The field of SEO consulting has a black eye, and I completely understand why.  It’s unarguable that honesty is in short supply – that’s true with just about any line of work.  Combine that with the fact that most business owners have very little understanding of how search engines work or what and SEO actually does for their money, and you have a recipe for rip off and allows fly-by-night SEOs to pitch big promises, collected big checks, and provide very small results.

The reason my field has become the latest used car salesman is easily understood. There is an incredibly low barrier to entry that allows anybody who knows how to build back link to instantly become a search optimization consultant. There’s no formal schooling required, no credentialed degrees in the field, and absolutely no oversight – despite the fact that detrimental search optimization consulting can cost a business owner big time in forgone revenue, fees, and most importantly time.

Bad advice is everywhere. One of the more popular posts on link strategies highlighted article spinning and automated link building services as worthwhile and effective methods of search engine optimization. This post is now three years old and has more comments, likes, shares, and tweets that some of my blogs have had in total. At the time, this may have produced some short-term results for a lot of readers.  Although it’s clearly a black hat tactic, I couldn’t care less that this post was written. In fact, I actually have a lot of respect for the owner of the blog and really like his stuff.

The problem comes when people read one man’s opinion, see one sites results, and reproduce the tactic faster than rabbits on Viagra.  Site owners are hard pressed to produce ranking results and will literally try anything to realize them, but what works for one rarely works universally.  It’s virtually impossible to isolate the definite cause of ranking improvements due to the fact so many things are happening on a site over the course of a given amount of time.

It’s even more dangerous when people take bad advice and use it as the foundation for their billable services. Let me give you an example of what I came across today.

A good friend called me last night that ask for my help reviewing one of his client’s websites. His customer had been complaining about a rapid decline in his rankings, but trusted his SEO consultant who simply blamed the changes on Google and their recent algorithm updates. I’m sure this particular consultant mixed in some other fancy terms to convince his client he had done nothing wrong, passing all of the responsibility to Google, who his client could neither contact nor hold accountable.

I won’t go into all the details but the site contained virtually no optimization on page – making the on-page optimization not black hat… but no hat.  The analysis of the links coming into the site would hold up in any court of SEO crimes and would be better evidence than a bloody glove of some piss poor practices.  Of the 210 backlinks 60 percent of them had the exact same anchor text with a four tail keyword, and 40 percent had the exact same anchor text with a three tail keyword.  What’s worse, all but three links came from the same domain.  As far as red flags go, this is about as bright as they fly.

This is a problem.  I’m not divulging the name of either the business or the SEO firm because it’s not my goal to roll other SEO companies under the bus.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  We owe it to ourselves and our community to improve our reputation by being completely and ridiculously honest.

If we are, we’ll end up talking clients out of hiring us from time to time.  I do.  About 1 in 4 client visits end with me telling the business owner that good SEO is going to cost more than it will bring in.

We should also own up to our mistakes instead of blaming Lord Google.  They want a clean internet, if we’ve clouded it up with shoddy practices and get dinged for it it’s not Google’s fault, it’s ours.

Last year’s tactics won’t work today.  If you don’t have time to develop great content and keep up with genuine SEO practices, it’s time to find another stream of revenue .  We owe our clients hard work and genuine data, not just ranking improvement.  More importantly, we owe it to each other.  There is plenty of work to go around; improving the field will only allow us all to grow.