Some years back (2005 to be exact) I joined a UK based web design agency and got my first hand experience of seeing websites optimized for keywords requested by clients and those keywords then achieving page 1 positions on Google and other search engines. I was quite fascinated by this as must be the clients paying for the optimization of their websites.
The modus operandi was that clients would send an enquiry or contact our office and request that their website be reviewed for SEO. We requested clients to provide us a list of 10-20 keywords which they wanted to target to improve their rankings on Google. Our SEO team would then review the client’s website and compile an Excel sheet outlining the current rankings of the client’s website on those keywords. They would also check if the client’s website was optimized for on-page SEO such as option to add/edit meta tags and search engine friendly URLs. If the keywords provided by the client were too generic or too competitive our SEO team would provide alternative keywords which they believed had a better chance to succeed. The client then selected the final 10-20 keywords for his website and our company would start work on them.
If the website needed some on-page optimizations such as adding and editing meta tags, URL rewriting and option of providing H1, H2 headings the work would come to my development department and we would add those features as requested by our SEO team and hand it back to them. Our work was usually finished in a couple of days.
Our SEO team then started the on-page SEO of the website and it usually took them 7 to 10 days of the first month to complete the process. During this process they would use the keywords from the approved keyword list provided by the client and embed them in the meta titles, headings, content and page URLs of the website. They created an account on Google Analytics if the client had not created one and generated the sitemap XML and submitted to Google Webmaster Tools. They checked for any 404 pages (broken URLs) in GWT and have them resolved by us if they existed.
The next step was to build back links to the website to increase the importance of the website in Google’s eyes (Remember PageRank :)). This was the time of link directories and link exchange programs. The client’s website link was submitted on high page rank link directories. The anchor text contained the actual keyword from the client’s approved list. Emails were exchanged with other website owners to place our client’s link on their website and in return our SEO team would place their link on the client’s website.
This process went for another month and a half and if all went well the rankings started to improve from the 3rd month onwards. Most of the times the client himself would contact us and express his gratitude on improving his website rankings. Some of them would be so happy that they would extend their contract for another 6 months to 1 year. Our SEO team was the darling of the company and at one time they were managing more than 30 projects which earned big moolah for the company.
I was just as much fascinated by their success but sometimes I felt that if this process was so easy then any Tom and Harry could get their websites optimized using these techniques and Google always prided itself on providing quality search results for its visitors.
Well it looked like Google was not happy that people were taking it for a ride. When Google introduced Panda and Penguin algorithms to fight web spam nearly all our client websites took a hit. Our clients started complaining of loss in traffic and that their website was nowhere to be found. Even though our SEO team made quickfire changes to offset the damage caused they were not able to recover the pre-Panda and pre-Penguin rankings of our clients and gradually our clients started to bid adieu and look elsewhere for a solution. Some were understanding and continued with the company but they had to start investing in Google Adwords to receive traffic and customers and that took a big hit on their profit margins.
The company eventually moved total SEO and internet marketing from Pakistan to the UK and the SEO department was eventually closed by the end of 2012.
This was not the story of one company but a lot of companies have closed down their SEO departments totally or scaled down operations to the bare minimum over the past couple of years. SEO related jobs have nearly stopped coming up on job portals and newspapers. Companies no longer see profit in SEO as people cannot get you results like they used to some 4-5 years back. As one senior SEO from a Dubai based media and SEO agency says
Managing a team of SEO’s to achieve organic results is much expensive than running PPC and Ad campaigns on Google and elsewhere
If you are a SEO or want to optimize your website then do read the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Word of advice:
- Improve user experience on your website
- Stop keyword stuffing
- Start your own website blog
- Improve your social profile on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.
- Do not buy or exchange links from anyone. Encourage natural back links