Don't Force Google's Hand, Especially If You're Sketchy

Jan 11, 2011 • 8:27 am | comments (89) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

SpamI was pointed to a Google Webmaster Help thread by a reader (forgot who, sorry, I am on vacation) where Google's Matt Cutts and JohnMu were forced to out a sketchy SEO company.

It all starts with an individual asking if a company named BetterPlacement is a legit company. The user said they claim (which they do) to offer guaranteed first placement in Google and also claim "the first company authorized to work directly with" Google.

Of course this is an easy rumor to squash and Googler JohnMu did so with his post.

We do not take payment for placement in our web-search results and do not work together with partners who can do that. For ads, you may want to look into AdWords -- you can find the help forum for AdWords at . We also have a local business directory called Google Places, where you can add your business for free at (or for more information, that help center is at ). Google Places includes various kinds of analytics and is generally free.

Keep in mind that nobody can guarantee rankings, so I would be very wary of any company that appears to do that. You can find more information on choosing an SEO company in our help center article linked below and feel free to ask here about any offers that you should receive which appear dubious to you!

But it didn't end there! A guy with the user handle, bruben25, came in afterwards to argue with Google's JohnMu. John replied asking, "Are you affiliated with the company the user has asked about?"

Of course he avoided the question and John asked again, "bruben25, you make a lot of good points, but you did not answer my question :-) -- are you associated with the company mentioned by the original poster or not?"

The guy denied being associated with the company. So then Google's largest face behind search spam came in, Matt Cutts and replied:

Let me make it more relevant for you as a Google employee based in the United States: I would definitely avoid Better Placement. The first thing I see when I visit are the words "Guaranteed First Page Placement on Google." That's a big warning sign immediately on visiting The reason that it concerns me that Better Placement put those words (in an image) on is because in our official documentation on we mention "Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google."

Based on a quick assessment, I personally would choose not do business with Better Placement. Do you have any other questions about Better Placement or, bruben25? Or any other SEO firms based in Toledo? By the way bruben25, I'm not sure we got a 100% clear answer as to whether you were affiliated with Better Placement or in some way?

The guy came out again and denied being part of them saying, "Matt I am not part of Better Placement, nor is my firm even in the same city."

Seriously? So Matt replies again saying:

bruben25, part of the reason I asked is that according to official business filings with the Ohio Secretary of State, the agent for Better Placement is one B. D. Ruben. Here, you can read the official document:

It's interesting because lists the contact info for Better Placement and as And your handle is bruben25. And the agent for Better Placement is B. Ruben, according to official records with the state of Ohio.

I think that gets the idea across. No offense, but my advice remains to avoid Better Placement.

SEO 101, do not lie to Google representatives. :) SEO 101 also is know who Matt Cutts is. This guy is calling Matt out as not being a Google rep.

Oh well. So not only was he caught with his pants down. He lied to a Google representative, caused more attention for his company and you better believe Google will take a deeper look at his company.

Lesson learned?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Ken Jansen

01/11/2011 01:31 pm

Nice job Matt. :)


01/11/2011 02:18 pm

lol, cool story. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Justin Seibert

01/11/2011 02:53 pm


Net Accountant

01/11/2011 03:01 pm

We just have to wait now to see the original post on Google Webmaster Forums take the second spot for "company name" and "website address" (it's already on page 1) With MC's blurb, I wonder what the keyword density on that page is? :)

Miles Price

01/11/2011 03:16 pm

God, sketchy sketchy companies are all over the place trying to sell SEO just like the REAL providers of SEO


01/11/2011 03:18 pm

You're sketchy. Title fail.

Barry Schwartz

01/11/2011 03:21 pm

Yea, title is not great. I am on vacation and couldn't spend much time on this post.

Tim Biden

01/11/2011 03:27 pm

Wow... he really can't be much of an SEO if he doesn't know who Matt Cutts is. And now I bet he sues Google for libel. Good luck, Moron!

Moosa Hemani

01/11/2011 03:37 pm

Holly! This is the fail of the century!! seriously i mean even if he is not his business these are the basic info he should know...


