Can You Spot the SEO Fakes? 5 Ways to Know for Sure

SEO - Can You Spot the Fakes?As a student of SEO, it is a real frustration when I see companies advertising SEO or offering SEO as part of a larger web project when I can tell that they are blowing smoke. Clients have described what I do as “SEO voodoo” on phone calls, and while sometimes it feels like there is some black magic involved, I assure you that it’s part art and part science, and all about testing and measurement.

One of the biggest problems I encounter as an “SEO guy” is the client who has been burned by a SEO consultant or SEO agency who claims to provide those magical results, but who asks the client for all of the information and then applies it. So, to help people determine if their SEO methods are for real and not “voodoo”, I’ve compiled this list of five ways to check if a search marketing company is legitimate:

They Promise Unbelievable Results

If you ever have a SEO consultant or SEO agency tell you that they guarantee you page one SERPs, then you have found one of the five lies. Anyone who promises page one ranking on Google is, for lack of a better term, full of it. Nobody can guarantee results when it comes to Google.

This is where the science part of it comes into play. There are approximately 200 different ranking factors that Google uses to determine SERP placement. One of those things is time. That means if someone tells you that within six weeks they can have you on page one, you may have just been taken to the bank. Sure, it’s possible to achieve page one in six weeks with non-competitive keywords, especially if your site has been alive for a few years. That doesn’t mean that you are going to immediately replace the competition who has been ranking on those valuable keywords for years.

They Use Marketing Jargon

Have you ever heard the saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t?” That is exactly what I’m talking about. If a SEO company advertises the aforementioned “voodoo,” the only magic they are likely performing is making money disappear from your wallet.

Hiring a SEO consultant or agency like Synapse, for example, means you will receive certain factual statements. We provide the details of how we will do what we do, educating you on the Google ranking factors and trying our best to demystify the process along the way. Beyond that, we provide measurable results using analytic tools and real numbers – and we teach you how to use them.

They Don’t Ask the Right SEO Questions

If the consultant or agency in question provides you with a one or two page questionnaire about your company asking you for the keywords for which you would like to have page one SERPs, then you might be getting fleeced. I’ve seen SEO questionnaires that ask the client for the keywords, who is their competition, target demographic (age, marital status, etc…), what pages should be ranked higher, and so on and so forth. Some of these are legitimate ranking factors, most are not – none of which should be completely provided by you – the client.

The ranking factors from Google don’t include some of these things, and any SEO worth their salt is going to do their own research. Sure, I’ll ask a client who they feel their competition is, but then I ask Google. I dig into the research.

As a client, identifying proper keywords aren’t something you should be responsible for, either. I’ve seen a site that appears to be fully optimized – meeting all of the primary on-page requirements – but was using all of the wrong keywords because of this kind of action. As a client, you aren’t always going to know how people search for your goods and services. You may have chosen a term for a category, or a product name that people never search for, so optimizing for that as a keyword would be a huge mistake.

They Don’t Do the Work Up Front

Let’s say that you are building a new website or redesigning an old website. You hire an agency or freelancer or SEO team to do your new site, but they offer SEO only as an ongoing service or not as part of creating the copywriting portion of the redesign. This should never happen.

Frankly, it may be my high standards, but I feel it is an industry SEO best practice to perform research before writing copy of any kind on a website. It’s also an ethical decision. If I am charging for a service, I’m committing to do my best work from the very beginning. Sure, we offer SEO as an ongoing service, but only when we have done the hard work up front or if we’ve been hired to optimize a site that we’re not rebuilding.

Long story short, if an agency doesn’t do proper SEO work when they are building your site, but want to charge you for it as an ongoing service: run for the hills with your money.

“Scammy” Marketing Tactics

If someone is emailing you out of the blue, be dubious. If they are emailing or cold calling you and telling you that you must “act now or all will be lost” or “don’t miss out”, you are likely getting scammed. We all remember the great apocalypse that didn’t happen in 2012, despite all the hype.

I firmly believe that all companies should “act now” – but all will not be lost if you don’t. Five years ago, Google prioritized things differently than they do today. Back then, it was all about linking strategies and how many keywords were crammed into your website pages. Now, Google focuses on the quality and relevancy of the content above all else.

The Bottom Line: Know SEO…At Least a Little

Basically, a basic understanding of SEO is essential to protect your business. It’s not really that hard of a concept to understand, because when you break down SEO it is really just a list of ranking factors, actions you should take, and expected results. The art that results from those factors is the part you don’t have to master. You can leave that to the SEO experts, but don’t do yourself or your business a disservice by being caught in a net woven of “SEO voodoo”.

Want measurable results from your SEO budget? Talk to the SEO experts at Synapse today.


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