snake oil and SEO don't mix

Snake oil doesn’t cure all

Remember my diatribe or two about a snake oil salesman (SOS) turned search engine optimization consultant and web meister?

This is one of those rare times when something really does turn around. Something good. Something just. Something good for the client. And for me.

As you may recall, my web client had decided to enlist the services of someone else (a friend) about a year ago — someone who was telling him weird things about SEO. My client and I had been out of touch a bit, and he became enamored of this person, someone he considered a friend.

I was heartbroken, and did try to warn my client, but his mind was set. I had thought we had a rapport. He had been a great client.

I watched the web site we built together change into a sordid version of its previous self. Copy tripled. Sidebars were out of control. Facts were changed. In short, the damned web site became busy, less than persuasive, and, overall, not effective! The elegance had been shattered.

Snake oil and SEO — and more

In addition, this SOS (snake oil salesman) was telling my client that underlining and italicizing words would increase his search engine rankings. THUD.

About three months later, I got word that my client’s web site was endangering my entire server. Seems that the snake oil salesman had installed a rogue backup plugin that was replicating backups — and nearly filling my server. (See

I copied my client on all emails to this SOS.

One day about a month after that, I got a call from my client.

He simply asked me if I could help him fix some of the copy on the web site. Of course! And could I in particular fix some pages? Of course!

It was a while before I gathered my nerve to ask him what had happened with the SOS.

Seems the snake oil salesman had tried to convince my client to participate in something that my client wasn’t comfortable with. I believe it was an ad. The fervor with which the SOS went about trying to persuade my client was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Anyway, it’s now been a year since my client and I began to work together again, on:

  • Web site updates
  • Coupons
  • A trade show display
  • A brochure
  • A new business card
  • Photographs
  • And more

I am still repairing the damage done by the SOS … key words, etc. were completely out of whack, and there’s still copy I’m finding in odd places that is overwritten, inaccurate, or just inappropriate.

And yet … life is good. I have my client back, and our relationship seems stronger than before.

The moral of this story: know the background of your web vendors and examine their previous work. If you don’t feel comfortable making evaluations on your own, enlist your friends’ help. If that isn’t satisfactory, ask a few web vendors to weigh in on what your “SEO consultant” is recommending or writing.

You may not even pay a cent for the evaluation. But you’ll save thousands of dollars in the long run.

Snake oil and SEO

by susan time to read: 2 min

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