Posted January 30, 2007 1:27 pm by with 34 comments

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It appears that even local newspapers have gotten in on the SEO-bashing. On Sunday, the Rapid City Journal published what appears to be a column entitled “Optimizers not optimal for getting site noticed.” The author, Claire Scholz, states:

For the most part, search engine optimizers are — do I dare say it out loud? — crooks. They promise the sky and all the golden-top-10-Google-rankings beneath it. They make cold calls or send cold spam (yuck) to otherwise smart business owners and, within minutes, the owner is rattling off the company’s credit card number to his or her new best friend.

I understand that there are many unscrupulous “SEOs” out there, but I wouldn’t say that “most” of them are “crooks.” The ever-skeptical Scholz offers four guidelines to avoid these bad guys, some of which are decent:

  1. Do a Google search by placing the so called SEO expert’s company name along side “forum” in the search box i.e. Flimflam, Inc. +forum Forums are virtual watering holes where experts gather to compare, hobnob, but mostly to gripe. If Flimflam, Inc. shows up in any of these sites, you can bet the buzz won’t be good.
  2. Put (if that is the web address) in Google’s search box. This will bring up a listing of many of the sites that have links pointing from the pages to Flim’s. If the list consists of a bunch of unrelated sites, chances are Flimflam put them there him/herself. These lists would be the other clients swimming aimlessly in Flimflam’s vessel of fools.
  3. What you like to see in the search for is a listing of reputable search-engine [sic] authority sites, not or Rather, you want to see SearchEngine or or even [her site]. Click on the links in the listing just to make sure they don’t lead to a rant page with blistering comments calling Flimflam a hornswoggler.
  4. You can go ahead and call the list of references the SEO company gave you. But be aware that the phone numbers or e-mail addresses may lead back to the mother office or to several of its satellite locations (we call them affiliate partners in the SEO world). These off-location businesses get a kickback if they happen to help your hard earned cash grow wings.

I can only take the advice of a person who advocates the “link:” command as an accurate gauge of anything with a grain of salt. She does offer a few very general tips (basically summed up as identify keywords and write more copy) to improve your search engine rankings yourself.

Before the readers despair of ever finding true search engine optimization services, Scholz “reassures” us:

There are some very well respected search engine optimizers out there. They make lots and lots of money. They romp around the world giving speeches at search engine optimizer get-togethers which makes them more money and garners them more respect. The upward spiral is endless, especially when it comes to online-buzz. What they don’t do is make cold calls or send cold spam (yuck again).

Apparently, if you’re not headlining SES, you’re not a reputable SEO. According to Scholz, if someone cold calls you, they couldn’t possibly be a good search marketer. And remember, even if you have references to prove that you’ve been successful in the past, your so-called references are at best highly suspect.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get clients if you’re not one of the famous, highly visible SEOs she mentions. Perhaps by writing a column in the local paper. At the end of her column, she mentions her website—a copyright 2004 web design and Internet marketing site. Sadly, it needs a serious overhaul from the table-based HTML design to the complete lack of meta data to a little general copy editing. And the “link:” search she suggested doesn’t show very much of anything, and especially not any “reputable search-engine [sic] authority sites.”

However, her business appears to be successful enough without those things—but that judgment is based on their references, so I suppose I can’t be sure. You never can tell about those “SEOs.”

  • My wife has family from the Dakota’s and this article validates every bad joke that I’ve heard about the place. Scholz’s article is one of the worst SEO articles ever.

  • I don’t think the seo industry has more crooks than any other. In any shop, if you walk in without doing your homework, you are susceptible to getting ripped off. Its no dirtier than buying a car, an ad in a newspaper, or a diamond ring.

  • Actually I think most SEOs are crooks, even though I’m one of them (an SEO, not a crook). I’d guess 90% or more are at least a little bit crooked. It’s natural to have a lot of dishonesty in any industry that is new and service based. It’s just reality, and it’s annoying since it gives honest SEOs a bad name and makes it harder for us to sell our services, especially since we generally have to charge more than the crooks, seeing as how we’re actually providing a real service, but that comes with the territory.