01/11/2011 03:52 pm

ork ork ork - this guy hit up one of my clients at the Michigan/Ohio border last week with the trademark infringing domain - which apparently redirects to, and a story about how he was the only one "authorized" by Google within 300 miles.


01/11/2011 04:02 pm

Don't worry about the title Barry - we're having fun replacing it in all the tweets we're sharing the link through :-) More important that you wrote this up so we could get not only a great laugh but help spread the word. :-)

Nate Schubert

01/11/2011 04:05 pm

Sounds like Mr. Ruben is a genius. As part of my job I investigate suspicious Ecommerce orders to determine whether they are legitimate or fraudulent. Let me tell you, it doesn't take much to be able to match up an email address with some sort of real-world address, name, or something else. I'm sure Matt Cutts is very good at it but honestly, you don't have to be Matt Cutts to go all Sherlock Holmes on these people.


01/11/2011 04:47 pm

He got PWNed by Matt! lol


01/11/2011 04:50 pm

lol... he's lucky he didn't get a lot worse. I think the .info was the first sign the site was sketchy


01/11/2011 05:52 pm

That reminds me of a time when Evan bet Matt that a spammer wouldn't show up for website reviews at pubcon. Evan lost his hair. And the spammer was almost in tears. Can you say you are in SEO and not know who Matt is?


01/11/2011 05:56 pm

Worst yet when those sketchy companies are named _____ Yellow Pages. (fill in the blank) I actually had a YP rep try to tell me how much my listing on YPsite was helping my SEO.... "Uh, the example you are using for how you are helping my ranks isn't for the website you are linking to."

Andrew Goodman

01/11/2011 06:06 pm

It's helpful when scammers use their own names in online debates. This way Google can attribute their suspicions to publicly available business records, instead of...

Christa Watson

01/11/2011 07:26 pm


David DuVal

01/11/2011 11:37 pm

Wow, that is quite a story - an entertaining read. :)


01/12/2011 01:03 am

Someone should plan a Saturday Night Live skit for a search conference. And who would play Detective Matt Cutts? This SEO skit would definitely win an award!

Samuel Lavoie

01/12/2011 01:23 am

what a big fail! nice pwnage by Matt! :)


01/12/2011 02:43 am

If I was B. Ruben, I would have at LEAST changed my contact email address by now! hahaha, sad.

Bruce Michael

01/12/2011 07:19 am

Well Done Detective Matt ;)

Kristy Bolsinger

01/12/2011 08:32 am

That...was FUN!!! :)


01/12/2011 09:12 am

I find it amazing that people are still scamming like this in 2011. What do they think it is 1998?


01/12/2011 11:05 am

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. More great reputation management from a shady company representative. Whatever your opinion of Matt Cutts, you don't try and take him on and question his credentials, you will get cut to shreds as this pleasant chap did - shame. I had the misfortune of searching for the entire thread, it gets pretty epic to be fair, but certainly enjoyable. Thanks for pointing this out, always good to see bottom feeders getting their just desserts.

Sean Elkin

01/12/2011 02:20 pm

Good lord, that is hilarious. What a moron.

Colin M Mcdermott

01/12/2011 04:15 pm

This has to be post/story of the year, and we have barely started '11 :)

The Bug Doctor

01/12/2011 05:39 pm

Great info Thanks, I'll be sure to be careful of the warning sign you mention. Also I find your site very helpful and have bookmarked it. I can use all the help I can get so I'll refer back often. If you really are who you say you are. lol

Jeorge Peter

01/13/2011 01:04 am

An interesting read, and a lot of brain for mr. ruben though its a fail.

♥ Donna Vitan

01/13/2011 02:17 am

Oh man, that was an enjoyable read. Thanks! He totes got pawned!


01/13/2011 09:59 am

The saddest part of it all is - we get topics from such people quite often. This is one of the few times when/where Google step up/in - normally they ignore such things, and tell us (Regulars) not to take "offensive action" etc., which leaves such companies to basically "get away with it". Would be lovely to see G take such public steps a little more often - for the same reason being "seen" to act on spam ... ... it would help the masses see what was happening, and learn/benefit from it. Companies like Better being called out and put into the light could save hundreds/thousands of innocent people being ripped off, and then Punished by G for shoddy practices.


