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About Me


"I was thinking about you all day today and what a great person you are."

"I wanted to be #1...After 2 months I reached the top position for my most popular keywords."


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Making the Web a Worse Place by Working for Bad SEO Clients

11 December 2005


Sometimes I think I am a bit too altruistic on some fronts, but generally as an SEO service provider you are doing yourself and the web as a whole a grand disservice if you market someone's site dirt cheap.

Great ROI

About a year ago I got a website ranked number 1 in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for a one time fee of less than $1,000. If he had to buy the traffic he was getting for free he would be spending about $300 per day.

I knew I got him enough links so I never charged him recurring fees. Obviously he is getting great ROI on his SEO spend.

All for the Small Guy

I like the idea of helping people new to the web with limited budgets. It is cool knowing you helped someone compete in a marketplace that they most likely otherwise would not have.

A Year of Traffic

I believe that client ranked consistently at #1 in most the major search engines for nearly a year.


Assuming his site was competitive at converting he was going to make a killing. It wasn't though.

Site Redesign

I thought he needed to have his site redesigned to help improve the conversion rate and usability. I sent him to a friend who goes to college when my friend was bored at the beginning of summer. After saying hello to my friend this merchant did not proceed with hiring my friend until school started.

Suddenly my personal programmer and designer was overworked. Any work my programmer did for this person meant that they were not working to help me build my business.

Google Updates Jagger

While the client was slow to do the site redesign (and then bitched me out for my friend not being quick enough after he waited 3 months to hire him) when the rankings dipped from #1 I started getting help me emails. When Google Update Jagger occurred intermittently his website went from ranking #1 to ranking #3 or #4.

The first email sounded like

Well, I enjoyed being number 1 on Google for a while thanks to you! Now I'm at number 2 & would like to move back up or at least not fall any more.

As his site fell a bit further I told him I couldn't help him at that time since the update was ongoing and I was busy. He became furious and demanding. The worst kind of client is one that does not pay recurring revenue and expects and demands to rank #1 all the time. An efficient and competitive market is going to require building some sort of intrinsic value or reinvestment.

Shortly after the update stabilized his site started ranking between #1 and #2 without me doing anything. Eventually it may not be that way though.

The Sandbox

Shitty sites are the most dependant on search because there is no reason anyone would want to link to them or use them. They are also the types of sites which are most likely to get screwed by updates or algorithm shifts because they have to fake their way to the top.

Mike Grehan recently posted on the Sandbox concept:

Take a look at your web site. Yes, I know that you're all proud of it because you had something to do with it, or you built it, or whatever. But try and remove yourself from these emotional feelings about your work, or the product of your own management and see if you can come up with answers to these short questions:

What makes this offering any different to anything else online?

What is it on this site which would literally, compel people to talk about it and link to it?

Why do I honestly believe this site deserves to be in the top ten rankings at search engines?

Now. Go the competitor's web site which is ranking in the top ten (in the case of where you're not) and ask the same questions. Now compare the answers (providing you've been honest) and you may find the answer to what you believe to be the "sandbox".

Real Brands

If you have a real brand or something unique and worthwhile to offer you are far less dependant on search algorithms, and they are far more dependant upon your content.

  • While I do not have an amazingly well known brand around half of my traffic to my SEO Book blog is type in traffic. If my site was removed from search engines I would lose less than 50% of my traffic.
  • Branded search terms tend to be some of the most valuable and best converting terms.
  • If large well known brands do not show up when people search for them that makes the search engine look like garbage.
  • Exceptionally well known brands may even be able to operate far outside search engine quality guidelines because people expect to see those sites.
    • Wordpress took all of about 1 day to get back in the results after their site was removed for adding thousands of pages of content spam.
    • It was no big deal to any of then engines when the Financial Times sold hidden links off their home page.
    • Google approves NPR cloaking content.

Limited Time

You have limited time, and if you do not put much value on your time others will not either. If you work to be the single competitive advantage for other business models when their owners do not listen to most of what you say then why not leverage that same effort to work for yourself from end to end.

If your business partners are not investing much effort and money in creating longterm competitive advantages eventually you will get squeezed as market inefficiencies are solved. That is no way to live when opportunity is so abundant on the WWW.


A friend of mine who does significant work with AdSense does even better selling leads in some industries. I think many inefficient merchant sites may even be able to make more money selling ads to sites that convert instead of selling products directly.

Ideally you can create a site that converts well, but if you don't many conversion experts will create lead generation sites, affiliate sites, or traffic selling sites that cut away at your margins while your smartest competitors will invest in improving conversion rates and building their brand.

Since I wrote this article Google introduced a bunch more AdSense ad layouts and free channel tracking.


Each day it is becoming easier to be a profitable publisher. There is no reason to do SEO for someone else if their site is garbage. If you are ranking junky sites at the top of the search results you may as well own them and get paid for performance instead of working for a substandard rate for a merchant with a broken business model or broken website.

by Aaron Wall of Search Marketing Info

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This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.


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