Be warned. There are some unscrupulous SEO companies out there. There are many great SEO companies too, so don’t be completely put off looking for one. You just need to be aware of the pitfalls. As soon as the alarm bells start ringing, you must act. If you don’t, you can end up throwing your money away at best, or at worst getting heavy penalties from Google, affecting your ability to do business online.
A popular tactic of cowboy SEO companies is ‘churn and burn’ where a website is made to rank highly using underhand tactics that will be punished by the search engine providers if detected. We want to avoid churn and burn, and stick to the companies that offer a helpful, comprehensive SEO service.
This guide will highlight some of the warning signs that you might be about to be ripped off.
Beware of dodgy sales tactics. Any company that ‘guarantees’ a top 3 ranking in Google search, for instance, is probably one to be avoided. Nobody can say for sure that they will get you to the coveted top spots on Google, as there are too many factors that are outside of their control.
A reputable company will make no such promises. If they do make guarantees, they’ll be much more modest such as promising to improve your search ranking over a longer period. They will be upfront about the fact that search engines aren’t easy to manipulate and that things can change quickly and often in the world of SEO.
They will offer a comprehensive strategy to achieve your SEO goals, whereas the Cowboys will just sell you on their tactics and shady practices.
No proof of success
One way to spot rip-off merchants is a lack of evidence of past successes. Perhaps there are no testimonials, case studies or links to previous client’s websites. Or they may have testimonials or reviews on their website that just don’t sound true. It’s often easy to spot fake testimonials as they don’t sound natural. If you’re unsure, ask to speak to happy past clients, a reputable company will be happy to put you in touch with previous customers.
Of course, it could be that they are new to the business as an explanation for the lack of proof. If this is the case, it should be reflected in their comparatively low price. If you’re willing to take the risk to save some money, make sure you tread carefully and that they don’t show any of the other six warning signs listed here.
Offering hundreds/thousands of backlinks
This one definitely sets the ‘churn and burn’ alarm bells ringing. Spammy backlinks are the number one way to get in trouble with Google. If their algorithms pick up that you have been paying for lots of low-quality links they will slap hefty penalties on you that your business may not recover from. The short-term gains can quickly turn to long term misery.
Reputable companies will set out their strategy for backlinks, which will involve getting high-quality links from authority websites. This is a far better long-term strategy that will give you SEO peace of mind.
Promises of cheap content
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If they are offering SEO content at an unbelievably low price, chances are they will be outsourcing it overseas. If they are not native English speakers, the resulting content is often going to be poor quality. You’ll probably have to end up re-writing it yourself or hiring a better writer to do it.
Web copy and articles pass through filters in search algorithms to discern good quality content, so don’t take any chances. The algorithms also check bounce rate (how long people spend reading content) and time on site. Poor content will get poor results, plain and simple.
No offer of personalised SEO Packages
Any SEO company that knows their stuff will offer to design a unique package that meets your needs. They will recognise that each business is unique and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all SEO strategy. It depends on your product or service, positioning in the market and your goals and objectives. Beware of companies that will only offer you standard packages without first having a two-way conversation.
Lack of reporting
Tracking your SEO success is important. You want to know that progress is being made. Ask the company in advance, what kind of reports they are going to provide you with and on what schedule.
If they don’t have the answers to these questions, then probably best to avoid them and find a company that does.
Confused strategy or system
Ask them to explain their systems and strategy to you in full before entering into any agreement. If they can’t provide a clear and concise answer, that uses tried and tested white-hat systems, then steer clear. A good company will have the confidence and know-how to put together a strategy that is clear and makes sense.