SEO at all costs

RulesI was recently approached by a fairly successful company (judging by their website's Alexa of about 2k) offering SEO software for sale. They identified me as one of the top SEO's who may like to test their software's latest features (well thanks for that compliment, I hope it's not the lie as the rest turned out to be).

Well to cut the long story short, I wasn't able to run the software at all (it has an installation for Windows which for some reason didn't work). Seeing how successful this company was selling this software and that they are selling a product that runs on my computer doing all sorts of SEO queries I asked them straight would I be violating Google TOS if I ran this software on my computer?

Google TOS section 5.3 says:

"You agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services by any means other than through the interface that is provided by Google, unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate agreement with Google. You specifically agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services through any automated means (including use of scripts or web crawlers) and shall ensure that you comply with the instructions set out in any robots.txt file present on the Services."

To my surprise the company said that other tools do that as well, indirectly admitting that you would be infact violating Google TOS. When I pressed for an official statement they've given:

"Taking into account the very nature of SEO and the specifics of this niche, we consider the question to be inconsistent"

Apparently according to them you can't do SEO without using automated queries. I wonder what happened to all the on-site optimization, writing quality content, acquiring social media influence and so on?

What actually amazed me the most is that they were able to sell a product that makes the customers directly violate search engine giant's TOS, without even letting the user know about it before the (expensive) purchase.

And they are getting away with it, obviously selling thousands of licenses.

Now before I ask where is their conscience, I admit that Google is hardly a flower anymore, and that their moto "do no evil" is more like "do no evil, apparently". And everyone on Internet has been on at least of the edge of breaking the rules one or more times, it is a big jungle out there. But what is beyond me is how can one base a big, successful business on basically forcing their customers to perform illegal action every time they use their product, and get away with it? That certainly can't be true.

Well it's. Strange world it is.


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15 Comments

  1. Oct 1st, 2011

    Well what can I say? That's the world we know. I have never used any SEO software before and will never do it after reading your article. It's not surprising at all because I have worked with lots of scam company online and most of them have very low Alexa ranking (<20k).

  2. Sep 22nd, 2011

    Guys i never use Google TOS, i will try it straight away, i trust google with any product.

  3. Aug 29th, 2011

    Unfortunately this field tends to gather quite a few people who apperantly don't have morals about cheating and violating rules, OR they think those do not apply online :)

    I had an offer from an google adwords expert whose mother answered the phone. He was supposedly living in USA, and is using eunet email ;)

  4. adam
    Aug 24th, 2011

    I just found another shocking material about "do no evil" business practices
    http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/August/11-dag-1078.html

    • Aug 24th, 2011

      That's a good example and I bet things like this will start surfacing.

  5. Aug 24th, 2011

    Vladimir, I had the exact same type of discussion with an SEO software company about 2 months ago. They assured me that my concerns were unwarranted and then after my site was booted from Googles index they assured me that it must be for some other reason. It simply could not be their software that caused that to happen.

    Funny how none of my other sites were banned!

  6. Aug 24th, 2011

    I asked one of the leading SEO software companies if their product violated the Google terms of service and they said something like: "we don't discuss the inner mechanics of our software, blah, blah, blah..." which I took to mean a yes. Google needs to step up and take more responsibility here since they created the demand for rankings reports, but provide no alternatives.

  7. Aug 24th, 2011

    So I use a software that pulls data from Google's Keyword Tool and then goes through various gyrations to analyze it. Is that what you are talking about?

    Secondly, you say breaking Google's TOS is illegal. Seeing how the search engine is free to use I'm not sure breaking one of the sections can be considered illegal. And actually the TOS only comes into play (I believe) if you set-up an account.

    Now, I am not of the mindset you do what ever it takes and have always played the "game" with searching out quality links and creating quality content.

    I also get tons of spam emails offering their services. And like the above, I actually did respond to one of them, but never got a reply.

    • Aug 24th, 2011

      Yes any automated way of accessing Google services (whether you have an account or not) is against their TOS.

      You may willingly accept to do it, but whole another matter is basing a business on selling software that forces the customers to break this TOS and then not communicate this with them.

  8. Aug 24th, 2011

    Well, you said everything: "Strange world it is."

    Recently I had some funny/suspicious 'SEO' offer from an 'expert'. It's more like spam email then offer but anyway I was in the mood so I replied and said: "Yes, please send me your great SEO offer, I want to grow my business..etc.."
    I never received his reply or offer.

    I find it very strange because they are wasting their energy and time spamming people and when they 'caught' someone, they even miss their chance to sell their 'perfect' SEO services. How serious can this be and how far can they go? It's like you are fishing and when you catch a fish, you simply leave your fish in a watter untill fish escapes.

    Strange world it is :)

  9. Aug 23rd, 2011

    Well, whatever works. I guess that's the game. I am with you on all points and have a question: What happens if a person uses this software and violates the TOS. Would the persons Google account be blocked, a website removed from the SERPs?
    As long as the answer is: "Don't know/Nothing" I guess they can continue bending Googles TOS as is Google itself.
    Example: Only real names are allowed in Google+ but really, really important companies get a free pass.

    • Aug 24th, 2011

      We do not know consequences yet, but certainly Google logs all these activities somewhere and could one day use it to affect ranking.

      • Sep 17th, 2011

        Which is why I neither ask for nor provide quid pro quo linking, tweeting, googledy plussing or any other form of SEO or social media back scratching. That stuff leaves a clear signal in an incidence matrix. I do promote good stuff that I like though.

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