What Scams Should You Watch For When Hiring an SEO Firm?

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By Fausto Mendez

    Finding and hiring a great SEO provider is tough. Some businesses can never find one, and worse, other businesses fall for dirty scams that cheat them out of thousands and thousands of dollars. That’s why you should watch out for the following scams when hiring an SEO firm.

    Our experiences with SEO companies has not been so great. Actually, we’ve never worked with an SEO firm that impressed us with measurable results and a reliable work ethic. As a result, we have enough experience to know what to look for in an SEO company that only offers ineffective services that are only designed to eat up as much of your money as possible.

    Search Engine Journal has a great piece on SEO scams. We summarize SEJ’s list below, and we follow up the list with a few scams that we’ve seen ourselves.

+ Don’t fall for “free” services. There is no such thing as a free SEO service that also works. It’s possible that the company selling you “free” services is stealing your data, your customers’ identities, or learning your trade secrets. In the best case scenario, a free SEO service is just a way for the company to get its foot in your door to sell you more expensive services.

+ Watch out for first-page guarantees. Any company that guarantees first-page rankings is (pardon my French) full of shit. Don’t get me wrong. Getting on the first page is certainly possible, but nobody has the power or skill to achieve first-page rankings so consistently that they can actually guarantee it. Real marketers never make guarantees except to guarantee to do their absolute best.

+ Beware meaningless services attached to big numbers, such as “submitting your site to hundreds or thousands of search engines”. The truth is that there are only a handful of relevant search engines, and it’s not hard to “submit” your site to these search engines. Anyone with a minimal level of skill and knowledge can do it.

+ Don’t believe anyone that says they have connections at Google. I’ve heard this line from every SEO company that we’ve talked to. It’s most likely a lie, and even if it’s true, NDA agreements and fat paychecks prevent Google employees from giving out insider knowledge or favors. 

+ Beware anyone that assumes they know Google’s Search algorithm. No one knows Google’s algorithm very well, not even former employees or even current employees. Google Search is developed and maintained by several sets of teams that specialize in smaller aspects of the engine. There probably is someone in the world that manages these teams and has better insight into the algorithm, but I’m sure that guy is paid far too well to risk getting caught handing over secrets to an SEO company.

+ No one has a secret formula for successful SEO. The information that you need to be a great SEO marketer is freely available to anyone that wants it. Even so, SEO is hard work and requires a lot of daily research. Any company that claims to have a secret formula is playing you for a fool. In SEO, the only secret is that there is no secret. Most successful marketers know what it takes to rank well. The problem is most people don’t want to do the hard work that gets them there. 

    SEJ’s list is great, but it feels somewhat incomplete. Here’s a few scams some companies have tried to sell us before.

+ Never (ever) buy backlinks or use a backlink farm. Google killed this strategy a long time ago, and any website that creates unnatural backlinks in mass is only going to encourage Google to drop the hammer of penalty & pain. 

+ Avoid companies that don’t have experienced and well-trained copywriters on staff. SEO firms that outsource copywriters often outsource really, really bad writers that only write English as a second language. That’s because they don’t have a writer on staff, so there isn’t anyone that recognize great copy. Google is getting much better at recognizing well written (user-friendly) content, and if it finds that you are creating a great user experience for your site visitors, your site should rank better over time. However, bad copywriters may actually hurt your rank.

+ Avoid companies that create tons of low-quality content to help your site rank better. Why? See the above details on bad copywriting. Basically, you don’t want to associate your site with low-quality content.


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