Is this anything but SEO spam?
February 22, 2010 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a job opportunity that involves, among other things, SEO. I am fairly sure that this is the spammy sort of SEO, but the person was not really clear enough about the technical matters, and it's not something I know all that much about. That said, some parts of this seem good.

The company sells whatsits to grocery stores, which package and resell them. It wants to make a second company to sell whatsits on the retail market, online. I believe the company can be successful doing this.

It's bought urls like and, which are currently parked domains.

For the wholesale whatsit company, the url is the company name, and SEO was used to push the page up to the top 5 google results, using something called Evo. Everything I see about it looks spammy as anything -- though it's apparently effective, since it seemed to work for the other website, and the person who did it is absolutely not technical enough to have done anything but follow the rules.

I'm a little concerned, ethically, about this, because my goal is not to be a spammer. (I've got a secondary concern that using this kind of SEO will backfire totally.) On the other hand, I could well be missing something that makes it less sketchy than it sounds like.

Anonymous because of real name issues. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
SEO is essentially trying to trick Google.

Think about Google's purpose:To give you the BEST information it possibly can.

Think about SEO: making google think your website IS the best information.

It's not quite that simple. But I've always felt like SEO is profiting at the expense of information.

(By the way, I have done a ton of SEO to make money.)
posted by lakerk at 7:11 PM on February 22, 2010

i don't know if this is too offtopic, and i apologize if it is, but has any worthwhile company ever benefitted in a meaningful way from SEO? it seems like the kind of thing crap companies with crap products do so that they can rip people off.
posted by radiosilents at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2010

I'm a little concerned, ethically, about this, because my goal is not to be a spammer.

That's going to be problematic. On the other hand, to quote Pulp Fiction: "[...] you may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps."

Here's A Bare-Bones Recap Of EVO2's Talents:
  • Creates and confirms E-mail accounts totally on autopilot...
  • Creates sites that you Own Forever, solving Captchas along the way...
  • Promotes your new linking sites and your money sites to Smoking Hot Web2.0 properties...
  • Provides a deluge of backlinks to your money sites on dozens of high page rank sites...
  • Strategically links all your new Web2.0 properties together...
  • Promotes money rss feed and new rss feeds created to the rss aggregators...
  • Promotes money site to the social bookmarking directories...
  • Promotes money video to video directories...
  • Creates a mash-up batch RSS feed and submits this to the rss aggregators...
  • Creates a mash-up batch RSS feed of all the new Site URL's and promotes this RSS feed...

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:46 PM on February 22, 2010

Spamming is unethical and, in most places, illegal. However, if the company has a legit customer list (even for a newsletter or updates, etc.) then they can send email out legally to those people. Not all mass mailings are spam.

The key difference is the term "unsolicited". Not, as some people like to think, "mail I don't care to get."

For example, if I get an email from Amazon but have never had an account with them, never even visited their site, never had any interaction with them, then that's spam. However, since I do have an account with them I find almost daily mail from them about some sale or special offer. Those emails are not spam.

If this company is actually spamming they could be in serious trouble. OTOH, if they are beating their customers over the head with a flood of emails then I agree it is likely to backfire, even though it is legal. Not sure how the bulk emailings help with SEO unless it improves page hits?
posted by trinity8-director at 7:46 PM on February 22, 2010

If your prospective employer were in the business of selling specially-brewed yogurt, and wanted to sell more specially-brewed yogurt by capitalizing on the sudden popularity of whatsits-- hoping, in effect, that someone using a search engine would search for whatsits and then be misled into visiting a yogurt site-- that might be construed as an unethical use of SEO.

Your prospective employer, on the other hand, has the best of all reasons for SEO'ing as fervently as possible:

"Whatsit," your prospective employer, sells whatsits-- and so someone searching for whatsits would probably like to see what your prospective employer has on offer.

On another note, while it's possible to remain on page 1 while doing zero SEO, the more competitive the niche, the more difficult that is; this is another way of saying that if your competitor's niche is so weakly contested that he/she doesn't need SEO, then his/her use of SEO isn't disturbing anyone. And if instead he/she operates within a strongly contested niche, then the odds are good that the competition is using SEO as well.

