5 SEO Scams to Avoid

As a business owner, you know that search engine optimization (SEO) is important. Without it, your website will languish in anonymity. It can be very easy to get obsessed with getting higher rankings and more traffic, something that everyone wants. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people out there who prey on those desires to make your website the best that it can be and they set up scams to trap unsuspecting website owners.

It’s easy to be lured by a site that offers extra traffic or better SEO and while there are certainly plenty of legit operations out there. Here are five scams that you should be aware of.

1. Submitting to thousands of search engines.

This is a scam that has been around for quite some time. You pay a sum of money (usually astonishingly low for the service) and your URL will be submitted to not 10, not 50, but hundreds or even thousands of search engines. It sounds great because you figure that you’ll be covered no matter where people are searching, right?

Wrong. Most of the sites your website is submitted to are actually spam sites that may even pay the scammer for your site. You’ll be getting hundreds of spam emails from them which are a waste of time and energy and certainly not worth paying someone for.

2. Your URL submitted to 500 directories.

We all know that getting backlinks is very important and can raise our value in the eyes of the search engines, but just how smart is it to submit to 500 directories? Not very. The reason for this is because first of all, there aren’t that many good directories. The vast majority are link farms (yes, they still exist) which can actually lower the value of your URL. Google in particular notes when your URL shows up in “bad neighborhoods”. The second reason this is a bad idea is that Google gets suspicious when a brand new site abruptly gains 500 backlinks within 24 hours. You could end up in the sandbox or otherwise penalized for your “SEO” techniques.

3. An insider.

You’ll actually find that some SEO companies claim to have someone inside Google. This can be pretty appealing for several reasons, but it is 99.9% unlikely to be true. Even if someone were spilling the secrets of the search engine giant, it is an every changing algorithm, meaning that it would be virtually impossible to keep up with the changes. The algorithm is also far more complex than most people imagine, making it virtually impossible to crack completely and actually implement everything.

That being said, having someone on the inside could be useful in making sure your site is in the top results for your chosen keyword, but what happens when the mole is discovered, as they always are? Play it safe and stick to real SEO tactics.

4. Guaranteed top spots in Google.

Every website owner dreams of seeing his or her site in the top results for their chosen keywords, but the truth is that this is just not always possible. It’s quite ridiculous for anyone to promise it, since they can’t actually guarantee anything when it comes to Google. Even the masters move up and down in the rankings on a consistent basis and that is totally normal . . . but unpredictable.

Something else to look out for is which phrases they are guaranteeing top ranking for. Often these will be long tail keyword phrases that no one is actually looking for. You could easily rank for these on your own with minimal effort, but what’s the point?

5. Trade Secrets

Run away from anyone who claims it's too complicated to understand and they fail to fully disclose and explain everything that is being done to your site.  They tell you these are trade secrets; they can't discuss their proprietary technology, or speak in quasi-mystical jargon and non-specific terms.

Real SEO experts have a true interest in their field and enjoy educating their clients about the details. They don’t hold anything back and more than willing to share the whole process with you.

What other SEO scams have you heard of?

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  • Excellent Post Mirna!
    I particularly liked the last one about all this being a trade secret and all this proprietary technology song. An SEO expert can very easily explain what they will do for you. The high level how can also be easily given. As a matter of fact the client won't be interested at all in knowing the detailed how. The How is execution and if any one follows a white hat practice then we all know it is an expert's job, it is tedious and it is long term game plan and not a matter of 2 weeks.
    A recent scam that was in news and caught my attention was of 'google cash cow'. Mirna, have you heard of anyone who lost money or got their credit card charged after subscribing to the system ?

  • Thanks for the comment Meetu. Yes there is a lot of fraud out there, but I do have not heard any personal stories with Google. This is why we must be careful with what we are getting ourselves into on the Internet.

  • Mirna,

    I've followed you on Twitter and love your content. This post is exemplary. As a service, we volunteer for an SBA funded Small Business Development Center. I cannot tell you how many people come in having paid money for scam like or simply ineffective SEO strategies.

    Thank you for putting 5 of these in plain, easy to read English! It helps everyone in the business (those of us who are legit) get the word out!

  • Glad to see I'm not the only one who tries to educated site owners on what SEO people can and cannot do! Great post!

  • I can certainly understand your warning people to watch out for SEO claims designed to scam website owners. However, I disagree with your suggestion to dismiss and avoid those SEO's who warrant their work, that is, guarantee the client page positions for certain keywords in the SERPS.

    Sure, no person can predict exactly where the client's website will rank in the search results, whether on the first page, or even less, for a particular # position.

    Still, if the search engines do not respond favorably to the SEO's efforts, the client shouldn't have to pay for incompetence. A guarantee for 1st page positions (for their most competitive keywords) is the only reasonable assurance a website owner can rely upon to get their money's worth.

    I'm sure it was not your intention, though playing the Google card ("...we tried but Google says no one can guarantee ranking.") is the hallmark of the SEO scam artist who takes the client's money and gives nothing in return.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Excellent post about the dangers of SEO! One of my clients was totally duped by an unscrupulous SEO company before turning to us for help. Small business owners need to do their homework and check up on an organization before engaging them for SEO projects. I always encourage my clients to search for the various services that Strategexe offers to see what our search rank is! If we can't effectively search optimize our website how could we possibly do it for another company?!?

    • Hi Adam, Thanks for the comment. Many people are not educated enough about SEO to know they have to check the rankings of the search engines optimizer. This is a HUGE tips for anyone who is wanting to hire a SEO person or company.