01/13/2011 05:08 pm

Good story. Do you (or anyone) know how to report this type of SEO company? I actually worked for one similar to the one mentioned in this post, and was forced to quit because I realized they were essentially lying to their customers, and not providing what they said they would. Additionally, they also offered a first page placement contract.

Stephen Chapman

01/13/2011 06:31 pm

PWN! LOL! Man, this post made my day. hahaha. I bet Matt's been waiting quite a while to just openly blast a shady SEO firm like that. Good stuff -- I may have to blog about this, too. I'll be sure to link to the article here if I do. =)


01/13/2011 07:00 pm

That's awesome. It's amazing that people still think they can hide online who they really are. Beware people, Google makes everything accessible with a quick, on target search!

Southwest Equip

01/13/2011 07:12 pm

By doing this, his company has gotten more exposure than ever. While not necessarily good, it's still some advertisement and if nothing else, I'm sure his site is getting loads of traffic.


01/13/2011 11:02 pm

and suddenly, Mr.Ruben found himself with no rankings....

Elaine Zubko

01/14/2011 12:17 am

Wow...a 1-2 punch by team Google. I love it and hope that others trying to make wild claims will learn a lesson.


01/14/2011 03:16 am

funny to me as the MATT_CUTTS never replied that this is the Matt Cutts that everyone knows or that the company offers front page of Google places yet everyone says they talk ranking and SEO which is clearly not what this company offers clearly if read there whole site as I did...but what you all think of this companies offer then since they are more local to Google it must make them ok... they do guarantee front page ranking


01/14/2011 05:42 am

that guy bruben made fun of himself :)


01/14/2011 06:02 am

Tons of companies play on the "Guaranteed 1st Page Placement" slight by concealing 2 key facts: 1. They're using PPC and therefore can get their ad to show by increasing CPC until it pops (even if they only get 1 click). They take a screenshot of the ad and charge your card. 2. If the promise PAGE 1 ORGANIC, then it's for some stupid 5-word keyphrase with ZERO volume. (BIG FAT RED FUZZY BUNNIES)

Rob Willox | WebMedia SEO

01/14/2011 01:59 pm

A salutory tale for any aspiring or existing SEO company! Don't promise what you can't deliver and don't pretend you can! Part of the problem is that customers/clients, not understanding SEO/SEM, continually request that you get them onto page 1 and appear to believe that all you have to do is tell Google or any of the search engines what keywords you want to rank for and 'Hey Presto' there you are on page 1 as if by some sort of magic. And. of course, the sales will simply start to roll in. And, if you can get them there, they think that that's it, then, and why should they continue paying you once its done without realising that it's just the start of the process! The next being staying there and then doing something with all the new traffic that visits and converting them into paying customers. The danger is that the less than reputable SEO companies prey on the ignorance and expectation of business site owners and go for the fast buck as the alternative involves too much work and effort on their part building a trusting and long-term relationship.


01/14/2011 04:30 pm

Even better that it seems most of the reviews on the are written by him--based on the grammar and the misspellings in his rants--they are oddly similar to the 5 star "guest" reviews on his listing.


01/14/2011 09:31 pm

There is a company in Australia that cold call saying they are "Google". When will this catch up too them? Glad to see Google does do something about this sort of thing sometimes!! Good work. PWNED


01/15/2011 09:14 am

You can guarantee Google first place if the guarantee is money back. What's the problem?


01/15/2011 03:20 pm

Thank god we have this explained, as well as law suits, and as well injuctions!


01/16/2011 01:52 pm

Unfotunately for an SEM rep like myself there are too many of these charlatans that get press like this and paint a negative image of this fledling industry. Thanks knuclehead!


01/16/2011 03:12 pm

It's perfectly legit to make a guarantee and stand by it. It's not ok to lie, and it's stupid to jump onto this kind of discussion


01/16/2011 03:19 pm

LOL, that is great.

