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I hired someone to do SEO work on my website. He started by creating free profiles on dozens of sites that have nothing to do with my business. For example, evernote.com, penzu.com, pearltrees.com, diigo.com, ello.co, livejournal.com, myspace.com, etc... I think the idea was to get backlinks. However, only a few of these sites provide dofollow links and I think Google would be smart enough to know that these are not quality backlinks. He says he is following protocol and only uses "whitehat" techniques. Should I be concerned?

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    Yes, it indicates they likely are either following bad advice, or possibly trying to add backlinks to other client sites, or even their own. As davigo mentioned below, some of these aren't recognizable and likely wouldn't be considered authoritative or relevant. Low-quality/unnatural links could lead to a manual action and consequently should be disavowed - see Google's advice here. I'd suggest going with SEO consultants who have a proven track record and verifiable testimonials/referrals - or just do it yourself, it's not hard. – dan Mar 10 at 6:09
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    Here are some things that might help with the later: What are the best ways to increase a site's position in Google? – dan Mar 10 at 6:10
  • Thanks @dan. Any idea where to find good SEO consultants? I could probably do 90% of it myself but I still need help once in awhile. This guy came from Upwork and he had good reviews. – kent Mar 10 at 23:02
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Yes. You should be concerned. Links from sites which do not relate to your content are likely to decrease your SEO performance. I am not very familiar with many of the sites he listed, and it is likely legitimate for him to host your profile in appropriate sites/directories (but it sounds like the appropriate bit is missing from his endeavours.) If you are a maker/creative and are trying to promote a website focused on creative endeavors it is possible that what he is doing is appropriate, but it seems somewhat unlikely.

"following protocol" sounds rather hollow to me - I am unaware of any "protocol" which applies to SEO, although there are certainly best practices. None of these were named in your post!

I do not hold myself out as being an SEO expert, but I've been around long enough to know that SEO is about ensuring you have the appropriate content on a "clean" site - with appropriate keywords (but not using keyword stuffing), having backlinks from credible, related sources, and doing things like GMB, using appropriate schema and taking whatever steps you can to make your site a credible, authorative source of information.

I did want to point out that nothing described would be considered "blackhat", so its not likely to get you blocked from Google - it just sounds like someone who does not know what they are doing following a 15 year old playbook which is obsolete.

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  • I think profile links from well-known and legitimate, albeit irrelevant sites are unlikely to decrease SEO performance, whether by means of unnatural linking penalties or otherwise. Aside from that, this is a good answer and I agree completely with your last sentence: it's sounds like someone who doesn't know what they're doing. – GDVS Mar 10 at 9:56
  • @gdvs Im pretty sure that Google looks for relevance in the backlinks as a way of providing higher quality results and reducing link farms. One of the problems Ive seen is web design companies who have a link to their website from their (unrelated industry wise) clients sits, and Google hammers them for it. – davidgo Mar 10 at 10:44
  • I'm not disputing that Google look at the relevance of backlinks. I do however disagree with your position that a handful of links from web profiles that are merely irrelevant will decrease SEO performance. To the best of my knowledge, there's no good evidence to support that claim. The instance you site is less to do with relevancy, and more to do with it undeniably being an at-scale link marketing tactic which is expressly discouraged (at least by Google). – GDVS Mar 10 at 17:50
  • Alright that's what I was afraid of. Thanks @davidgo – kent Mar 10 at 22:44
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    Google is smart enough to recognize links from user profiles on sites and forums. It is also able to distinguish such links from profiles and pages on social networks or other sources. Perhaps you have chosen not the best promotion strategy, but it is unlikely that it can harm you. – Roman Mikhol Mar 11 at 5:00

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