Senior SEO Consultant

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In the wake of my Halloween SEO horror story blog posts, I reached out to the SEO community again but instead of the car crash stories, I wanted to hear some of the near misses they’ve had when being pitched to by SEOs, growth consultants, and business development salespeople.

Of course, no one in the SEO world can guarantee anything and when people ask for guarantees, I always like to point them to Google’s own literature on the matter.

Unlike the Halloween horror series, contributions to this post are anonymous. So I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed!

The snakeoil business development Santa Claus. His rosy red cheeks let off a glow, as he tries to prey on what he thinks you not know. Rosy of course, because he says he cares, but it’s actually ’cause he’s walked up stairs.

16 SEO Lies & False Promises

Every now and again in a pitch meeting, someone will let slip a small untruth to add extra incentive/persuasion to get a client to sign a contract. However, these lies eventually come out in the wash, and some of them have been anonymously contributed below.

  1. After explaining to the potential client for ages that it’s impossible to rank #1 for “mobiles” the salesperson saves the meeting by saying “but we can rank you for “iPhone” and “Android” instead.
  2. The site will need to be rebuilt in WordPress because Google donates to WordPress – and they boost the rankings of sites using it and demote sites using other CMS’. You also need the Yoast plugin to do SEO.
  3. We’ll build your eCommerce store for amount X, and of course, SEO is included in that, with the reassurance that: “The stores we build rank insanely high, so will yours”.
  4. We ran an offsite campaign for a client and got coverage on the BBC, STV, Sky, Daily Mail, Mirror, Guardian, and 60+ media outlets for a small budget campaign wasn’t good enough, and in the meeting, the business development guy turned to agree with them (as he never disagreed with any statements from any client).
  5. {Pitching to a high-street national chain} In order to rank first for the keyword (currently ranking second), you need to do this big link creative and get the brand out there.
  6. It doesn’t matter if you migrate the blog over – we can do that in a couple of weeks and let it 404, Google doesn’t crawl websites that fast so it won’t notice anything.
  7. In a pitch meeting, the salesperson was using the Google-certified logo prominently in the deck, docs, and referring to it… Froze up when the client said, “I thought that was for PPC, not SEO?”.
  8. I personally know the experts at Google. (He did, but they managed Adwords accounts).
  9. A client was informed by the founder of digital agency that adding external links to the footer of the page, and for those external links to link back in there footer (reciprocal linking) would increase rankings.
  10. When it was popular, we used an infographic agency to create linkable assets and content pieces – we did the due diligence and asked the right questions, and was told in the pitch they would be suitable for commercial use, but it turned out they didn’t have any clearance or rights to any images they used, and years later we’re still clearing up the mess and copyright claims.
  11. Previously working at an agency: the agency had an NDA agreement with clients that they wouldn’t work with similar companies/companies competing in the same vertical. One day, they were caught out when they both turned up at the same time as the different AMs didn’t know to coordinate any differently.
  12. Business development landed a manual action removal contract with a new client; promised them guaranteed removal and that it would be done within a month. There were over 1-million backlinks in the profile from years of abuse, and when this was communicated back to the business development person, they questioned our ability to do the job, and not their own deals.
  13. The same business development person won an offsite pitch for a buy now, pay later credit offering company, on the terms that we only produced interactive pieces for their website and guaranteed 30+ links for each campaign…
  14. Working with a content marketing agency, part of the agreement was that we would pay for a Bigstock type license as part of the contact for them to use images from there. A couple of years later, it turns out they never bought a license and we’re still clearing up images and complaints of using images without the rights to them.
  15. Our manager hired an SEO agency to work on our digital PR and offsite; in our first meeting and they showed us their tactics for building links, I asked them if they had heard of Google Penguin and none of them at the table had. I then got an email a day later (from an agency senior) explaining what Penguin was, and how their high DA links were fine.
  16. Being pitched to by a head of SEO, when we were getting around 500 links a month (team of 20 in-house), the head of SEO replied: “I can double that no problem”.


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