  • Too many promises from inexperienced SEOs, too many expectations from uneducated clients. It’s a formula for disaster, and this guy has picked up on the fallout.

  • Based on the content of that article I would call Claire Scholz a crook if he/she is selling marketing services. Obviously an idiot.

  • I think that Ms. Scholz makes some very good points, but I agree that the sentence “For the most part, search engine optimizers are — do I dare say it out loud? — crooks” is a bit over-reaching.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Just saw Jennifer Laycock’s take on the article over at Search Engine Guide: No Need to Fear Hiring a Search Marketer.

    (I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s. Something about finding another lactating search marketing blogger. There can’t be many of us out there, really.)

  • What a load of drivel..(yawn) Try and create a bit of a buzz by broadly summing up an industry has crooks (yawn again).

  • Digimon

    Another bunch of nonsense by one of those mainstream “journalists” who want to look like he knows what he is talking about.

    Thanks Pasternack for promoting these sort of stuff…

  • Andy – I believe that your blog probably has a higher readership that Claire’s newspaper and hence, we probably don’t need to worry about her espousing inaccuracies too much.

    Thanks for covering this, though – better you than me! 🙂

  • I am the only honest SEO out there. For a small $2,000 fee I will be glad to honestly tell you that it will take over a year to acheive any rankings in Google and most of them are only searched for 10 times a month. But you can rank for your company name and some three-word, local phrases. Results are not gauranteed.

    Please email me if you are interested in my services. 🙂

  • The people wanting SEO services are crooks. They need to pay for placement like anyone. Most of the idiots have websites that simply dont deserve high placement and instead of creating the content that would get the website the placement on its merits they instead want to “skip the line” and get someone to “trick” the engines into the ranking their crappy website. If enough people do it, the search results will be come pointless and people wont want search anymore because what is the point of searching for something and getting lame results?

  • Innatech

    The fact of the matter is that SEO shouldn’t really be a standalone product, if it’s done honestly. At least, not for long. Currently, there are a lot of SMB’s out there with greying ownership/management that has a very hands-off approach to technology. These people need consultants for everything, and I think it’s fair to charge them for the privilege of not having to worry about it.

    As younger generations take over, however, you’ll find that everyone understands how to generate search engine friendly URLs, submit sitemaps, update content, set (and not abuse) META tags, exchange links, use statistics, etc.

    That leaves only the more disreputable and/or illegitimate tactics like linkfarming, comment-spamming, and whatnot.

    SEO essentially sets out to exploit and subvert a public service: web search. It seeks to game the system, it attempts to undermine the expected fairness of the search results, a quality which is central to the trust the user places in the search engine and so central to its technological and social value.

    That’s why as search engines continue to mature, they will go on whittling down what optimization is possible; and why as the birth year of the average businessman increases, fewer and fewer companies will be willing to pay for what is at worst intentional interference with a public good, at best training wheels for the technically impaired, and most often simply snake oil.

  • We do not charge the sky for our services, Our rates are bi-monthly performance based.

  • Webmaster

    The article implies that SEO is hanky panky so Mom-Pop shops should spend more money on “click fraud” advertising.

    Web is owned by webmasters, Vulture capitalists will never take it over welcome to web 2.0 crashville festival 2008 summer!

  • Most writers of generalizations are boring and dare I say it, unimaginative.
    You can avoid this dull drivel by doing a little research and maintaining an open mind.

  • “Most SEOs are crooks?”

  • I think this is a case of the so-called “crooks” making more noise than those that aren’t. If you’re someone who actually awards your business to people who spam you, then you probably deserve to get screwed by a “crook” SEO.

    For the most part, good SEOs have people coming to them and not vice-versa. They also, like myself, are very upfront about what can and can’t be guaranteed. I always go through an educational myth-busting process with all my clients.

    As always, if it sounds too good to be true…

  • Every industry has it group of crooks like Used cars or Any kind of repairman. It is a good idea to look into any company before you hire them.

