5 Signs of a Search Engine Marketing (SEO) Scam

SEO is only getting more complicated. As a website owner, it’s hard to balance all the aspects of your Internet Presence and often, SEO can be a major time sink and constant source of concern. You’re plagued by questions like, “Which updates will have the greatest SEO impact for my site? Which Google algorithm updates do I need to worry about?” When someone comes along and says, “Hey, I can take care of all of this for you,” it’s easy to just say yes and shove another item off your plate.

Unfortunately, not everyone who’s offering SEO services has your website’s best interest at heart. SEO scammers know that most site owners have only a basic knowledge of SEO, and they’re looking to take advantage of this. Here are a few tips to avoid shady SEOs.

1. Unsolicited Email

Every website owner has seen their fair share of these. It might be sent through a contact form on your site or through a direct email, but the message is always the same - vague promises about improving your website.

Professional SEO companies do not randomly send spam emails looking for new clients. They follow the same marketing tactics that you do - email campaigns, customer referrals, blog posts, online advertising, and of course, SEO.

An unsolicited email should be an immediate red flag. Mark as spam and move on.

2. Guaranteed Rankings

You might come across something like, "We guarantee your site will rank #1 for XYZ."

There are a couple things to dispute here. First, no one can really guarantee a ranking for anything. Search algorithms are so amazingly complex that making a promise about the outcome is absurd.

Second, SEO isn't really about rankings. Rankings are simply an intermediary step in the process. SEO is about driving quality traffic to your site through search engines. Ranking #1 for a keyword doesn't mean anything unless that keyword has the ability to bring traffic to your site.

So, when you start hearing promises, ask yourself if ranking for XYZ is really going to provide any benefit.

3. The Details of Their Service Are a Mystery

With so many uninformed website owners out there, I think it's an SEO’s duty to be very transparent. Any SEO company worth its weight in search results should be able to explain the details of their services. If they are building links for you, they should be able to tell you what kind of links they are building and the basics of how they will go about obtaining those links. If they are making updates to your site, they should be able to explain what they are changing and why they are changing it.

However, don't expect full disclosure. Every SEO company has proprietary information that they won't share with you, but they should be able to explain their services with enough detail to make you feel comfortable.

4. Search Engine Submission

This one's a classic. Back in the ‘90s, websites had to submit their pages directly to search engines. This went out the door in the early 2000s when search engines developed the ability to crawl links and start indexing sites on their own. Search engine submission is 100% unnecessary and is something you definitely shouldn't be paying for.

NOTE: Don't get this confused with local SEO, which requires submitting your business information to Google Places, Bing Local or Yahoo Local, or with sitemaps which are submitted to search engines via Webmaster Tools as a best practice.

5. Unrealistic Prices

You get what you pay for. If someone offers to build links for $50, you're going to get $50 worth of useless links. SEO for a small business should cost around $300 - $1000 per month. Prices can vary based on the scope of the service or the competitiveness of your vertical.

There isn't really an upper limit to SEO spending. A medium-size business could easily spend $5,000 on some quality work, while very large businesses might spend tens of thousands each month.

How to Avoid the Scams?

Most SEO scams are built to take advantage of a lack of knowledge, so the best way to combat them is by informing yourself. If you feel absolutely clueless about SEO, the SEOmoz Beginner's Guide is a great place to start.

If you already have the basics covered, start reading SEOmoz's blog posts or check out their Q&A Forum to dig into some more advanced topics.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't going looking for an SEO company. They are many reputable agencies and consultants out there that can do wonders for your site. If you are unsure about any company or don’t know where to start, just ask us! We spend time learning SEO so you don't have to, and we're happy to make recommendations.

You might also find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the SEO services covered by Pronto so you don’t end up paying an outside consultant for something we already have under control.


SEO & Social Media Manager

Pronto Marketing

Pronto Marketing

Visit the The Pronto Blog for more guides and resources to practical advice for managing your business' Internet Presence. Never miss an update, you can access our curated archives and easily search by categories here.