Some SEO techniques can become a problem for your website, sometimes even for your company itself. The worst is when you don't know about it because you just hired someone to improve the rankings of your website. In most cases, you only notice the issue when it's almost too late.
How the technique works
The way how this SEO tactics work is simple, but many people are often not aware of it. We, too, only became aware of this SEO technique after we became a subject of the tactic ourselfs. Therefore, we would like to use our know-how to explain to you why you should urgently pay attention.
How the SEO technique impacts the user
About a month ago, we received an interesting email. A law firm based in the US contacted us about an image we used on our website:
Allegedly, this had been created by an electrician company from Australia and we would be using the image illegally.
We had downloaded the image free of charge from the freely available image platform pixabay. On sites like pixabay or unsplash, it has long been advised not to use the images or to use them only with the greatest care, as it is unclear whether the person who posted them is really the copyright holder. However, we ourselves at least did some research and checked whether the photographers of the images really exist and whether the images also appear on their other profiles. Although this is not 100% reliable, it does provide a certain degree of security.
However, since the claim (within 5 days, no payment demand and lawyer's office in the USA - company in Australia) seemed strange to us, we wanted to check whether the lawyer's office really existed. Therefore, we had also checked the web presences, which were all available at the time and seemed legitimate.
The comparison with the photographer on pixabay also made us wonder: the photographer is from Poland. So either the photographer didn't take the picture or someone else is complaining here.
A further search for the company address did not provide a Google My Business entry of the law firm. However, the firm was supposed to have almost 20 employees. Yet Google My Business entries are now actually very widespread in the USA.
How the technique was played out
So we took the step of contacting the electrician company from Australia, as the inconsistencies made us wonder.
And this is where the unexpected happened: the owner of the company contacted us quite quickly and clarified the whole story to a certain extent.
His company had received several e-mails from various companies regarding the lawyer's letter, which was not authorised by his company. He was not aware that such a letter was circulating, he had probably only become aware of it through the increased number of e-mails.
In further exchange, he then explained that he had contracted someone on the well-known platform Fiverr to improve the SEO ranking of the site. This person had then apparently created the fake lawyer's website, as well as setting up the mail server for the domain and contacted all users of a certain image with the same text. Presumably, this could even be done automatically by using certain image comparison searches.
The damage caused by this
The most critical thing about the use of this SEO technique is the damage that is caused:
- Legal claims based on the forged lawyer's letter on behalf of the company
- Damage from random backlinks that contain a lot of nofollow and potentially come from a wide variety of industries and countries.
- Critical jump in backlinks due to the requirement to set the link within 5 days
- Potential penalty through Google's Penguin algorithm (penalty for purchased backlinks, etc.)
Unfortunately, the situation is made worse by the fact that the owner of the website only found out what had happened when it was too late.
The damage has already been done and can no longer be undone, especially the SEO optimisation of the website is thus nullified in a very short time.
Impacts in our case study
Unfortunately, it didn't go very well for the website in our case.
The company's domain has since been changed to another domain with one letter changed and the old, original domain is up for sale.
For the keywords relevant to the company (local electrician search), the website is now only ranked on page 2.
In the end, it must be noted that this purchase on Fiverr probably has cost significantly more than the pure Fiverr package for SEO optimisation. Therefore, caution should always be exercised with offers from such platforms, which are offered at very low prices and usually guarantee rankings. A ranking can actually never be guaranteed, as too many factors influence the optimisation. Falsifying the pure backlink profile may help in the short term, but in the long term it can lead to a downgrading of the ranking, so that the domain has to be changed, as in this case.
In the end, it would probably have been much better for the company if it had contracted a local company for continuous search engine optimisation. Alternatively, there are of course techniques that the company could have used themselves without much effort.
Alternative options and techniques
Alternatively, the company could have better focused on quality content and optimising the website itself. There are many things that can be done quite easily:
One option for better rankings is qualitative content. Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo are now very good at analysing texts and recognising duplicates. Therefore, individual, detailed texts about your service and products can often bring much more than a simple backlink. With a well-managed blog, you can also regularly bring new content, which can be helpful in many ways.
Good blog posts on your topics have at least two advantages. Not only are you perceived as an expert or someone with expertise, but you can also additionally improve your ranking. The latter happens because real people share the articles if they think they are good. With a bit of luck, one of your articles will make it to another website and generate a relevant backlink there. In the end, this is worth much more to you, as new users will probably follow it, as there is a relevant target for the user behind the link. With a photo link, such as through this dangerous SEO technique, you do not have this relevancy.
Optimisation of titles and descriptions
Another important point can be optimising the titles and descriptions. You can use a SERP preview tool to check the title and description so that they are completely displayed on Google and other search engines and are not split off by dots. In addition, you can draw users' attention to your website with the sensible use of Power Words. If you make the user curious in the description, you can expect a click.
But you should be careful that you do not make false promises or use clickbait, as this will probably have a negative effect in the end.
Free online tools and calculators
Offering free tools, such as an SEO check or a power calculator, can help you get more links. If users find your tool helpful, they will share the link, just as they do with blog posts. More websites will probably link to your tool and you will automatically get more traffic for your website.
Creation of a Google my Business account
A final option that is especially helpful for locally based businesses is to create a Google my Business account. In searches, all helpful information is then displayed directly on the page.
The display can be controlled via the administration interface in such a way that one's own website and telephone number, as well as address, are placed there.
Furthermore, Google can rank the website even better with the help of the data and therefore increases the rankings of the website for local searches.
We hope that we have been able to draw some attention to this SEO technique with this article, so that you as a website operator do not fall for the writing and hopefully you will also question the purchase of SEO rankings via any marketplaces more closely from now on.
Finally, we would like to thank the owner of the Australian electrician company, he has allowed us to report on this story as long as we do not explicitly mention his company.