Separating the legitimate search engine optimization (SEO) companies from the fly-by-night companies can be a daunting task since there are so many from which to choose. With a little investigative legwork, however, you should be able to avoid most pitfalls. Below is a list of the common scams and tips on how to check out the companies offering the hooks.
Guarantees by themselves are not bad as many legitimate SEO companies offer some sort of guarantee on their work or services. What to watch out for are the guarantees that offer pie-in-the-sky results (such as rank number 1 in Google in 2 weeks) or guarantees that are so watered down that they are meaningless. Expectations of results for new, uneducated customers are usually unrealistic in the SEO world, so customers need to be educated as to what they should realistically expect in regard to time, budget, and competition.
Some illegitimate SEO companies will play off of these “drive-up window” expectations and promise unrealistic time-frames for results. Later, these companies will balk at giving refunds, offer you other services for more money in place of refunds, become unreachable by mail, email or phone or disappear altogether.
A couple of methods of checking out SEO companies is to Google the company name to see if there are any bad reviews and also checking with Whois tools (through Network Solutions or another provider) to find out who the registered owner, administrative contact and technical contacts are and if these contacts look legitimate. Legitimate companies will try to be transparent, so if the Whois info looks suspicious, then buyer beware.
SEO Email Spam
“We’ve noticed that you are not listed in some search engines” the email begins. This is Spam that even Bill Gates receives. The best way to find an SEO company is to search the major search engines you wish to be listed upon for them and not let them come to you. After all if an SEO company can get their sites high in the search engine rankings, chances are they can do the same for you.
Get 1000’s Of Links To Your Site Automatically
In early days it would have helped a website if you were listed on link farms or FFA (Free-For-All) sites, but now this will get your website penalized by most search engines. So, not only will a company take your money to put a link back to your site on 1000’s of unrelated sites, but your search engine rankings will suffer for this as well. Just say no to this service.
Get Listed On Thousands Of Search Engines
First, thousands of the lesser, if not questionable search engines will not bring much business to your site. Your focus needs to be on the major search engines, directories and social media (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter etc.). Second, being listed on thousands of search engines is not the same as being ranked highly on thousands of search engines. Very simply put, the company will take your money, use a piece of software to broadcast your URL to thousands of small search engines and the traffic you will receive in return will most likely be minimal to none. It is much better to avoid this altogether and hand-submit your URL to directories and social media. If your website has a couple or more links pointing to it, then let the search engines come to you (Googlebot and other crawlers will find your website quicker than you think).
Cloaking is an unethical technique used by some shady black hat SEO scammers to serve up one page of highly optimized text to the search engines and a different page to your visitors. While not a scam in the same sense of the other scams (since you may see some good results for a short while), it is problematic since, over time, your site will be caught by the search engines and your domain name will be banned.
So the effect is that you will be engaging in unethical activity, you will pay money for this, and your site will suffer by being dropped from the search engine rankings. One way to catch this activity is by watching for other files your SEO may be placing in your website’s root folder on the server that is hosting your site. If someone is placing files on your website’s webhost without your permission, then find out why. It could be legitimate such as placing a robots.txt file there or it could something shady. But as the website owner, you need to be a hawk when it comes to work that is being done on your behalf.