Editor's note: The following article was originally written in 2012. Adelaide Websites only abide by clean, ethical SEO as recommended by Google, Bing and other search engines.
When considering a marketing agency to assist with your online marketing objectives and advertising strategies, be aware of those that use dubious in-house methods that change your hosting/DNS arrangement for supposed SEO gain or improved reporting of user behaviours.
Some SEO companies have hosting technologies that can improve the ranking of your website content in the short term, but ultimately fail in the long term for increasing the ranking of your own domain, and can in fact stop online payments from working. 'Reverse proxy technology' is one such method used by at least one global SEO company operating in Australia. If put in place and in operation for some weeks, once stopped and cancelled this more often than not results in your website ranking worse than before the method was put in place.
We have seen time and time again failures of this technology. We have now had at least three of our clients try this reverse proxy method with a global SEO company operating in Australia, and on each occasion they were left worse off either during their short term SEO efforts (payment methods failing), as well as completely falling off the first page after cancelling their contract for reverse proxy technology, even if they were on the first page beforehand.
So, what is 'Reverse Proxy Technology'?
This 'black hat' unorthodox method of SEO comprises of the following methodology:
Duplicate, or serve a duplicate of your live website, with changes, through a high ranking domain
A current (static) version of your live website content is fetched from your host and sent to the user via their server, on one of their domains (the 'proxy site'). It may not be an identical copy of the website, but has specific changes for supposed improved abilities to track user conversions and other improvements to improve SEO.
Purely for illustration purposes, as a very generic example:
- You have a website at yourwebsite.com.au.
- The SEO company makes yourwebsite.theirserver.com.au, which fetches content from yourwebsite.com.au, makes changes to the code, and displays it on yourwebsites.theirserver.com.au.
- The SEO company displays high ranking ads that point to yourwebsite.theirserver.com.au. Users clicking on these ads see a modified version of your website.
- In a worst case scenario, they might request yourwebsite.com.au to point/redirect to yourwebsite.theirserver.com.au.
Reverse proxy technology essentially results in your content hosted through their domain/ip, alongside their other clients' website content (served through the same domain but in different subdomains or subdirectories). The success of this method is based on the SEO theory that goes:
All subdomains and subdirectories benefit from the Domain Authority of the root url (domain).
The combination of good client content served through the one domain (via subdomains or subdirectories) with a resulting increase of inbound links improves the trustworthiness and authority of the domain, thus increasing the overall SEO ranking of the domain and all content served through it.
Some technical points:
- Their domain is likely already highly trusted by Google and other search engines, and as your content is hosted through their domain, search results for that content may be ranked higher.
- The content served through their domain is served through an entirely different IP address from your web host.
- Their domain may be excessively short and look dodgy/fraudulent
- The content may be temporarily cached to enable serving their version of your content through globally positioned servers to reach the most users worldwide in the fastest way (a CDN, or Content Distributed Network). While this is generally a good thing, some implementations for entire websites can cause delays in the distribution of new content and blog posts.
Such companies using Reverse Proxy technology may claim that no 'copy' is made, that the website displayed through their URLs is not a mirror but is fetched in realtime for every request, and that sometimes the meta tags for robots noindex/nofollow are in place to ensure search engines don't index the organic version of your website on their servers. The fact remains that your content is being displayed through a different IP, and often from a country other than Australia.
Short term pitfall - Failed payment methods
If your website is set up to allow credit card payments through a payment merchant account direct with one of the big four Australian banks, this may be limited to allow payments made from one IP location, your website's true web server. As Reverse Proxy Technology serves your website content through a different IP, any traffic coming through to that version will not be able to convert to a sale, as the payment will be blocked at the bank's end (as the IP is not verified, the bank cannot ensure that the website is authentic/true).
We're aware of at least one of the big four banks that has indefinitely blacklisted IPs of a company performing reverse proxy methods. If you want to keep credit card payments going directly through your domain and not redirected through a third party (ie PayPal), avoid reverse proxy methods.
Long term pitfall - Downranking upon cancellation
The result of reverse proxy architecture can be a short term upranking of your content in search results (either organic or through paid ads), albeit for their domain, not yours. This means their domain gets positioned higher in search results. The danger of this is that should any contract be cancelled with the company performing the reverse proxy technology, they would simply remove your content served through their website, placing redirects back to their own marketing domain, leaving you ranking only through your own domain that has been left dormant throughout this process.
Another pitfall - Unauthorised modification of licenced code
Some websites contain custom booking plugins that are owned, licenced and distributed by either the website owner or a third party. Allowing a third party to serve a copy of the code without authorisation or owner access means that there’s no insurance that the code is an exact match or is trustable. This is especially the case with reverse proxy technology, as modifications are made to the code. They would also have the control to essentially install a different payment gateway and potentially channel funds into a completely different bank account without your knowledge.
Final pitfall - Beware of lock in contracts.
The Reverse Proxy method usually requires ongoing payments to the SEO company, in addition to their marketing costs and your web hosting, and more often than not requires a lock-in contract. This means you will have to pay them for a specific period of time, no matter the outcome of their results.
Adelaide Websites and Alltraders do not (generally) do lock-in contracts. Any ongoing SEO maintenance or AdWords/Bing Ads campaign maintenance can be cancelled at any time without any resulting negative impact to your website rankings.
All of our on-site SEO is done on-site, on your website. This ensures our SEO work performed lasts. Adelaide Websites and Alltraders do not use and do not recommend the use of reverse proxy technologies.
During a website redesign/redevelopment with little (if any) content changes, if you have previously paid someone to perform SEO on your website and the results have been good, get the previous SEO work transferred to the new one! When the Adelaide Websites team redesign websites, we always check your website's historical SEO to ensure previous on-site SEO work has not been lost, and to ensure the best SEO results. There have been cases where a client has had their website redeveloped by a third party without any on-site SEO, resulting in their website not only not ranking as well in search results, but the search results wording looking worse.
So to summarise:
Beware if any company suggests serving your already-live website through their servers/domains. This helps the ranking of their website, not yours!
Adelaide Websites do not use methods like the above, and only use 'white hat' SEO methods as recommended by Google, Bing and other search engines.