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 staggering 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. I’m sure:
Websites designed with SEO for $199!
Number one rankings for competitive keywords in 2 weeks!
Hundreds of authoritative backlinks by tomorrow!
Cheap SEO Packages From $10.00 A Month!
As you might be guessing, none of those promises are actually true and here are a few things to watch out for when dealing with SEO companies in Toronto and Durham Region.
As I mention elsewhere on this website, nobody can guarantee any organic search rankings whatsoever.
I research the keywords, create proper content on pages that are formatted properly, and let Google do its thing. I can ballpark it for you, but for the most part you just have to roll with it.
If you are ever presented with such a declaration, what you should ask those guys 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.
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 algorhythms: 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 scam.
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 dozens of variables and claiming to know them outright is a lie. Plain and simple.
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 can guarantee you a first position Google result!
This is one of my favourites (in a really sad sort of way).
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.
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.
This is also something you can easily do for yourself if you care to.
Every website needs content. That’s a given.
And every website should strive to publish useful and informative content.
The problem is that it can take several hours – as in 12 hours to 20 hours or more – just to put together a decent article page.
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 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.
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 put together, edit, re-edit, tweak, research a bit, 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 advertizing.
Nope, you’re going to get a very short and poorly worded ‘article’ that focuses on useless keywords and was outsourced to India.
Brian Dean over at Backlinko.com routinely spends 80 hours and a bit of cash to produce his article pages. Check this one out and you’ll see why you’re probably 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. 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. That was very nice of them, but this is 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 garbage and not worth having.
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. This page, for example, is focusing on “SEO scams” but you’ll only find that specific term a few times.
If you see any of the above terms, run. And run quickly. These are all outdated methods of SEO and they will actually hurt your website in the long run.
The exception to the above would be “backlinking”, but it’s not what the spammy SEO scammer is talking about.
Nope, he’s talking about submitting your website to banned directories that serve as link farms and will actually hurt your website in the long run.
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 scammers got to work and it wasn’t long before Google and others stopped giving much credit to backlinks. Thanks, spammers!
These days, link building is definitely worth considering. 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 just a few reputable websites linking back to a few different pages on your website. Good luck in getting them, though, and this is why you rarely see an SEO company specifically state in writing which types of backlinks they are going to get for you.
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.
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”.
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. Even reformatting your HTML can take hours and hours depending on how poorly it was coded in the first place.
You won’t get anything even close to positive results.
Always be wary of contracts and definitely read them very carefully before committing to anything. A lot of SEO companies are looking to hook you long-term, so they will do a bunch of work for a fee and then hose you on a monthly basis afterward for supposed “maintenance” or “updates”. When you decide to leave, they will inform you that all of their changes – including website content – actually belong to them. So, you can buy out of the contract or stay with them. Ensure up-front that your website and all of its content is yours.
Watch out for anything that’s “free” in this business because what’s not free is their employee salaries, office rent, computers, etc. If you aren’t paying for it right now, you just know they’ll come at you with some creative costs down the road.
Anything that you receive for free now will likely be made-up through bloated costs for future services, anyway.
Try to pay during each step of the way and demand to receive what you were promised.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a glimpse into the seedy underworld of bad SEO companies and practices. Wherever there is money to be made, you can count on creeps like these coming out of the woodwork and taking your cash for very little in return.
If you have a small business website and are thinking about having someone take a look at it, please consider me. I’ll give you an honest assessment of your website and SEO needs that won’t require you to sign anything up-front.
From there I will make recommendations and price them out as we go along and you will always know what I am doing and how much it is costing, which really is the way it should be. I also don’t do monthly contracts: if you need me to do something, we will agree on a rate and I will do it.
Let me take care of these things while you take care of your business!