An SEO Company is Possibly Scamming a Client – Need Your Opinion #SEO

I just got of the phone with a friend of mine who was concerned about her SEO company.  Her company who she’s used for a few years has been giving a lot of advice that I tend to not agree with.  I don’t know if I’m right or if they’re right, but my SEO clients are doing well and my friend who listens to their advice has had some success but a decent amount of failures.  The company said that to fix your SEO issues from Panda and Penguin, your solution is to change your site’s architecture (not review backlinks, site content, etc…).  My reaction to this is below the poll.  If you could take a second to answer the poll for my friend she would really appreciate it.  I’m also curious to see if people disagree or agree with my opinion and why.  I would also love to hear your feedback on this before you read my response by leaving a comment in the comments section.  If you do not want me to share it, leave a comment saying to not post it and I won’t post it live.  Thank you for helping with this and helping my friend to make a decision on what she should do.  Does she listen to her SEO firm and let them completely change her site’s Architecture to fix her Penguin and Panda issues or does she find and work on a new plan.

The plan:

Change the architecture to fix Panda and Penguin hits from Google.  The proposal from my understanding is to literally just change the site’s structure and that will solve the issues and increase traffic and sales.

  • I don’t see anything about redirects (301, 302 or killing a page with 404)
  • I don’t see anything about altering the internal linking structure
  • I don’t see anything about copy and content changes
  • I don’t see anything about killing off bad backlinks in webmaster tools
  • I don’t see any new link building or link building and content strategies for the new architecture
  • No keyword research with new or old keywords dedicated to the pages and where they now exist in the new site structure
  • They are not changing any urls, just the patterns and paths from them.  This is at least what my impression is.  If they are adding in new folders and changing url structures, this is a completely different thing.
  • This is mainly changing the paths on the site from the home page and down two levels from the homepage and only on categories.  They don’t go to product pages or products on the page.  Just the main categories.
  • The site is old and has a decent amount of authority.

There’s a lot more that I didn’t see and when I asked was never brought up.  Please answer the poll question then leave a comment and then read my response below.  Or you can read my reaction without leaving a comment if you don’t want to leave one.  I’d also like to ask that you please share this post so that I can get her as much feedback as possible.  All company names and my friend’s company are being kept out of this.  It is simply just to answer the question, can changing a site’s architecture solve your SEO issues from Panda and Penguin.

[socialpoll id=”4592″]

My reaction was that this is not good.  In their minds they may think that it is a somewhat fresh start.  At the same time, if you are going to completely restructure a site’s architecture, you need to look at each page, where the internal links that are helping it rank are, how changing that will affect them and if they can continue to rank.  If you have pages with authority from backlinks passing authority in bound and you change where it is located, how will the affect the pages it pointed to, especially if the pages don’t have homepage juice anymore, etc…  You also need to worry about how to redirect old pages, the content on the pages and how the new placements and pages linking to them and where they exist in new folders will effect them.  I think it is a bad idea and not well thought out enough.  Penguin and Panda focused on onsite issues and then external issues, not a site’s structure, even though that is part of the on site things with your SEO.  Let me know what you think by voting and adding your comments below.

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12 thoughts on “An SEO Company is Possibly Scamming a Client – Need Your Opinion #SEO”

  1. I’ve witnessed some really stupid things that have fixed automatic Google penalties. Not going to dicuss those here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if changing architecture fixes these.

    Re: Panda – new pages may be enough of a bump to push that content as authoritative, and therefore other copies of it out there just that: copies. Even if not word-for-word, but a “Panda copy”

    Re: Penguin – all those crappy links would go to a 404 page, so Google will could think it’s just a dumb webmaster, not a bad link campaign.

    So, I wouldn’t dismiss this strategy, but there are some flaws in it.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thanks for your feedback. There are no copy or content changes and there are no new pages being built. Just a heads up.

  2. This is a tricky question because I wasn’t able to see the site.
    I voted “no” because Penguin & Panda issues are detailed & intricate. I think changing a site’s architecture can assist with conversion by making the site more appealing to the visitor but Penguin & Panda include more problems than lack of appeal.

    Good luck to your friend.

  3. I voted “No”, but I think a third category would be appropriate..that would be either “maybe” or “kind of”. I think some on-page tinkering can affect both Panda and Penguin in SOME cases. It’s not a panacea and needs to be looked at holistically. Since we can’t see the site in question, it’s hard to make a true judgement on if the tactics described will work. As it is written (basically a blanket “on-page or off-page, no combinition of the two”) I have to vote no. But I rarely find the answer to be a quick magic bullet. Hope that helps.

