SEO is an interesting game, we know how big brands (like Interflora) sometimes get it totally wrong and buy links resulting in google penalties – and you really shouldn’t play with fire unless you’re either:

a) an experienced professional SEO


b) comfortable with having your site removed from Google.

I’ve seen a case today where Santander (a well known Spanish bank, with offices globally) is basically giving advice that is so dangerous and outdated, that its not only poor, but borderline criminal in my view.

Let me make this clear:
if you follow SEO advice from Santander,
you are likely to be banned from google.

Lets take a look at some of their suggestions:

The single biggest factor which determines your search ranking is links to your website from other sites. Search engines like Google regard every link to your website as a vote of confidence in your site. Links from websites which themselves have a high ranking are worth most.

So far so good, Im in agreement. But lets look at some of their suggestions on how to acquire these links:

Leave comments on forums and blogs. Many forums and blogs allow you to link back to your website if you leave a comment or take part in a discussion.

Holy F***.  So my bank is trying to tell me to comment spam? In fairness they go on to tell you to try and add something to the conversation to avoid looking like a spammer, which I guess is a good thing.

But it goes on:

Offer to contribute to other sites in return for links. For instance, offer articles on relevant subjects to high-profile websites in your industry. Ensure the articles are credited to your website, with a link back to the site.

Phew! For a second there I thought they were about to tell me to just pay for links, that was close..

 “Run an affiliate scheme: An affiliate scheme encourages websites to link to you by offering commission on sales.”

Whoa there Santander, didn’t you know that using clean linking affiliate links is specifically called out by Google as manipulative, and will get you banned?

“Submit your site for inclusion in online directories. Many online directories act as jumping off points to other websites. They will be happy to link to you.”

Awesome! So Santander is now telling us to build links through directory spam!

Let me repeat what I said above, if you follow this advice from Santander about SEO, you are likely to cause serious damage to your website, and if your business depends on its website it could put you out of business.

On a final note, having spoken to STEAK and MTD Sales Training, they have informed me that they have never worked with Santander and would not contribute to articles that involve poor practises of SEO. The expert referenced within the article, Kulraj Singh Salh, left STEAK in 2009, and the document is not authorised by them at all.

*** UPDATE *** I’ve been advised that the Kulraj Singh Salh left Steak in 2009, and the document is not authorised by them at all.  My point isnt really anything to do with them though, its that a high street bank should NOT be giving dangerous business advice.

*** UPDATE 2 *** after having discussed the matter with Steak, it seems absolutely clear that any of the advice on the Santander PDF did not originate from them, nor have they at any time had a relationship with the bank.  Judging by the comments below it could well be that Santander have copied the document from another source and claimed it as their own.  Banks being such ethical companies of course..!

*** UPDATE 3 *** I have now had confirmation from MTD Sales training that they likewise have never contributed any SEO advice to Santander bank, nor have they ever given Santander Bank any permission to use their name or reference them in any information provided to customers.

It has to be asked – what the heck are Santander playing at?  

Both companies listed as having provided advice strongly contend that they had anything to do with its creation or publication, indeed, both companies vehemently deny any knowledge of it or its contents!  Where have Santander bank got this information from? Why have they passed it off as their own?


If you would like to download their SEO advice, you can do so here.


So what’s your take on high street banks offering free SEO advice? Is the recognition a good thing for the industry or should it be left to the professionals?




Founder of and a career professional in SEO and web marketing. Experienced in travel, gambling & entertainment niches. Former head of SEO for Omnicom UK, Inbound Marketing Director at Expedia & current Senior Director for SEO at Orbitz Worldwide.



Head of SEO & Content for @orbitz & @cheaptickets. Blogs @forbes, @huffpost 40+ global conferences & keynotes

@iamrofe @screamingfrog lol, well jel - 1 day ago

Categories: Blackhat, Opinion

Leave a Reply

41 Responses

  • Rhys

    Maye we should say that you can get rich by investing in highly volatile penny stocks. Take them on at their own game.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:18 am
  • Illiya Vjestica

    Business diversification gone wrong!

