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5 warning signs of an seo scam

5 Warning Signs of an SEO Scam

If you’re not careful, you might be the next business to fall for an SEO scam. Good SEO rarely happens overnight, which makes it the perfect breeding ground for scammers. It can be difficult to know how to tell a legitimate, skilled SEO agency from one that’s just trying to take your money. But avoiding optimizing your website for SEO is not an option: SEO drives 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media [1] and 53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic searches, rather than paid results [2]. Without an SEO-optimized site, your business will quickly fall behind.

How Can Businesses Avoid SEO Scams?

The best way to avoid an SEO scam is to know the tell-tale signs. Most SEO scammers use a range of similar tactics, and once you know what these tactics are, you’ll be able to spot them easily.

You do not have to be an SEO expert to identify and avoid scams. You simply have to recognize the key warning signs that pop up with almost every type of SEO scammer. In this article, we’ll cover the 5 warning signs of an SEO scam.

“We guarantee first page rankings”

Top of the SEO wish-list for most businesses is a spot on the first page of Google’s results for their chosen keywords. But be very wary when any agency promises you the first page: they could be trying to scam you.

This scam is common enough that even Google itself warns businesses about it: “If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.” [3]

As nice as it would be to be able to guarantee a spot on the first page of Google, search engine results are highly fluid and subject to change, and competition is typically fierce. If you’re competing with big brands wielding billions of dollars worth of marketing revenue, do not fall for a scammer telling you that they can bump you up to pole position overnight.

Instead, look for experts who can recommend long-term strategies and workarounds for competitive keywords, such as more niche long-tail search terms.

“We are partnered with Google”

Scammers will sometimes claim to be partnered with Google, or in some way affiliated with the search engine, in order to boost their own credibility. And it’s a tactic that often works: when asked to choose between an agency working alone and an agency partnered with Google itself, it seems to be a no-brainer.

The catch is that Google has no SEO partner program. While it does have certifications for Google Analytics and Google Ads to prove expertise, earning these certifications will not give an agency any advantage with Google itself.

“We use special software to submit your site to Google”

Beware of any agency that claims they can bump you to the front of the line by using proprietary software or other tactics. While this scam is easy to detect for those who know how Google creates its rankings, many businesses still often fall for it.

Google – and most other search engines – creates its results by using bots that crawl the web, indexing links as they go. You do not need to submit your website to Google: it will find you automatically and judge you on its own criteria.

Do not fall for scammers who tell you they can help you skip the line. Instead, look for experts who can explain to you in simple terms how Google works and how their own process to boost your results will happen.

“Your listing is about to expire”

If you have received a call or email telling you that your Google listing is about to expire, ignore it.

Sometimes these calls will claim to be from Google itself, and sometimes they will claim to simply be in the know, but typically they will promise to update your position on Google – for a price.

The truth is that Google search results do not expire, and Google does not have “listings”. Often, these scammers are referring to a business’s Google My Business account, which displays a little box with information about your business on the side of the search results when your business is searched for, along with placing you on Google Maps. You can create, update and maintain this profile by yourself for no charge – there is no need to pay anyone for it.

“We can guarantee 1000 visitors to your site per day”

You may have been promised a particular number – whether it’s 500, 1000, or even higher than that – of visitors to your site every day. Sometimes this offer comes with a free trial offer or a money-back guarantee. However, the old adage still applies for SEO: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

These guaranteed visitors will likely be bots, rather than real people. This traffic will not do anything for your search results, and it will also interfere with your Google Analytics data, making it even harder to see the real humans visiting your site. This tactic is the equivalent of simply setting your money on fire – it’s useless to you, your business, and your search engine results.

How can you protect yourself from SEO scammers and make sure that you’re working with a reputable, qualified agency?We tell all of our new clients to first, do their research. Check out the agency’s website, read reviews (both good and bad), and look for evidence of their work in Google search results. Second, ask questions. A reputable SEO company will be happy to answer all of your questions about their services and methodology. And finally, get references. Ask for testimonials from other clients or for case studies. If everything checks out, go ahead – but always keep an eye on your analytics to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

If you’re thinking about hiring a national or local SEO expert we encourage you to take advantage of our free website analysis.  We can provide business owners an indepth over view of what can be done to their current website to grab more SEO attention.  Contact us today to get this free SEO insight report.


Amber Goetz

Amber Goetz

Digital Marketing Specialist

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