SEO Company Caught By Client Using Google Support Forums

Jul 9, 2009 • 9:16 am | comments (26) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

It is not uncommon to find SEOs asking other SEOs questions in the SEO discussion forums. But it is not everyday where you find the clients of an SEO coming in an asking questions about their own site, only to find out that his SEO previously asked the same question in the same discussion forum, to the same people. That is exactly what happened, as pointed out by Autocrat in a Google Webmaster Help thread. The real shocker is what the client discovered his SEO said about his own abilities.

Yesterday, Gary from Manchester, posted a thread at Google Webmaster Help asking for advice about a client's site. The client noticed a major drop in rankings and hired Gary to fix the issue. Gary then offered his findings in a thread and asked other SEOs for advice and other tips. Again, this is common and often done, either in a public forum or offline, with SEO's who are friends.

Later on in the day, Mike, the webmaster from the company that Gary is proposing SEO to, posted his own thread at Google Webmaster Help asking the same question. What is kind of funny is that one member who replied to Mike said that he should stop posting duplicate threads. Mike replied that he "had no idea Gary had come to a forum for answers."

The issue is, Gary, the SEO, said in the thread, "I personally don't think this will get them their rankings back." Now, Mike saw this and was very upset that Gary would offer an SEO proposal "between £2,500 & £5000 to produce a report on the problems YOU have outlined." A report that, Gary himself thinks would not solve the site's problem. Mike added, "I will look forward to talking to him tomorrow!"

A tip to you SEOs out there. If you are asking for advice in a public forum, please be more discrete. Use URL shortening services, to mask the URL and be upfront with those helping you that you don't want the client to know you are asking for advice. But more importantly, do not say you think the site is doomed. But even more importantly, above that, if you think the site is doomed and you can't fix it, don't charge the client money when you think you can't help - that just seems ethically wrong.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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07/09/2009 05:11 pm

There's nothing wrong with professionals turning to professionals for advice on a case. Think about doctor consults. In fact, I'm glad to know that my doctor's looking for additional ideas - I know he's human and doesn't know everything. What you *don't* want is for your doctor to call in his fellow Hippocratic buddies while you're still in the room and start a conversation with, "well I know xyz won't work and he'll probably die, but I get a huge kickback from Pharmacorp if I prescribe him these - do you think it might work?"

No Name

07/09/2009 05:23 pm

I think we should cut Gary a bit of slack here. It wouldn't be the first time someone has stated that getting a sites rankings back looks pretty hopeless only to find out that they ended up getting them back. Also this could just be a case of thinking out loud on Gary's part. Personally I am up front with my clients and let them know if I think it is hopeless before I start doing the work. While this may cause you some business, in the long run I think this is better than having a large number of unsatisfied customers. I think this also shows the need in the SEO community for a private forum where only SEO/SEM consults can join. I am sure there a few top dog SEO consultants that would be willing to do a quick site review for $100 or so for a fellow SEO consultant. 8 - 1hr reviews a day would be $800, 21 working days a month would give you $16,800 or $201k a year. QUICKSECONDOPINION.COM is available.


07/09/2009 05:28 pm

Ouch! This is the reason you need to make friends you can email in the SEO industry, not post randomly on threads, especially one used by 90% of webmasters. ..and yes charging for a service you think is not going to work is criminal.

Michael Martinez

07/09/2009 08:27 pm

I think anyone who needs to rely on forums for SEO guidance should be up front with their clients they are still learning the basics (although he could have chosen a better forum, in my opinion). I don't think people should be sneaky and try to hide the fact from their clients that they seek a second opinion. Like Stuart P. Turner said above, if you're in this business and think you don't need to ask questions, you don't need to be in this business. I ask questions all the time -- openly as much as possible. Maybe my questions are a little more esoteric, but if my clients look over my shoulder I want them to see I'm just sitting around dreaming up stuff. I'm looking for new information and enlightenment. I hope the client is open to that position, but I also hope the SEO is not trying to take on a task for which he is not qualified.


07/09/2009 08:54 pm

Nice work on the post. I see it's inhabiting spots in the top 10 positions for "seo company" on Google today. Nice work.

Barry Schwartz

07/09/2009 09:18 pm

mcbrett, QDF at its best

Rob Abdul

07/10/2009 09:12 am

I can see Vygantas point of view and even entertain it somewhat; but I am more inclined to agree with Barry on this one. We are not born with SEO wisdom from the womb; it must be researched and acquired whether it is via primary or secondary research methods. @ Vygantas, some SEO projects, I agree, require mainly common sense from an SEO and thus can be completed with existing knowledge. However if a project came along that was beyond an SEO’s knowledge base, I do not think it wrong or unethical for an SEO to write a proposal for that respective client because he has the necessary skills set to arrive at a more educated conclusion. *Bill Gates my hero, bluffed his way on his first job while setting up Microsoft. * This is from memory and is my opinion and not’s opinion.


07/10/2009 12:48 pm

I can see both sides, is the whole point of hiring a consultant in this case and SEO, so that they do all the work and find out exactly what needs to be done etc for you, how that gets done is irrelevant as long as the results are achieved? If you hire a plumber but he doesnt know what pipe he needs for a certain job so he goes away finds out then fits the pipe? would you then complain because you could have done the same job by asking the same people?

James Clark

07/10/2009 12:57 pm

SEO has always been a trial and error research progress where there is no definitive 'best' method because its totally governed by the Search Engines, so these "Experts" wouldn't exist if the forums and communities didn't either. We all read them, use them and comment on them and the use of them shouldn't be a measure of how qualified you are.