  • The companies or people that fall for poor or blackhat SEOs are foolish. True SEO is a hard sell, a good SEO will never promise the sky. Hence the old saying, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

  • I think this article is BS. Most SEOs probably do a good job. They do not garantee traffic however, unless they work with you on the longterm. This article is irresponsible. I think I am going to blog about it on my website.

  • Pingback: Most SEOs are crooks? « Digged Stories()

  • What a terrible sweeping generalization.. (that we hate to admit is true). This industry is still so young and foreign to so many that the barrier to entry is just too low. Clueless mom-and-pops will always want a shortcut for a job they don’t understand, let alone equate with an incomprehensible yet necessary expense.

    That said… the more interesting story here could be that this post is now on the front page of Digg! hmmm… Neil & Cameron? Where are you guys and your non-guarantees? I know you’re not headlining SES London… 😉

  • Wow is a journalist with some basic SEO skillz ever going to write an article? This stuff isn’t rocket science. I guess judging from the source (oh yeah I’ve been to Rapid City) we shouldn’t expect much.

    The self promotion was hilarious!

  • Generalization is not the correct way to deal with this kind of problem.

    It demonstrates that who write is not really involved with this kind of job.

  • Most people think whatever they do not understand is easy. People love to be armchair politicians, executives and entertainers. Just because you are good at criticizing someone or some industry, does not mean you are an expert or even qualified to make scathing comments of a business niche.

    The irony to this story is it is awesome linkbait. If Scholz wrote 3 belligerent, irreverent and nonfactual articles like this each day she would be a major player in baiting for links. Negativity and sensationalism are the prime newsmakers of humanity.

  • Ok, Andy… level with us.

    You know this guy right? This was all a textbook demonstration of link bait, right?

    [Meeting behind warehouse on a cool NC night]
    “Ok, here’s what you say…..first, you say that SEOS are this… that, etc. yada yada”… then, I’m going to come at ya and attack. A few days later we’ll digg ya. And it’ll be LINK BAIT GALORE.”
    [giddy laughter]
    “Jamaica here we come! whoooo hooo!”

    🙂 Gotta rib ya on this one.

    PS: Next… “Most SEOS are closet sociopathic pyromaniacs that duct tape cats to walls and light their tails on fire.”

  • Actually Scott, Jordan authored the post. I will admit to spicing up the title. 😉

  • Doh! Sorry J. 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

  • Straightforward rule people should know is that no SEO can guarantee results. They only try to make sites better than what they’re now.

  • I am in the process taking up SEO and SEO Content writing afrer studying the subject for over four years.

    I will not be attending any SEO conferences nor mailing anyone looking for seo work.

    I can be found on Google Page 1 for “hire seo” or hire seo writer”.

    Google seems to love my honest teach as I learn approach to the subject.

    To quote the author of this thread

    “I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get clients if you’re not one of the famous, highly visible SEOs she mentions. ”

    I think I have a way if anyone is interested?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Last time I checked, being on page one counts as being “highly visible.” Granted, this story is more than a year old, so maybe not.

    FYI, though, I’m not seeing you on the [hire seo] SERP. Different data centers, I guess. I also don’t see a lot of search traffic for [hire seo writer] (you’re #10 there for me). The real question, though, is not where you rank but whether your search engine positioning brings you traffic and, more importantly, clients.

  • A Regular

    I am a regular on this blog, since it started.

    I am PR7, rate #1 in Google SERPS (&pws=0, multiple data centers) for 10-12 2-word terms that are far more “core and actionable” than yours in Google, and have ranked that way for over 2 years.

    In the end, it amounts for around 5% of new business because 98% of inquiries are unqualified. ..however..

    Almost all business comes from word of mouth, but being able to fire up Google and SHOW PEOPLE the listing is hugely impressive.

  • Jordan McCollum

    @”A regular”—are you talking to me?

    No, really, are you? Because, like I said earlier today, this article is more than a year old. Can we let it die?