Questionable SEO Practices

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Bobbie Grennier
Bobbie Grennier does Google Search Marketing, My Business/Places Optimization, Google+ Local SEO. Google Local Pro offers Advanced My Business Consulting and Santa Cruz Web Designer, Local SEO, Internet Marketing.

The Rainmaker Institute charged Seikaly & Stewart of Farmington Hills, Michigan, $49,000 for optimization services to increase their firm’s visibility in Google.

That posted by Jennifer Slegg in August 2013, reporting the SEO company called The Rainmaker Institute, had found itself being sued by one of its own attorney clients for basically producing less than promised Google search results for that client.

I attended one of The Rainmaker Institute’s intensive weekends a few years ago and went through all their courses where they explained their version of website best practices, search engine optimization and internet marketing. It was an overwhelming amount of information and how-to sound bites for some 30 attorneys in the room. I was the only SEO professional in attendance. As we got to know each other, the Rainmaker team eventually realized that I knew far more about Google than they did. At one point, they actually threw the conversation to me to explain an aspect of Google related SEO for the whole room of lawyers. Later the Rainmaker team did try to recruit me, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with some of their SEO views.

I wrestled with my decision not to do more with them because I really wanted to help attorneys do better online and rank better in the search engines, but I’m glad I kept working privately with just a select few law firms because it has been far more rewarding for me personally.

News of this law suit originally broke on Lawyerist by Sam Glover and I have to agree with his take on Rainmaker:

Regardless whether the Rainmaker Institute actually has anything valuable to sell, it’s pitch reminds me of those late-night infomercials that promise to teach you to get rich from flipping houses or selling gold if you will just attend a very expensive seminar at a hotel near the airport. It’s all selling, no substance.

So, I titled this blog post Questionable SEO Practices because of several factors I’m noticing.

First, companies like Rainmaker and Scorpion who have been solely focused on the legal profession are starting to pull back some of their service offerings. And if they’re not, then maybe they should be. It’s become a catch-22 situation where SEO professionals find themselves caught in between Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and their own very litigious clients.

The big question is what constitutes “good” backlinks? And in the face of all of Google’s algorithm changes, how will any SEO professional be able to provide definitive results?  One thing for sure, is that this case will be closely watched by the SEO providers. I found this legal commenter’s point of view very interesting:

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With Google constantly changing their Guidelines and not announcing those changes until after the fact, it leaves the SEO professional between a rock and a hard place… and that’s just how Google wants it.

From the complaint it seems that at issue is the type of links that The Rainmaker Institute was using to link to their client sites. There are mentions of auto-generated links, and the links from what appears to be blog spam, as well as links that were poor quality, with the vast majority of them created through link farming techniques. It seems to have been hit by the Google Penguin updates.

From an SEO point-of-view, links that are good today may not be good tomorrow. Without Google telling us definitively what they consider good and bad links, or what looks spammy to them, whether it is or not… Google holds the cards to its algorithms very close to the vest and they’re not giving away the recipe to the secret sauce. Which is why SEO professionals will tell you that what works today may not be what works tomorrow. Services delivered today, may not on be on the menu tomorrow.

Also at issue was the original content that the company was supposed to be providing as exclusive content. Instead, articles were then republished on multiple attorney websites that it is believed The Rainmaker Institute also worked on.

Many of the Scorpion sites I’ve converted also had lots of duplicate content, but once again what constituted duplicate content to Google back then is not what constitutes duplicate content now. The rules of engagement are constantly changing, even changing hourly in some cases.

A great observation by what I assume is another SEOer:

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So what are you attorneys and law firms to do?

Answer is you do the best with what you’ve got at the time, and when the rules change, you change as quickly as you can. It’s not a static system. It is constantly in flux and so must your SEO best practices be constantly changing to meet the new guidelines; and whatever you feel you need to do to get your business on page one of the search results.

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Ethical Local SEO

seo ethics
Bobbie Grennier
Bobbie Grennier does Google Search Marketing, My Business/Places Optimization, Google+ Local SEO. Google Local Pro offers Advanced My Business Consulting and Santa Cruz Web Designer, Local SEO, Internet Marketing.

Ethical Local SEO services by Google Local Pro uses only white-hat ethical search engine optimization techniques.


