Ah, search engine optimisation. People say it can make or break businesses online – which personally, I can agree with.
SEO can be a dangerous game
Major search engines change their ranking algorithms constantly, in an effort to reduce web spam and "black hat" SEO operators, who usually attempt to exploit major ranking systems for their own benefit.
Why is this dangerous?
Because, when you hire a "professional" SEO, you are giving them a huge amount of trust to not trash your online reputation. A crooked SEO campaign that employs "black hat" techniques, can, in worst case scenarios, get your blacklisted from major search engines. It's no good selling hats online if noone can ever find you again!
We've outlined some SEO scams we've noticed that are floating around the internet in 2014.
1. Cold emails
As a web development company, we are bombarded with cold emails, usually from foreign countries, asking us to outsource our SEO work. Take a look at the example email we received below.
This poses a few major questions
- Why should I trust someone that struggles to write in English, with my business that trades purely in English?
- If Monica is really from a leading SEO agency, why are they cold emailing people?
- Why was there no mention of the company name, website, and why did the email come from a @gmail.com account?
The list of questions and concerns goes on, but you can see instantly that this is a scam.
Any emails that I receive of similar nature to the example above, get put on my email reject list so I'm not hassled any further.
2. Cold calling, and even cold visits on your premises
Ah yes, a local resident walks in your door and tells you he can get you to the front page of Google, with his secret SEO technique.
In this situation, you should instantly be suspicious of the character that has appeared at your place. You have no idea who they are. Ask them their business name, ask to see their website.
A great way to pick out a scammer in this manner is to do a search for "SEO", or "SEO (cityname)" in Google.
If they aren't on the first page, then they are clearly not as good as they claim to be, and your money is better spent elsewhere.
A shining example of this sort of behaviour can be found by reading this article on the Sydney Morning Herald.
3. We "guarantee" we'll get you to the top
As previously mentioned, major search patterns, parameters and algorithms change insanely fast. Therefore, I feel comfortable to say that it's impossible to make this sort of guarantee.
4. Free submission to "over 1,000" search engines
This seems pretty self explanatory, but we'll go over it anyway.
What site do you go to when you're looking for something? Chances are it's going to be Google, Yahoo or Bing.
And what site do you think your customers are going to use to find your business? You guessed it, probably Google, Yahoo or Bing.
There's next to zero benefit from these "submissions" – chances are they are all low ranking sites no one has ever heard of.
5. Operators that say they are "the best" in their field
SEO is a fiercely competitive industry, and even more so in recent times. There would literally be millions of "SEO consultants" around the world, with no real way of determining "the best".
Be wary of any site or company that states that they are "the best SEO company". Do some research of the business online – if they are a good company, there will be hundreds of shining reviews around the internet.