How to Spot SEO Scams From a Mile Away

The main problem with SEO scams is that businesses usually spot them when it’s already too late. When that happens, they’ll be at risk of a site penalty from Google, which will negate any SEO progress they made. 

For that reason, it’s important to know how to spot SEO scams when you see them. These are the most telling signals:

Fast results 

SEO strategies are effective, but they take time to work. We always tell businesses that they shouldn’t expect any major changes overnight.

If some agency is telling you that you can snag the top spot on Google within a week, that’s a clear red flag. This indicates that they’ll use black-hat tactics to deliver on their lofty promise. At the end of the day, it’ll be your website that gets stuck with the penalty.

Cheap inbound links

Link building is a rather controversial aspect of SEO. While most experts agree that it’s necessary and effective, they also understand that it’s a long-term process.

This recent Business 2 Community article explains an SEO scam where agencies offer extremely cheap inbound links. According to the article, this is a good way to get in trouble with Google:

“Yes, link building is important, a practice that is actually one of the most effective ways to outrank your competition. That said, link building is really difficult and time consuming as well. What this means is that if somebody offers you 500 links for $50, you’re not going to achieve positive results and it may even end up negatively affecting your Google ranking.”

If you see cheap inbound links, run, don’t walk away. This is almost always a bad sign.

Vague answers 

Have you ever dealt with an SEO agency that doesn’t explain its method? These often give vague answers filled with jargon to confuse small business owners.

SEO agencies should answer any questions you have. Their goal should be to inform you, rather than to confuse you. If you don’t know exactly what they’re doing, then it’s probably a scam.

Freelancers on Craigslist 

This one is relatively obvious, but a surprising amount of businesses are turning to Craigslist for their SEO needs. This Search Engine Land article explains how absurd this is:

“I know some SEOs will spank me on Twitter because posts like these tend to tar the SEO industry with the scammer brush. Like I said, I have rarely met an SEO consultant who didn’t try to do his or her best for their clients. But businesses that seek quick fixes and fall for these Craigslist scheisters need some cold water in the face more than we as an industry need cheerleading.”

Craigslist is good for a lot of things, but SEO isn’t one of them. Think twice before you trust your site ranking with a stranger who has no accountability.

No endorsements 

And finally, any worthwhile SEO agency has a good reputation among its clients. They should have a page on their website filled with authentic customer reviews.

A lack of endorsements is a major red flag. It means you’re either their guinea pig or next victim. Remember that you can always find another agency that has a good long-standing reputation.

If a legit company is new and really doesn’t have any reviews, then they should make up for it with excellent customer service. You can make an exception here if you don’t detect any of the other red flags mentioned above.

SEO scams are unfortunately a very real threat. If you don’t do your research, then you might just end up with an agency that’s after easy money. To talk more about spotting SEO scams, or anything else, contact us today.

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