    Appalling advice and what is more worrying is that because it’s coming from a source such as a Bank (which many a non-technically clued up customer) would trust, it scares me to think how many people might have actioned this advice.

    Banks and other companies who’s core business is not digital. Should stay the hell away from offering SEO advice. Especially, when they can reach so many small business owners and in the process set the SEO industry back a few more years.

    Great post Martin. Thanks for sharing.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:37 am
  • karen fovargue

    ridiculous, no one should be advising anyone on SEO unless you are an experienced individual

    March 14, 2013 at 9:39 am
  • Chris

    You’d think that with all the hoo-hah surrounding banking and the many cases surrounding mis-selling of financial products.

    It’s probably not a good idea for them to be advising small businesses on the minefield that is SEO.

    Oh well at least they’ll be keeping link cleanup services in order

    March 14, 2013 at 9:41 am
  • Yousaf

    You have some valid points but take into account the publication date of that document.

    Just to make things clear most of the tactics are shocking even for 2009.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:51 am
  • Andrew Marshall

    Did you expect anything but bad advice from the banks? The businesses that treat every customer as a number in a database and then commit fraud against them without ANYONE ever getting charged.

    This advice was probably higher quality that I would have expected.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:51 am
  • Paul Martin

    This comment is only here purely for the link. I heard somewhere that this is what you do these days…

    March 14, 2013 at 9:56 am
  • Jackie Hole

    lol “My brother in law does a bit of design, he’s a plumber so he knows about business – let’s get him into the mix to make the final decisions – he says if you put a load of keywords in the title tag you’ll rank #1”

    I used to go to the bank for sound financial advice for online investments until they ruined everything, now I go to my pro SEO friends for sound financial advice for online investments so fair do’s that they are now trying to tread on SEO turf 😀 – whoever put this on such a high profile brand needs shooting!

    March 14, 2013 at 9:57 am
  • Alan Charncok

    Santander got hit at the same time as Interflora, the term “saving accounts” went from 4th to 16th plus many other phrases did the same. Practice what you preach and it may just fxxk you.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:58 am
  • Daniel Vareta

    As a Portuguese, I always knew I couldn’t trust Spanish banks. ahaha

    March 14, 2013 at 10:20 am
  • Gareth

    92.6% of the entire SEO industry advice is wrong anyway. Only myself and a few of the Google webspam team know what really works.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:27 am
    • Cristian

      How dare you! LOL! BTW, You’re absolutely right in your first statement. The SEO scene is surrounded by jerks.
      Not too many people know how to optimize a single page. They all focus on linkbuilding, black hat techniques, and so on. The level is mediocre or worse, and specially in countries like Spain.
      Hope people in the near future understand that those techniques are all wrong, and do not want to buy that sort of services… 😉

      March 14, 2013 at 10:46 am
  • Mike Essex

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    It’s crazy to see that people still think SEO is so easy that they can just knock up a quick service or sum up everything you need to do in such a short space. SEO is harder than it’s ever been, takes longer to learn than ever and has more pitfalls than ever. Stating anything else is just misleading.

    Thank goodness they included step 6.1.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:33 am
  • Matthew Engelson

    Is this advice from 2005? I can’t believe this is happening in 2013, please don’t let anyone actually perform any of these tactics that will surely not work and in some cases might get your website penalized.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:44 am
  • James Slater

    The Santander PDF appears to be (re-)branded version of this document, written by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and presumably intended to be sent out by their members to their clients:

    The metadata identifies the author as “Karl Chapman” of AdviserPlus.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:44 am
  • Mat Bennett

    Whilst Santander are dishing out SEO advice, Barlclays are telling businesses how to do social media. The response that got on facebook is a joy to read:
    Read here (if they haven’t deleted it yet)

    March 14, 2013 at 10:44 am
  • alfina

    Thank you for sharing it, Martin! That’s why it’s important to provide relevant stuff. I mean, I don’t expect to receive any SEO advice or business-related stuff from my bank. The institution that will not trust at all. I can imagine how they’ve obtained this info and kept on distributing for a year..Oh my

    March 14, 2013 at 10:45 am
  • Jono Alderson

    Oh dear…
    This is really indicative of how far behind big brands *still* are with SEO. Does their advice sound like real marketing? Like something which should earn them tangible respect from and authority in the eyes of their consumers?
    I think not.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:52 am
  • Tom Roberts

    I thought it was Steak and Blowjob day?

