So we have been blogging quite a bit about the J.C. Penney SEO program screw up this week. And the more I've researched it, the more I've come to the opinion that they just really did screw the pouch here. Check out the reactions from the guys over at I have a great deal of respect for the regulars in this SEO forum. It's worth a read. What you learn is that J.C. Penney - knowingly or unknowingly - bought a HUGE (i.e., over 20,000) links from a very unreputable link buying broker. Many of these links were on pages that had no content, just a huge list of anchor-text specific links. Not good. So this begs the question:

What defines a high quality SEO program?

Well, I've been writing on this topic for about three years now. From day 1, I've made a few important assertions:

1) A high quality SEO program is founded in transparency

Transparency is important in most business functions. We are hearing a great deal about this word from our Federal Government these days too. It is important as it breeds trust. It removes the secrecy and allows everybody to see the data. Many SEO programs shy away from this because they don't really want you to know what they are doing. This is your first red flag. Other programs avoid transparency not because they are embarrassed by what they are doing, but because they don't want you to see how little of it they are actually doing. Again. Not good. In a Semify SEO program, we open all the books. You see all the writing we are doing. You see where the links are going. And, most importantly, you see the movement in the rankings as a result of our marketing efforts. For better or worse, we all know when an SEO program is working and when it's not. While this can bring frustration when rankings don't move as fast as desired, we would rather have the honest (albeit difficult) discussion with all the data on the table.

2) A high quality SEO program is accountable

Again, you've heard me beat this drum for years now. Don't work with any SEO services provider who is not accountable unless you really really know what you are doing. Most people looking to outsource SEO are not experts. If they were, they would not really being outsourcing SEO - they would be shopping for point services. And if you are one of those people, then this is the right path for you. How do you know which SEO program style is right for you? Ask yourself this question: Do I want to be the quarterback of this team or the owner? It's a fairly good analogy. The owner gets to sit on the sidelines and watch the action. They are very invested in the outcome (financially), but they are not making minute-to-minute decisions that will impact the outcome of the game. The Quarterback is running the show on the field. The decisions they make have a HUGE impact on the outcome. As a result, they are very accountable. We think that you should outsource to an SEO program that is accountable to outcomes and avoid playing quarterback unless you've been at practice for the last couple of years ;-)


SEO programs that are transparent and accountable will cost more than point services that are not, and that's appropriate. After all, there is someone at the other end of the phone to talk to. All of the link-building, press release and blog commenting point services I've seen don't come with an Account Manager. These are not high quality SEO programs, and they are not designed to be. But people sign-up for them thinking that their rankings will move. Not so. To achieve high organic SEO rankings takes a well-orchestrated SEO program backed by solid strategy and honest tactics. For those who really want to outsource their search engine optimization, this is what you should be looking for.