The Sad State Of SEO Consultants Today

May 9, 2012 • 8:39 am | comments (62) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

dumb SEOThere is an excellent thread at WebmasterWorld documenting the sad state of SEO companies, sales people and consultants today.

Now, most of the SEOs reading this site know their stuff. They obviously take the time to stay on top of the industry and know that keyword meta tags play zero to no roll in rankings. But not all get into the SEO business for getting businesses more leads and sales, some do it to make money.

A WebmasterWorld member decided to ask third-party SEO companies for advice on how to improve his rankings after being hit by Penguin and here are some of the shocking responses he received:

I found no keywords meta tag. The keyword meta tag is still used by some search engines. Consider to add a keyword meta tag.

Only 5 of your 11 images have keywords in the alt tags. You need to maximize your alt tags.

We are Experienced SEO and can help you find the cause why google Penalised. On the Comtempary it looks like the Panda Update was Responsible for your Fall.

Our experts will take in to consideration Google Logic and target only 4 to 5 keywords each page. Our experts smartly integrate keywords in the content based on Google Rule of keyword, Proximity, Density and Frequency.

I have investigated your website and found your site is still listed in Google but the cached copy of your website is removed. thats the reason it is not ranking in search result for your desire keywords. I will get cached page showing again.

In summary, he asked 32 different SEO companies for advice and only 7 of them gave him proper advice on what to do to help his site. That is about a 20% score on a test. Clearly a very sad state for the SEO industry.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to ShutterStock for Monkey Boss

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William Vicary

05/09/2012 01:35 pm

Playing Devils Advocate here - those responses sound very similar to the typical grammar you see in SEO emails from 3rd world countries. I'd imagine if you approached the western community, or the more reputable Indian agencies you would get a far better response than that.

Francois Painchaud

05/09/2012 01:48 pm

I agree, but it's been like this since SEO existed.

Taylor Toussaint

05/09/2012 01:52 pm


Steve Gerencser

05/09/2012 02:09 pm

My question is how many of those did he actually pay for vs sending a random email asking for free advice?

Chris M

05/09/2012 02:11 pm

I must say, those responses sound like they came from spammy SEO houses and not actual agencies or companies.

Marc Ensign

05/09/2012 02:13 pm

I'm actually surprised 20% were helpful! The problem with SEO is that most people (including SEO companies) are always looking for a quick fix. How can you get to the first page by the end of the day? So they look for a vulnerability with the algorithm that they can then exploit for quick results and complain on the forums when Google releases an update like Penguin. There are plenty of surefire ways to get to the first page of Google legitimately, but unfortunately they all require work! I wrote an article about it today actually entitled "Bulletproof Strategy to Benefiting from the Google Penguin Update" here:


05/09/2012 02:16 pm

Things like this is one of the reasons I struggle telling people what I do for a living, half of them don't have a clue what I'm going on about, the other half think I'm some sort of con artist :-(

Barry Adams

05/09/2012 02:26 pm

It is ridiculously easy to conduct such a 'study' (if I dare call it that) in a way that almost guarantees this outcome. This is - at best - anecdotal evidence that carries no weight, and probably a deliberately misleading exercise aimed to prove a point the author set out to prove before he ever approached any agency.


05/09/2012 02:29 pm

dear, oh dear


05/09/2012 02:34 pm

hilarious! really true...

José Fernando

05/09/2012 02:38 pm

There must be a way to certify SEO consultants as this is a fast growing industry and a low known theme. Anyone who has heard about SEO could be selling its services and abusing site owners that have the money but lack of knowledge (a very common issue). This also happens with social media, online media planning, site building, paid search (but with Google as a certifier and a moderator helps); everything related to Internet. Thanks Barry, this is a great way to make people aware of this huge problem.

Barry Schwartz

05/09/2012 02:38 pm

true true - maybe someone should do a real study?

Brendan Jackson

05/09/2012 02:45 pm


Barry Schwartz

05/09/2012 02:46 pm

Who called it a "study"?