Bottom-line: Take the SEO job, or don't not-take the job, based on the SEO component.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:36 PM on February 22, 2010

To be honest I'm not sure what your question is. Do you want to know whether this job will involve unethical SEO methods? Judging by what Tell Me No Lies posted it sounds like it will, as the company will need someone on staff who can implement some parts of the advice from this dodgy Evo outfit (it sounds like they do annoying crap like building worthless aggregator sites themselves, as part of their service, and depending on how you read the list they may be blog spammers). You may be this person.

You might be interested in this, which is the first google result for "seo google ban". Google is always at war with "bad" forms of SEO. It might almost be fun to be on the other side of an Internet war with Google but I wouldn't rate your chances of ultimate success.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:25 AM on February 23, 2010

Looking at the product you mention, your job won't be to do "SEO." Your job will be to run the spammer tools. If you don't want to be a spammer, I suggest you take a pass on this job, because you will be a spammer if you do this. You won't be "kind of spammy." You won't be "an unethical SEOer."

You'll be a spammer, outright.
posted by majick at 5:06 AM on February 23, 2010

Hoo-boy. I was ready to charge in here with a breakdown of white-hat vs. black-hat SEO (which distinction I'm sure you're aware of, but which some of the early posts in here are not), but then I actually went and looked up Evo.

Evo II is pure, weapons-grade spam. They're probably worse than that, because once you've crossed the line into paying for the services they describe, it's not much of a jump to account hijacking and really nasty stuff. If the company you're looking to work for is dead-set on using it, then you're going to have to become a spammer to remain employed by them. Are you OK with knowing that you're a reviled spammer? I don't know. Probably not, based on how you've phrased your question.

So my question then becomes: do you have any influence over the company, and especially over its newly-formed retail wing? They sound like a small offshoot of an established company, which probably means it's just a couple of guys who have been pulled off of the parent organization, or a manager and a few new hires. In either case, they might be small enough that you can get the ear of the guy in charge. If that's the case, you might be in luck! Companies who use evil spammy SEO do so for one of two reasons:

1. They think this is a quick way to make a buck, and don't care about ethical concerns
2. They don't know any better. Someone tells them that SEO is the only way to get a foot in the door, but they don't realize the distinction between legitimate firms (or even developers) who will counsel them on how to use ALT tags, URL structuring, and page layout to be Google-friendly, vs. Brute Force SEO Evo II, who will automatically sign up for a bunch of fake Blogspot and Twitter accounts to spam the hell out of search engines.

But take heart! Group 1 isn't as big as you think it is. I've had moderate success talking people out of following the darker path, by focusing on long-term outcomes. If the company you're looking to work with is planning to be in this for the long haul, it would behoove you to show them a couple of examples where spammy SEO has blown up in someone else's face, and then give them the 30-second breakdown of evil spammy SEO vs. less-evil page-optimization stuff. The former is bad enough that it would probably make you hate your life, but the latter is basically just a set of rules page designers need to keep in the back of their heads when they're architecting a site.

I'd be happy to delve a little further into this over MeMail, if you'd like.
posted by Mayor West at 5:39 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

For some further discussion, here's a thread at Hacker News about the somewhat unethical and potentially illegal ways Mahalo is abusing SEO techniques.

SEO *can* be useful, but because its techniques and logistics are so easily abused, there's a huge number of less ethical people out there selling their SEO services to companies who don't really understand what they are buying.

The end result is it just makes it harder for people to find the relevant information they need from search engines, because too many SEO people have polluted the search results with their junk web pages. This also makes it incredibly hard for businesses who are more ethical and who do not participate in SEO to get their sites and web presences listed in search indexes with appropriate ranking and PageRank.

I remember when Google search results were actually good and relevant but it's been years since the top 10 results haven't been completely over-run and polluted with complete crap SEO-driven results.
posted by camworld at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2010

« Older Wax on, wax off   |   MPH + MS > PhD? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.