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Still Trying to Fool Google With Your SEO Practices?

spn_exclusive1Impatience can prove expensive. Impatience, combined with unethical behavior, can prove very expensive. Rushing to reach page one in Google, Yahoo and Bing rankings may put more than your search engine ranking at risk. It will make a direct hit on your creditworthiness.

As any website owner penalized by Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms knows, taking shortcuts to high search engine rankings can severely hurt your revenue stream. But what you may not know is that shady SEO practices can harm your finances in another way: they could scare off lenders and investors.

Before you apply for a business loan, launch a crowd-funding campaign or try to raise investment capital, take a hard look at what your website analytics say about your company. Does an analysis reveal that your company has used best practices to achieve its ranking and traffic reports? Do you have earned links from relevant sites or paid links from a spammy blog network? Do you think a lender won’t notice? Think again.

Alexa and Application Reviews

Lenders and investors are flooded with applications from business owners who need money to purchase equipment, buy buildings, increase inventory, launch products or bring their ideas to market. Reviewing a company’s financial statements, interviewing accountants, meeting with chief financial officers and visiting a company’s warehouse take a lot of time. Credible lenders will not spend that much energy on a prospect’s application unless it’s worth their effort.

Many applicants will be rejected after a single visit to Alexa. And it might not be low traffic that dooms you — many successful companies don’t rely on massive traffic — but the type of traffic and the way it was obtained.

$10-Million Link Mistakes

A well-established Florida real estate developer who used his website as a marketing tool — all of his business was conducted offline — couldn’t get a loan because of his Alexa report.

Why? Because the company website, located in Jacksonville, ranked higher in India than it did in the United States. And the only U.S.-based sites linking to the company came from paid links and content mills.

The developer would have been better off with zero links than the 252 links he had. The developer blamed his SEO provider, but shifting responsibility didn’t help him get the $10 million he sought. He was turned down for the loan, despite the fact that he had the necessary collateral, a stellar credit rating, more than 20 years of experience and a solid business proposal to support his application.

The $40,000 Link

The company’s questionable SEO practices raised questions about its ethics. If the company was underhanded in its link-building practices, in what other ways was it acting irresponsibly? Was it hiding financial information? Bribing inspection officials? Building unsafe condos?

In the big picture, the disreputable links may have meant nothing. The company’s ethics may have been completely aboveboard. But it didn’t matter. The bank had other loan applications to review and the single red flag raised by the Alexa report was enough.

The developer probably thought he was getting an incredible bargain when an offshore developer promised him page one rankings in Google for a few thousand dollars. But each of his 252 links cost him $39,683 in loan money he needed for a new condo project.

The developer’s SEO practices damaged his reputation. Don’t let this happen to you.

How to Make Your Online Reputation Sparkle

As any financial advisor will tell you, you should clean up your credit report before applying for a car or house loan. But you should also put your company’s online reputation to the white glove test before approaching business lenders or investors.

Here are four ways to check for “dust” in your SEO practices and take any necessary scrubbing action:

1. Review Your Alexa Report.

Make certain you know where all of your site’s backlinks are coming from — and the reputation of each of those sites.

Ask your SEO provider for the metrics of all the sites that link to yours. Or check them yourself using tools such as PR Checker or Webmaster Peak.

If a site ranks poorly, find out why. A new site with great content may not rank well because of its newness. This may be fine — your reputation can grow along with that of the other site. But if a poor-ranking site is obviously shoddy — its home page is littered with ads, for example — take steps to get the backlink removed.

Your site is judged by the company it keeps. A site’s overall reputation is important but so is its relevancy to your business. If you sell medical waste carts and you have links from a jewelry store and a candy company, Google might wonder about those links even if the jeweler and confectioner have outstanding reputations.

2. Study Your SEO Reports

Your SEO provider likely sends you monthly — or more frequent — reports. But how often do you read them? If you’re only looking at your current rankings, you’re missing a lot of information that could impact your website’s reputation — and your potential for raising or borrowing capital.

Find out where your links came from — and how they were obtained. If any of your links were purchased, they will hurt your credibility. Exceptions to this rule include links from business directories. Links in exchange for products are also dangerous. If, for example, you’re sending freebies to mommy bloggers to compensate them for linking to your site, the practice could prove costly.