Barry Adams

05/09/2012 02:49 pm

Call it a 'test', call it a 'poll', whatever you want to call it the fact remains its horrendously deceptive, baseless, biased, and probably intentionally set up in such a way to achieve its outcome.

Barry Schwartz

05/09/2012 02:50 pm

I bet you someone does a real study soon. You think the results would be that much different?

Barry Adams

05/09/2012 02:51 pm

Yes, I do. I don't know about your direct competitors, but many of mine are pretty clued in here in Northern Ireland.

Barry Schwartz

05/09/2012 02:53 pm

Cool - I hope so also.

Roshan Joshi

05/09/2012 03:20 pm

there should be system in Google or any search engines that would penalize people/agencies who give such answers and call themselves anything close to SEO

Alan Rabinowitz

05/09/2012 03:33 pm

Perhaps change the title to "The Sad and Dated State of Third World SEO Consultants"

Chadd Naugle

05/09/2012 03:37 pm

My question would be who has been doing his SEO work all along that got him hit so hard by Penguin. I personally have not put weight into on-page optimization in the first place, and when I did, it was to accurately describe the content, rather than try and manipulate keywords. The old rule of thumb was 20% on page optimization and 80% off page optimization. Also every Web Development or Web Design company claims to do SEO, and they are probably doing all on page optimization, and have very little knowledge on how to rank, which is how people like this get in trouble. SEO is such a broad term and can mean a lot different things to different people. Most business owners don't know or understand the difference between on page and off page, let alone how we achieve the results, which is why they pay us. Anyhow, I am not really surprised by the results. These companies will obviously not last long.

Godfried Lancelot

05/09/2012 03:39 pm

What surpirses me more is that 146 people tweeted this bollocks.

Stephen peron

05/09/2012 03:42 pm

Fine by me, as I look at as my competition is lower quality. Yes it sucks for the SEO industry in general and does not help with the image, but that's like any other industries. For example, auto mechanics. Hard to find a good one, but when you do you stick with them for life.


05/09/2012 03:45 pm

Excellent post. My SEO always top ranking gauranteed unlike this oil snakey salesmen of the web.

Ian Lurie

05/09/2012 03:56 pm

OK, but they ran an ad. Where did they run it? What did the ad say? If I throw chum in the water, I get nothing but sharks. This wasn't a real test - it was link bait.

Dan Whitehouse

05/09/2012 04:04 pm

Are you actually joking me? This type of thing really makes me cringe. Nothing is as it was and continues to move at a fast pace. I'd say this would not even be suitable responses for 10 years ago..

Dan Whitehouse

05/09/2012 04:07 pm

Sorry, bit frank there but it's so frustrating when people like this are tarnishing the industry..

Nathaniel Bailey

05/09/2012 04:08 pm

Such so called "SEO companies" should be named and shamed so they can't get new clients to kill off other peoples livings and lively hoods! Barry, do a real study and then slap up a list of what I like to call "fake SEO companies" to name and shame the guys people should stay clear from if they really want a chance of succeeding on google and other search engines!

Dan Whitehouse

05/09/2012 04:08 pm

Very true. The last agency I worked in hammered home 'quick wins' - constantly. Nothing else was done.


05/09/2012 04:12 pm

I number one for oil snakey salesman on Duck Duck Go.


05/09/2012 05:22 pm

That's the reason why you don't look for answers in forums! If you're looking for this kind of answers then go and talk with some serious company (we all know how to find them!)

Bill Leake - Apogee Results

05/09/2012 05:24 pm

Ow, seems like the malpractice rates haven't decreased over time (and I'd thought they had -- a little). My hope was that as all the scam artists moved over into ad agencies and social media roles, the average quality bar of an "SEO consultant" would be higher, but this statistically significant sample certainly doesn't bear that out

Bill Ross

05/09/2012 08:37 pm

As much as I would like to agree with you, I have worked with some large brands whose director level "marketing executives and SEOs" and tech people still think like this. You would think that large international brands would be more informed but I find that Brand/Enterprise/US based does not equal SEO knowledge.

