Since SEO has been around, especially in its early days, there was a large gap in understanding. It’s closed up a lot but certainly still exists. It was not uncommon to hear about someone offering to “SEO optimize your website” for a very small fee. I was often intrigued as to how these people or companies could afford to offer their services for such low rates until I had a the luxury of overseeing a campaign on behalf of a client that I came to learn that they really couldn’t offer their services for such a low rate. The work was wrong and bad. Fortunately all that would happen is that the client would be out of pocket $199 a month.
I remember my first Google penalty. A test website I was running started doing quite well so I decided to explore the questionable technique of adding hidden keywords using the same color text as the background. A colleague thought it was a good idea but sounded to me like a bad idea so I explored it. Within 2 weeks the website was gone from the SERP’s. Lesson learned. Do it right. Don’t mess with the G.
So these $199 a month arrangements were pretty spammy but they never really pushed the envelope. They never really did enough to risk a severe penalty. Then it started to.
First we heard rumblings of some penalties for tactics that were known effective techniques. Then there were some big name penalties. The JC Penney link farm, BMW’s page cloaking, and when we started hearing about thin content, over-optimization and link buying, we knew that there was going to be some widespread issues.
So now we’re back to that $199 a month service and we’re thinking here comes trouble. On a hunch I went to a website that I recall we made a bid on but were told our services were too expensive.
Turns out it was a pretty costly decision. The above shows a pattern that is quite typical. Large initial gain, often another little bump followed by a slow and steady spiral downward. Sometimes the drop is faster and more significant. The link profile is pretty bad and no question that this is their issue.
Now that word of caution against the cheap SEO services. While my advice used to be simply to go right ahead if you felt compelled, I’d now suggest that it could actually be the cause of significant problems.