My near death experience with a so-called SEO expert

One of the things that I regularly help clients with is finding talented and qualified freelancers to assist them with projects on a part-time or full-time basis. For the most part I have been rather happy with the people I have helped find and have placed but during a recent project I learned a very valuable lesson; it makes more sense to spend more time during the interview process and reference check than it is to have to clean up the mess that someone else leaves behind.

One of my clients was looking for someone to assist him with SEO on his website. While he had a decent amount of search engine traffic to his online presence and had some first page placements, he felt that there was a large number of keyword phrases that he wasn’t ranking on. We worked together doing research and getting traffic estimates from Google before selecting a handful that we wanted to focus on.

The job was posted on oDesk and we were flooded by applications. After about a week I had narrowed it down to 6 or 7 candidates and started the interview process. I finally selected an overseas contractor with a lower hourly rate as it would allow us to get more onpage and offpage SEO completed. This particular nameless contractor had stellar feedback at first glance and a large number of billed hours so I felt comfortable selecting this freelance, as did my client. Boy, were we in for a surprise.

Things seemed to be going well for the first few weeks with work being done on optimizing the website for the new keywords and generating content that would help capture some organic traffic. Keyword ranking reports on the new keywords were submitted on a weekly basis and we were seeing a small foothold forming on a couple of the phrases we selected. Overall, things looked promising and we were looking forward to continued results.


That was until we took a deeper look at the overall stats. Over the first month and a half we had stable search engine traffic but in during the second month, we saw the overall search engine traffic drop by approximately 75%. I immediately went into panic mode, contacting my client to let him know before he found out for himself and requested a detailed report from the contractor in question. I started investigating to find out what the issue was and soon found out that the contractor was using questionable tactics to generate backlinks.

Most of these backlinks came from automated forum and blog comment posting. At first, it looks like he was targeting relevant sites but soon after it became apparent he was submitting to any site that would approve his comments and the link to the site. As many of you probably know, Google despises that practice these days.

I immediately set to work removing these links and using Google’s newly launched disavow tool to try and get things back on track. I fired the contractor immediately, who quickly begged for another chance and had some great ideas on how to generate traffic on Facebook and other areas. The goal of this project was not to generate useless traffic but to gain rankings on relevant search keyword phrases.

The lessons I took from this particular debacle are;

  • Closely monitor your freelancers or contractors to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.
  • Ask for detailed reports based on the project and take the time to review what is being completed on your behalf.
  • Ask for detailed plan on how the project is to be completed, with goals and deadlines in place.
  • Do your research before hiring someone. Don’t take feedback at face value. Ask for contact information or use a website’s messaging system for both positive and negative comments. Also ask for results.
  • In the end I was able to get the client’s organic search engine traffic on par to what he was receiving. In fact I am pleased to report that his search engine traffic is up slightly. Now its time to connect with another SEO professional and I guarantee you we won’t have the same issues this time around.

    Have you had any disasters with a SEO professional? If so, drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your story!

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