Jaan Kanellis

05/09/2012 08:50 pm

Why don't they just list the companies they asked without the results? That would tell the whole story.


05/09/2012 10:05 pm

Oh, the difference between bad and good SEO is in grammar ! What a brilliant idea !!! So, you believe, that optimisation of websites in english is different from optimisation of websites in spanish for ex., don't you ? Means native spanish can't make an offer regarding the english website and vice versa. Could you please name the company you're working for ?

Art Science Web

05/09/2012 10:06 pm

Thats awesome. For the most part because of the blatant grammatical errors due to overseas businesses trying to Jack uneducated business owners.


05/09/2012 11:01 pm

It's funny )) There were more and more attempts from SEOs to find problem in Google with every algo update. Google is broken, greed, stupid. It doesn't understand how. It can't manage huge volume of bytes, etc etc etc. In the same time SEO community was proud because it cracked Florida, May Day, ....... Then Panda came. One month past, second, third, year - no crack ... Ups )) And now, on the top of yet un-cracked Panda, Penguin. Now we have not one, but already TWO updates SEOs can't crack ! Google became an Evil. No crack - means 75% of the SEOs, at least, can't pay bills and you guys have just two ways. You can build your own web property. But you understand, that nowadays it's close to impossible to build web brand from scratch. Or you can change the profession. But you found the third way ) Since it's total waste of time to blame Google, let's blame bad SEOs. There is the problem - in bad bad bad guys, who even can't talk proper englsih )) I believe such beautiful solutions will help Google to shut down SEO companies (algo crackers in fact) pretty soon. Please more solutions guys )

Scott Salwolke

05/10/2012 01:20 am

I'd like to say I'm shocked by this, but I'm not. On many of the SEO groups I'm in on LinkedIn, I find a ton of posts that have similar grammatical errors and misguided advice. I don't think it all can be blamed on Third World countries. And yet, somehow these so called experts still find people willing to pay them.


05/10/2012 03:26 am

bah. most seo companies suck the big one. this community is far too shy and forgiving when it comes to outing the operators who give the industry a smelly name.

Pete Arkwright

05/10/2012 06:41 am

Forget the SEO community think of the poor site owners. There's an ironic twist for webmasters. Hire an SEO company in the belief their search engine position/visitor flow/conversion will improve. What they often get is the reverse. People are paying good money to SEO companies for them to ruin their business. Penguin, Panda or whatever follows, these are natural progressions. If an SEO company doesn't know the difference between a natural well optimised page and a manufactured one, they should pack up and get another job. A few years ago I asked Barry for his thoughts on the rubbish that was spouted on SEO forums, he said he didn't mind it as it gave more prominence to the subject of SEO. This was an answer I never did understand. The unregulated aspect of the web causes pain for so many.

Max Holloway

05/10/2012 09:29 am

I wouldn't say this is typical of the SEO industry as a whole, but I wouldn't say it's far off. Every now-and-then I have a look around at SEO companies when I want to outsource some activities (mostly link building) and I am always left disappointed. Most people are either 2 years behind, or wont offer bespoke services. It seems that all the "really good" SEO's send all their time talking about SEO rather than doing SEO!


05/10/2012 10:04 am

Does anyone else here notice the self defeating aspect of SEO? I'll explain: Google's Goal: provide the most relevant and useful results for the users query. SEO's goal: Move a website to the first page of a Google search keyword(s). Websites Goals: Put the website in front of people who will actually use it and create income for owner(s). Now take 2 websites, 1 heavily SEOs and the other does the bare minimum when it comes to SEO. Both are competing for the same keyword niche. The second site doing no SEO is more relevant and more useful to 90% of the people searching this keyword. This second site would be somewhere on page 5-10 where as the first site would be on page 1. Considering Google's goal to create perfect search results, Their algo will have to change at some point to make up for this issue. They will notice that some super relevant websites rank badly due to not doing any SEO. But Google want the best results so whether a website does SEO or not, Google want it on page 1 for all the keywords it is super relevant for. I believe that Google will never stop changing their Algo as long as people 'try' to be on page 1. In theory the perfect page 1 results should be made up of relevant and useful websites that searchers actually want when they search regardless of the SEO involved.

