Because we oversee and task seo agencies on behalf of our clients, we often find ourselves in the role of 'client.' This gives us insight into the murky world of the retail seo sales efforts, where outrageous claims of expertise often fall flat when agencies are required to actually perform in the client's interest.
LSF Interactive and Netmark are 2 firms where we have witnessed incredible incompetence. The strategies sent to the client in both of these cases revealed plans that actually create greater risk, and in one case that strategy triggered further suppression. While we insist on stopping all link building until the penalty is resolved, LSFinteractive and Netmark both believe that pointing more links is a penalty solution. Netmark had a plan to throw 9,000 links at the site in one month, and actually started that campaign, collapsing the ranks further.
Lack of knowledge & experience leads to mistakes that harm businesses. The longer your ranks are gone, the scarier the world becomes, and every business owner, large and small knows that time is not your friend when your sales engine is broken. Enough time without sales results in first layoffs, then infrastructure triage, then shutdowns, business over. Time matters critically when you've lost your ranks.
How Long To Unwind A Google Penalty?
Those who follow our advice know to never point links home, mostly for performance reasons, but also because that strategy can save your enterprise. We've seen several instances where because the links were pointed to landing pages, and the fact that Penguin is automated, that merely changing the filenames instantly discarded all links, reviving the site in a matter of days. We have many instances where more severe penalties were lifted within 2-3 weeks, and we have a couple of Penguin unwinds that are beginning to unwind around the 30 day mark. But this is what Christopher Johnson of LSF Interactive emailed me when I requested a status report, "Anything less than a 90 day timeframe to see anything from a site penalized is unrealistic, although we have seen results within 60 days."
Perhaps this 90 day attitude is why, after over 2 weeks, they were still not able to report any progress, or even any work. Chris kept repeating to me that the site had been maliciously hacked and that prevented LSRinteractive.com from doing anything. But if you are this technically challenged, you should not be messing with Google penalties, because your ignorance just keeps the client penalized longer. When I insisted that LSF complete the link vet in a week, I was told that it was impossible - on that call were LSF employees Chris Johnson, Fumi Matsubara, Dan Summers, & Jenna Allison. As I pushed them to expedite, I kept hearing that the penalty work that I needed them to perform was beyond the scope of the contract. It became clear that they viewed this project as just another seo job, not an urgent penalty unwind.
What Should Have Happened
At that point, we fired LSF and my teams took over. We removed the hack on the first day of engagement, and repaired the server environment by the third day. It did not require specialized skill sets, just basic knowledge of directory structure, what to look for, and communication with the host. Within 4 days, we had the links completely vetted and the list of problem links in the hands of our take down team.
But for me, the real issue with lsf interactive is the sheer misrepresentation involved in the sales effort. I am now a partner in the firm that hired LSF, so I have access to all the correspondence prior to their engagement. My partners had made a very specific request: help with a Google penalty. For six weeks prior to their engagement that was what the conversation was about - the penalty and the urgency of addressing it. Penalty help was what LSFinteractive.com promised. But while they talked about link removal, LSF Interactive did absolutely nothing toward penalty remediation. Instead, they then offered a link building proposal, and then a proposal to optimize a completely different and irrelevant site. Their agenda was more sales.
Locking You In - Ripping You Off
To top it off, once fired for incompetence, LSFinteractive began using a legal argument which reveals another obnoxious fact about this agency. Their contract permits cancellation with 30 days notice, but only after 60 days - so you're locked in for 3 months. In this case that meant that the wasted $7,000 would become a wasted $21,000. We want them to attempt to defend that in court.
The New, Instant Penalty Experts, Looking For Work
One of the sad consequences of Google's recent enforcement actions is the mad scramble of retail seo agencies to attempt to exploit the opportunity created by large numbers of penalized sites. Unknowing businesses who've been penalized are vulnerable to the exaggerated claims of penalty expertise, and have no way of knowing if those claims are mostly hype.
Penguin provides a great opportunity for low level seos because in many cases the problem is just bad links. A couple of successful penalty fixes involving nothing more complex that take down notices sent to the webmasters where the links exist, leads these seos to feel empowered - and ego does the rest, creating penalty experts instantly. And more black marks for seo.