Hire A Crappy SEO Firm in Only 10 Steps

Ian Lurie

I’ve had an epiphany: Most people want to hire really crappy SEO ‘professionals’.
It’s the only possible reason for some of the asinine hiring decisions made by otherwise intelligent people. So, in the tradition of bloggers giving audiences what they want, here’s my ten steps to hire an SEO firm that will bury you in the rankings and cost you money:

  1. Look for lousy writers: Search engine optimization involves a lot of words and stuff. So whatever you do, don’t hire a consultant or firm who can actually string together a sentence. You want people who write things like “Your going to love our service!”. (If you can’t find the error in that sentence, congrats! You’re halfway there.)
  2. Look for barefoot cobblers: Find SEO companies with web sites that drive away the search engines. For example, make sure they link to their home page at ‘www.mysite.com/index.htm’. And for God’s sake, if they use heading tags for headings, don’t hire them! That kind of thing might help you move up! [by the way, these examples are taken from an actual SEO firm’s web site – I’m happy to refer them if you want to disappear from the rankings]
  3. Make sure they don’t have Pagerank. Google Pagerank doesn’t mean much, but if that little bar is gray, then that SEO really sucks. Since you want bad rankings, hire them right away. They’ll deliver.
  4. Trust the developers: A surefire way to truly wreck your SEO campaign! When your IT person or developer snorts and says “I read a couple books, I know SEO”, jump for joy. Your search is complete. Have them fill your site with duplicate content, impossible linking schemes and nested redirects. You can have an utterly invisible site without even lifting a finger.
  5. Trust the designers: Almost as good as the previous tip. When your designer says “Oh, that 100% Flash opening page won’t be a problem. Google can crawl Flash now.”, trust them. Hear that ‘poof’ sound? That was air rushing into the place your site previously occupied. Congrats.
  6. Don’t trust the experts: Guys like Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts and little companies like Google have been trying to give you advice on hiring a good SEO for years. If you listen, you’ll end up hiring one. So ignore everything they say.
  7. Hire someone who guarantees a top position: If they promise you a number one ranking on Google, they can deliver, right? Maybe, if the phrase is something like ‘hassenplarfer’ or ‘hufflebwump’. If the SEO you’re talking to guarantees rankings, you’ve struck gold. They’re not only incompetent, they’re liars, too.
  8. Hire folks who throw around arbitrary numbers: Brilliant quotes like “You need 305 links to get a top ranking on Google” are a sure sign you’ve found a real loser. If your internet marketing plan includes being SEO roadkill, you’re in luck.
  9. Hire a friend’s cousin’s daughter’s sister’s half brother who’s really “good with computers”: Perfect. Not only will the search engines poop all over you, but you’ll get to have lots of tense moments in your personal life, too. And you’ll be stuck with this git for the next 10 years. Nicely done!
  10. Don’t pay more than $500 a month. If someone tells you they’ll charge $5,000, gasp and hang up the phone. Find some nice, ethical folks who say they can do the work for $149.

Phew. Chances are that somewhere in your search for an SEO, you encountered good, quality practitioners who could’ve moved you up in the rankings with smart, ethical advice. You had a few close brushes with success. But if you followed my 10 tips then you’ve made it, and defeat is at hand. I salute you.

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 Lynda.com, 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 www.ianlurie.com

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  1. 11. Be sure to hire a company which also offers a book called “The 1001 secrets of boosting your website”. This way you not only get the chance to pay them for the SEO work, but also get hold of some crappy useless book which only exists for them to earn some bucks.

  2. I can’t believe you didn’t include the easiest way to find these SEOs: they probably email you a couple of times a week; often more. They want to offer you a link on their /links.html page. Write them back immediately to inquire about their meta keywords work.

  3. 12. Look for things like a list of links to unrelated sites on the firms homepage……..use this handy list to check out their other clients.

