You can’t just take someone’s word for it that they’re operating with current SEO principles, tools, and skills. SEO forums have been around for years (just ask Rand), and hundreds of people are reading REALLY OLD posts about SEO and building a company based on the principles discussed.

SEO isn’t like mathematics – the principles are not universal or timeless. They shift, morph, and change over time. How do we know this? Because search engines like Google and Yahoo! are updating their algorithms and methods for ranking individual terms based on experience, complaints, and mistakes. Google is constantly evolving. Not nearly as quickly as some would like to think (this isn’t anywhere near artificial intelligence), yet still faster than many SEO companies and independents can keep up.

Here are 5 signs that you’re dealing with an SEO. If the person or agency you’re dealing with makes these statements, they do NOT understand up to date best practices.

5 Outdated and Stone Age Ideas for SEO:

#1 Search Engine Submissions
This should go without saying. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO SUBMIT YOUR SITE TO SEARCH ENGINES! This is a scam or an idiot. Either way, save yourself some time and money and move on. Any SEO worth a grain of salt doesn’t waste money on search engine submissions. I’ve discussed this in another post, so I won’t belabor the point.

A second issue here is the number of search engines these scammers supposedly submit to. There is ABSOLUTELY no need to submit to 20 search engines, much less 200. In this day and age, you do not need to even think about more than four search engines, and that’s pushing it. The only four worth considering at this point in time are Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, and Ask. You’ll get more traffic from a directory like Business.com than the rest of those less popular search engines (and probably more than Ask also).

#2 Google Sandbox
The age of the Google Sandbox is over. Deal with it. Yes, brand new websites used to not exist on search results for six months or so. It’s very true. This happened to my first website. It suddenly appeared after a few months (yet still had no backlinks). The key phrase here is “used to.” With the mad blog craze and the dependency on search to deliver timely news results, Google has since altered its algorithm to include new sites and content almost immediately. This is part of Google’s attempt to deliver timely and accurate results for up to the minute news.

#3 Reciprocal Linking
Dozens of companies posing as professional SEO agencies are pushing reciprocal linking or “link swapping” on ignorant webmasters and marketing managers. This is an outdated process. Google learned how to tell the difference between reciprocal and one way links and at some point penalizes sites for participating in swapping links. Just as with link buying, Google disapproves of any practice that muddies the waters of its link-based algorithm. While there are supposedly hundreds of factors contributing to the ultimate ranking of results, links have always been and always will be a very important factor in determining rank.

Each link pointing to an external web page is supposed to be a statement of importance and relevance by the person adding the link. Throw in link swapping and links become worthless. Suddenly everyone can have as many links as they want. All they have to do is trade, thus rendering Google’s algorithm mostly useless.

#4 Google Pagerank
Anyone can install the Google Pagerank add-on for Firefox or Google “page rank checker” and find 10 different sites that will tell you your site’s pagerank. Google knows this, and that’s why higher Pagerank does not equal better rankings. There are simply too many factors used to determine search rankings for obsessing over pagerank to be worthwhile.

#5 Ranking Reports
If a monthly ranking report is all you have to show for your SEO dollars, something could be wrong. Ranking reports aren’t bad, of course, and neither are they meaningless. But they are growing increasingly irrelevant in today’s online culture. Ranking reports are beneficial primarily in tandem with analytics reporting and interpretation. After all, though we may tend to obsess over our rankings, we’re really after the traffic, right? And if there’s a better way to drive traffic to a particular page or site, wouldn’t you rather know than throw money at something less effective?

Example: some websites really don’t need much organic SEO work done unless new content is created. If your site contains 10 pages or less, you can only target so many popular phrases. The rest go untargeted because you lack the content to successfully go after any more. In this case, your money is better spent on copywriting, blogging, and PR.

Another example is this one company that sells satellite photo services for large land owners as a security measure. This company’s marketing manager was happy with the traffic received on most pages, and wasn’t willing to spend any more on SEO. Because his target audience is so small, he found other ways to reach them effectively. There is a certain website where his type of audience goes, and he simply pays for a banner ad at the top of the homepage. This simple technique drives excellent leads to his website. Again, not a solution for everyone, but experimentation CAN pay off.

Well, there you have it. As always, you can ask any question you have and I’ll do my best to deliver a quick and complete reply. And if you know of other stone age practices you want to call to our attention, feel free to add them in the comments section.