Sourabh Rana

05/10/2012 12:42 pm

Hello @Barry Schwartz this is the same thing I am talking in last comment here Now what you do to improve this.

Sheldon Campbell

05/10/2012 05:33 pm

Unfortunately, for quite some time now, WMW has attracted such self-proclaimed "SEO Experts", spammers and craphats. IMO, asking such questions on ANY forum is simply inviting garbage responses. I'm inclined to agree with Barry Adams, that it was all contrived.


05/11/2012 05:09 am

I've experienced this in the past many years here in Australia. Every agency that offers marketing, comms, web dev or selling fruits, etc. now offers SEO. Meeting those 'SEO specialists' from many top agencies in Australia makes me sad. Unfortunately majority of clients (including most of marketing managers, online marketing managers and even SEO & SEM managers) have a very limited knowledge of SEO. Many of those managers at companies are called SEO & SEM Managers - without having at least a basic understanding of Search and those have no option other than to rely on anything 'SEO agencies' and 'SEO specialists' tell them.... I've been present at many of those presentations and couldn't believe what was said there. One SEO agency being able to present a 'successful SEO outcome' despite non-branded organic traffic decreased, even using what was seasonality impact as their SEO achievement..... Lack of skills, knowledge and especially interest is the cause. Instead of going out and hiring SEO/SEM managers with a knowledge of Search, people are appointed internally, being moved from one department to another, where no one considers their knowledge - as long as they can talk well..... The reason that dodgy SEO agencies and 'specialists' survive is caused by clients not having even a minimal knowledge of Search to properly read SEO results and ask the right questions.


05/11/2012 06:13 pm

@rustybrick:disqus Do you have any solution for the Penguin update. Do we need to stop directory submissions and bookmarks? Please help me with a solution

Barry Schwartz

05/11/2012 06:15 pm

Stop SEO.


05/14/2012 02:39 pm

I see no real problem with this because 1) clearly some of these responses are due to non-native English speakers and 2) they attempt to provide an analysis and answer. If you want to declare the real sad state of SEOs today, you should be examining how many entry-level SEOs only have backgrounds in copywriting or "social media". I have interviewed many SEOs who don't think they are entry-level and claim 1-3 years of experience. When asked about their SEO experience they talk about title tags, social media and contacting bloggers for links. .... that's it? what about html coding? well - uhm, they know best practice. OK - what are the title character limits? uhm... 40? .....(crickets). ...thanks. I'll call you back. please. THAT is the sad lot of SEOs. Or better - how many individual SEOs are out there and have to bite, steal, and punch to get mr or mrs mom and pop website business? And then they brag about how good they are at SEO. Well, if you are optimizing for "3 bladed ceramic shaving blades" ...well... let's not polish our badges just yet. But many SEOs are out there acting like that - and then "writing articles" or tweeting or doing whatever they can to make a name for themselves. ...for what??? at the end of the day, how much $-dollar can you command when you are working with SMBs? I worked for a big agency that had Fortune 500 clients. And SEO projects still came in at an average of $100K a year. And this is a big agency with a lot of tools and research and other sister agencies to back them up. What hope does an independent SEO consultant have? Yet many walk tall like they are hot stuff. THAT - yall - is the sorry sad state of SEOs.

William Vicary

05/15/2012 01:30 pm

I'm not saying that grammar is the defining point, but that said the dodgy looking link request emails our clients receive in huge volumes always follow a similar pattern of poorly written, irrelevant, template examples shown above. I'm all for companies in less developed countries providing SEO, but IMO the bad stigma with the SEO industry stems from the outsourced SEO to these countries!

Harsh Agrawal

05/25/2012 08:03 am

Truth with Maximum SEO consultant...

