with just link pruning. However, if your site was based solely on paid links, it’s also very likely you won’t have enough quality content to rank even after fixing the link damage.

We always knew that if Google did nothing to crush cheaters, that pretty soon the search engine’s first page would be captured by those with the most money to spend on links, instead of expert sites we really hope to find. But beyond Google, who is in charge of policing quality?

Our responsibility as an SEO community is to uphold quality.

There are so many clever cheats that it takes crowd sourcing to expose them all. If you were playing poker, and a cheater were in the game taking your money, would you quit playing poker or call them out?

When I find someone harming the game, I think it’s mandatory for the good of the game and the rule-abiding players that I call them out. It is our “community watch” efforts as quality SEOs to expedite the cleanup process. Ask yourself: what would you do if the business being duped by cheating SEOs was your friend’s or relative’s?

Neighborhood Watch

Many of us know who is cheating. And the cheats have already started to slink away into adjacent spaces.

I can hear them now: “Google is saying that linking is spam so we are switching to social media, the emerging traffic generator.”

It’s too bad that sleazy business practices crushed in one area simply change colors and spring up elsewhere. We need to keep watch on this.

It’s too bad for unsuspecting site owners and too bad for Web marketers who work hard to provide quality services.

This deep and pervasive corruption in our industry is not trivial. It begs for each of us to take part in our own cleanup.

At the very least, we can begin to better educate consumers. We need more mainstream education and coverage of the right way to approach SEO, highlighting the differences between quality and deception, so site owners are equipped to sniff out the bad guys.

We all need to start talking about this and writing about this and reaching out to the business community now. It takes a community to build and protect a community. Are you in?

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

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Comments (6)
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6 Replies to “SEO Community Watch: Why We’re All Responsible for a Quality Industry”

Still have no idea that how Google identify “paid links” in thousands of theme related backlinks..should i start black hat for competitors?

Kent, yes – and from SMX Advanced the message was clear. And the iAcquire message was blunt. Google is taking action. Finally.

Hi Bruce, agree with you. What goes around comes around. For those who buy links, eventually will get hurt. There are lot of great examples around me show me that.

Hi all, this thread went busy on Facebook here: and SEMPO is involved. I do feel that nobody is above the law, and hopefully the larger players have gotten the message. I am fortunate that 1) none of our clients were impacted in a negative way, and 2) we now have a lot of people calling us that need repair. But bottom line is, the industry is in shock and nobody wants to commit to SEO as a service – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) are causing analysis-paralysis. Please jump in…

Andrew C

Come on Bruce! The top of the SERPs in highly competitive categories are dominated by large organizations that spend profusely on paid links. Smaller organization relying on good content and earned links can’t possibly hope to compete. Despite repeated threats and occasional token action against sites like, Google continues to turn a blind eye. I wish you made the rules, but you don’t. Google makes the rules – and they don’t always bear resemblance to the published ones – and all we can do is follow them.

Does SEMPO plan on getting involved at all?

Glad to hear your thoughts on the subject matter Bruce. It’s crazy out there.. before moving in-house, I would get as many leads for “SEO’s” looking to white label ever aspect of the service itself. We’d have inquiries for huge volumes knowing the lead did no research on our work history.


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