    Not Steak the Nutjobs day.

    March 14, 2013 at 11:03 am
  • Simon

    I think banks should keep schtum when it comes to SEO, unless they want people digging into their backlink profile.

    March 14, 2013 at 11:13 am
  • Matt Davies

    Anyone else notice the document in question is called “Static BS”? Seems entirely appropriate.

    March 14, 2013 at 11:20 am
  • Mark Chalcraft

    Quote from that doc:

    “Again, be careful of who you believe.
    Many so-called ‘experts’ offer incorrect or
    conflicting advice.”


    March 14, 2013 at 11:30 am
  • Paul Gailey

    What’s next? A bank telling a F1 driver how to drive fast.

    ..oh wait.

    March 14, 2013 at 11:56 am
  • Jake Langwith

    So not only are the banks happy to kill the economy they now want to stick the knife in and twist it a bit so as to kill off as many small businesses as possible with their wonderful SEO advice. I guess they don;t care as the FSA has no interest in SEO. Maybe I should give some financial advice, oh hold on, I’m not allowed by law to do that 🙁

    March 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm
    • Thomas Barker

      Or we could just leave it to the 90% of the SEO industry that do it on a daily basis already but charge money for it… read:

      Think we need to get past the fact its a bank and just look at it as a big brand providing terrible advice that could very well be actioned by any of their customers that receive it – thats the main issue here!

      Yes I’m an SEO Manager for two financial brands

      March 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm
  • Ricky

    This is great news. Since we got Penguin slapped, I’m sure I can now blame HSBC and get a nice hefty claim for damages. Bad SEO claims are the new PPI payouts?

    March 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm
  • Tony Kelly

    Without looking into things too much, the first thing that struck me is why the hell is a bank dishing out SEO advice in the first place?
    I fail to see why Santander would waste time compiling SEO advice (although obviously thy didn’t spend too long on it) and why anyone would then think that it is good advice.
    It’s a bit like going into the butchers and asking them to recommend a nice bunch of flowers for the wife…

    March 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm
  • JaviEN

    It seems that those hints are from an old post when those points could work but, as we all know, that can put your sites in trouble if you follow them nowadays.

    The big mistake is if Santander keeps on sending that post to whoever. Someone should tell them to update themselves.


    March 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm
  • Adina

    Oh dear, so things are getting more and more seriously! I never thought a big brand will do something like this, so here is one more proof that I’m naive. Great post Martin!

    March 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm
  • Little Blue Ninja

    This is great…

    We found this post on Google+ this morning and have been sharing this article with our friends 🙂

    Having great fun reading the comments too…

    I don’t trust the banks with my money and definitely don’t trust them with my SEO!!!

    Little Blue Ninja

    March 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm
  • IrishWonder

    I should probably start offering banking advice.

    March 15, 2013 at 7:21 am
  • Jose Capelo

    No wonder that big brand are being penalised by Google. Having said that, the search engine guidelines should be made clear, and not only act on a few cases but make all the big brands follow the rules.

    March 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm
  • Jack Stevens

    A generic advice document in it’s own right shows how little grasp they have of what they classify as “the basics.”

    And people who would goto their bank for professional advice about inbound search marketing deserve to be punished anyway!

    April 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm
  • James

    The points mentioned in that article may be bad advice but lot of reputed SEO folks and companies still do it. There is a way to do most things. Many people are getting away with these same practices and are also reaping ranking benefits even in 2013, as we speak. So, there are 2 sides of a coin.

    December 23, 2013 at 10:29 am