How to avoid the SEO Scammers
(and YES… 97% of SEO “Experts” are scammers)
As someone with 20 years of SEO experience and learning something new every day, I’m surprised to find extremely young self-proclaimed “SEO-Experts” pop up. Many have only been working with SEO for a few months, and most do not understand anything about SEO other than the buzz words to use to coerce someone in closing a sale. Basically, they feel as though the challenge is in the sale and if they can find someone to invest $5,000 in marketing, they can find someone to do the work for a few hundred dollars and keep the rest as quick easy cash.
This leads to customer disappointment and frustration in paying for the Rolls Royce treatment and getting the Schwinn Bicycle service. Reinvesting some of that money, they can usually get 3-4 more customers before the last one realizes they have been tricked and cancels. In one case, I knew a guy that was charging all his customers over $50,000 per month combined, and did the “SEO” service with software he only paid $50 one time to use! Great profit but horrible business ethics.
Sadly enough, I can find hard working politicians, lawyers and used-car salesmen easier than I can find honest SEO “Specialists” some days. The problem has become so severe, the FBI is investigating a growing number of SEO Agencies (often discovering they are 1 man night and weekend operations) for interstate fraud.
I’ve had quite a few clients turn down my proposal initially to work with SEO guys that make awesome sounding promises and dirt cheap prices only to have them come to me with a sob story several months later. Here is a collection of what my clients have told me happened when they hired disaster “SEO Guy”.
Also, when I say “SEO Guy”, I’m using that as a generic term to refer to the person (any gender) that is offering SEO services. The women that work with me are very skilled and knowledgeable. When my clients describe their nightmare situations, however, often the term used is “SEO Guy”.
1. “I’ll get you ranking by tomorrow”
SEO guys claiming to get overnight success are overpromising and under delivering. How could you possibly promise what Google or Bing is going to do for your little company? These companies have massive servers that will index your website, but it’s typically on their schedule, not yours. Companies making the crazy overnight claims are typically the ones that send out mass spam email messages, hoping to prey on an unsuspecting (and uneducated) business owner.
These guys typically will send out massive spam emails, each making bigger and bigger claims to make sales and stand out against their competitors. If you aren’t worried about getting blacklisted or investigated by the authorities (usually because they are based in India or Africa where scammers are not pestered), they can make massive money with this proven business tactic.
Are there some keywords you can get a decent ranking in a few days? Sure, but that is typically on new search terms with low volume. SEO is a long term, slow and methodical method which can take months and sometimes years for continued success.
2. “I’ll get you to the top of the search engines”
My first question, “For What?” There is no “top” of the internet. There are thousands of different search terms with various amounts of competition. Getting “Health” would require a huge amount of effort to achieve. Getting “Billy Smith’s awesome pickle health remedy” would be much easier. More importantly, getting you to the “top” is one of the catch-phrase promises that are used to sell SEO to people that are not yet informed.
Selecting the right keywords to target is a science and art to itself. It lets you know which keywords are important, which ones are too expensive to target and which ones might be profitable.
You wouldn’t hire a financial advisor that promises you to be the “richest person” would you? Outrageous claims are made by outrageous people.
3. “Pay us so we can get started right away”
A reputable company will first need to talk to you to find out your specific goals. If they have solid business experience, they may even suggest small tweaks in your marketing campaigns to help increase sales.
The next step would involve getting access to your website to make changes to the meta-tags on the pages, tweak content and often add new content.
When you have an SEO guy that can start without knowing your goals or have access to your website, they are mostly collecting money and pretending to be helping you.
4. “We don’t do Social Media”
If an SEO company is legit, they will need to augment any SEO efforts with social media. As of May of 2015, Google will rank websites higher based on their Social Media Activity (and some other technical factors). Twitter feeds are fed directly into Google. Facebook results and posts also show up high in Google results. Google’s thinking is that people want current high-authority information. If people are talking about you (on social media) then it’s probably important and the Google searchers will likely find it useful.
If a company avoids setting up social media accounts it usually because it is difficult and time-consuming. They can pretend like they are doing SEO but it’s impossible to pretend to be doing Social Media. Also, make sure you get your Social Media Passwords. The SEO Scammers will hold your facebook and twitter accounts hostage if you refuse to pay them hefty “cancellation fees”.
5. “Am good SEO Experienced”
Having a native English Speaker is going to be key for content writing. Google rates the fluency of the article writer and gives priority to the native speakers figuring that other native speakers would have a better experience. Having high-quality content on your website will give a feeling of authority and trust and lead to higher conversions after the traffic has been achieved.
6. “We have a secret strategy that only we know”
Really? If you read the blogs published by Google, they tell you EXACTLY how they keep adjusting their rankings. They may not be exact or specific, but it’s enough to know what is more important and what is less. A good SEO company will stay current on the various Google Adjustments and keep optimizing their strategy. Any SEO “tricks and techniques” would have to be visible to Google, which means visible to any other SEO experts. If there was a secret, it would easily be discovered and used by all the other SEO specialists.
