Questionable SEO Practices

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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Bobbie Grennier Google+ Local PRO Reputation Marketing for Google My Business/Places: In need of a Google Places Optimization, Google+ Local SEO Professional? Google Local Pro offers Advanced Places Consulting. Bringing you better SEO Ranking and Placement for your local page and search engine listing.

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