  4. Ian…
    You had me at “crappy”.
    Very funny blog and somewhat to the point…!!
    I think you have wit and maybe talent as well, but
    if that’s the case why haven’t you done a better
    job of designing your site. And of course you carry
    typical “bullshit” banners.
    A serious dilemma…?
    In spite of your deficiencies let’s chat..
    [email protected]

  5. I love this blog! You are so right. I can’t tell you how many people hire me and say they had someone help them with SEO, and I can’t believe it.
    The problem is if you don’t understand SEO then you don’t know what to look for.
    You did a great job at telling people what not to look for. Keep writing great blogs!
    Dawn Abraham

  6. Very nice, I’m an Account Manager for LinkWorth.com and this should be required reading for everyone looking to hire an SEO firm. It sums up exactly what not to look for in an SEO firm; and in doing so it reminds SEO professionals what practices they should avoid in order to be trustworthy and successful in the industry.
    Matt Baker

  7. I think this post was funny & witty. It had some great points & some red flags should be raised if customers comes across such an SEO firm’s site.
    Although, I do disagree with you on the point of spending more than $500.00 on Search Engine Optimization. While, such a low price would require some additional research onto why a great deal like that is happening, it is entirely possible to run a successful campaign on $195.00 a month. Granted such a rate would take much longer to achieve a good ranking(sometimes shorter), not to mention time being spent writing great content.
    But, lets face it some online businesses have small budgets. These are your mom & pop e-commerce sites that can not afford over a $1,000. Once, you do an effective job at getting visitors to them & having those visitors turn into clients. Those small business are more than willing to go much higher in marketing revenue because they see you can provide results.

  8. @Adam totally true. My main concern is how a small business makes that kind of judgment. How do they tell the legit small budget players from the hucksters?

  9. Ian
    I have always found your style fun and VERY informative. You have nailed it when it comes to the hucksters that give us legit types a bad name. I was always taught you get way you pay for. As for Adam’s thoughts, I think the danger in providing a low price/entry deal is that to bring them to better payment levels is hard to get justified. I know, been there done that. Now a days, if they can’t afford what our price is, then a line item removal is the answer, not to drop the price, but the items that can be done, in the end, your better to devote energy into those that understand the value.

  10. Good post. Keep in mind that when hiring anyone for design or programming, you’re hiring their style and frame of reference. Avoid anyone with a “Set It And Forget It” idea. The internet and visitor trends are dynamic and the SEO and page contents should follow their lead. For example, Q&A boards have grown nearly similar to how Facebook has grown over the last year. Add some very relevant answers to probably questions of typical visitors and note the results. Your post helps everyone be better at SEO . . . talent sharpens talent!
    – Enjoy Hobbies, Not Habits –

  11. Leave us not forget to “…look to the mysteries East”
    Hire a foreign SEO. One who is cheap provides good reference(s) and when you give him the bid and the keywords, the communication ceases. Call him up on his cell.
    Hey, I’ve found a great PHP programmer I work with In Romania who sort of speaks English, a couple of logos builders, so I’m condemning the range of services. (Back peddling disclaimer)

  12. It’s the crappy writing that really gets me. At a certain company-which-shall-be-nameless, we worshipped outside vendors and treated in-house staff like chopped liver. So, of course, we had the SEO Consultants do our SEO writing, and it was unreadable, ungrammatical gibberish. Fortunately we wised up. I shall say no more…..

  13. I don’t get what is so crappy about all of these…………… Just kidding. I am glad there are crappy ‘professionals’ out there. If not, I’d be eating crackers from bird cages and drinking toilet water.

  14. Haha, this is a great guide. I think the best way to find a crappy SEO is to start a website (ecommerce?) and wait for them to email you, guaranteeing a top 10 listing within 24 hours. If they promise to do it for $50 that’s a plus.

  15. How you like this one, from a real email of a Online Reputation Management firm:
    I can send you a full proposal but we do not have any contactable references as all of our clients operate under a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement.

  16. Hi, I’m not going to plug our firm… so no link.. but I had to comment… this is the first post I’ve read in months that made me laugh. It is so true. We just finished doing 1 month (and thousands of pages) of market research for a paper our company is releasing on Google’s Caffeine…and we actually started to ‘see’ some of the things you talked about here within the research.

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