If you have any experience trying to market yourself or your business online, you have almost definitely come across the term “SEO.” Search Engine Optimization is a critical component of online marketing, but unfortunately most business owners don’t have a good understanding of what SEO services actually do. This makes the SEO industry an ideal cover for scammers and unscrupulous companies, because few people will know what they are doing wrong. If you want to avoid being scammed by fraudulent “SEO experts,” the best defense is to educate yourself about the industry. With this in mind, we’ve put together this quick guide to some of the most common warning signs that you’re dealing with SEO scammers.
1. They claim they will guarantee you top organic ranking on Google for your keywords
While the goal of Search Engine Optimization is to improve the organic ranking of your website on Google and the other major search engines, no company can guarantee you the top spot on Google. There are far too many variables to say for sure where your website will end up, but that doesn’t stop these scammers from making promises like “Guaranteed #1 ranking on Google” or “We will have you on the first page of Google in less than 48 hours!” The question you need to be asking is, "First page for what terms?" If they are only going to get you on the first page for your company name, it will be significantly less beneficial.
There are a huge number of factors that influence a website’s ranking on Google, many of which are out of the hands of any SEO. Google is constantly updating their algorithms, which often causes sites’ ranks to fluctuate. Additionally, while there are proven methods for improving your site’s ranking, these all take time. Some of these companies will claim to be working with Google or to have a special relationship with Google, but Google does not work with any SEO companies. The only way they can guarantee to get you on the front page is through pay-per-click advertising (PPC), and that means your result will clearly be labeled as an advertisement rather than an organic search result – PPC is a useful tool, but it is a very expensive substitute for natural organic search rankings. Make sure that you know exactly what techniques a company will be implementing to market your business online. Remember, if a company’s promise sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
2. They guarantee you a certain number of site visitors per day
A common trick of SEO scammers is to tell website owners that if they purchase their SEO services, they can guarantee a certain number of site visitors per day. This sounds great, because who doesn’t want more site traffic? If more people are visiting your website, more people will end up buying what you sell or contacting you for a quote, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Many of these services will actually generate traffic for you, but will do it through artificial means. Some companies use computer programs to click through to their clients’ sites, provide incentives to real people to click on links, use nefarious means to redirect legitimate web traffic to your site, or some combination of the three. Visitors who reach your site in this way will have no interest in your business, and will simply eat up your bandwidth with no benefit to you. As a business owner, you only want site traffic from people who are actually interested in what you’re selling, and this artificial site traffic will not help you at all. As always, the best way to drive traffic to your site is the honest way, by attracting new visitors through good SEO practices and PPC.
3. They have a secret SEO strategy, or say they have cracked Google’s algorithm
This one is a classic from the old days of con artists and hustlers who would claim to have the secrets to wealth and success that they could share if only you paid for their services, and it isn’t any more legitimate coming from someone claiming to represent an SEO company. Good SEO is simply a matter of following good SEO practices, and any SEO company who won’t tell you what kind of work they will be doing for you is not a company that you should trust.
Additionally, Google’s algorithm is constantly changing. Even if someone “broke” it, there would be a new algorithm for them to deal with in short order. SEOs who talk this way are generally hiding the fact that they use what are called “black hat” SEO tactics. Black hat SEO attempts to manipulate Google by using underhanded techniques to trick their system. Keyword stuffing, hidden content, and gateway pages are all attempts to manipulate search engines by showing them highly optimized content that is hidden from regular site visitors; this makes the search engines believe that a website is a better resource than it really is. These types of techniques will sometimes result in a temporary boost to search ranking, but your site will be penalized once Google discovers what has been done. It is a much better long term strategy to build great content and be a great resource rather than simply pretending to be one.
There’s no substitute for good SEO
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet that will get your website ranking at the top of Google. Like anything else that’s worthwhile, it still takes a lot of hard work and time to build up your site’s online reputation and get it to the point where Google wants to recommend it as a top search result. However, you’re not alone! LinkNow Media has written several blog posts on how to improve your site’s SEO, and we also offer our own in house SEO services. If you are looking for help getting your site to rank, just let us know. We’re on your side, and the web is waiting for you!