Scammers. They are all around us.
If you run, manage or own a website, surely by now you’ve come across SEO businesses pushing their services, with promises of great hope for your website and, in turn, your business through extra revenue, created from higher page rankings and better search results in one or all of the search engines.
Well, this post is going to dispel that myth.
A majority of these businesses are only after one thing – your money – and, let’s face it, we all need to put food on the table and pay the bills.
One of the biggest issues here is knowledge, or the lack of it between the website content editor, manager or owner and the SEO service provider. This alone gives the opportunity for deception on the part of the SEO service provider. As with any scam, it can be hard to tell if an SEO business is being unscrupulous just to gain your hard-earned money, especially for those new to the world of having an online presence.
There are plenty of scams getting around. I still get offers and see advertisements selling them, even old known methods. This means that, if these old scams are still being pushed, there are still businesses out there being taken in by them.
Here are some scams I’ve come across, and others I’ve found doing some research for this article. Trust me, I’ve learnt some things here, too:
1. Free Trial Services
Providing adequate data to run a successful SEO campaign takes a lot of research. Not only into the business the service is being provided to, but also its competitors. And this can take a lot of time. Who’s going to do that at no cost?
Many of these offers are for 30 days or so. Clearly, even this is not enough time to establish a successful campaign.
A lot of these “free trials” also may ask for access to your website. I don’t recommend under any circumstances to let them have access. They should be able to tell you anything your website is lacking from just browsing your website like any other visitor.
2. Top Rankings Guaranteed
First off, nobody can guarantee a ranking. Your website already has lots of page one rankings. Here’s an example: Do a search for “studiojunkyard”. I guarantee you studiojunkyard.com (my website) is the first result.
Go through your own website and put together a list of similarly obscure, specific keywords that probably only show up in that order and proximity on your page. Search for them. You’re going to find lots of page one rankings.
3. Submission of your website to thousands of search engines!
Really? Thanks. Thousands of search engines sure is a lot.
How many search engines have you heard of?
How many do you use on a regular basis (at least once per week)?
You’re not unique in this. Most people use Google. Why do a majority of people say “I’ll Google that?”,There’s only a handful of search engines people know about. Sure there are others, but stop and think what the majority of people are going to use to find your business or products and services you offer.
In terms of popularity (at least at the time of writing), Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft® Live Search (or Bing), Ask, Dogpile and Metacrawler are the most popular in that order. And there seems to be a rise in new ones like DuckDuckGo. There are not thousands of search engines to worry about. There are three, the first three in that list. And if you’re really pressed for resources, there is one – Google.
The worst thing about scams like this: those “search engines” they’re submitting your website to? They’re mainly spam centres. So not only is your money being spent on this service, you’ll more than likely be inundated with spam emails.
4. 1st Page of Google in X Hours!
This scam preys on those in a hurry – they have a website, the sales are not coming in and they’re hoping to hire an “expert” to get them visible in search engines quickly.
Anybody can get to the 1st page of Google almost instantaneously, and you don’t need to hire someone to do it.
Step 1: Sign up for AdWords
Step 2: Pick a keyword, any keyword
Step 3: Pay
You can pay for top placements all you want – that will make Google happy. Consistent and qualified traffic streams and a positive ROI, however, are another story.
5. We know someone at Google
How cool would it be to have a man on the inside? You’d get your SEO advice straight from the horse’s mouth!
Do you really think Google employees would risk their jobs by divulging the ins and outs of Google’s system? Google gives more than enough information about what is required to make your website perform to the best of its ranking ability. Why would there be a need to know anyone who works there?
6. “Our methods are a trade secret” and/or “We can’t tell you what we’re doing”
Of course businesses have methods of doing anything in their business, and some of those things are proprietary.
The minute you’re paying someone for an obscure list of services, you’ve entered the twilight zone of the B2B services world.
I wouldn’t expect your SEO service provider to tell you everything about their research methods, tools and software, but then your mechanic doesn’t turn over a work order with one-line item, “secret car repair service” and expect you to pay, does he?
7. We’ve cracked Google’s algorithm
Just as above with “We know someone at Google”, this is equally absurd. It sounds very nerdy and scientific – and we all like the idea of being in on top-secret info, especially when it makes us money.
Not even Google employees have “cracked” the algorithm. It’s handled by a team of engineers and is updated sometimes several times per week. In other words, a minute after someone “cracked” the algorithm, their information would be outdated, and Google clearly states what they require websites to have for ranking.
8. We need to install this link directory on your website pages
Here the SEO consultant/company is basically telling you that their link-building strategy amounts to nothing more than a link exchange program. Run, run far. They might not be knowingly scamming their clients but , if they’re offering such services, they don’t know SEO.
9. We require that we own the copyrights to any meta data or content created, edited or analysed
I do not recommend to do any business with anyone who insists on retaining copyrights to any and all meta data, or content created, edited or analysed for you. By retaining these rights, they can legally bar you from being able to use it, or totally strip your website from any search engine results.
10. Refusal to answer questions
As with undertaking services from any business, you’re going to have questions about what they are providing. Just as your clients may ask you questions about your services. Ask questions, lots of them, even if you think they’re stupid.
A business that only presents what they can do for you – rather than asking questions about your business, industry, what you want to achieve, and your expectations – is only interested in your money.
If you ask questions and get replies like, “We have new techniques not used by other SEO firms, and it’s a trade secret”, you know they are outright bluffing in the hopes of taking your money.
So how do you avoid the scammers?
Knowledge. You can find online anything you want to know about how to optimise a site already.
As mentioned already, everything you need to know, or want to learn about Search Engine Optimisation can be found online. Sure there’s a lot of hyped-up fluff out there; it’s just a matter of doing a little research before jumping in. The best place to start is by going through Google’s own Developer information where they clearly outline what’s required, and they have tips and extra information to help you along the way.
Honestly, I believe using a good copywriter is a far better way of producing content for your website, products, and services descriptions and, in the long run, a much wiser way of spending money to improve your website’s copy, keywords (meta and in-page), and chances of raising rankings in the major search engines.