Luis Lopez

01/16/2011 10:50 pm

I have lost count of how many times I have told my clients to avoid all SEO companies like the plague, and like dumb children they keep falling into the same scam over and over. Good for Google.

Barry Schwartz

01/16/2011 11:09 pm

Ugh. Not all SEO companies are bad. Only a few.

Luis Lopez

01/16/2011 11:53 pm

Actually, is the other way around: Most SEO companies are bad, only a few are legit. The scam is almost identical in all of them. But if you know of a legit one, by all means, let us know.

Barry Schwartz

01/16/2011 11:54 pm

Sad you think that.

Luis Lopez

01/16/2011 11:59 pm

No, 11 years working in the industry have proven that way. Then again, I can see how the owner of a company that sells SEO services like yourself would be offended by that. It is almost like you did not read the article. Did you not learn a thing from it?

Barry Schwartz

01/17/2011 12:00 am

I do NOT sell SEO services. And FYI, I wrote the article.

Vanessa Fox

01/17/2011 01:12 am

Well one problem is that there's no such thing as a #1 ranking (with personalized search, everyone sees different results) and results fluctuate all the time. I've seen more than one firm "guarantee" #1 ranking, use black hat techniques to achieve (temporary) rankings, collect the money, and then vanish just as the site is banned due to the techniques used.

Slightly Moist

01/17/2011 01:45 am

..kinda like how you didn't look at who the author is?


01/17/2011 04:37 am

And why exactly did you post those links? Merely naming the companies would have been sufficient, but now you're driving traffic to them. Ah - unless this blog's software autolinked them, in which case I apologise, and hope you too see the irony ;-)


01/17/2011 10:34 am

Seriously do not lie to Google Representatives; point made but it is hard to find whose more detestable here Google or Betterplacement. Its not the article but the placement that bothers me. The news is supposed to be in it's presentation and content objective and trustworthy but every single day there is an article in "Fast Flip" that promotes or praises Google and in this instance it serves as a warning not to "mess with" Google. Google is not a news company but I would hope they would hold some integrity and -ethics- in displaying the news. Well I will no longer be using Google News as my main source; I'll go elsewhere. It's very ironic given the point of the article; google decries manipulating such things but engages in it every single day using their news hub.

Barry Schwartz

01/17/2011 12:16 pm

Just an FYI, someone under the same IP address is using multiple names to post the same comments over and over again. I am trying to clean it up. I suspect it is the guy from this company.

Alfredo de Almeida

01/17/2011 12:34 pm

iProspect is one firm recommended by google as being white hat SEO. And we are proud of that. Obviously we never promise such silly things as first ranking. We do use a vigorous methodology that brings positive gains to our clients but each client is different and each keyword is challenging in its own way. So no, I don't agree with Luis Lopez.

Alfredo de Almeida

01/17/2011 12:35 pm

he he

SEO Marketing

01/17/2011 01:47 pm

Thanks Barry Schwartz. Of course this is an easy rumor to squash and Googler JohnMu did so with his post.;)

Nick Stamoulis

01/17/2011 04:19 pm

Don't mess with Google! It's important to always follow SEO best practices and not make false promises. Thanks for the article!

Jordan McClements

01/17/2011 04:31 pm

Very good. This made me smile. Unfortunately for every question answered properly by Google, I am sure there are at least 1000 that go unanswered .... Google, please employ more people!

Not Interested

01/17/2011 06:54 pm

Oh well. So not only was he caught with his pants down. He lied to a Google representative, caused more attention for his company and you better believe Google will take a deeper look at his company and google regulates who????

