The Unvalidated Industry

There is one industry which is, perhaps, unique in this respect. Fees run in the thousands of dollars a month. The explanation of what companies in this industry do are such that few people can truly understand them. Reports as to what activity is done on behalf of a particular client are vague, if the reports are written at all. The actions done on behalf of a client cannot be verified by an outside source.

This industry is plagued with trade secrets, so closely guarded that even their own clients cannot be told what it is they do. An NDA would not be sufficient to protect the interests of the company, risk of an employee taking the trade knowledge and starting a competing company is incredibly high.

The industry suffers from another problem. There are many companies who take advantage of the inability for their clients to verify their activity. As a result, they charge high fees to do little if any work.

This industry is that of Search Engine Optimization.

Because this industry is a constant battle between search engines trying to provide higher quality results against companies trying to game the system, SEO companies are extremely quiet about what it is they do. In the past, this wasn’t a real problem for their clients, since results were easier to measure. But today, these companies can claim credit for any positive result gained from the search engines, and who’s to say they’re lying?

The problem is that it is impossible to know, when talking to a company, whether they are in fact legitimate (that is, your money will be spent on actually trying to boost your page rank) and whether they are any good. The graphs and pictures shown as part of the sales pitch are irrelevant, since they cannot be independently verified.

As an example of the difficulty in verification, a company might say that they place hundreds of links for your site on pages with high page rank, thus boosting your own score. But what those sites are you may never know, because that’s a trade secret. You might be shown a few, after signing an NDA, but the full extent of what’s being done on your behalf is a secret.

Is there any way to break this cycle? It’s in the best interests of companies looking for SEO work to break the system, but which company would be the first to open their process to the public?