Dr. Arnie Katz

07/10/2009 01:24 pm

I don't see any problem with throwing out a question to other SEO "experts" for their opinion. I am a retired physician and I often asked colleagues for input on a problem case.


07/10/2009 04:02 pm

I agree with the Gary bashers. He should find another line of work. A real SEO, with integrity, would not take money for recommendations that they do not believe will work for a client. In SEO there are no hopeless situations, just tough recommendations, tough decisions on the clients part, and then alot of hard work. I also agree, if you need the forums to make a solid recommendation then you shouldn't be doing SEO.

Rob Abdul

07/10/2009 09:23 pm

@Michael – I agree with you – honesty is the best policy. @Dale, a plumber has to be Gas Safe Registered (previously Corgi) in the UK; not sure about the U.S. Thus, a plumber must know all about his job and have passed all his exams before attempting a job to ensure all health and safety requirements are met. If new regulation is introduced, he or she is then required to do an update course in order to be compliant. Think of a world that outlines the correct way to SEO; that will kill the industry and the search engines would have to pack up shop and go home. For this reason in my opinion I think comparing SEO's to Plumbers is like comparing apples with pears. @JB, I do subscribe to your “a lot of hard work” to make a more probable SEO result. My brethren, I like to share a revelation I had; I realised that the SEO role is rather peculiar, similar to a fortune teller. It is special because there are no stipulated regulations, but in both jobs there are morals, ethics and common sense which clearly differ for individual to individual.

David Eaves

07/11/2009 03:57 am

I go onto the webmaster help forums sometimes and ask for help and I find that the users there are very hostile towards SEOs. One of the members even tried threatening me telling me he would go and tell my client about the thread like I would be scared, I said go ahead of course and he soon shut up. I AM AN SEO, I AM 100% PROUD ABOUT WHAT I DO AND MY BUSINESS IS TOTALLY TRANSPARENT So why should I feel like I can't go onto the Google webmaster help forum for a hand sirs?

David Eaves

07/11/2009 04:05 am

One more thing SEO is not something that can be mastered like plumbing - nobody has all the answers. When I go on there it is because something abnormal has happened, I expect that it is the same for most SEO professionals that visit, it's not like I go on there and ask how to do my keywords or something.


07/11/2009 05:47 am

Its not the fact he asked for help that I personally have an issue, however as you stated Barry the fact he thought he could it would not work (and yet accepted the project) seems morally wrong. That aside he also mentions the impact oreecent updates, something which he should well be aware of given the number of clients they work with and the level of business intelligence monitoring of those clients would provide...


07/11/2009 05:00 pm

I would expect someone who claims to be an SEO professional to have more sense than to post senstive information about a client in a manner that meant that said client could be easily identified. Asking advice about a specific point - I've no problem with that. But posting links to the site! I'm staggered at the degree of stupidity. I think a client has every expectation of confidentiality - you don't tell anyone outside the building!

David Eaves

07/12/2009 01:48 am

Congrats Barry you are on the 1st page of for SEO with this post you SEO legend.


07/12/2009 08:58 am

Not knowing the specifics this SEO found himself in, and other projects, everyone seems blind to the fact that it's quite possible this was simply the convergence of the sap having just acquired the results from testing a bunch of stuff - which focused exclusively on a certain method of optimization, and seeing if his post might provide some future insights from the belly of the beast itself. So remove the particulars, and in this view (granting he's GOT other clients), the statement about 'not getting rankings back', seems an exquisite canonical plea for just such prized information. Just another day, testing at the office, which, should be partly funded by a percentage of what one charges, eh?


07/12/2009 09:12 am

@ David Eaves I wonder if Michael Martinez above agrees that Barry is on the 1'st page of Google for SEO with this post because he is an SEO legend, or if he is an SEO legend with this post because for SEO, he's on the first page of Google? Sorry ... I had to do that :-) Belly of the Beast! Belly of the Beast. Ahh...


07/13/2009 03:33 pm

lol.. barry isn't an seo he just reports on the SE world... two very different things!


07/14/2009 05:02 pm

I personally think the Gary-bashing is a little unfair. If he works, as claimed on the Google thread, for Just Search then surely as a SEO company there should be other, more experienced SEOs there than he seems to be? The question surely is why does an employee from Just Search feel the need to be asking publicly for help when it's meant to be a professional seo company?

jeffrey smith

07/15/2009 12:01 am

I think the real situation was he failed to have their best interests in mind by disclosing the clients URL in a forum. Anyone worth their salt who has a Google Blog Search with their name or URL in it with an alert can manage their reputation or at least get a heads up. Nothing wrong with asking peers, just be more discrete with sensitive details...

No Name

07/22/2009 12:04 pm

I agree sir, there's nothing wrong with appealing to the community for help, that's how we all learn. I would suggest that anyone who is arrogant enough to think they don't need to ask questions should be the one revoking their services.

Anupam Saha

08/07/2009 01:50 pm is online business directory, helps buyers to find suppliers and suppliers to find buyers. Business houses can enhance their internet persence.


07/23/2010 07:53 am

Not even Matt Cutts knows everything, if in doubt, ask.


06/18/2013 06:37 pm

I do not use whatever trouble with tossing out an issue with other SEO experts for his or her opinion. This is really right if your going to ask question in public forum make sure be much more under the radar.

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