Chris Horton

01/17/2011 07:05 pm

I see that BetterPlacement has changed a LOT of their lingo on their home page now. Now, their verbiage says, "We are not offeing anything related to SEO. We understand that "ranking" or "placement" is something not any company can say or offer with certainity." (I intentionally left the misspellings in place.) . Guaranteed organic placement is not a new practice. It's normally done by guaranteeing their business name or PPC as a previous commenter stated. SEO is a long term, ongoing process. I also have to agree that most SEO companies simply can't do what they say they can. There are a lot of bad apples out there ruining it for everyone else. What SEO companies here now can say that they've never came across a client that has been burned by one or more SEO companies? No one. We've all heard the sob stories. And if you're doing SEO, make sure you have the resources to do what you say you're going to do. We've all hit those walls and learned lessons along the way. I would highly suggest visiting Google's tips on choosing a good SEO company at Also read up on trends at, Matt Cutt's own site ( and any other tons of resources out there. And make sure that you do your homework and look at a companies track record. Chris Horton


01/17/2011 09:00 pm

There are misspeallings on, they should read there own website before trying to help others with theres!


01/18/2011 07:57 am

imo, SEO are the new snakeoil salesmen. I had the misfortune to meet with some in London. The thing is, they try not to call themselves SEO specialists now (they'll hide it in the small print). They'll call themselves "analysis" companies. What a joke.


01/18/2011 02:41 pm

If you're going to lie to the Webmasters you're going to lie to your clients. Naughty Naughty! Chris Giles


01/18/2011 06:39 pm

Would have been better for Ruben to explain WHY he felt he could do what he said he could do... or to take the high road and say as they do in Hollywood... all publicity is good publicity... his way was pretty dumb.. that's what I need a dumb SEO...


01/18/2011 06:57 pm

regulation is not the issue--if a company's main business is trying to improve Google rankings, and if Google doesn't approve of the method by which they are going about it, they have the ability to punish those methods in search results and state publicly that that company's claims are bogus. which is what they are doing. a deeper look at the company would of course not result in regulation but reprisal.


01/18/2011 07:00 pm

that's how Bloggers who blogged for blogspot before google purchased them in early 2000's ended up "working as writers for Google"

Robert Miller

01/18/2011 07:12 pm

God, I hope this was an attempt at humor on your part, Britt. It's so hard to tell these days as no one seems to be able to spell anymore.


01/18/2011 08:13 pm

There's no such thing as bad publicity and Ruben just scored a bonanza.


01/18/2011 08:26 pm check out this website, who is trying to buy me their seo services...they gurantee "front page organic listing or it's free!"....


01/18/2011 10:37 pm

funny how a little and I mean little effort can manage to generate hype to a site across the world wide web, and best yet be able to pull it off for a few bucks! I can see the spoof now, and even better the follow-up! BONANZA!


01/18/2011 10:59 pm

This is a nice read, enjoy the hype!

Ilove Hype

01/19/2011 03:27 am

I don't know, does anyone? Find it overly interesting something can be done in a matter of a pre recorded "Trading Places" bet a website could be done, and have a few people in the states could start a very basic simple question, but in return prove G uses self promotion to a T, and in turn has been able to get a nothing launched first page world wide. Greatest yet people have not gotten it. Everyone wants to be found, well thank god Major News outlets now are putting together the people and are show casing how easily in today's world this one is negative, but the next one will be all positive, prove a point you can surpass everything thought, and either negatively or positively with the right creativity have your site on line with rapid life, and not spend nadda. We are overly happy Google WebMasters has kept this thread live, and allowed all the content. YES I am one of the people behind everything, but the best joke is yet to come! Publicity is publicity, we only wanted one thing, to show immediately any site can be vaulted into world wide first page results. Glad with the lawsuits going on Google Webmaster let the thread spread, and only proved what we thought would take months to accomplish was done in 1 week! I am sure as previous people stated this will go done as the spoof of the year, but the spoof is on the obvious! Thanks Barry also, I am sure your awesome web cast, and article written will also go to show how easily a basic idea, turned adventure, has landed now countless articles, as well as interviews with major networks! We never could have pulled this of without all the love received. Hours spent, time wasted, yet best of all First Page, some of the stuff is great! Please keep the thread going, it only adds to the mishaps, and further pushes the point in the court system right now Google favors Google. We could not have asked or dreamed that this evolution would take place. Keep the eyes open and please once again spread the thread. Lets see how long before flagged, and taken down on here, but THANKS AGAIN!