The definition of “product” under Google’s Panda and Penguin remains undefined, but SEO expert Richard Oldale says that if you’re writing guest posts strictly for links, “Don’t be surprised to find this practice penalized when the algorithm is next updated and the net is cast once more.”

3. Examine Your Website

If you or your SEO provider optimized your website, find out how much optimization took place. Duplicate content — even if you wrote it yourself for another website and then posted it to your own — can hurt you. So can hidden links, sneaky footer links buried so far down the page no one would naturally read them, overused and irrelevant keywords and cloaking.

Remove — or ask your SEO provider to remove — any keywords or links on your site that don’t belong. And keep in mind that, if your name or company name is on the website, the responsibility for web content rests with you.

4. Learn from the Best

In early March, when the Ethisphere Institute released its seventh annual list of the world’s most ethical companies, it noted that 23 companies had made the list every year. The exceptionally ethical companies included America Express, Starbucks, General Electric and Fluor.

You might argue that the perennial winners are large companies whose CEOS can afford to be ethical, that companies such as Starbucks don’t face the type of online competition or budgetary constraints that your business does.

But every company started out small. And every company owner can choose to act ethically, online and off.

Patience Pays

The opportunities to make money online continue to grow. E-commerce became a trillion-dollar industry in 2012 and online sales are expected to reach $1.3 trillion this year, according to emarket.com.

This means that there are a lot of investors who want to help your company grow, to help you (and themselves) to a piece of the ever-growing Internet pie.

Don’t give them a reason to pass over your proposal or application. Make certain that all areas of your business — including your SEO practices — are squeaky clean.


Geoff Lee is a Vancouver mortgage broker with over 22 years’ experience helping individuals and businesses get the right financing for their needs. He is also a founder of the Imani Orphan Care Foundation that supports orphaned children in Kenya.

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31 Comments

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  • Impressive blog i agree with the fact that it is not an easy job to fool Google as they have now built up algorithms that are almost impossible to break out or deal with so the better choice is to go in a slow steady and a fair way to promote your website through SEO so that you do not get caught.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It’s more exciting to be a hare in the race to business success, but we can also learn from the tortoises.

  • After Google Panda and Penguin update SEO is not an easy thing. Now it has a lot of technicalities and it is all about natural. In this scenario your shared post has a lot of technical information that how we can avoid mistakes and how we can be successful in SEO field.

    • Google is protecting its business with the new algorithms, just as you should protect yours by following the guidelines. The Internet makes our successes — and mistakes — very public. Best of luck with your endeavors, Business Logos.

  • ‘Patience pays”- this is very true. From childhood we are taught to have patience but we are always impatient. Thanks for the good read. I will try to follow the steps.

    • Thank you, Shilpi. Our parents and teachers knew what they were talking about, didn’t they? 🙂

  • I do not agree with this article in regards to the Authority of Alexa. Alexa, by it’s own admission only collects and delivers data obtained by Alexa members using the Alexa toolbar.

    As such, Alexa is marginally authoritative to actual traffic analytics. In other words, Alexa is not as relevant as it was years ago. “Has-been”

    • If Alexa is relevant to lenders or investors, then Alexa is relevant even if it does not provide the most authoritative analysis of traffic. Your credit report may not fairly judge your ability to repay a loan, but your scores are the first and sometimes the only thing a bank checks before saying yes or no to a loan. Alexa is also the first thing a potential advertiser is going to look at when judging a site. The advertiser will not look at your own — better — analytics if a quick Alexa review is not impressive. So you can’t dismiss the importance of Alexa just because you deem it a has been.

    • Your insights about Alexa are probably greater than mine, Jonathan. But I was looking at Alexa from a creditor’s point of view. If lenders consider Alexa in their loan-making decisions, business owners should be aware of this.

  • I have to say this post kept me all the way to the end. In my job responsibilities building is a daily occurrence or at least requesting them, I always knew there was something missing in my thoughts on the overall picture and this clarifies it for me. I will be taking lots away from this post – thank you very much for your insight into this.

    • Thank you for your comments, SEO Link Manager, and I am happy that you found value in the article.

  • I don`t know how much Alexa`s value is in this respect but if a bank turned them down for a loan because of shoddy linking practices.
    Commenting on blogs could be considered shoddy if all you get is a link back to your site with your name linking to it. My Website software review site has many links like this and I think they are hurting my SERPs.
    I hope I don`t need a loan anytime soon.

