Search Engine Optimization Scams – Beware

They are everywhere. In email, on the web and on the phone. My colleague, a fellow SEO guru, just got one of these calls that prompted me to talk a bit about it. Search Engine Optimization gets a bad rap too often and it’s because of these kinds of scams. The reality is that there are a lot of steps that can be taken to help a website be more effective in where and how often they rank in search engine results. This, in a poorly described nutshell, is SEO. SEO is not a trick (although there are tricks – aka black hat SEO but once again a conversation for another time), it’s not a magic bullet, there is no “inside info” or special “hook ups” to get your site highly ranked, quickly and legitimately in Google or any other real search engine.

So if you have a website, or sometimes just an e-mail address you’ve probably seen or heard (they cold call often) something like – GET YOUR SITE TO #1 ON GOOGLE in 24 HOURS! I’ve worked with clients who have had these scam artists contact them, I’ve been contacted and colleagues have been contacted. For myself, and those in the industy – heck even Matt Cutts gets them and he’s blogged about it – these can be very entertaining because in nearly all instances we know more, much more, than the person scamming us. But for a website owner looking for more traffic and more sales you could be vulnerable to these false claims. There’s a few things to ask that will pretty quickly expose them.

First, when they promise they can rank you #1 on Google ask them for what keyword or keywords. A #1 ranking for purple widget (remember, the whole reason this site exists) is rather worthless because nobody searches for purple widget. Keywords are the most important aspect of SEO, if you aren’t focusing on the right keywords your efforts are going nowhere – you’re simply spinning your wheels. So make sure their answer is for a keyword with some actual value. If they say your company name or your domain name it’s a scam. You probably already rank # 1 for your own domain name or business name and unless your a major brand this high ranking won’t have great value. Value in organic search comes from high volume phrases, usually much more generic phrases. If they do say they can rank you high for quality generic terms this doesn’t mean it’s not a scam, it’s just a better than average scam so far.

Another good question is to ask how they’re going to do it. Odds are they won’t have answer or it’s a secret. Both bad signs. And lastly, in terms of basic red flags if they use the guarantee at all you’re in trouble. Nobody can guarantee anything in the search engines, any reputable SEO specialist will agree with this.

When you do get calls or e-mails like this, making crazy promises and guarantees about SEO and natural search results it’s one of three things I believe and they’re all bad:

1 – Straight out scam. They’ll take your money, do nothing and they’ll disappear so that you’ll never be able to get in touch with them.

2 – They’re going to work with completely worthless keywords that will provide you absolutely no value.

3 – Somewhere in the fine print of a contract or agreement will be a clause that protects them and even though they may have “tried diligently” you’ll not be seeing results and you won’t be able to get your money back.

It’s ashame that SEO has been given such a bad name because through hard work and well focused efforts there are so many things that can help so many websites perform better in search engines and help businesses thrive.

There’s much more to it and there’s a great article I recommend 7 Signs of an SEO Scam that goes into more warning signs and red flags.

3 Responses to “Search Engine Optimization Scams – Beware”

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  2. All of the above accurately describes the scam – oversell value where it does not exist and take advantage of people that do not know seo – sad really.

  3. I second that as scammed me $200.00 from my credit card and lied about everything not charging it as just needed to evaluate my site and give a free 30 days from there then start charging $100.00 a month. What they dont tell you on the phone is that they will charge you $100 service charge so you get billed that day for $200.00 when it should of been $100 after 1 month if you didnt cance. I called them that day I found out and just hang up on me now.

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