It was amazing. I had done my research. I checked references. I even made sure everyone I called was on the Moz list of recommended agencies. NO matter what I was going to hire a professional, Google friendly SEO agency that would fix our backlink profile and get us out of our Penguin penalties.
Well, that was the theory.
The Fall of Rome
You see, I was coming off of a bad relationship. Our current SEO firm, hired before my arrival, was linking like it was 2006. The internet was being peppered with tons of spammy, low quality links. At the time ( pre-Penguin 1 ) it was working. We were ranking in many of the keywords we wanted to rank in. But I knew that this wasn’t the Google “White Hat” way. I tried explaining this, but I was generally greeted with a “Why Rock The Boat” speech. To be honest, I can’t blame them. Who would have changed a thing when what you had was working?
Well, Google rocked the boat. We got started with an “Unnatural Links Penalty”, but this didn’t change our ranking much. Our current SEO firm tried to request removal without changing anything. Oy Vey! Months passed, and we saw our ranking slowly start to slip away. That is, until Penguin 2.0 was introduced. Then we fell off of the face of the earth.
The Search For Legitimate SEOs
Once I finally got the green light to find a new SEO agency, I immediately turned to what is considered the premier legitimate source for SEO agencies: the illustrious Moz List. Obviously, I didn’t talk by phone with them all. But I gathered a list of 6 to 10 agencies that sounded like they could help us as a monthly retainer and I set up some calls.
Turns out, despite all the bullshit, all the hype, despite throwing around terms like “White Hat”, almost 70% of the agencies I contacted for services were going to make me buy links. Seventy. Percent. One firm quoted $275 per link and I scoffed. Who in their right mind would pay almost $300 for a single backlink? Well, I stopped laughing when another agency quoted me $500 per link.
By the way, I’m not saying that they would create one piece of content and however many backlinks it generated I could keep. No no. I mean they were going to call and email ( aka harass ) website operators and beg for links. Oh, you’ll make a link? Sweet, ka-ching! $500 please.
What Google Wants
I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Even I know what Google really wants. They want me to make compelling content, spread the word, and if someone wants to link to it, great! That’s how you make a healthy web. I get that.
Google, did you know that your prized Golden Boy SEO companies are trying to charge me, the lowly website operator a fee for each backlink they obtain for my site? Isn’t this exactly what you said you don’t want happening? I mean, I expected this much from oDesk, Freelancer, or Fivrr. But these were blessed by Rand himself as the cream of the crop in online marketing and search engine optimization. I’m not going to get specific, because there still seem to be honest agencies out there on this list. I talked with a few of them. But I simply can’t hide my dismay.
Matt Cutts, many of these agencies must hate your vision. If the best of the best are still selling links, in 2013 after Penguin 2.0… you have your work cut out for you.