    • I don’t know much about (OK, anything) about SERPS, but here is my general advice: If a computer robot detects shoddy practices in your link-building techniques, the loan officer at your bank could, too. Loans are granted — and denied — for all sorts of reasons, and not all of them are logical. But there’s no reason to wave a red flag in a creditor’s face if you don’t have to. And it’s better to know about potential problems BEFORE you need a loan.

  • We use to think more backlinks will make a difference to help website ranking higher. Now, everything has to do with quality works. That put more pressure on us. A lot of people in the SEO business don’t know every little detail about Google changes and sometimes it takes time for them to figure that out. It hurts a lot of small online businesses. We always have to put money out there to get a better ranking and it is not always easy when money is not flowing.

  • I think the underwriter for that loan has stepped out of his due diligence boundaries.

    The bottom line is that given a track record like that, he should have gotten the loan. Speculation of personal character based on some other work totally unrelated to his line is ludicrous to say the least.

    • When it’s your money to give, you can use any criteria you want. If you’re asking someone to give YOU money, you are dependent on their criteria. It doesn’t matter whether the Alexa ranking is a fair way to judge a person’s creditworthiness. What counts is what the lender says matters.

    • I agree, Dom. The real estate developer was a good credit risk, in my opinion. But if someone of that caliber can get turned down because of an Alexa report, imagine how difficult for someone with a less stellar credit history to obtain financing? Consider this: if your company’s Alexa report was the first thing a creditor or potential client checked, do you think either would want to do business with you?

  • Great article. I have had all these problems. The web designer who I paid for their copywriter to provide unique content copied it off a competitors. To date I have yet to find an ethical SEO company, I have used five and all have been very questionable.

    In my opinion in business integrity is everything so why shouldn’t company owners apply this to their websites.

    • Thank you for your insights, Darren. Every business owner suffers an occasional lapse in judgment, and it’s usually unintentional. It sounds as if you’re taking control of problems you’ve encountered. Your efforts — and ethics — will be rewarded.

  • Getting traffic to a business website is so vital to its success. As the world wide web grows daily it is getting more difficult to be found. I fully understand why Google, Bing have to keep making adjustments. They want a good search product. We also live in a very, very impatient world. But building a web presence is a bit like growing a garden. It take time, you can’t rush the plants. You just have to plant the seeds and nurture them.

  • Great post with latest updates of online marketing including search engine marketing and SEO. These tips are also very helpful for the small business owners who investing money on SEO but not getting ethical SEO solutions from SEO companies.

    • Thank you for your comments and insights. I hope my thoughts are helpful to you in educating your clients about the importance of choosing ethical solutions to their SEO needs.

  • Having patience is a virtue that many do not have. SEO is a process that takes time and patience. Be wary of the “desperate” client and those who have absolutely no understanding of the internet. These types feel that splashing some words on a page, adding a few links and POOF they’re supposed to be on the first page. Not so.

    Nick Stamolis (sp) wrote an excellent article on this issue. In it he explains that SEO is a 12 month process and it is not collaborative.

    I can’t stress enough the use of pure organic white hat SEO. That’s what sticks to the first page. It is sad that SEO rip off artists leave a black mark on the whole industry.

    To Darren Greenaway – that is terrible what happened to you. Not all SEO companies operate that way. There are a few honest ones who really care about their clients and want to see them do well.

    • It sounds as if you educate your clients and work with them to maintain your ethical standards as well as your clients Your strategy will help you rise above the “black marks” and prove your value to business owners.

  • We have always taking into account the underlying principle on which all successful search engines work, “to find the best results for the search term”. Everything else links back to this principle and we judge all our practices upon this. Our approach certainly losses us business against competitors that make promises of quick fixes but also builds trust and long relationships with our clients. To be honest we relish algorithm updates as without exception they have delivered better results for the sites we manage as the dodgy practices of others are found and penalised.

    Thanks for highlighting a real-world reason for ethical on-line practices.

    • Thank you, Amilight. Loved to hear that you “relish algorithm updates.” Any business owner who rises to the challenge of change in an ethical manner will rise above his competitors — and demonstrate his worthiness to creditors and investors.

  • Nothing very ethical about Starbucks not paying any tax in the UK from its inception if you ask me

  • Interesting post.It is very toughest thing to make Google fool. Because the Google algorithms are very hard to escape any website and the patience is the main key for SEO (Search engine optimization). Keep posting such kind of posts. Thank you.