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August 5, 2009

Beware: SEO scammers ahead!

All too many website owners, unaware of the many wolves in sheep’s clothing lurking out there, have fallen victim to scams run by alleged SEO (search engine optimisation) businesses which offer unbelievable claims as to the levels of traffic and page rankings their services could provide them.

You know what they say about things which sound too good to be true, of course. Suncoast Internet had a little talk with one of these (again, alleged) SEO companies this week after finding that the company had been pursuing one of their clients.

An anatomy of a SEO scam:

The SEO company contacted Suncoast Internet’s client, telling them that they could get the client’s company listed at the top of search engine results for a primary keyword phrase (a search term that someone might enter into a search engine) that their potential customers were likely to use when searching for their business – for $1,000. As it happens, the client reported this offer to Suncoast Internet as the website designers; otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. Suncoast looked into the details of the keyword the company was offering to help them promote and found that this keyword wasn’t being used by the client’s potential customers; or anyone else, as it happens.

If the client hadn’t had a healthy level of skepticism, they easily could have been duped out of $1,000 for a completely worthless promotional campaign.

If you were to search on Google, you’ll see that there have been a lot of other companies and individuals who weren’t quite so cautious and have fallen for these SEO scams.

How can you tell if an offer like this is coming from a SEO scam artist?

  1. Do your due diligence. Have a look at the page rank for the website of supposed SEO experts who’ve contacted you. If their site isn’t highly ranked, then run in the opposite direction. After all, what kind of results can you expect from a SEO company which can’t secure a high page rank for its own site?
  2. They guarantee that your site will show up in the first page of results or even as the number one result! Time for a reality check: the algorithms that the search engines use are closely guarded trade secrets meaning that no one outside of a few people at the search engine companies know exactly how it all works. Guaranteeing a certain page ranking is a sign of inexperience at best – and much more likely, indicates a scam.
  3. They phone you from what is obviously a very busy call centre. If their sales department is a room crowded with telemarketers trolling for business around the clock, you can hardly expect much personal attention being paid to your site.
  4. They promise to secure your site top rankings for long tail keywords which strike you as unlikely to be used by anyone. For starters, they’re trying to sell you a guaranteed page ranking (but we know better, don’t we?). If the keyword they’re offering you a top ranking for sounds a little fishy to you, look up its popularity with the (free) tool Google AdWords.
  5. Their services are offered at unrealistically low prices. There are some SEO scammers who lure victims by offering to optimize your site and run promotional campaigns for prices that sound entirely too good to be true. An effective SEO campaign takes a significant amount of time and effort for keyword research, reworking page content, building high quality back links and designing and implementing traffic driving strategies. It’s not something that can be done on the cheap, at least not well.
  6. They promise results in 48 hours (or less). If this could be done it would save everyone a lot of money and time. The results of optimizing a site aren’t visible at all for at least a few weeks – and for the results to really begin trending in the right direction, you often need to wait a few months.

Now, if you’re looking for a legitimate SEO firm:

Again, do your due diligence. Look at their credentials, find out who’s used their services in the past and what they have to say about the company. You should expect regular reports on how your keywords are performing and you should be able to easily get in touch by phone and speak to one of the SEO consultants to get their advice and input as needed.

The best SEO companies have years of expertise in the field and know the most effective SEO methodologies inside and out – and how to use them to get results for their clients. They won’t make you the outlandish promises that the SEO scammers will and they may not offer bargain basement pricing, but keep in mind that this is one service where you do get what you pay for.

Andrew Plimmer is CEO of Suncoast Internet, Sunshine Coast SEO company and web design and development specialists. For a free SEO analysis of your website go to =>