J. Michael Warner

05/25/2012 12:39 pm

The same results can be found for companies selling Social Media Marketing. I have looked at a few that are barely using Social Media themselves and barely getting any results for the companies they represent. The problem is that they are more interested in the sales process than the nuts and bolts work.

George Hatchell

05/25/2012 01:44 pm

Wow, I agree, try going to divorce court and having an old judge look at you as you explain what you do. It was rough!

Todd Herman

05/26/2012 03:00 pm

Heard this one the other day as well... "I work at Google and Google gves me deals on SEO"

daniel imbellino

09/12/2012 09:25 am

I find it amusing how so many, so called SEO specialists don't even know HTML or CSS. If you want to be good at something, then you need to get educated for it. How can you optimize a website if you cannot understand how they're built. Think about it! This would be analogous to someone claiming they are an architectural specialist, yet they know nothing about architecture. Makes no sense. Also, if they're so brilliant, then how come the internet is flooded with complaints from website owners complaining that SEO companies ruined their sites after Googles Penguin update. As well, I have to agree that the whole SEO industry is money motivated. SEO companies were simply analyzing search engines like Google for common trends, then finding ways to exploit them for a profit. They managed to do this with link farms, banner exchanges, etc, for a long time. This is why Google now uses alternating algorithms that constantly change. They're doing this to help stop people from trying to game the system. In the end, it all comes down to money. SEO co's + exploiting search engines = money. I am college educated, and I've worked in the IT industry for 7 years, and I know enough to know that SEO specialists are a fraud to begin with. SEO is real, SEO specialists generally are not.


09/25/2012 08:15 pm

How many of the 32 even responded? In addition, how were these 32 companies chosen? The details of the study would help immensely with validating or invalidating your findings.

Roque Lage de Llera

09/25/2012 09:15 pm

Bang!! You got the real answer there....the problem with dodgy SEO agencies, are clients who dont know shit about SEO...FACT. If they did, they would never hire a scammy seo company reaching them out by email/phone. Good point!

SEO india

10/06/2012 08:16 am

these responses are sure outcome of "no course outline" for any SEO, Seoz have to work on the algorithms which are never shown by any search engine, all they do is simple guess.. :) , continuous updates from search engines have narrowed the options too.. looks like, SEO may not be long lasting ....!!


11/02/2012 11:07 am

Google penguin really affect some staff in seo. Some experts in seo were having any few problems regarding this new update. The tendency for an expert to do is to create new strategy that will have to use because some changes are already been implemented.


01/27/2013 10:43 am

This is probably the best advice for better rankings. People should not use paid SEO services in most of the ways they are offered. Now many small businesses and bloggers are endangered just because of bad SEO services. People should focus on the quality of the product they offer - 'content is king' has never been more valid than now.

SEO Maniac

02/16/2013 04:38 pm

There are only few real "SEO Consultants" out there including "SEO Experts" who knows the secret "SEO recipes". These people really knows how to do the so-called "real SEO methods". Their respective titles cannot be misinterpreted by the norms due to the results that they can show despite those "G Updates" out there. It is really sad to hear our industry's bad reputation from other people only because of those self-proclaimed and uncertified SEO individuals or even Companies who doesn't have certifications and most likely results to show to their clients. Be careful on choosing your right Search Engine Optimization Consultant. Know them first and ask them for any certification that they can provide or show to you before committing to their respective services for your project. We also need to absorb that "Social SEO" (Social Media + SEO) nowadays has already begun its movement embracing those "G updates" in order to let all search engines know and realize that they also need Search Engine Optimization towards a better and much brighter future.


09/20/2013 10:36 am

Good knowledge of SEO is very important to do SEO of any website. Bad or wrong SEO creates bad effect on website.

Hema Malini

10/28/2013 03:01 pm

With the exception of the grammar all the above points made perfect sense..but heck how'd the SEO consultant find out it wasn't cached in Google's server....did Google move her website to the sandbox for some reason? Instead of just making fun of the SEO companies it would be great if we could have their reports so we could discuss where they went wrong??

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