Issues with Outsourcing SEO
Hiring an SEO or Internet Marketing firm can be one of the hardest decisions that you have to make for your company's online future. On one hand it offers the hope that if you hire the right SEO firm you could achieve four times (or even more) the income of your of your company or website within 18 months depending on your industry and your current search engine rankings. On the other hand you also need to trust your SEO firm as essentially the most successful Search Engine Optimization is done as if your SEO Company are employees of your company representing your company online.
This article outlines the potential dire consequences of choosing the wrong SEO / Internet Marketing / Link building firm. Always remember that if you didn't find your SEO or Internet Marketing firm on one of the search engines then how will your website rank with their service? If an SEO company can rank itself for a competitive SEO term in an industry where they specialize at ranking companies then they can most likely rank your website.
Paid Links, Link Brokers, and Blog Reviews
Incoming links are by far the easiest way to get your website penalized by Google for violating their webmaster guidelines which states "If you see a site that is buying or selling links that pass PageRank, let us know." If a link building tactic seems too good to be true or it was an email offer then it is most likely too good to be true and will get you penalized or fail to deliver results that convert. Link brokers are people that specialize in bringing together people who wish to sell link space on their website with companies that wish to buy incoming links for the strength of the links and to get relevant anchor text to their websites. I have personally reported my competition, as well as our clients who have purchased links with competing anchor texts. Another red flag is having your website under text such as Sponsors or Sponsored Links, this directly translates to paid link.
Another thing to watch out for is any sort of review of your website / product that you can buy, when you pay people to blog or write about your product and then publish articles / reviews with your keywords in them then flags are going to go off at Google. Typically you will find yourself either banned for individual keywords that your paid links have, or you'll not even rank for your own website name which is somewhat of a super penalty traditionally you're either won't be in the index at all or in the last 30 or so results in the primary index.
Run of Site Links, Blog Rolls, and Automated Link Spammers and Robots
There are certain types of incoming link patterns that will raise flags at Google. There are a lot of different factors in Google's ranking algorithm including several that relate to the detection of link spam. There are certain reoccurring linking patterns that I've seen on websites that have been penalized by various search engines here are some of the most common link spam patterns.
The Blog Roll run of site link there is nothing wrong with being involved with Blog Rolls, provided you have a Blog a website that is on several Blog Rolls that does not have a Blog is most likely buying links or has an SEO that spams. Additionally it is not normal to have a run of site link, or homepage links in the footer of a website surrounded by other websites that have highly searched phrases as their anchor text.
For this category I've saved the worst technique for last and that's automated link spamming. There are companies and tools out there that can search for particular strings on websites through the search engine such as searching for a photo gallery or guest book that accepts comments and then automatically pastes spam links directly into the website. This particular links holds the least amount of value, and represent the quickest way to build up link numbers there are websites that have hundreds of thousands of links from this technique. Also keep in mind even if this was ethical other people will find these same pages, spam them and eventually there will be so many links on each of these pages that each one basically holds no value.
Compromised Website Harmful and Hackers
The worst message any website owner ever wants to see is the following under any results that show up on Google for "This site may be harmful to your computer." The only time you see this message is after your website has been compromised / hacked in some form and the attacker has inserted malicious code into the code your visitors see. These types of compromise typically involved hackers coming in through either a compromised FTP account or through some form of code injection through insecure website forms. The code these hackers insert is typically targeted at website visitors who happen to be running some form of Microsoft Internet Explorer with vulnerabilities that are generally public knowledge.
Website Cookie Cutter Templates, Duplicated Websites and Your Competition
The best websites and templates are those that are custom designed, when you have a similar website to hundreds of other people with the same content on all the pages Google knows, and lots of your pages will not be in the Google primary index. When you're investing in SEO you want to get as great a Return on Investment (ROI) as possible, and with a bad website if Google automatically doesn't rank your cookie cutter pages then you're potentially missing out on traffic. Keep in mind that the best ranking websites are generally built with a Pure Cascading Style Sheet design and HTML or XHTML with URLs that contain no dynamic variables.
SEO Company Links, Hidden Outbound Links and Blackhat Content
Google's Webmaster Guidelines state that "You should never have to link to an SEO." If you're dealing with an SEO Company which doesn't offer keyword exclusivity then all your competition has to do is hire your SEO and now he has two clients compete for the same terms. To make matters worse when clients link to their SEO Company that gives their company additional strength and authority, this can produce search engine rankings for the company ranking for local SEO terms only because of links from their clients' websites and not their skills. The worst scenario of this I have seen was an SEO Company that not only put a link to their SEO Website in the footer of their clients' websites but they also hit an additional link to a travel website they ran!
GETTY Images, Copyrighted Content, and the DMCA
There is nothing worse for a website owner then getting a copyright infringement notice because of the actions of an SEO, Internet Marketing, or Web Design Companies staff for using other peoples content. There are a lot of people out there that have learned this lesson from GETTY images which enforces their copyrights with hefty fines of around $1000 per image without prior decease notice. Even worse than a fine however is the potential of being completely removed from Google's index for using someone else's content, under the Digital Millennia Copyright Act if you infringe someone's copyright they can go through a legal process which can have your website removed from the search engines.
Battered and Tarnished Online Reputation
A company reputation is something that takes only one wrong decision to be dragged through the virtual mud. As was stated above the best SEO is done when it appears to be done in house, this leads to the most organic links being generated that appear natural. However these same methods can backfire for instances if you have someone in another country that hardly speaks English representing your company through Forums, Social Networking, Social Media, Blog Commenting, and many other techniques.
Another tactic that can quickly degrade your online reputation is spam email tactics, not only can you be legally charged under the CANSPAN act, but some search engines such as Yahoo indicate in their SERPs which websites are know for sending out bulk email.