SEO has changed a lot since I started in 2006. Back then a well coded website could rank for almost anything locally, with hardly any links. I had a way of hiding keywords in the code that no developer used at the time. All I had to do was build it, and watch it rank. It was a gold mine.

For really competitive terms the website needed more links, but these were easier to get back then as well. There was no Penguin or Panda to worry about, so I’d write an article and get it syndicated on some article publishing websites, and presto, hundreds of links.  This was a time when I didn’t understand the importance of retaining customers on a monthly basis. I charged a one off fee for the website and SEO (around £2000 to £5000), and everyone was happy.

When it got to around 2009 I hired some staff, and switched to a monthly model of between £200 and £1000 per month. By this time ‘spintax’ was being used quite heavily. I trained my staff to use a spinning program, and we’d write one article and spin it 300 times to produce 300 unique articles (in Google’s eyes). The articles were mostly gibberish, but we didn’t care as they did what they needed to do, which was rank websites.

An SEO Storm Hits


We were just hitting our peak in 2012 when the Penguin struck and wiped out our website, along with a number of our clients. It was a huge crisis with SEO’s hitting forums and no one knowing what to do. Clients were going mad about lost rankings, we’d lost our own website, and it really wasn’t our fault. No one knew Google were going to change the goal posts. The way we were building links was perfectly legal, but Google decided to bring out a new algorithm that meant for the first time in SEO history, links could hurt your website.

It wasn’t too long before we worked out that penalties were probably due to over optimised anchor text. This was never a consideration before, but now the Penguin update was here, we had to ensure we used a wide variety of anchor text for our links.

So we rebuilt and within months had another website ranking highly, and started gaining more clients and recovering old clients. Then around the end of 2012 another update hit, wiping us out again.  This time it wasn’t over optimised anchor text, but the actual links themselves.

It turns out if links are in a ‘bad neighbourhood’ you could get hit by a penalty.

Again we rebuilt, and the Panda update hit. We used to build multiple pages to rank for keywords in multiple areas, but the Panda update put a stop to that. The noose was tightening on the SEO community and all our tricks were getting found out by Google.

We rebuilt again, and built our own private blog network (PBN), which kept us going very nicely until 2014. Around August 2014 most of our private network was deindexed by Google. A quick look on the forums told us hundreds of others were in the same position. We continued to rebuild but by now I realised that SEO had changed completely and pretty much all the quick fixes were gone.

We continued until early 2015 when I realised the clients we had couldn’t afford to keep up with the price of SEO. We had clients paying around £300 per month, and it just wasn’t possible to give them the level of service they deserve, without jeopardizing their website. SEO was and is far more competitive than it’s ever been, and competing for even low to medium level keywords takes more work now than it used to.

So I scaled down my business to just me and my computer. My colleagues retained the clients we had, but I decided it was time to do something different, on my own.

A New Dawn: Hourly SEO

SEO dawn

Since then I’ve been focusing on writing, copy skills and gaining traffic in a new way. I’ve kept a couple of personal customers who pay monthly to manage campaigns and generate content etc, but most of my time is spent writing and keeping up to date with the industry.

The SEO landscape is now far bigger than Google, and a multi platform approach is required for true success online. This means utilising platforms such as Amazon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Ebay, Twitter and more to generate traffic and drive sales.

I now work on an hourly basis, as this is the only model I can see working in SEO, going forward. I can build links naturally using well crafted content as a starting point. I can build websitesresearch keywords, carry out technical SEO, research, write and deliver fresh content, all on an hourly basis. I can study the landscape and work out strategies that get companies to where they need to be, without risking a penalty.

This way I can give my customers real value for money, and satisfy my own peace of mind.

If you want an experienced SEO but don’t want to hire an SEO company for an extortionate monthly fee, and very little understanding of what they are actually doing. Give me a shout anytime.

Author: Steve Ceaton

I'm Steve Ceaton. I've worked in web design and SEO since 2006. I also write fiction. Follow Me: @SteveCeaton on Twitter.

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