Beware Of These SEO Scams
Watch out for the following SEO - here in Toronto and everywhere else - and learn how to spot them before they take your money.
Potential clients contact me all the time and they usually come with a story about being taken advantage of by some of the larger web design and SEO companies.
Each story is different, obviously, but they all tend to revolve around the same theme: companies with dubious ethics, recognizing that the person has little technical knowledge and selling them either inferior or incompetent products and charging them a lot more than the industry warrants.
The number of ongoing and active SEO scams out there is shocking and you really need to be aware of them before falling for their seemingly great deals.
As with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is and you’ve undoubtedly seen the following pitches by supposed SEO companies:
As you might be guessing, none of those promises are actually true.
Well, what they are offering might be real, but expecting any positive results from them would be unreasonable.
Here are a few things to watch out for when dealing with both local SEO companies in and around Toronto, as well as overseas.
Don’t be this dude!
Guaranteed top Google rankings...
As I mention elsewhere on this website, nobody can guarantee any organic search rankings.
If you are ever presented with such a declaration, what you should ask is:
For which keywords will I be in the top 10 results?
That’s when you’ll start to hear the truth.
And it won’t be what you were expecting.
It won’t be for something really competitive and potentially lucrative like “Plumbers Toronto“.
It’ll be for some obscure plumbing term that no one searches for.
We'll submit your website to thousands of search engines...
That’s very generous of them, but totally useless.
And when I say useless, I mean completely, absolutely and definitively useless.
Any relevant search engine will crawl your website automatically and rank it according to its own algorithms: just create a Google Webmaster Tools account and submit a sitemap yourself.
You don’t have to tell it to index your website and you certainly don’t have to manually submit it.
That was being done in 1997.
This one is a total SEO company scam.
We know the Google secrets...
No, they don’t, and even the people who work at Google don’t know everything.
The actual “secrets” are quite complicated and consist of many (like 200) variables and claiming to know them outright is a lie.
Plain and simple.
No one knows exactly how they work.
Consider it this way:
A lot of really, really smart and technically-savvy people have been studying SEO for years and don’t claim to “know the secrets”.
And they are the people who study metrics for a living, test pages against themselves, monitor everything and do virtually all of the things that would help you to understand the process of organic SEO.
The only remaining option would be to claim that you have a personal connection with someone at Google, and trust me when I say that no Google employee would risk the consequences of sharing anything with some SEO company.
It wouldn’t happen and anyone who claims otherwise is clueless.
We are Google partners...
No, they aren’t.
What they are leveraging is that they may have passed an online Google Adwords or Analytics test and are now claiming to be partnered with Google.
They personally have access to no more information than the rest of us, believe me.
And anyone saying differently is just trying to mislead you.
SEO sales pitches via unsolicited (SPAM) email...
Just about any business owner with an email account has experienced this.
You get an email from some dude in India named “Sammy”, promising (in very poor English) to do very wonderful things for your website.
And all for the bargain price of $199.00!
In addition to their outrageous claims, a lot of those messages ask you to reply to an email address that has nothing to do with their supposed company name.
It seems like something a cheating husband might try and not a supposedly reputable SEO company.
Unless you’re looking for an incompetent SEO company overseas to commit some bad SEO mistakes on your behalf, delete these as soon as you recognise them.
Website directory submissions...
Another outdated and practically useless SEO technique that was used in the past to get backlinks and traffic to your website.
Some website directories are OK to use, but for the most part those aren’t the websites that the scamming SEO companies are planning on using.
They will submit your website to a ton of directories that are overseas, have little traffic or page rank and some have even been removed from the Google index altogether.
Recognized local citation directories, like Yelp and Foursquare, are must-haves.
Some others are good to have as well.
This isn’t a quantity over quality thing and you need to be careful where your business information is posted.
Every website needs content.
And every website should strive to publish useful and informative content.
The problem is, it can take several hours – as in 12 hours to 20 hours or more – just to put together a decent article.
Sometimes you really do get what you pay for and anyone offering to create unique content for a ridiculously low price is not going to deliver a good product.
More likely what you’ll get is a recycled and spammy article that was loosely researched with over-cooked keyword density.
The promise of creating consistent blog posts for you on a weekly basis might seem reasonable enough, but there are a few things that these companies are either keeping from you or aren’t aware of.
300 word blog posts are the unofficially-recommended ‘minimum’ and the SEO companies tend to promise 500 words.
Then they justify it by saying that “Google loves fresh content”.
This is “sort of” true, because years ago Google announced that regularly updated websites would be given preference.
The problem these days is that everyone updates their websites all the time with really thin and sometimes even crappy content.
Quality content is what Google is actually looking for.
Quality content means several things, none of which can be covered in a 500 word blog posting.
In simple terms, Google wants the best content, regardless of when it was published.
Think of it this way: If getting a top ranking was really as simple as pumping out useless content every day, you could just do it yourself.
You can take this page as an example.