Jaan Kanellis

01/19/2011 10:38 pm

Sad I am originally from that area and probably know a few working there. Glad Google called them out, wish Google would stop linking to them (nofollow in place) from the Google post.


02/01/2011 01:18 pm

Hehe .. why do these people think that Webmasters cant tell the IP. Just because it's not shown publicly, does not mean it's not recorded, and SHINES out like a light next to your post when Admin view...

Daniel Chavez Moran

02/01/2011 05:51 pm

Oh, wow. It must be agonizing to have to deny that you're associated with the company you apparently own. It also must be painful to realize that you could have avoided being ousted by choosing a slightly less transparent username.


02/16/2011 02:53 pm

Filed under "Natural Selection"....

Jan Chilton

06/01/2011 11:29 pm

But OUCH.  What if the guy mouthing at Matt was actually a competitor to this other company and deliberately got them in trouble?  Not that it's likely, but wouldn't it be a mastermind of a rotten thing to do if it was?  LOL!

Keith Mains

05/21/2012 02:47 pm

What if the person providing SEO only takes SEO work on when they can gain page 1 search results? What I mean is that a search engine optimizer takes an enquiry and sizes it up to see if they can get page 1 than says to the enquirer "Yes I can do that or no sorry that is unrealistic". I mean to do so honestly and not just so they can fleece a client and milk them month after month. How would it then be so that a "Red Flag" is the warning sign because someone who knows what they are doing says they guarantee page 1 results? SEO IMHO means that one performs this process in order to help the search engines return the best most relevant results so anything less than page 1 is far from the mark when it comes to understanding search and SEO. Don't get me wrong most who guarantee results are chancer's just out to grab a client through volume but you will always find one or two who have the confidence in their abilities, the understanding of how the search engines work and their goals and the honesty to say "No sorry that is not possible". There is at least one SEO Company in the UK who not only guarantees results they don't want paying until they do. So how can such guarantees be all swept under the carpet as "Red Flag" Services? I look around and I see the opposite is also true when it comes to SEO. There are just as many Companies putting little effort into SEO for clients making excuses for their inadequacies by using that very "it takes time" llne and system in order to keep a client paying their monthly fees. I have come across people who have been paying SEO's a monthly fee long term over £250 a month who have been getting next to nothing and certainly no "on site SEO" (which was definitely needed) and all they got was some monthly report of stats full of nonsense the site owner did not understand which armed the SEO with tech talk to make excuse after excuse for their failure to perform. Now I think anyone saying #1 or bullshitting that they have a special relationship with Google shoud get outed ( I would ban their arse from Google if I had the power) but to tar everyone with the same brush as con merchants out to fleece people by making sweeping statements that "Nobody can guarantee high ranking or more the point page 1" search results. There are those out there who just want better search results and if that means someone can pay them to help their companies things become part of that then that's a bonus. I think search results are in the main "somewhat" adequate but in general they could be improved a great deal. SEO Companies it seems are mostly all about making money and that is where they lose the battle as to take work just so you can make money and not so you can provide the client and the end user of the net the best service possible within your ability, makes a large proportion of those playing the SEO game a problem that makes SEO a great big con. Seems to me if one can't guarantee page 1 that you are rather missing the pint of SEO, which is to "Optimize the search engines". And this includes helping gather and perfect the info to make it part of the brain functions of those AI's coming in the future. I bet nobody even considered that aspect now did they?

Internet Marketing Consultant

01/09/2013 12:55 pm

It is almost like you did not study the content. Did you not understand a factor from it?


01/09/2013 08:33 pm

90% of my conversations with telephone solicitors promoting "Google Placement" end after I ask 1 question: "Do you know who Matt Cutts is?"


03/26/2013 11:02 pm

Todd Herman - If you cant guarantee front page listings then your in the wrong profession! Period


04/04/2014 11:18 pm

Don't go with 29prime. I've had quite a few clients from them who were ripped off. To check out an SEO firm's seo send their website through a meta tag analyzer. It will tell you the percentage of relevancy. Pure organic white hat and 100% relevancy gets page one results. I do it all the time.

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