9 Red Flags That An SEO Firm Is A Dishonest One
A Dishonest or Bad SEO Firm Can Really Cost You:
Have you ever received a cold call or spam email from a search engine marketing company offering to get you on the first page of Google? If you have you’re most likely a small to midsize business owner (SMB), with a website, and you might even be getting calls and emails on a weekly basis from these guys. In fact, according to Bright Local’s SMB 2014 Survey, about 35% of SMBs get contacted by SEO agencies daily… That’s crazy! (and slightly harassing)
This is a big complaint of business owners, but not bigger than how another SEO company burned them. Between the harassing calls, emails, and bad experiences, it’s no wonder that business owners are afraid of hiring any SEO agency! As a business owner, maybe you are considering hiring a SEO company, but are weary of choosing the right one. As a website and business owner, you should know some of the common lies SEO companies like to tell and red-flags you should take note of that these unscrupulous firms try to use to get your money and run.
Red-Flag 1: “Our Methods Are Secret” (Really?)
Possibly the biggest red-flag is a company claiming that their methods are secret, because NO legitimate SEO methods that are “secret”; that’s just absurd.
However, there are many methods that are dishonest and will violate the terms of service with most search engines, including Google, and your site will be reprimanded for it in the long run by method of de-ranking of your site.
Make sure whatever SEO company you end up with practices ONLY white-hat SEO; read up more on white SEO and other SEO info on your blog SEO for Beginners.
Red-Flag 2: They Are Vague About Their Methods
I’m sorry but, yes, SEO can take some time, effort, and skill… but it’s by no means rocket science. If an SEO agency can’t explain how SEO works to a second grader, let alone to you as a Business owner, then they don’t know what they’re doing. An SEO agency should be able to explain how SEO works and what methods they plan to use in plain terms, period.
If an agency is beating around the bush, being vague, or claiming some kind of “proprietary methods”… RUN! Heck, if I were you I would report them to the Better Business Burrow because they’re probably scam artists.
SEO doesn’t work that way; there’s no mystical, magical, secret society of SEO wizards… in fact, SEO is all over the web for anyone to see. Of course some SEO companies pay to use certain programs or software to use for their clients, but they should be able to communicate what those programs are and at least provide some kind of functionality those programs are providing to you.
It’s not a matter of proprietary software, and I think that a lot of those tactic used by SEO companies is simply to make sure you don’t go out and buy the software yourself and try it on your own. But, honestly, if you’re ready to hire an SEO company, you’re probably to busy to be dealing with SEO anyways, so why would that matter?
If these SEO agencies are explaining their approaches and you don’t really understand, ask for clarification. You’re paying them to make changes to your website and you have the right to know what’s going on.
Red-Flag 3: “We’re #1 in SEO”
Based on what, exactly? If an SEO company claims this or states that they’re #1 in SEO globally, in the country, in the state, or in the tri-city area, etc. to you, they simply think that you’re stupid and they’re trying to make an easy sale. There’s no method of proving that even to themselves even if they are somehow the #1 SEO agency in the area. Beside not having a way for an SEO agency to qualify this statement, what does that mean to you?
The only thing you should be concentrating on how this SEO company has been performing for their existing clients, whether they use processes that meet the Guidelines of Search Engine Optimization Services, and the rate of return from investment in marketing campaign.
Red-Flag 4: “We have a source inside Google who works with us directly”
Google doesn’t work with SEO firms directly. It never has and I doubt it ever would.
Actually, Google almost makes it harder for search engine optimization services because so many of them want to try and figure out how to beat Google.
As for the “inside source” who is supposedly revealing the secrets from deep inside Google… Google is one of the best companies to work for, and their employees are very well compensated. Why would any of those employees risk their job to make a little extra money on the side, or to help out a friend who runs an SEO firm, while cheating Google and their job/lively-hood? I highly doubt it. If doesn’t make logical sense, then it’s probably not true.
Red-Flag 5: “We can get you ranking #1”
While a reputable SEO company should never be vague in their approaches, they are likely to be somewhat general regarding time and ranking spot. “Why?” you might ask; because SEO firms care about their reputation, customer satisfaction, and guaranteeing you a spot at #1 ranking is not only not 100% realistic, but if they cannot fulfill their promises it makes them look bad and opens them up for bad reviews.
