If you’ve had a website or blog up and running for any amount of time, you may have found more than one of these in your inbox at some point …
SUBJECT: How To Increase Your Website Ranking And Traffic
We can get your website on top of Search Engines. All work will be
done as per Google’s guidelines (Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird).
Please reply to this e-mail for more info. (Guaranteed Results)
SUPER SPAMMY ROBOT
Okay, maybe they sign the email with a more legitimate name, but you get the idea.
And it can be pretty tempting because as a website owner – of COURSE, you want more traffic to your website and that whole SEO thing can be pretty freakin’ confusing at times.
I hope for your sake that you have *never* replied to one of these emails or engaged them in any sort of SEO services. 99 percent of the time, these are spam pitches from faraway agencies who are using sketchy tactics to make it appear as though you may or may not have more traffic. “Sketchy” meaning they’re sending fake traffic or doing things that’ll end up getting you a spam violation from Google later.
So, okay – maybe you would NEVER say yes to an email like this that reeks so much of spam.
But what about when it isn’t so obvious? How do you know what to look for when hiring someone for SEO help? Especially when the concept feels soooo far from your zone of genius in the first place?
Let’s walk through 3 warning signs you could be signing up for an SEO scam …
#1 – Promise of Specific Results
Here’s the thing – in the getting-you-more-traffic-from-your-ideal-clients-via-Google game, there are no guarantees. It’s just the nature of the beast.
A lot of scammy SEO pitches include wording like “guaranteed #1 spot!” or other such specific results.
Why is a specific guarantee a BAD thing? Because it’s not possible.
Google guarantees are impossible for a number of reasons including:
- Google’s formula for ranking websites is not completely known and completely out of our control – they could change the game at any moment (and they do)
- You have zero control over your competitors and what they’re doing when it comes to SEO
- You have zero control over what the website you currently have links from are doing when it comes to SEO. (Google likes it when websites that they like, link to your site. But if a site that links to you that was in Google’s “good” column suddenly starts spamming it up, that lessens the power of that site linking to you)
Usually what’s happening when a scammy SEO agency is guaranteeing a specific result is one of two things:
- They’re actually talking about a paid position via Google Adwords and not the actual unpaid search rankings
- They’ll guarantee a #1 ranking for a keyword phrase that has zero relevance or zero actual searches attached to it (aka worthless ranking)
What does all of this mean? Run away from anyone who leans heavily on the guarantee pitch!
#2 – No Explanation of What They’re Doing
Okay, so I get that you might not totally get the whole “SEO” thing and that’s fine!
But you should get skeptical of anyone who will claim their tactics are “proprietary” or say you just “wouldn’t understand” when you start to ask about their approach or what they’re doing.
The thing is – the actions they’re taking are on behalf of YOUR website – links are being built on behalf of YOUR business & you have a right to know what’s happening.
Because at the end of the day … the SEO agency may go away, but you’re still stuck with whatever links they built – spammy or otherwise.
Sure, you don’t need them to explain the technical clean-up aspects to your actual website but when it comes to what content they’re putting on your site and/or what outreach efforts they’re doing on your website’s behalf – you have a right to know.
If they’re resistant to sharing that stuff with you – run away!
#3 – If You Stop Working With Us, You WILL Lose Your Rankings
This one stinks of a scam for two reasons:
- They cannot guarantee increases or decreases in traffic for all the reasons we talked about in #1 about Google being unpredictable
- If you DO see a sudden drop in traffic after immediately canceling your contract AND after they said this to you … it probably means they were sending you fake robot traffic all along
Sure – your competitors might be heavily investing in SEO help and that might start to affect your rankings and consequently your traffic but what a GOOD SEO person would tell you is that “sure, you might start to see a drop in traffic if you take your eye off the SEO ball, but as long as you continue to do X, Y, and Z and keep identifying and pursuing the kind of opportunities and content we talked about – you should be able to continue the kind of success we’ve started to see because of the great foundation we’ve built together.”
(or something to that effect.)
An honest SEO professional would also be happy to share the methods and strategies they want to help you use to get more of your ideal client traffic from Google.
An honest SEO professional would also be honest about what sort of results they can and cannot help you achieve but what sort of actions they’re willing to commit to and share some examples of what has and hasn’t happened with clients in the past.
Over To You
Have you ever found yourself in a shady SEO situation? Have you tried SEO yourself? Have something you’d add to the scam signs list? Let us know in the comments!
Liz Lockard is an analytics nut and SEO coach who loves helping small businesses get more of the right kind of traffic and more out of that traffic. For more tips on how to do SEO the right way, check out some of Liz’s best tips at lizlockard.com.