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August 16, 2007

5 Sure Fire Signs Your SEO/SEM Is Blowing Smoke

By Li Evans

Last week I was greeted with an email that just made my head shake.  It actually at first got me fired up because it just demonstrates how SEOs/SEMs get a bad reputation.  It also showed me how much I take for granted that people should easily identify someone who's trying to build themselves up by pulling the wool over a client's or potential employer's eyes.

So in light of my recent experience, I'd like to present 5 Sure Fire Signs Your SEO/SEM is Blowing Smoke

Blowingsmokerings Sign #1:  Your SEO/SEM Utters the Words "Secret Methods, No One Knows Of"
If the words "secret" and "no one knows of" cross the lips of your SEO/SEM, pick up your things and head out the door.  The internet's been around now for well over ten years and the technology behind what builds a web page hasn't change THAT much.  There are no methods that are "secret", however there are methods that are deemed "at risk behavior" by the search engines that could get your site pulled from a search index, generally this is where these "secret methods" fall into.  Sure they may work, for a few weeks or months, but then you'll have to have your SEO/SEM be hot on the trail of another "Secret Method". 

Just stop and thing if theses methods are so secret, then how come your SEO/SEM can find them?  Do they belong to a secret society of super duper SEO / SEM professionals?  Maybe they wear a secret decoder ring or laugh like a penguin to get into the club of "search marketing secrets".  More than likely if you ask them to talk about the method they employ, you yourself can do a search and find out just how "secret" it is.

Sign #2:  Your SEO/SEM Utters The Words <noframes> Tag
I first had to pick up my jaw from the floor when I heard this.  I then exclaimed 'that's so 1999', but Greg corrected me with 'that's so 1995'.  The <noframes> tag was utilized heavily back in the early days of the internet where some browsers didn't support websites that were constructed in frames.  The <noframes> tag would show an alternate view, one without frames. There's not a browser out there now that doesn't support frames, however, now-a-days not many sites employ the use of frames either.

If you hear your SEO/SEM claiming that the <noframes> tag is a "secret weapon" that not a lot of people know about that will surely get your ranked, hang up the phone, immediately call your bank an stop payment on your check to said SEO/SEM.  If you are an employer and a potential candidate explained that this is a method they employ, I'd suggest showing them the door and not asking them back for a 2nd interview.

Sign #3:  Your SEO/SEM Utters The Words <noscript> Tag
Not quite as bad as the <noframes>, however, this too, was a tactic that was commonly used years ago that has no significant relevance with the search engines today.  Like the <noframes> tag, <noscript> is utilized to show an alternate view to a visitor if they are running without javascript on, or their browser doesn't support javascript.  The support problem isn't really a problem these days, however, there is a small segment of browser users that do run with scripting off.

Claiming this tag is a guarantee to getting high rankings is just plain bunk.  Basically, like the <noframes> tag, they ignore what's between these tags. Should your SEO/SEM pass this off to you as the "silver bullet" to getting you the high rankings "you deserve", perhaps you should write them a new script of their last paycheck.

Smokecloud Sign #4:  Your SEO/SEM Utters The Words "IP Delivery"
These words, "IP Delivery", tussle the quills of many an SEO / SEM who strive for great content, as well as the "Spam Squads" at the search engines.  IP Delivery is just a fancy way of making the term "cloaking" sound more legitimate.  With cloaking aka IP Delivery, your SEO / SEM is having your site look for a certain IP address (generally the IP addresses of the search engine spiders) and delivering to those IP addresses, a totally different site.  Generally those totally different sites are chalk full of spam - content that really doesn't make sense that is stuffed with keywords, pages with nothing but links and probably my most favorite (to chuckle at) combining those to with text that is the same color as the background on the pages it delivers.

Here's a question for you to ask, "If my content is relevant, written well and optimized in the first place - why do I need to deliver different content to a spider?" 

And if your site is in flash and your SEO / SEM suggests this fancy dancy "new fangled" method of optimization and claims that it's approved by the search engines, think again.  There are ways around the Flash issue, just UP Delivery really isn't the answer, at least not ones the search engines accept.

Sign #5:  Your SEO/SEM Utters the Words "I Guarantee"
You hear the phrase "I Guarantee You Top Rankings" - run for the hills.  Really, I'm not kidding, end the conversation and run away. Today's search world is an ever evolving place, and no one can guarantee you a top ranking, even for your own brand name.  It's likely you can rank in the top spot for your own brand name, however, what I see here in the Philly area for a brand could be totally different than what you see (if you're outside the Philly area) for a brand name search.

If you think Google's the only one with Universal and personalize search, you need to wake up and smell the coffee, because all of the search engines are going this route.  It maybe just 10 blue links on Yahoo right now and on MSN, but I can tell you, it won't be that way for long.  Guaranteeing anything when it comes to ranking in a search engine is a sign for you to get a smoke clearing fan!

And as a bonus, if you see your SEO / SEM acting like this guy or claiming this same stuff he does in the video, please back away very slowly and head for the nearest exit.


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Believe it or not, is a perfectly valid way of getting content indexed if that content requires the user to have JS enabled. Sure, you don't see it that much anymore, but a pretty decent number of sites still use navigation menus that require javascript. Setting up equivalent text links in a element easily overcomes any spidering problems that may cause.

Number 5 is great.

Qwerty - hey thanks for stopping by! :)

While I agree with you on the use of them in lieu of javascript linking, the point I was trying to get across was that if an SEO / SEM suggest uses this as a way to be the "soul" way to boost rankings and optimize pages. I don't know how many times I've heard this and just rolled my eyes!

Li. Great post. You might also what to be cautious of your SEO/SEM if he wears lycra zebra print stretch pants like Rock & Roll god David Lee Roth.

Li: Thanks for your post. What you write about "secrets" and "guarantees" comes up here and again in sales situations as recently as this morning. I was able to forward your post onto the prospect so they could see that it's not just me that is saying this.

Fantastic. #5 really put it over the top :)

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