Search Engine Optimization Fraud

Ian Lurie

Pinocchio doll
The Wall Street Journal posted an article about a search engine optimization company called Traffic Power. It’s a great lesson in how not to hire an SEO firm.

Traffic Power’s tactics included ‘doorway pages’, which are pages invisible to users but crawlable by search engines. These pages are packed with keywords, in order to draw the search engines. They’re also totally unethical, and a banning offense on any major search engine.

So how can you learn from this? What can you do to make sure you avoid the Traffic Powers of the world?

First, if you get a cold call from a search marketing firm, run. That’s how Traffic Power got most of their business. Instead, talk to other business owners, or check out one of the reputable internet marketing organizations, such as or

Next, ask them how they get their clients higher rankings. If they say “it’s a secret” or “we have a great trick”, don’t hire them. If they talk about improving site code, writing good content, and good online PR, that’s a good start.

Finally, look for a firm with a broader vision of internet marketing. Search marketing is one slice of the pie. It’s a big slice, but site design and architecture, paid advertising and PR can all have an effect, too. Your search firm should at least be aware of your overall plan.

Hopefully this helps you stay out of trouble. Worse case, if you can’t make up your mind about a firm, check with the Better Business Bureau. They’ve fielded over 100 complaints about Traffic Power.

Oh, and one last check: How does the firm you’re talking to rank in the search engines? They don’t have to be #1. But is currently unranked. That’s a sure sign they can’t help you go anywhere but down.

You can read the WSJ article here:

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action
Close search overlay