A good SEO company will do massive research so the business owners could focus on their business. The secret is… there is no secret. Just hard work and following the rules. Our SEO staff spends about 10%-20% of their time doing research or attending conferences to stay current on the latest trends.
7. “The number you have reached has become disconnected…”
Sadly, a lot of “SEO companies” are run by people that treat it as a side business or a way for an easy buck. After collecting money for a while and not delivering, it can sometimes be easier to leave like a thief in the night. Sometimes people will offer tremendous SEO deals as they are planning to relocate or quit their job to give themselves a severance bonus.
Google the company before you hire them. Are you seeing a history of being in business? Are you finding complaints? Are you finding nothing at all? Many companies will ask for a 1-year commitment since SEO takes time to build and achieve results. If they require that everything be paid up-front, they may be trying to get the cash before they are discovered for being talentless.
8. “It’s only $200 / month”
Can you rank your website for $200 or even $500 per month? Maybe. But it takes time and effort to properly rank a website. There isn’t a magic button. You are paying for a portion of the SEO expert’s time. Paying for the cheapest SEO expert is like paying for the cheapest lawyer, it may save you some money now, but in the end, you will be disappointed.
What Google loves more than anything else, is fresh high-quality content. You can’t expect an SEO expert to learn about your business, do research and curate high-quality content which will rank well for Google, be interesting to your potential customers and build trust with your existing customers.
Expect to pay between $2K and $10K / month for SEO and content writing services. There are some hard costs involved with SEO and Keyword research tools as well. Some tools can run into the thousands of dollars monthly. SEO agencies will invest some of their revenue to use these advanced tools which are not offered by the cheaper companies which gives their clients a distinct research advantage.
If you want expert service, expect to pay a reasonable fee.
9. “You will achieve 13% ROI, SERP, SEO with 45% gain in MOZ”
If they can’t explain what they are are doing to help you, they are just making stuff up to confuse you and get the sale. Some people just like stringing technical terms together to pretend to be smart.
10. “Our inside connection at Google will guarantee success”
Since the moment there were search engines, there were people claiming to have corporate spies working for them. No matter how convincing they are, they are most likely lying. Even if they did know one of they very few people that were allowed to alter the search engine results, the results are highly scrutinized any alterations are against the law in some places.
If you believe this lie, I know a senator in DC that will get you out of paying your taxes if you send me a check.
11. “We will create a massive number of web pages and backlinks to skyrocket your rankings”.
That is so 2013. Automated tools to create “low-quality” content has been dropped from the search results completely. Creating too many pages will be red-flagged by Google, doesn’t add any value to your readers and is obviously gobbledygook by anyone that may have been interested in purchasing from your company. There are some tools to automate tasks such as scheduling facebook posts, but automating content creation is a definite no-no by google.
Also, adding backlinks to your website in a sea of other scammer, spammers and con-artists will make you guilty by association. The best way to be ranked in Google is to follow their rules and do things organically.
12. “We created 200 links to your homepage”.
Actually, most home pages are not designed to convert into sales. They are meant to help people learn more about the company and discover the various products and services offered. People online have VERY short attention spans. You have to give them very specific tasks and offers to keep their interest. Internet traffic is often looking for very specific topics so you have to show them very specific information.
You wouldn’t advertise, “Come to Starbucks, it’s great.” You advertise, “Check out the new New Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato at Starbucks.” In the same way, you would offer a specific deal or product from your company, and drive traffic to that landing page, funnel or blog post with that very specific information.
Does it work? If you found this blog by clicking on one of my social media links, then yes.
More than anything else, it takes experience to master a skill. Reading this blog may help you become more informed, but it hardly makes you an SEO Genius or SEO Expert. I’m surprised to find people call themselves “Experts” after only a few weeks (and sometimes only a few days) of experience or after just a few hours of training.
Like any other business industry, there are good actors and bad. Unfortunately, since SEO doesn’t have hard deliverables, many people take advantage of trusting business owners. If you look for the red flags I mentioned above and follow your gut, you can have a good experience with your next SEO company and have continued success with your business. Just like in every business, there are going to be good companies and bad companies. It’s something that you can’t avoid, but you can use my tips to ensure that any SEO company you are considering will be a good fit.
No legitimate SEO company can guarantee results since they are not in control of the search engines. They CAN promise to create content for you, update your social media and follow the best practices but results can NEVER be guaranteed. Take the time to do some research and find a company that will work with you, avoid putting you in “Google Jail” and be honest and hard-working like you.
If you post questions or comments below, I’ll do my best to answer them. Thank you for you time!
By the way, if you need help with your SEO or need help breaking up with your current SEO guy, fill out an application to work with me and I’d be happy to chat with you.
Aaron Jay Lev