The SEO industry has been around for over a decade now, and in that time, the rules have changed dramatically.
Techniques that used to work may now harm a site. Some SEO service providers will take advantage of the volumes of old and incorrect information available online to convince small business owners of their legitimacy. Once contracted, they do nothing to help the business and simply rake in undeserved money. These SEO scams are all too common, but thankfully they are not difficult to spot.
The Proposal: “With our service, you are guaranteed a #1 spot on Google.”
The Scam: No one except Google can guarantee a number one ranking for any keyword. Any company that tries to claim that their SEO services will automatically rank you number one, or even in the top three, is a company you should avoid. Google does not show favoritism, and the search giant itself warns that any company offering such a guarantee is likely a scam.
The Proposal: “We have a man on the inside, a Google employee who shares secrets and helps us rank your site.”
The Scam: Any Google employee breaking their non-disclosure agreement in such a way would be fired, caught and likely prosecuted legally. No SEO company would be able to make such a claim legitimately. Some ex-Google employees may have moved on to the SEO field, but they aren’t going to waste their time with low-class scam SEO services.
The Proposal: “Our process submits your site to indexing with over 1,000 search engines, bringing in traffic other sites can’t even access.”
The Scam: It’s entirely possible that there are over 1,000 search engines available. However, ask anyone what search engine they use and you’ll get one of three answers the majority of the time. Google, Bing and Yahoo are the three big names in SEO, and even that is a bit dishonest. Yahoo is powered by the information database owned by Microsoft, meaning that Yahoo and Bing results are essentially the same. Sure, you might get an additional visitor or two by ranking high on Ask.com’s list, but how important is that?
The Proposal: “We’ll guarantee a position on the first page of Google by the end of the month.”
The Scam: There are two ways to rank in Google. The first is to use pay per click advertising, which is one of the most expensive ongoing SEO services. You set a budget, pick a keyword, create an ad and immediately begin appearing in sponsored advertising. This is an immediate boost to traffic, and your site appears to rank highly on Google. The moment you stop paying, however, your false ranking disappears.
Organic SEO is much slower, but it generates traffic slowly over time. Eventually, you can build up to that high ranking and it won’t go away if you stop investing in clicks. However, organic rankings take time to build. Any company providing SEO services and promising an immediate ranking is likely investing in PPC and trying to pass it off as a permanent position. PPC is a legitimate tactic, but it’s not permanent.
The Proposal: Any promises of legitimate work that end up using black hat techniques.
The Scam: Black hat techniques are those SEO strategies that work very effectively but break Google’s guidelines to do so. These range from keyword stuffing and content scraping to paying for backlinks. Some of these strategies are technically still legitimate; however, Google will catch on and will punish any site using them. Your SEO ranking will increase, but you are walking on thin ice. Eventually, Google will catch your business and punish it.
How do you avoid this scam? The easiest way is to investigate the company providing SEO services. Do they have a positive reputation? Do they have satisfied clients they are willing to show you? Any sign that the company operates on in a grey area should be a red flag.
The Proposal: Anything that sounds good, but has hooks in the fine print.
The Scam: Some SEO companies will provide excellent services, for a steep price. Hidden in the fine print of the contract you sign is a clause that transfers ownership of the content posted by the SEO company from you to them. Why is this a problem? After all, if they’re managing your SEO, they should control it, right?
In fact, these clauses set up a hostage situation. If you decide to leave the company for a better SEO service provider, they can hold your content — and in some cases your entire site — hostage. At best, you might be charged a steep fee to regain ownership of your content. At worst, you would be forced to start from scratch with your website and SEO.
The moral of the story is to carefully investigate any company you’re considering hiring for SEO services. Interview the company, investigate them through search engines and review sites and read your contract.
White Chalk Road is Perth’s leading online marketing and SEO services agency and consists of a small team of dedicated SEO professionals and paid search adverstising consultants.