  4. So it sounds like everything content wise is going to stay the same but will be moved to different sections on the site thus changing the urls addys of the pages??? I’m probably missing something?

  5. I tried to vote “no” but the poll tried to force me to log in via Facebook, which I did not do.

    SEO firms make their money (note I did not say “earn”) by continuously shifting the gun site on a moving target. That target being the myriad changes being made by the Goog to keep crap out of the SERPs. The only part that seems to remain in place is the target of having original content that serves a purpose – that purpose being to help the reader answer a question or solve a problem.

  6. I would say for 99% of websites out there this wouldn’t be the case. I wouldn’t dismiss it 100% but would more go after inbound links that try and manipulate PR as well as anchor text %’s. You could install Google Webmaster tools and find out REALLY quick who’s right!

  7. Clean and competent structure can help. But I can’t see structure alone as having been the cause of substantial penalties in itself. Unless there are some severe navigation problems, it is a waste of time. Panda and Penguin have more to do with low value content that is the same on 5000 other sites, or cookie cutter pages without unique, descriptive titles and descriptions on every page than with URL or site structure.

    Inbound crappy links can’t be controlled and should be ignored. The tool in GWT is to discount paid or “arranged” backlinks that you have no other way to remove.

    Answers are sometimes cryptic, but careful reading tells you what is important – as far as Google goes- here at their help center: support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769&topic=1724121&ctx=topic

    Bing has somewhat different preferences but fixing for either one will improve performance for both.

    This does not need to be posted, if you do, feel free to take out the G-link.

  8. Right Adam – by new pages, I meant they’re new to Google, because they currently don’t exist. I recovered from a penalty by doing something as crazy as this firm is suggesting.

    1. They’re not creating new pages, just moving around where they are on the site map and how they are linked from the homepage. I think it’s a way for them to get a few extra months by doing an overhaul before it can possibly tank the site.

  9. Hey bud,

    As I said on FB: “what they’re just trying to do is buy another month retention because switching the URLs will buy you an extra 4-8 weeks before the filters take it out again” – if they’re not planning on doing 301’s to the new pages from the old ones they’re literally creating orphans and hoping they die out. Translation: “We done fucked up on the links”. Second thought I had was what Eric said where you create a new page to “fill the void as best match of a query” for the site which again is completely possible, but with no added link building to that page and leaving the old one completely standalone (and/or 404’d) they’re banking a lot on the internal linking. I can’t comment on whether or not this would work for the case because I don’t know the makeup of the site’s history/authority/backlink profile/etc, but it’s possible.

    There are aspects of Penguin that can nuke an individual link from ranking of which the 301 can help with that if you switch it to a completely new URL, but since you said they’re not doing 301’s … yeah. Let’s talk about Panda. Panda is about 95% on-page. Changing pages without changing site structure and design/layout? Almost worthless.

    I’m assuming a lot when it comes to this because I don’t have the site in front of me but from what you’re saying they’re just milking a few more months out of it before the filter refreshes and smacks the pages again. Usually I’d go with “putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound” but this is more along the lines of trying to repair a mortar hit with a butterfly bandage.

    Hope your friend sees that they’re in a bad spot, they need to get someone on that immediately for an on-page audit & cleanup before the algorithm sees it consistent enough to be the norm and the crawl/indexing speed slows to a halt. It’ll take a lot more time to clean it up when that happens.

    Regardless, hope this helps bud. You know where to reach me if you need it.

    – Rob

  10. Having dug out of Panda I did not see site architecture causing any issues. However there were some things that I think helped sort of related.

    1. Template / Code Footprint
    2. Internal Link Footprint

    What I mean is if the site has a lot of space dedicated to the template and it had thin content, this seemed to spell doom for Panda. Also if there is a block of internal links, shrink it down so that it takes less pixelspace on the screen. This has also helped out.

    But most often Panda was brought on by spun, duplicate, ghost, and boilerplate content, changing the filename will not help at all as it will just get rehit.

    Reducing the number of internal links might help adjust how the penalty is spreading through the site. While I don’t have anything concrete, it looked to me like Panda was a negative score on a page that would pass along, much like page rank, when another page linked TO it from within the website. Since most websites use a flattened architecture that could help it spread much faster. Try orphaning the pages you think are affected and see what happens.

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