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SEO Case from Sydney

This is a free SEO white paper about our Sydney Australia based tour operator, who found us when he went on an extensive search for a replacement for his former SEO company. The old adage is true; if it ain't broke don't fix it. That is why our client that had formerly hired an SEO company in Sydney never questioned the dubious SEO methods used by his former SEO Company. He was ranked on the first page for a while, and calls were coming in a fairly steady pace. However, one day and poof the phones calls stopped. Our client searched for himself on Google and couldn't find himself on the first five pages of Google for a key phrase that he was ranked #1 for quite a while. When he called us, we couldn't find anything wrong with the site. Of course, we hadn't checked for htaccess files, re-directs etc. While on the phone, we relayed to the client that we could not find anything wrong with the site. The client then something interesting; he said the Sydney SEO Company had told him they used the "cloak and dagger" method of SEO, and that he had no idea what that meant.

Red flags went up all over the place for us. We have this handy little script that we use on one of our Linux machines that in essence pretends to be a search engine crawler. We use this script to find what is really happening with a site behind the scenes, particularly when we try to uncover if there is any cloaking occurring with the site. Cloaking is an old black-hat SEO method that gives a human visitor a normal looking website, while it gives a search engine robot (crawler) a totally different set of pages. So used our little script and boom we uncovered about 40,000 automated pages on that tour operator's website. The content seemed to have been taken from Moby Dick, and randomly words were replaced words like travel, tour, charter etc. The text itself made no sense at all. It was total garbage. Moreover, every page had an H1 tag with the main key phrase, then an H2 tag with the main key phrase, then a bold heading with the main key phrase. It was just a complete mess, but for a while it was working, so our tour operator had not investigated any further. Of course, as all black-hat SEO methods, they never last.

We took a few screenshots of what was really going on in the background with the terrible cloaking methods the SEO company in Sydney had used, and emailed it to the client. The client requested that we take over the account. So we gave the client a few hosting options. The client chose Verio. So we started the project. We grabbed all his real files, and uploaded it to Verio. We then changed domain registrars and went with Enom. So we changed nameservers, changed IP addresses and dumped all the cloaking the previous SEO Company had installed. We then waited. A few months later, the penalty had automatically be dropped. Our client was ecstatic. We then began the normal routine of our white-hat SEO methods instead.

Here is what we learned:

Black-hat methods, no matter what you read, will never work in the long term. We have seen advertisements from black-hat SEO companies that explicitly state the same. They advise their clients to use throwaway domains. The question is, even if such unscrupulous SEO companies charge a fraction of what a white-hat SEO company would charge, why waste your time and money on methods that are sure to fail in the long run? Why not do proper white-hat SEO instead? Why not deliver excellent content to your readers? Why not build a site and a business that can last a long time and bear fruit for years to come? The lesson we took away from that phone call is we never say a site looks good unless we check that site against our script. There could always be cloaking going on behind the scenes that could be devastating to a site.

SEO Lesson:

When you contact an SEO company and they use a cute term like the "cloak and dagger" method, even if you love those comic books, you should still ask them what they mean by that. You should then investigate if those methods are explicitly warned against in Google's Webmaster Guidelines. If you find they are, by all means stay away from them. Even if their SEO service is free, why do you want to risk your reputation and waste your time? Stick with white-hat methods. Yes, white-hat SEO methods take time to implement, but that is why you can hire SEO companies like to do the SEO work for you!

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