5 star customer serviceOur Local SEO Marketing services are completely ethical and are designed to increase your website’s search engine positioning. The better we help you rank in the local search results, the more exposure your business gets, and that means better income potential for you.

Google Local Pro does not perform any activities that will get your site banned, penalized, or blacklisted on Google. That means no keyword stuffing, no doorway pages, no cloaking, no hidden text, no external landing pages, no link farms, no spammy backlinks or use of any of the other black-hat techniques.

Ethical Local SEO services by Google Local Pro are 100% beneficial to your website’s health and longevity.


SEO Code of Ethics

seo ethicsWe religiously comply with Bruce Clay’s Code of Web Ethics:

Whereas all parties are working towards presenting relevant and high quality information in an easy to use format to information seekers, and whereas SEO practitioners are being contracted to assist clients in obtaining higher rankings for client pages, we (and those linking to this page) are voluntarily adhering to the below SEO Code of Ethics:

No SEO practitioner will intentionally do harm to a client. This involves the continued use of any technology or procedure (without appropriate care) that is known to result in having the client site removed from search engine indexes or directories, or rendered inoperative. Questionable adherence to standards must be addressed via the Robots Exclusion Standard.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any specifically published and enforced rules of search engines or directories. Should rules and guidelines change (as they often do), the SEO practitioner will promptly take action to comply with the changes as they apply to all clients. Where rules and guidelines are unclear, the SEO practitioner will seek clarification and await approval from the appropriate search engine before continuing to utilize potentially harmful technology or procedures.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally mislead, harm, or offend a consumer. All individuals utilizing a search engine to visit a site will not be misled by the information presented to or by the search engine, or harmed or offended upon arrival at the client site. This includes techniques like “bait and switch” where the client page does not substantially contain and is not clearly associated with the optimized phrase, or may be reasonably offensive to targeted visitors.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any laws. This involves the deliberate and continued violation of copyright, trademark, servicemark, or laws related to spamming as they may exist at the state, federal, or international level.

No SEO practitioner will falsely represent the content of the client site. This includes the practice of presenting different versions of web pages to different users except where that information is altered solely to meet browser specifications and needs, sensitivity to regional factors such as language, or product specific needs. In general, ALL requests for a specific URL should be served identical HTML by the web server.

No SEO practitioner will falsely represent others work as their own. This includes the taking of work from others in whole or in part and representing this work as their own. The SEO practitioner may not make verbatim copies of the work of others (instead of authoring original work) without the prior consent of the other party.

No SEO practitioner will misrepresent their own abilities, education, training, standards of performance, certifications, trade group affiliations, technical inventory, or experiences to others. This includes quantifiable statements related to project timetables, performance history, company resources (staff, equipment, and proprietary products), and client lists. Guarantees will be restricted to items over which the SEO practitioner has significant and reasonable control.

No SEO practitioner will participate in a conflict of interest without prior notice to all parties involved. This includes the practice of choosing to emphasize one client over another in competing keywords because there is more personal gain for the practitioner. All clients are treated equally and all will receive equal best effort in their Search Engine Optimization.

No SEO practitioner will set unreasonable client expectations. This includes the practice of accepting more than a reasonable number of clients competing for the same keywords and implying that all will be in the top positions in the search engines. This also includes the implication that results can be obtained in an unreasonable amount of time given the known condition of the search engines, client site, and competition.

All SEO practitioners will offer their clients both internal and external dispute resolution procedures. This includes the publishing of address and phone numbers on primary web pages, the inclusion of third-party dispute resolution links prominently placed within the practitioners web site, and contracts that include sections discussing dispute resolution.

All SEO practitioners will protect the confidentiality and anonymity of their clients with regards to privileged information and items implying testimonial support for the SEO practitioner. All staff of SEO practitioner shall be bound to protect information that is not generally known as it may harm the client. The SEO practitioner will not include the publishing of testimonials and proprietary logos of client lists, press releases, and other collateral discussing the client without explicit approvals.

All SEO practitioners will work to their best ability to increase or retain the rankings of client sites. Clients are contracting for fee with the SEO practitioner in order to obtain and retain search engine placement. The SEO practitioner is charged with an obligation to utilize appropriate and allowed technology and methodologies to improve and retain the rankings for their clients in the face of shifting search engine technology, competition, and client web site needs.

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