Nozak Consulting

How to Avoid an SEO Scam

Scott Emigh

As SEO grows in popularity, it’s inevitable that people have started to appear who claim to be experts on the subject in an attempt to scam other people.

While we’ve covered some of the things to look out for with an SEO company what is not as obvious are the Things to Avoid When Hiring an SEO Service, those were only scratching the surface.

Most of those were signs that the business was in the habit of bad practices, or just untrustworthy. We are going to provide a few things to avoid and a few things to do when vetting an SEO company. Right, it’s all about avoiding the scam and paying for those actually working behind the scenes for you.

Unfortunately, there are scammers out there in the SEO space, we guess you probably already know.

If your phone rings off the hook like ours and your email is always filled with emails explaining why your SEO is busted, you already know. When you plan on hiring an SEO service; the more knowledge you can have against SEO scams, the better.

You might be tempted by some of these so-called SEO “experts,” and they’ll dress up their lies to be as convincing as possible. 

You have to know the red flags. When it comes to increasing your organic SEO, you’ll want to be on the lookout for these potential SEO scams. Ever seen a graph like the following? The domains linking back to you are slowing rising and falling, yet one or a few of them are linking back to your site thousands and even tens of thousands of times. This is a prime example of bad SEO that WILL hurt your Google rankings and this case – cause you to get penalized by Google.

Here is a great article over the difference between a manual penalty versus an algorithmic penalty.

SEO Scam Companies Claim They Have a Special Relationship with Google

Some people will try to claim to have a special relationship with Google, but don’t believe it. SEO companies don’t have any sort of “special relationship” with Google, and any who claim to are trying to scam you.

Often times a Google partner symbol is added to a website or mentioned in a meeting, this references Google Adwords skills and training, Google AdWords & SEO are completely different. Search engine marketing (SEM) includes (pay-per-click advertising (PPC), Social Media Marketing (SMM), and search engine optimization (SEO).

Although SEM includes SEO, PPC and SEO are completely different.

Yes they work hand in hand as they are both on the conversion funnel for client acquisition, they require unique skills. A Google Partnership symbol refers to a PPC relationship not on some secret SEO relationship.

Why PPC and SEO go well together is two fold (1) PPC is great for getting people into the bottom of the conversion funnel fast and to get the phone ring and (2) it gives you insight into competitive and highly successful keywords.

They Claim to be Partners with Google

Scam SEO Companies Claim They Can Make You Top Ranked in 48 Hours

This would be impossible to promise. Can this happen? Of course, but no one can predict it, how fast, and for which terms Google will rank you. Google even gives you a window for SEO to really start to show major improvements and it is significantly longer than 48 hours.

How can you even be certain the website gets crawled within that 48 hours? Then what? Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you or using SEM strategies rather than organic SEO.

Yes, we have seen a Google business page pop up in Google within minutes, but getting someone to page one organically takes time and really depends upon the industry.

Free Trial SEO Services are a Lie

Like many services, SEO takes time and hard work, and requires patience before seeing results. So, as you can imagine, someone offering an SEO free trial service is incredibly suspicious.

Especially if they want any sort of personal information in exchange for it; if they do, then they’re unquestionably trying to scam you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

They Say They Offer the Cheapest SEO

SEO will cost you a somewhat significant investment. Granted, it probably won’t break the bank, but it will still cost likely somewhere in the triple-digit price range. If an SEO service is promising a double-digit price, then they’re going to provide poor service.

In fact, they might be a detriment to your SEO depending on the techniques they use. Cheaper isn’t always better.

They Will Claim to Improve Your SEO Across Hundreds of Search Engines

Working to improve your rank in a handful of the largest search engines is nothing to worry about. However, if they promise they can get you onto thousands of search engines, there’s a problem.

They’re probably lying, but let’s entertain the thought that they are going to follow through. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are some of the most used search engines.

If you want to succeed it would make sense to focus on those. If they end up following through and try to promote you on thousands of search engines, they’re going to stretch themselves too thin. Either way, it’s a bad idea to go with someone who makes a claim like this. 

They Claim to Use Secret SEO Strategies

A good SEO company will work with you to help you understand SEO and how they improve it. If a company claims to have some “secret technique,” they’re lying. Worse, they’re probably going to use unethical or illegal SEO techniques.

