The internet has a problem.
It has been a modern miracle to be honest, but there’s a problem.
The problem is authenticity. The internet is full of fake people. We all realize that there are real people behind the profiles, the words, and the pictures (usually).
But we still allow ourselves to portray a certain side of us that probably isn’t our “true” self.
In some cases, this is ok.
For example, we don’t need to spill every little brutally honest statement or unflattering photo. (I’m actually glad about that)
But in the internet marketing world, it seems to run rampant. Not only does everyone seem to be in it just for the money, but we’re often tempted to exaggerate our skills and accomplishments. This is to the detriment of our clients, and the industry as a whole.
Every single client I’ve worked with has had bad experiences with SEO. Either they have been outright scammed, were told intentionally misleading information, or were left in a worse position than when they started.
I happen to be of the belief that PBN’s can work, which may be an unpopular opinion these days. Paid links from reputable site still carry weight, I’ve seen it in the SERPs, the traffic, and the clicks with my own eyes.
But there is something that bugs me about some using this tactic as their strategy.
In my opinion, you’re not 100% “in”.
Before you jump down my throat, let me explain.
I had a call with a new client that had been referred to me, turned out I actually knew him personally. He confided in me that he had trust issues with SEO’s. I said I didn’t blame him one bit. He went on to tell me of his last experience with SEO.
They got a hold of his site and immediately set to work. They juiced it up with PBN links and they saw an immediate jump in the SERPS, no surprise there. They got as far as the bottom of the first page within two months.
All of the sudden though, they slipped back to page two. Again they sent an influx of links to the site.
It continued to go down though.
Middle of the second page.
At this point my friend was nervous, so they set up a phone call. The SEO of course took all the blame from himself, pointing to some negative Google reviews that was affecting his online presence. Being fairly new to the online marketing world, he took this answer and waited for another couple months before calling him out on his crap.
This would be their last conversation (obviously).
Not only did they not get any results for him, but they effectively trashed his rankings and organic traffic. They packed up their PBN briefcase and took away all the links because… you know… they like, own them… and stuff.
Their rankings went down even further, which at that point didn’t matter much, but was definitely the nail in the coffin for him. His business relied about 85% on inbound calls, so this was a mistake of epic proportions.
Some might say, he should have done more research.
He shouldn’t have relied so much on one dude.
PBN’s are owned by the SEO.
You know what? These are all true.
Let’s go to a very different industry that did what SEO’s are doing right now, and paid a massive price on the public relations front.
When was the last time you went to an auto mechanic?
If you own a car, it’s a pretty common occurrence: oil change, new tires, check up, etc. Mechanics have an interesting reputation.
Youtube has lots of footage of local news stations investigating what mechanics say vs what they do. They got into a pickle more than once for charging customers for a) not doing anything at all b) not being upfront with the issues surrounding their automobiles.
The online marketing industry is quickly making this look like child’s play. They play a desperate game of “hostage SEO” where if a client quits on them, they simply pack up and go, not caring one bit about how the client fares from then on. These “churn and burn” tactics make it difficult for the business owner to recover, not to mention it turns them off to the entire industry.
Now, before you accuse me of something, let me be clear: I don’t see that big of an issue with using PBN’s. Really good ones still work well, and perhaps will always be effective. That’s not the issue.
The issue comes when you conveniently leave out the fact that you’re intentionally using risky tactics on their site.
Business owners want more business. Simple. And more often than not, they’re so invested in building their business that they don’t take the time to ask questions and vet thoroughly.
In fact, they don’t even know what questions to ask.
That’s where you come in.
As an ethical SEO, you must educate your clients and divulge any information that could potentially harm their business.
News Flash: This definitely includes the use of PBN’s and other risky tactics that could land your client’s’ site with a decrease in rankings or even a penalty.
Most of the time, if educated properly, they’ll be fine with your strategy and aren’t completely turned off if something goes wrong. They knew the risks.
But when something goes awry and the SEO heads for the hills, it can become a problem.
I’ve adopted a mindset that has allowed me to rank my client’s sites and never have a manual penalty. And yes, I’ve bought links. I’ve even used PBN’s.
But the mindset is this: I will be working with this company and website for the next 10 years. Is what I’m doing right now going to help it or hurt it?
In all emails and communication with the client, I refer to “us” and “our” a lot, as if I’m a part of their team. Because, actually I AM.
Clients trust us to help their business and brand, and when we beat around the bush and are anything but 100% transparent, we’re not helping anyone.
Be a team member.
And let’s keep this industry as clean as we can.