Five Signs of a Scammy SEO Service (And How to Avoid It)

Getting found on Google is a top priority for most businesses–and it should be! For example, more than 60% of search engine users used Google Voice in 2017. And you know how it is: when you’re hungry, you don’t do a complicated search. You get Siri on the line and say “find a Chinese restaurant near me.” Once you’re hangry, you don’t even say “please,” and there’s no turning back. RIP manners.

Anyway, if you didn’t think about those voice searchers in your marketing efforts (or hired an agency that didn’t), it could really hurt you in the SERP (search engine results page) rankings.

So you’ve heard about SEO. And yes, you know you need it. And taking to Google, it’s entirely possible that you come across some real “salesy” looking sites, intent on selling you some scammy SEO services. Well…they seem scammy, anyway, but you know SEO is a proven strategy. So how can you know what to avoid?

Signs of a Scammy SEO Service or Agency

The good news is that these scammy SEO services tend to boldly fly their red flags, because so many people still fall for the scams and outdated practices.

The Agency’s Webcopy

Internet Online Scam Money
“Just trust us.” – People you definitely shouldn’t trust.

Sometimes, an SEO service is really just one dude who outsources all the content creation to folks around the globe. That’s not inherently horrible, but agencies of all sizes are looking to save a buck wherever they can. With the industry so flooded, it’s notorious for underpayment, and guess what? The cheapest labor comes from non-native English speakers, which means your website content could end up rather low quality depending on who the agency hires.

There’s a quick way to spot this kind of service, though–if their own webcopy has typos or isn’t up to par, they definitely don’t know the value of inbound content, and it’s time to move along. They might charge thousands per month for those services and skimp on content costs.

Team Members and Content Creators Affiliated with the Business

Lock on top of credit card on top of phone in front of computer
Kept under lock and key. And credit card, apparently.

Some agencies choose not to list their content creators for valid reasons like high industry turnover or business owners going directly to the content creators versus through the agency. A reputable SEO agency will have some team members listed on their page, though, even if the content creators aren’t on there. If you head over to LinkedIn, you should be able to find team members affiliated with the business.

Oh, and as a PS, while you’re thinking about it, we invite you to check out Dominate With SEO over on LinkedIn.

Outdated Tactics and Graphics

sale spelled out on four different tags
Question sales. Really.

Sale. Today…today…TODAY ONLY! If that SEO services web page looks like something you’d expect from a used car salesperson, it’s time to move along. They don’t know webcopy, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they’re going to focus on selling you rather than serving you. A reputable SEO company will have educational content, helping their customers learn about SEO and why they need it. 

This goes right along with outdated advertising tactics, like keyword spamming, or using a site that does just that. You’ll want to find a company specializing in white hat SEO, and avoid any black hat SEO braggarts. Those black hat tactics can land you in serious trouble with Google–and guess what? Some of those agencies know it does. It’s like they’re setting you up to go to Google jail, then selling you a solution. Not cool.

Fortune and Glory: Number One Search Result Promises

Lying businessman holding fingers crossed behind his back
“Suckas.” – This guy.

Everyone wants to be the first organic search result on Google. Some agencies promise it, and they’re wrong.

Most of the time, these agencies use black hat tactics to rank you high in Google in the short term, but ultimately, Google hates that nonsense because it sees these scammy SEO agencies as manipulating the results instead of providing real value to the web. Don’t forget: Google’s also an all-encompassing megabot (it’s actually a complex, self-evolving algorithm) with a built- in BS detector, and they will generally punish sites that do the scammy shuffle.

Additionally, the true number one “spots” on SERPs really belong to two other types of content:

  1. A featured snippet, which is a box displaying limited but highly relevant amounts of information about a given topic, linking to the most authoritative source.
  2. Advertising, which you have to pay for.

Using either of these strategies is valid (and getting a featured snippet relies on really excellent inbound content). But an agency can’t ever promise a top ranking.

No Testimonials, Proof, Case Studies, or Metrics

Business person analyzing financial statistics displayed on the tablet screen
Graphs and analytics are important for feedback on how you’re doing. Is this potential company paying attention to your stats?

SEO success is very specifically measurable. You need to assess where your website is before you know where it’s going–how else can you tell if you’ve succeeded, what keywords to rank for, and more? Keyword research is essential. Scammy SEO services will be super vague and will promise results. Solid agencies will show you one or two opportunities and then ask for your business to help you rank for them.

Additionally, reputable SEO clients have a few other indicators:

  • Testimonials from businesses: Since SEO really does have the ability to catapult a business and convert sales, success stories aren’t entirely rare from a company that does it right. Even in the long game of inbound content marketing, successes eventually happen–and reputable agencies have stories about it to back that up, told by the very business owners they helped.
  • Case Studies: If a client is open to giving others a look behind the curtain, the agency may write up a case study showing what they did to help make it happen. This should be a professionally presented document (usually a downloadable PDF).
  • References: Reputable agencies have no problem providing you with the contact information of clients and content partners for valid references. It’s best practice to call them up.

That Sales and Marketing Reputation (Kinda Earned): Let’s Do Better

We understand that slimy sales and marketing reputation about SEO services is there for a reason. Every day, we work against it at DWSEO, providing our clients with real value and measurable results. Skip the scammy SEO professionals, and work with us instead. With transparent pricing and monthly reports, we’ll create long-term strategies for SEO success. Contact us today.


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