Why Cant SEOs Trust Their Own Results – an Irish Case Study

by on December 31, 2012

I recently participated in a post titled – Tips when hiring an SEO Consultant where 10 people gave recommendations on what you should look for when hiring an SEO consultant/agency. I think for a lot of companies (in particular SMBs), this is a really difficult task. It’s probably how I feel when looking for a garage to get my car fixed. I am totally clueless in all things mechanical. I have no desire to improve my knowledge in this area, I don’t have time. I just want to pay someone to fix my car. Obviously the decision to hire someone to market your website is a lot more important than getting your car fixed, but it seemed like a good analogy :)

It’s interesting most SEO’s would never recommend actually searching for “SEO” related keyphrases to help make your choice (no one in the article mentioned the SERPs). In most other industries, an SEO would recommend optimising against the search funnel (I showed a mock up of one in this post). An example of this funnel for “SEO” (the below search terms are straight out of my head and not mapped to actual volume) may look like:

SEO Funnel

The reality is how many people find an SEO consultant/agency may not involve a search for “SEO” related keyphrases at all. It will look more like:

Actual SEO Funnel

 

The SERPs for “SEO” related keyphrases are not trust worthy …

This is a bit of a sweeping statement, but I think it’s true in a lot of cases (and I am going to show it). A lot of the companies ranking for “SEO” related keyphrases are not the type of companies I would assign budget to or recommend to anyone else. They offer low quality link schemes for small budgets. In most cases this is because the type of leads generated by “SEO” related keywords are SMBs who have small budgets and so are happy to buy into the theory you can get a “Silver Links Package” for a couple of hundred bucks per month.

Ireland as an Example

This is not an outing post. I am not going to mention what SEO keywords the results are for, or mention any company names. There is nothing overly complex in the following, I simply used OSE and LinkDetective to categorise those links from  companies ranking top for “SEO” keywords you would use to research companies in Google.ie.

The Most Common Tactics Used

Looking at 10,000 links for those SEO companies ranking in top spots for “SEO” related keyphrases, we see the biggest category for links is DEAD. All websites will have a number of dead links. Companies using low quality link building tactics will have a higher number of dead links. There were a number of companies ranking well in Google.ie with more than 60% of their links marked dead.

Link Breakdown

 

Unknown is the second most popular category (along with Footer). Usually when using LinkDetective this could be a good sign as the links are not easily categorised and so don’t fit into some of those categories which indicate a low quality link profile. But in the case of “SEO” related keywords in Google.ie, this just means lots more low quality links:

Forum Sig Links (sentence removed so people can’t find companies link profiles being used)

Bad Link Example

Blog Networks 

Blog Networks

 

Lots More Links in Client Footers

Client Footer Links

The most popular method of building links for top ranking SEO companies in Google.ie is adding links into client footers. Although this was joint second (23%). If I added on all the links that were classified as Unknown, that actually belonged to this category, it would definitely be top. My personal opinion is Google should exclude these links. It’s also a tactic that cannot be scaled for clients.

All of the other tactics appeared to be quite low because the top 3 where so dominant. If we took out DEAD and Unknown, most link profiles are made up of really low quality tactics, adding links to client footers, posting/signatures on Forums, links in social profiles (made famous by Angela’s backlinks), blog comment spam, articles across low quality directories.

 

Links Breakdown (exc Dead)

These are the companies Google.ie is returning for “SEO” related keywords. Most of them are faceless and totally untrustworthy, judging by their own link profiles. Some even offer those standard SEO packages that make you want to puke :(

SEO Package

Coming back to what got me thinking about this post. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the Google SERPs to anyone looking for an SEO company (if you are not going past the first page). That to me is an odd statement, coming from someone who is so passionate about SEO (even though it’s not my full time role anymore). As most people suggested in the article I referenced at the start of this post, I would hire the person vs the company (for SMB’s). Look at their social profiles and seek out recommendations. The Google.ie SERPs are a total mess for “SEO” related keywords. I could start up a site tomorrow and have it ranking in no time at all copying the low quality tactics currently being used. That doesn’t mean I would actually know anything about proper SEO.

This isn’t a post bashing the SEO community in Ireland either. Like the UK, most of the top guys don’t look to the Irish SERPs for business. If you are in need of a top Irish SEO consultant, both RedCardinal and RedFly are world class.

Lastly, I am not competing in the Irish SERPs, so this isn’t me throwing my toys out the pram due to poor ranking :) In fact, this site is carrying a penalty (or was) due to a number of poor links I built when I first got into online 4 years ago. We all make mistakes !!!

 

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/therealSixTwo Jason Gilbert

    haha this is a fun post! Keep up the good work Kieran. 

  • leslie gilmour

    A post that I could not write as it would come across as if justifying. I too have been looking at these back link profiles, but it seems like all who ranked before, the ones you mentioned and many more are all sitting on Penguin.  That in itself is quite amazing as the sites that replaced us in the first page appear to have NO quality links at all.

    Keep up the writing, it is good to read your posts.

  • Anonymous

    Great post and everything you say is spot on. It sounds very hollow when trying to explain this to a client however – ‘we don’t rank on page 1 for ‘SEO’ because we’re a better SEO company than the others’!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Leslie. I had this post written for a while, but didn’t post because I didn’t want to look as if I was stamping my feet about my own rank. I don’t compete for these terms anymore and this site got spammed back in July (my RSS feed was added to some crappy network) and I can’t be bothered trying to fix it (although I have tweeted the guy who owned the network), so thought it was a good time to put live.
    I think Google.ie, in general seems to be full of a lot of crappy SERP results. Maybe that will change in 2013.

  • http://www.xava.ie/ Xava Ireland

    I have noticed that in Ireland – a lot of the SEO experts dont come up on SEO related searches. Often wondered if they were worth the money a company would pay them? Personally I target low competition keywords (for now) and then moving on to high competition keywords because in my opinion, if I am providing SEO services, people need to be able to see the results of my work on my own site. 

    SEO is important though because personally I trust sites that come up high in search results more than sites that use Google AdWords to rank higher than their competitors as a general rule.

  • Anonymous

    and there in lies my point, you trust sites that come up high in search and you work in the field. The SMB owner has no option but to trust the results that come up in the search for SEO related keywords, even though what most of the sites have done to rank top are really low quality crap, which means there is a good chance they will replicate that for their clients.

  • http://www.xava.ie/ Xava Ireland

    When I started out I used to get intimidated by the sites that rank highly and then when I look at their link profile I realise that they maybe only have 3-4 quality links and most of them are low quality. But they still get the rank.

    I show my own website as a case study to a client but I know what you mean – How can the client truly trust that case study if the surrounding websites in the search results are low quality crap.

    I think thats where the traditional old fashioned personal touch comes into play – if I go talk to someone in person and show how passionately I believe in what I do, the client has a better chance of believing that I have good quality SEO to offer.

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