It’s taken me hours and hours to research, put together, edit, re-edit, tweak, formulate, place keywords, etc.
You can tell that some thought has gone into it and you’re definitely not going to get something like this for the ridiculously low pricing these SEO companies are advertising.
Nope, you’re going to get a very short and poorly worded ‘article’ that focuses on useless keywords and was most likely outsourced to India.
Brian Dean over at Backlinko.com routinely spends 80 hours and quite a bit of cash to produce his article pages.
Check this one out and you’ll see why you’re not going to get anything even remotely close to it for $19.95.
Another old-school SEO technique, article submissions were all the rage back in the day because they got you backlinks.
You could submit articles spammed with keywords to various directories and those directories would point back to your website with a link (backlink).
Any old backlink would do back then, so up popped the article submission software and supposed SEO companies that offered to do it on your behalf.
This is also something you could easily do for yourself if it was worth the time.
And it’s not.
Quality backlinks are what you want.
One good backlink is worth a ton of garden-variety backlinks and really crappy backlinks will get you into trouble.
I could easily get you 1,000 backlinks in just a few days, but so what?
They’re worth nothing.
This refers to the amount of times your keywords are mentioned on a given page in relation to the rest of the text.
The thinking is that there is a “sweet-spot” percentage that will get you the most benefit from Google, however none of it has ever been proven and you can do just as well by mentioning your target keywords a few times and by using synonyms throughout the page.
Repeating the same terms over and over sounds spammy and the search engines are getting smarter all the time at sniffing them out.
Now, you can still get rankings for spammy and keyword-stuffed pages, but there are two things to keep in mind on that front:
Pick a topic, choose some keywords and synonyms and write around them.
A good rule-of-thumb is to write for people and not for search engines.
Once you’ve got it the way you want, go back and make sure that your keywords are placed strategically.
We will get thousands of links to your website...
More nonsense and definitely another scam in a long line of SEO scams.
Years ago, this was an important aspect of SEO as it told Google your website was obviously important enough to be represented by tons of other websites.
Then the spammers got to work and it wasn’t long before Google and others stopped giving much credit to backlinks.
These days, link building is something just about any website has to do in order to rank.
It’s just not worth considering in the way being offered in these SEO scams.
As mentioned above, avoid them as they will only do you harm in the end.
What you actually need are reputable websites linking back to a few different pages on your website.
Good luck in getting them, though.
Because they’re hard to get.
Sitting back and waiting for people to link to you rarely works: You need to be proactive in contacting people individually and offering them something in return for their precious backlink.
Like your content, for example.
Everyone needs content for their website and a lot of websites are happy to link to yours if it make sense for them to do so.
You just need to create the type of content that they’ll want to link to.
It takes a lot of research, time, resources and tact to develop an effective “backlink campaign”.
Is something like $50 a month really going to cover that?
The short answer is “no, it won’t”.
SEO starting from $54.95 a month...
These types of ridiculous offers – and a person’s willingness to believe them – stem from a few things:.
I’m sure it sounds good to your bottom-line, but seriously consider how much work YOU would do for that amount.
Not much, right?
Quality SEO work isn’t necessarily cheap and anyone willing to undervalue the process like that is either incompetent or just not planning on doing anything useful for you.
Doing this job properly takes years of experience and hours of manual work.
You won’t get anything even close to positive results.
Who owns the work...
This isn’t so much an SEO scam, per se, but it is something that a lot of agencies do and should be mentioned here.
I’ve had a few clients come to me because their current SEO companies held legal control of their domain names, websites and content ownership.
The first step in avoiding that nonsense altogether is to buy your own assets and keep them under your control.
They don’t need administrative access to your domain name and you can host your website wherever you want.
If they are going to register and purchase anything on your behalf, insist they use an email account under your control and you can simply provide them with temporary user account access.
And always be sure to read contracts very carefully before committing to anything.
Now, I’m not saying that all SEO, design and marketing companies behave this way.
They typically don’t.
But some do, and it will be a problem for you should you ever choose to stop using their services.
Ensure up-front that anything they’ll be working on is legally yours.
Free website audits...
Free website audits typically consist of an automated report that will show some of the on-page errors of your website.
They’re not comprehensive.
They don’t tell you who your main competitors are and they definitely don’t say what you’ll need to do to beat them in the search rankings.
Check it out for yourself and search for “free online website audits”.
There’s no shortage of them.
An in-depth and comprehensive audit of your website and competition takes a few hours to complete and should give you a fairly clear landscape of what you actually need to do in order to be competitive.
I charge for mine for that reason.
Stay away from SEO scams and try to hire competence, instead.
We all want to save money and most of us aren’t rolling in cash.
I get it, believe me.
The problem for you is that the less reputable SEO types know this and try to bombard you with attractive but unrealistic pitches.
Reputable SEO companies don’t make these kinds of claims.
If you are serious about your business, hire me to do an SEO & website audit and we can go from there.
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