November 24, 2009
One of my all-time favorite tv shows is The Twilight Zone. I particularly like Rod Serling’s memorable opening narration:
“There is a sixth dimension, beyond that which is known to newbies. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, and it lies between the pit of newbies gullibility and the sunlight of their naiveté. This is the dimension of smoke and mirrors. It is a dimension known as SEO Scams and Newbies Realm of Gullibility.”
Okay, so I took a little poetic license with Mr. Serling’s classic narration. But I did it to make a point, and the point is, everyday thousands of naive and gullible newbies are targeted, and ripped-off by common SEO scams – mostly scams that have been around since the advent of the Internet. You may even have been a victim yourself.
The question is, why do these seemingly obvious scams continue to thrive year after year after year? My guess is, because most of the victims are newbies who have entered the newbies realm of gullibility.
Hopefully, this article will prevent other newbies from entering this undesirable realm, and being unnecessarily victimized. Anyway, following are some of the most common SEO scams:
1. E-Mail Solicitations
First of all, legitimate companies, SEO or otherwise don’t send out e-mail solicitations without permission. And unless you signed up to receive e-mail solicitations from a particular company, delete all spam immediately. Don’t open it, and don’t send these scam artists your hard-earned money!
I always delete all spam – except when I’m doing research for articles like this one. On those occasions, I find opening e-mail spam extremely useful, because I can pass on what I learn to my readers.
Anyway, if you’ve registered a new domain recently, you’ve probably been solicited by SEO scam artists, looking to steal your hard-earned money. See if any of these e-mail solicitations look familiar:
“I just looked at your website and we can help you get better search engine placement.”
I had to laugh when I received this solicitation, because I had just registered a new domain, and hadn’t even built my website yet. The only thing I had up was a generic “This website is coming soon” placeholder. Obviously, there was no way they could have looked at my website.
Here’s another e-mail solicitation I received recently:
“We have performed a free analysis of your website, and we can help you get better search engine placement”.
Again, how could they have performed an analysis of a website I haven’t even built yet? Answer: They couldn’t.
Here’s another one:
“I was just browsing your website, and realized that despite having a good design, your site was not ranking on any of the search engines for most of the keywords pertaining to your domain.”
Despite having a good design? It’s a freakin’ generic placeholder you scamming idiots!
This next e-mail solicitation I received doesn’t even bother wasting time with false pretenses. It goes right for the jugular (i.e. your wallet) immediately:
“Website Listing Service”
Annual Website Search Engine Listing.
From Nov. 1, 2009 thru Nov. 1 2010
Amount Due: $65
At first glance, this solicitation appears to be a bill for some sort of “annual website search engine listing.” But if you scroll down like I did and read the fine print at the bottom of the letter, you’ll see this:
“This is not a bill. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated above unless you accept this offer.”
I can’t emphasize this point enough: Legitimate SEO companies don’t send out e-mail solicitations without permission. And unless you signed up to receive e-mail solicitations from a particular company, delete all spam immediately. Don’t open it, and don’t send these scam artists your hard-earned money!
2. “We’ll Submit Your Website to 2500 Search Engines “
First of all, there aren’t 2500 search engines out there – at least not 2500 that actually matter. There are really only three search engines that matter.
The three search engines are:
Bing (Formerly MSN Live)
And the reason they’re the only three that matter is because they’re the only ones that can send you any significant traffic. And that’s not my opinion, that’s a fact!
According to The Nielson Company, 66.1% of searchers in this country use Google. 16.6% use Yahoo! and 8.8% use Bing (formerly Microsoft Live).
The point is, since there are really only three search engines that can send you any significant traffic, paying anyone to submit your website to 2500 search engines is really a waste of time and money. The three aforementioned search engines will eventually find your website on their own.
However, if you want to submit to them you can easily do so yourself. There’s no need to pay anyone to do it for you.
3. “Achieve Top 10 Search Engine Rankings Guaranteed!”
No legitimate SEO company will guarantee you a top 10 search engine ranking. Why? Because they can’t. A website’s ranking is determined by a variety of factors within a search engine’s algorithms. SEO companies have zero control over the constantly evolving algorithms of search engines.
And since SEO companies don’t have any control over those algorithms, it only stands to reason that they can’t legitimately guarantee you a top 10 ranking, right?
Now it is possible for you to get a top 10 ranking for certain long-tail keyword phrases that are less popular – keywords that aren’t heavily searched?
Yes, that’s very possible. But again, no one can guarantee you a top 10 ranking for those types of keywords either.
And even if you do manage to get into the top 10 for certain keywords, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stay there. Because the search engines are constantly changing their algorithms to thwart cheaters.
For example, you can be on page one today and just as easily be on page one hundred tomorrow. It can happen just that quickly. Don’t believe me? Do some research on Google’s infamous Florida Update.
4. “Generate 10,000 to 1,000,000 Visitors to your Website Guaranteed!”
This SEO scam is called a Guaranteed Traffic Program. And yes, you’ll receive plenty of traffic, but they won’t hang around on your website for any length of time, and they won’t buy anything.
Why? Because the traffic is poor quality. It’s garbage. It isn’t targeted. In fact, in many cases, it’s not even humans that actually visit your site through these programs.
I discovered first-hand that when you purchase guaranteed traffic credits, it’s actually bots clicking through to your site, and then immediately clicking out. While doing research for this article, I actually tested a guaranteed traffic program.
And the numbers don’t lie. When I checked my raw data logs, I discovered that all of those thousands of visitors I received only stayed on my site for about five seconds. Don’t waste your money with guaranteed traffic programs.
5. Avoid SEO Contracts That Hold You Hostage
This particular SEO scam struck close to home recently, when my sister became a victim. Here’s how it works: Unethical SEO companies coerce you into signing a contract that commits you to using their service for 12 months or more. My sister got reeled in, because they told her that they needed to optimize her website’s coding every month to keep up with the search engines algorithm changes.
Can you believe that? What a load of bull crap! Anyway, she didn’t know any better, so she entered the newbies realm of gullibility, and signed a 12 month contract.
Unfortunately, when she finally got around to telling me about it, since she had already signed the contract, there really wasn’t anything that I could do to extricate her from the situation. And since her SEO contract is also tied into her hosting, they’re holding a huge hammer over her head.
In addition to that, they have all kinds of penalty clauses built in, in the event she tries to terminate her contract early. The good news is, next time, she’ll check with her big brother first, before she signs anything.
In fairness to legitimate SEO companies, I want to make something perfectly clear. Not every SEO company that has you sign a contract is unethical. And there are legitimate reasons for contracts.
For example, if you are implementing a link-building program, that obviously has to be monitored over time. Or perhaps your SEO company is managing your pay-per-click program. Again, this is something that has to be monitored over time.
That being said, caveat emptor! Personally, I have a problem with even legitimate SEO companies holding people hostage with long-term contracts.
Seriously, what do they need to hold you hostage for anyway? Now I don’t have a problem with a month-to-month contract. That way, if you’re not happy with the results you’re getting after a month or two, you can simply walk away without penalty.
So there you have it. The most common SEO scams rampant on the Internet today. Hopefully, you’ll heed the advice in this article, and walk away from these schemes, whenever they rear their ugly heads.
But should you choose to ignore the advice in this article, you can’t say that you weren’t warned!
David Jackson is the owner of http://reviews-by-customers.com – the Internet’s hottest new business directory!