When it comes to SEO, a good SEO company can provide a general idea on results, but as a promise, there is NO one company out there that can know exactly where Google will rank your website. Google is constantly changing things, so no one knows the inner working of Google and their algorithms, expect Google. Don’t be fooled by SEO companies claiming otherwise. In fact, the way users and customers make their searches (what keywords they will be using) will continuously change as well, so optimization, realistically, will always be an ongoing task.
An SEO company that gives you a reasonable and realistic expectation is a trustworthy one, I can promise you that.
Red-Flag 6: “We’ve Decoded Google’s Algorithm”
I have, legitimately, heard a client tell me this story. The SEO Firm claimed they had “decoded Google’s Algorithm” and they had nothing else to say about it or share on the topic with them.
They, being the extremely smart business that they are, knew that it sounded shady and requested to not be contacted by the SEO Firm with their services again. Phew! Dodged that bullet!
I’m guessing that these SEO Firms believe we were all born yesterday. Google brings in billions of dollars annually with their algorithm and they employ thousands of highly educated, skilled engineers to update it regularly alongside LOTS of security experts to that their intellectual property will be protected.
No one has, nor will probably ever break Google code, and if they did they would be doing one of two things; going promptly to jail because they don’t know how to cover up their tracks, or they would be using it to become fabulously wealthy whilst NOT offering to improve you online viability for a competitive SEO rate. Don’t ever trust this kind of sales scam, please.
Red-Flag 7: “You’ll See Results In Days”
Maybe you have seen this; “We’ll get you better ranking within 24 hours!” Are these people actually lying? Actually, not technically lying.
As mentioned above, claims that are too specific should be a red flag that you’re dealing with a dishonest SEO company. Furthermore, credible search engine optimization should take anyway from four month to a year for you to truly start seeing results.
But, many SEO companies use black hat SEO techniques. Black hat techniques use a number of tactics that have been banned by Google and will result in penalties made against your website. However, in the meantime, they can get your website ranking pretty high, and quickly at that – until you’re not anymore and you’re dealing with penalties from Google.
When Google catches on, your website could be penalized or even banned from search engine results. It takes forever to dig your business website out of the round after this mess, and Google will have very little sympathy.
Check out Matt Cutts Webmaster video below on how White-hat SEO works better in the long run over Black-Hat SEO. Matt Cutts is a former head of the web spam team at Google, and now works for the United States Digital Service as the director of engineering.
Red-Flag 8: “We Sell Links!”
Okay, if an SEO company is trying to sell you what is called back-links from “domain authority” back-links (DA40-DA-100 links), they’re probably not a trustworthy or credible SEO firm.
What is Domain Authority? Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that estimates how well a website will wank on search engine result pages (SERPs). The DA score ranges from 1 to 100 and the higher the score corresponds to a greater ability to rank. Essentially, the more trustworthy and credible your site is, the higher you will rank.
So, let’s think about that for a second. The more trustworthy and credible your site appears, the higher you will rank… so websites with supposed high domain authority would probably not be selling links since that practice of link selling has actually been banned by Google for years now.
Red-Flag 9: “We Promise X amount of Links Each Month!”
Don’t trust these scammers.
To get links, you have to create good content, and dishonest SEO companies hate taking this route.
These bad SEO firms don’t want to spend countless hours researching keywords and writing content, they would rather spam and get thing done as quickly as possible. SEO spam = SEO scam. This firm would not be an honest one in the slightest.
When you earn links the proper way you can’t exactly predict how many back-links will be received in the end. Expect SEO to take time, patience, and don’t expect a idealistic prediction on how many back-links you will receive.
An SEO company trying to sell you idealistic predictions, is, well… trying to sell you idealism and not much more.
Conclusion on identifying a dishonest SEO company
Make sure the SEO company you go with practices only white-hat SEO. It’s not worth it to try any black-hat methods.
If the SEO company has a quantity over quality feel to it, it’s probably a spammer. Keep an eye out for spelling errors in general correspondence (or worse, proposals), little personalized content on their website, or their missing an About Us page on their website. I know these points seem like small potatoes, but they count. Don’t you want to know who you’re doing business with? I know I do.
If the company makes any outlandish claims, don’t believe them. SEO takes time… painfully so. Remember when your mother told you that you were slower than molasses when you were getting ready for school in the morning. SEO is slower than THAT (typically). Don’t let a shady SEO company fool you.
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