Search engine optimization is such an obscure and complicated field that it is easy for con artists to pretend to be “experts” and swindle unsuspecting business owners. You’ve probably gotten spam from them at one point or another: “pros” spewing unverifiable statistics and wild claims to try to get you to shell out money for a service that, ultimately, will do more harm to your business than good. If you are busy, I suggest you first read this guide.
When you’re searching for an SEO consultant or SEO Agency, there are certain danger signals that you should watch out for. Some of the are obvious from the start, while others require you to do a little more investigative legwork. But when the fate of your business is on the line, this due diligence is not only recommended, but necessary.
Hides Behind Anonymity
You should always know who you’re working with, and SEO scammers are particularly allergic to identifying themselves. Even though you may exchange emails and have phone conversations with them, they never give out any sorts of identifying information other than their names. This is meant to protect them from litigation when the inevitable unhappy customer comes a-calling.
Check to see if their website has an actual physical office location. Verify its authenticity by either calling the land line or sending a letter to the location. You may discover that it’s not an actual address, or one belonging to someone else—a definite red flag.
Also see if the website has any photos or bios of the company executives or SEO team. Many (but not all) genuine SEO gurus are well-known in the industry, and have a network of other like-minded professionals with whom they hang out and work with. If the SEO agency you’re looking at works as an anonymous “team”, then they might actually be a one-man shop.
Promises Guaranteed Results
No genuine SEO consultant will ever make inflated guarantees, such as “first-page results in ten days!” SEO is an art as much as a science; the effects of an SEO campaign depend on many factors such as the nature of the industry, the competitors, and even current events. Making bold guarantees is grossly unprofessional and totally misleading. But SEO scammers do it all the time because it attracts customers. If you ever hear this kind of pitch, run away.
SEO scammers are more concerned with getting a high rank than servicing their clients’ customers. Some of the techniques they employ—keyword spamming, link spamming, repeated/redundant webpages—are design nightmares and turn a website into an ugly mess. Web copy is crass and filled to bursting with keywords that make it difficult to read, much less sell.
Putting your website in the top rank is going to be useless if customers are turned off by how your site looks. Steer away from any SEO “agency” whose portfolio—or even their own website—is filled with the kinds of design flaws mentioned above. These are people who are only interested in their bottom line, not yours.
Employs Black Hat Techniques
Don’t just blindly let the SEO consultant work on your behalf. Find out their process, either by looking on their website or asking them in person. Get them to explain just what their SEO process involves, and try not to let them confuse you jargon. Learn about black hat techniques and keep an ear out for anything that sounds similarly sketchy.
Black hats could potentially harm your rankings or even get your site penalized. All SEO gurus know this, and would never use them. SEO newbies and scammers, however, will not know or care that they are damaging your online reputation. If you discover that your SEO agency is using or will be using black hat techniques to promote your website, terminate your relationship with them immediately.
It’s always best to play safe when it comes to your online reputation. Choose your SEO consultants wisely, and don’t get swayed by sales talk or any confusing jargon. Do your research, and always ask questions!