What's an SEO? Does Google recommend
working with companies that offer to make Your site Google-friendly?
Search Engine Optimizers
SEO is an abbreviation for "search engine optimizer." Many
SEOs provide useful services for website owners, from writing
copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to
find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted.
However, a few unethical SEOs have given the industry a black
eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and
their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results.
While Google doesn't have relationships with any SEOs and
doesn't offer recommendations, we do have a few tips that
may help you distinguish between an SEO that will improve
your site and one that will only improve your chances of being
dropped from search engine results altogether.
- Be wary of SEO firms that send you email out of the
Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed
in most of the major search engines and directories..."
Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about
search engines as you do for "burn fat at night"
diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed
- No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege
a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority
submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google.
In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly
is through our Add
URL page or through the Google
Sitemaps program, and you can do this yourself at
no cost whatsoever.
- Be careful if a company is secretive or won't clearly
explain what they intend to do.
Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO
creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf,
such as doorway pages or "throwaway" domains, your site
could be removed entirely from Google's index. Ultimately,
you are responsible for the actions of any companies you
hire, so it's best to be sure you know exactly how they
intend to "help" you.
- You should never have to link to an SEO.
Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of "free-for-all"
links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site
to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless
exercises that don't affect your ranking in the results
of the major search engines -- at least, not in a way
you would likely consider to be positive.
- Some SEOs may try to sell you the ability to type keywords
directly into the browser address bar.
Most such proposals require users to install extra software,
and very few users do so. Evaluate such proposals with
extreme care and be skeptical about the self-reported
number of users who have downloaded the required applications.
- Choose wisely.
While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may
want to do some research on the industry. Google is one
way to do that of course. You might also seek out a few
of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press,
including this article on one particularly aggressive
While Google doesn't comment on specific companies, we've
encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices
that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business
behavior. Be careful.
- Be sure to understand where the money goes.
While Google never sells better ranking in our search
results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click
or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search
results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in
search engines, but place you in the advertising section
rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even
change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion
that they "control" other search engines and can place
themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn't
work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled
and separated from our search results, but be sure to
ask any SEO you're considering which fees go toward permanent
inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
- Talk to many SEOs, and ask other SEOs if they'd recommend
the firm you're considering.
References are a good start, but they don't tell the
whole story. You should ask how long a company has been
in business and how many full time individuals it employs.
If you feel pressured or uneasy, go with your gut feeling
and play it safe: hold off until you find a firm that
you can trust. Ask your SEO firm if it reports every spam
abuse that it finds to Google using our spam complaint
form at http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html.
Ethical SEO firms report deceptive sites that violate
Google's spam guidelines.
- Make sure you're protected legally.
For your own safety, you should insist on a full and
unconditional money-back guarantee. Don't be afraid to
request a refund if you're unsatisfied for any reason,
or if your SEO's actions cause your domain to be removed
from a search engine's index. Make sure you have a contract
in writing that includes pricing. The contract should
also require the SEO to stay within the guidelines recommended
by each search engine for site inclusion.
What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely
One common scam is the creation of "shadow" domains that
funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These
shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to
be working on a client's behalf. However, if the relationship
sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or
even to a competitor's domain. If that happens, the client
has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the
Another illicit practice is to place "doorway" pages loaded
with keywords on the client's site somewhere. The SEO promises
this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This
is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant
for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is
that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the
SEO's other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away
the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and
its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or
What are some other things to look out for?
There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with
a rogue SEO. It's far from a comprehensive list, so if you
have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means,
feel free to walk away if the SEO:
- owns shadow domains
- puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
- offers to sell keywords in the address bar
- doesn't distinguish between actual search results and
ads that appear in search results
- guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword
phrases you would get anyway
- operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
- gets traffic from "fake" search engines, spyware, or scumware
- has had domains removed from Google's index or is not
itself listed in Google
If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way,
you may want to report it.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about
deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint,
and click on "File a Complaint Online," call 1-877-FTC-HELP,
or write to:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
If your complaint is against a company in another country,
please file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/.
Above information is courtesy of