Hiring a search engine optimization (SEO) team or expert to help your brand’s website rank better in search results is something of a leap of faith. SEO is a complex field that requires constant attention to updates, flexibility to adapt to algorithm changes, and the ability to make intelligent guesses based on experienced with digital marketing strategies
Some SEO firms can charge hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per month. Hearing results may not be visible for several weeks to several months is disheartening to say the least. Why wouldn’t a client opt for a firm that offers guaranteed results for this kind of investment?
Simply put, no firm can promise guaranteed results when it comes to SEO, so there is no good reason to trust any firm or team that makes such claims. Even Google strongly advises avoiding any SEO team that claims to offer guaranteed SEO improvement. Some SEO and marketing firms are simply overzealous with their claims and capabilities while others are downright exploitative. The truth is no firm can control how Google alters the Search algorithm or ranks websites.
SEO Scammers Poisoned the Well
In the early days of the SEO industry, many unwary brands fell victim to scammers. These SEO services promised positive results only to mar their clients’ reputations with shady tactics, such as the use of shadow domains, link schemes, or doorway pages. Companies promising high rankings and increased traffic and backing those claims with guarantees eventually tarnished the reputation of the SEO industry. Today, honest SEO professionals do not offer guaranteed results because they know there is no real way to truly promise that they can land you on the SERPs –search engine result pages.
Common Tactics of SEO Scammers
Google constantly adjusts their search algorithms to make the playing field as even as possible for all companies advertising on Google or hoping to draw traffic from it. In the early years of the digital marketing industry, scammers would engage in various tactics to exploit their clients, including:
- Shadow domains. An SEO scammer may claim to build a website on a client’s behalf, and the domain may even reflect the client. However, these “shadow domains” remain the property of the SEO company that created them, basically relying on shady tactics to deceptively redirect users to the site. This inflates the traffic numbers to the client’s site; there is nothing to stop the SEO scammer from manipulating the shadow domain in the future if the relationship with the client takes a downward turn. They may decide to start redirecting users to the former client’s competitor, in which case the former client effectively paid for a website owned entirely by the SEO scammer that sends traffic directly to their biggest competitors.
- Doorway pages. Unscrupulous SEO scammers aim to secure as many clients as possible and inflate traffic for those clients. One common method was doorway pages, or pages stuffed with links to other websites, usually the scammer’s other clients. A scammer employing this tactic would usually claim that the doorway page helped the client’s site rank better in more unique searches, but the reality is doorway pages would draw traffic to the SEO or to other clients, driving down the link popularity of the victim’s site.
- Linking schemes. SEO scammers would often engage in link exchanges or purchase links from other sites to artificially inflate clients’ rankings. This is not only ineffective for any holistic SEO strategy, but also violates Google’s Quality Standards and could lead to manual action from Google against the unwary client’s site.
Unfortunately, many of these practices are still in use. SEO scammers engage in many other unsavory tactics harm their clients. Many of these issues stem from clients’ basic misunderstandings of how SEO really works. A successful SEO strategy requires work from both the SEO company and the client; if the client doesn’t implement the SEO company’s suggested changes correctly or suffers a blow to credibility, the client’s SEO will suffer.
Avoid SEO Scammers and Work With Trusted Professionals
Today, reputable and trustworthy SEO experts and firms know better than to promise any kind of positive results. SEO is an inherently uncertain field, and successfully boosting SEO legally requires consistent work for both the SEO and the client. Google and other search engines explicitly recommend against working with any SEO that offers guaranteed results for this reason; no SEO firm has the ability to force a client into the top rankings.
A good SEO will not offer any guaranteed results, but will instead provide a client with a very thorough set of expectations backed by measurable data and clear results. Case studies, expert credentials, and social proof are great ways to gauge an SEO firm’s credibility. An SEO business should aim to boost a client’s authority, discoverability, and search engine visibility, and clients should know what to expect when it comes to realistic results.
SEO success takes time and consistent effort, and shortcuts are not only ineffective, but also damaging to clients unwilling to research SEOs and do the necessary work for successful results. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, so take time to research any SEO company before agreeing to services.