SEO scum?

So, a friend of a relative had some company design a web site for her new business. It was a simple web page.

Now, companies doing this are fine. They can do a good job, and the site in question looks fine as a really simple "shop front" web site to provide company details, a few pictures, etc.

There are, of course, a load of "self design" services that exist and could probably do just as good a job for way less money or even free.

Anyway, this is where the underhand part comes in.

They designed the site and then they tried to sell her search engine optimisation (SEO) for yet another fee.

Now, SEO is an odd business. At one end you have the simple matter of ensuring the web site is well written, contains all of the right things technically (headings, meta tags, and so on), to ensure it is correctly and hence prominently listed in search engines. A well designed web site does all that anyway.

Then there are the "tricks" - the less ethical methods that involve basically trying to trick the search engines in to highly ranking the site, at least for a while. I guess these have value to some, but it is a tricky business.

Well, this particular web design company has done a couple of odd things...

1. They registered the domain in their name, not the customer's. That is a tad naughty if they did not explain this. It makes it hard, or even impossible, to move the site to a new provider if unhappy with their service.

2. They added this to the pages:

    <meta name='robots' content='noindex,follow' />

What does that mean? It tells search engines not to list the page at all. It is the total and utter opposite of search engine optimisation. It is telling search engines to totally ignore the site.

To put that on the page and then "sell" SEO to the customer is really underhand, in my opinion. The SEO they sell may simply mean removing that one line!

Our advice? Get out! In this case they can get the corresponding .uk domain and use that as a new site. As a new company it seems that will work fine, and maybe the .co.uk will come up one day.

Why do people think it is OK to run a business like that - it may not actually be illegal, depending on the terms agreed, but it is underhand and devious as far as I can see. Not the way to build a loyal customer base or get referrals!


  1. That is decidedly devious.

    However, if the site isn't finished it is correct not to index it.

    Some SEO are proper scumbags. Fortunately my wife is one of the nice ones - automatic non-compete, for one thing - she won't do local search for anyone else while you are a client.

    You might laugh, but some SEO companies call around their area, & promise a half dozen (or more) companies the same number one spot!

  2. Its inserting a defect into the product intentionally. I'd argue unless it was buried into the T&C that is is protentially actionable.

  3. I'm sure if you spend a lot of money with a very good company, SEO can be beneficial, but the techniques are not secret and I always advise customers to keep their money and do it themselves with some advice from me - a web developer for 18 years. Or to spend the money on Google Adwords.

    The worst type of SEO company is the cold caller who will promise success (and in the small print promise nothing) and then adds a bit of text in the header and at the foot of the home page in order to tap into a nice stream of £80 per month income. I have never, ever, experienced a customer benefitting from these companies. All have said it has been a waste of money.

    As for web developers registering customers domains in their own name, it's been going on as long as I've been in the web development business. Fortunately it has become easier to change the registration details providing you can show evidence that you paid the miscreant to register it for you (ie an invoice with that as an item).

    I love the web, it's like the wild west, the jungle and all the worst and best aspects of the free market rolled into one fantastic world-wide information and communication fest.

    Give the scumbag SEO's a bit of sympathy, they are just trying to make a living in the same way as a door to door vacuum cleaner salemen. As we become wiser and the world changes, they will simply wither on the vine.

    Jeremy Clulow
    Webs Wonder Design

  4. Yeah this sort of thing happens a lot.

    I had someone develop my first business website, what he did was prevent many parts of the site been dynamic so e.g. if i wanted to change a product spec I would need to ask him to make the change.

    Then earlier this year I asked the same guy to do a website for another business, he owes me money so was no fee for this. But it turns out he was planning to pull the same trick because when I gave him specifications for the site, mainly that it is dynamic and I can use it on multiple domains, he flipped out saying thats too much work.

    Then he came back later saying he would do the work as long as he owned the domain name used and got 50% of ALL revenue pre cost and pre tax.

    To this day the website is still not done as I cannot agree to those terms, I think likely now I will just do the website myself.


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