SEO butthead detection in 5 easy steps
Ian Lurie Nov 4 2011
SEO is complicated, and it’s easy to fall for a ripoff artist, or someone who’s just clueless. But there are some easy ways to detect SEO buttheads. Here’s how you can tell if someone making big promises is utterly full of horse manure:
1: The spam e-mail
Butthead indicator #1: The unsolicited e-mail.
In an effort to upgrade my karma, I’ve cut way back on outing of incompetent/dishonest SEO firms. But I got an e-mail this week that got my blood boiling:
Never, ever work with an SEO who sends you unsolicited e-mail or contacts you out of the blue.
2: The ‘former Google employee’ claim
Butthead indicator #2: The ‘We have a former Google employee’ claim.
Strength: Infinity times 10000000
This particular SEO crap artist informed me, in the e-mail and on their site, that their founder is a ‘former Google optimization specialist.’ A little digging revealed that yes, the founder is a former optimization specialist—a former Adwords optimization specialist.
Adwords is Google’s paid advertising platform. It has no relationship to the world of SEO. They worded their claim very carefully, but let’s call it what it is: A total lie.
The ‘Adwords optimization’ team at Google helps clients spend more money on Google Adwords. They sure as hell don’t help clients rank higher in the organic, unpaid rankings. If they did that, their clients would spend less on Adwords.
Never work with someone who tries to use their previous Google employment to say they have some secret knowledge of SEO. They’re almost certainly twisting their words. A Google massage therapist can’t help you rank any better than a Yahoo! massage therapist.
Butthead indicator #3: Total SEO incompetence.
Go to the web site of your supposed SEO savior. Click ‘View >> Source’ and look at the HTML code. If you see this:
…then you’re about to be buried in SEO bullshit.
The title tag is the most important on-page ranking factor. A poorly-written one means the SEO firm in question is careless. A non-existent one means they’re either complete idiots, or they’re going to transfer your checks to the Cayman Islands and ignore you.
Butthead indicator #4: No links. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Links ain’t what they used to be, but I’d expect any SEO worth their salt to at least have a few sites pointing at them:
Ooooops. They gots no linkage! Even their own site doesn’t show up as an incoming link.
Actually, that’s a remarkable technical achievement. I gotta give them a hat-tip. I’ve never seen anyone achieve 100% link stealth before.
But wait! Maybe Open Site Explorer shows a few links:
If your SEO firm can’t scrounge up a few links for themselves, they won’t be able to do it for you.
5: Crap rankings
Butthead indicator #5: Rankings that look like word vomit.
Finally, do a site:www.crapseosite.com search on Google and see how their rankings look (replace crapseosite.com with the crap SEO site in question). If they look like this:
These SEO ‘experts’ are morons. Avoid.
Even if the firm you’re talking to passes all these tests, be sure to look carefully:
- Talk to their clients.
- Search on their brand name for reputation problems.
- Talk to the people you’ll be working with. Make sure you can trust them.
But if they have any of the 5 Butthead Signals, don’t waste your time. Find someone who at least has the courtesy to lie creatively.
CEO & Founder
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He'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 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.Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie. Read More