These kinds of black hat strategies will only lead to you becoming banned by Google and other large search engines.

They Claim to be Google Algorithm Masters

While most SEO services know some aspects of Google’s algorithms through research, there are parts of it which are confidential or simply unknown.

Even SEO services/Agencies who are very familiar with Google’s algorithms won’t know everything about it. An SEO company claiming to understand the search engine algorithms in their entirety is not being honest with you.

No matter which SEO service you choose to go with, we want you to be informed so you don’t get ripped off. 

Top 6 Things to Avoid When Hiring an SEO Service

Scam artists, con artists, hustlers, frauds, swindlers, or whatever you want to call them, no matter what industry you’re in, you’re bound to find them.

Unfortunately, one place rife with them is the SEO industry.

We want to help you avoid dishonest SEO services, so you can keep your well-earned money safe from would-be cheats.

Avoid Cold Call SEO Services

Not all cold calls are spam, obviously. We are focusing on the bad actors, that promise things they cannot deliver.

Cold callers can promise you the world, but don’t fall for it. If they are resorting to cold calls to find customers, they might be great at building a sales team, but they aren’t always proficient in SEo, SEM, or even web development.

This company is “supposedly” good at internet marketing, yes? So why do they need to make cold calls? They should be skilled enough at marketing (SEM) themselves to get their clients. How can they help you if they can’t even help their own business?

So some teams are successful at running a call center that generates leads that are great at what they do.

We don’t want to discount cold calls all the way to irreverence, just make sure you are signing on with an agency that understands data science and can show you success stories in similar market sizes/industry.

Avoid Services with Misleading Search Engine Ranks

Let’s say a service is trying to get your business, so they show you a website nearly at the top of the Google search results.

This does seem promising, but before you give them your money, beware. There are some internet marketing companies out there who buy backlinks to raise their website’s rank in search results.

A few paid links here or there, usually, isn’t anything to worry about, but if the bulk of their backlinks are paid/spammy, you should avoid that company. They will likely charge you exorbitant amounts to make up for what they spent on links, and more. Make sure this isn’t the case before you agree to the service.

Avoid SEO Companies Who Hire Offshore 

A sign of a good SEO company is when they hire accountable-creatives, so you can see and communicate with whoever is working to improve your business website’s SEO. Many SEO companies, however, hire overseas from countries like the Philippines or India where labor costs are lower.

This prevents you from monitoring the quality of their work and limits your ability to communicate with those responsible for your online presence. Furthermore, most SEO companies which hire offshore often use methods for improving SEO which can get your website banned from Google.

All that to say, try avoiding companies who do this.

Avoid an SEO Practitioner Who Won’t Answer Questions

Asking questions is important if you want to understand exactly what you’re getting out of your SEO service. Many shady SEO practitioners will try to beguile you by answering your questions with fancy-sounding jargon to give the illusion that they are experts, but don’t fall for this.

A trustworthy SEO company is willing to answer your questions in layman’s terms when possible. If they refuse to do so, then you should be wary.

Avoid SEO Consultants Who Give You Guarantees 

In truth, there are no guarantees in the SEO world. It’s marketing, it’s science, it’s data driven, but what it is not is a free ticket.

Even a great service might only be able to raise your website slightly higher in search engine results at no fault of their own or yours. Each competitive intelligence report that an agency creates on a client or industry helps to paint the truth behind how easy a company can move up in organic SERPs.

For some companies, it could be quickly (2 months) for others it could take years. Obviously, the costs behind these campaigns & strategies would be starkly different. Numerous factors are involved, and ultimately Google is the one who determines if you will be high up in the results.

So, if an SEO company guarantees they can make you #1 on Google, turn them down. If an agency has proof where they have moved up other companies to position 1 for relevant terms, this is more of an indicator whether or not the agency has the wherewithal to do the things necessary to put move your URL up in the SERPs.

Avoid Black Hat SEO 

“Black hat” is a term which is derived from old westerns, where the bad guys always wore black hats.

It is used in the computer industry to refer to people who perform shady, if not downright illegal, practices. In the SEO industry, you will find many “black hats” to avoid, who try using cheap tricks to fool Google’s algorithms into improved SERP positioning.

While you might experience short term improvements, the Google algorithm updates will ALWAYS catch up to these practices. Nothing is worse than a manual or algorithmic penalty that kicks you straight out of their search engine.