Some SEOs are better at running a business than they are at doing SEO. Others are fantastic at SEO but have poor business practices. But the really bad SEOs have poor business practices that translates into poor SEO, and therefore poor client results. Not all bad SEOs are crooked, but that doesn't make you want to hire them anymore.

How do you know that good SEOs from the bad ones? How can you tell those that know what they are doing from those that don't? It's not always easy, but there are some tell-tale signs. Here are seven things that bad SEOs do:

  1. Have "secret" strategies

    Secrets are not becoming of an SEO. Sure many SEOs have strategies they would rather not make public, but when when it comes to working with clients there are not secrets. The SEO is not necessarily responsible for telling the client every detail about what they do for their site, but clients have the right to know what strategies the SEO is implementing and how those strategies may affect their site. If the SEO is keeping secrets, it means they have something to hide.

    Clients deserve an SEO that is open an honest with them. Bad SEOs keep their clients uniformed in order to avoid accountability.

  2. Narrowly focus on rankings

    There is more to the success of a website than just rankings, but a lot of SEOs don't know anything else. They offer "guarantees" that have enough small print to make them useless, show off their "successes" using phrases and search engines that are valueless, and tell you they have succeeded when they get useless keywords ranked for you. Rankings are a means to an end and if those rankings are not delivering targeted traffic that produces conversions, then it's all meaningless.

    Rankings can be an important part of a client's success but should not be used as the sole measurement. Bad SEOs focus on rankings to the detriment of their client's success.

  3. Don't think outside the SEO box

    The job of the SEO is to help their clients succeed. There are many components to achieving online success that fall outside the realm of standard SEO. The SEO campaign can often benefit from these non-SEO strategies. While any particular strategy may fall outside the scope of their contracts, it is the job of the SEO to keep all such options in mind for the client to help them achieve long-term success.

    SEOs must have more than just the SEO contract in mind, they should be looking for additional ways to help their client's succeed. Bad SEOs focus on SEO only and never offer tips and strategies that fall outside the contract.

  4. Don't play well with others

    A lot of work goes into an SEO campaign and its rare if the SEO is skilled enough to do it all. Many SEOs a can do a lot of things well, but not all things expertly. SEOs need to know their limitations, know when to outsource, and know when to bring in additional experts to get the job done right. Whether its programming, copywriting, link building, social media marketing, or anything else, the SEO needs to be willing to find and work with those who fill in the holes for what they can't do.

    Working with others, especially with client programmers, is essential to building a strong SEO campaign. Bad SEOs try to do everything themselves or don't work with others to find the best possible solution.

  5. Resist client involvement

    There are always clients that tend to call or email too much, but that's the rarity, not the norm. SEOs need to encourage their clients to be involved in their campaigns, from keyword selection to approval of the content that goes on the site. Client involvement is necessary to ensure that the SEO stays on course, optimizes the right keywords, and keep the site properly targeted.

    The SEO benefits from the client's industry knowledge and the client benefits from the SEO's research. Bad SEOs plunge full steam ahead keeping their client uninvolved, often to the detriment of the client's success.

  6. Drop the ball

    Its easy to lose interest in an SEO campaign. When the easy work is over and the real strategizing needs to begin, the SEO can often find simpler and greener pastures with other clients. SEOs should never be "satisfied" with how a client is performing or stop looking for ways to build upon past success. The SEO must continue to analyze the performance of their efforts and develope newer strategies that will continue to push the client toward success.

    SEO doesn't stop after a few strategies are implemented. There is always more to do. Bad SEOs get "burned out" working on a client, but continue to collect a check for doing minimal work.

  7. Don't care about their clients

    Bad SEOs use SEO as a money generating machine, rather than as a way to help other people succeed. There is nothing with SEOs making money, but if that is their primary motivation then they shouldn't have clients. Those SEOs that take on clients do so because they want to help other people succeed just as they have succeeded themselves.

    SEO is a service industry. Bad SEOs are primarily looking to service themselves and use hard working people like you to fulfill their selfish desires.

Many people have a bad experience with SEO and make assumptions about all SEOs. Failure can come from many avenues. Most often it's just misinformation and improper expectations. It's not always easy differentiating between the good SEOs and the not-so-good ones, but the bad ones are more easily to spot. Not every good SEO will be able to get you the results you expect, but that doesn't make them bad.

By looking at the SEO's business practices, seeing how they interact with their current and past clients, the good rise to the surface. If you're not sure... if somethign seems off, it probably is.

October 13, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


The 8th major fail is keyphrase related. Too many SEO's suck the proverbial finger, thrust it up into the air and base a whole SEO strategy on "whatever drives the most traffic in Google Keyword tool". Grrrr....

Great article Stoney.

Yup I truly agree with you and this points "SEO doesn't stop after a few strategies are implemented. There is always more to do. Bad SEOs get "burned out" working on a client, but continue to collect a check for doing minimal work." is just like an eye opener.

Tom, that's a good point. The keywords with the highest traffic are not necessarily the best ones. The SEO could be optimizing for poor converting keywords at the expense of those that do convert but get less traffic.

I agree with all of your points. It really sucks that the bad SEOs are ruining it for the good guys. There are so many scammers out there that promise the world, but don't deliver squat. So, after these small businesses get scammed, they no longer trust the honest SEOs.

Probably around 90 to 95% suck, and are not true SEOs. They are just people tinkering around with it on the side, read some articles, and decided to give them self the "SEO Expert" title.

So, if I go out and buy a stethoscope, can I call myself a doctor? Same thinking.

Thanks for some great insight and the "Best Things" articles as well.

#2 is the biggest cardinal sin in my opinion. The writer is bang on in his assessment that rankings are a means to an end, not an end in itself. What's the point of ranking #1 for keywords that have little traffic, poor traffic or irrelevant traffic? Using Analytics, what is the time on site and average pageviews per visit for the keywords? Which keywords are leading to conversions, however that is defined? I have clients who are just interested in how many keywords they rank #1, top 5, top 10 and top 20. I keep trying to educate them that this is the wrong way to approach SEO. SEO isn't the Academy Awards.

Ed Yang
President of Firecracker PR

I resist the temptation to focus on bad practice in every area of life, not just SEO. In the end, the poor performers will always get found out and the better performers will benefit from a solid reputation based on good results which will bring referrals. There are cheats in every walk of life and they almost always get what they deserve in the end so time is better spent on improving one's own game than wasting time on them.

#1 I'm not sure. This is know how and I don't think explain methods with client is good idea.

I have had friends come to me asking for advice on a firm or two like these. They wanted to charge like $1,500 per month. They also didnt want to give him any examples of their wok. Sounds weird to me. I may help him out but SEO takes a decent amount of time to do it right.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > 7 Worst Things (Bad) SEO's Do