It’s a valid question. It’s not such a valid question to determine whether SEO (Search Engine Optimization) itself is a scam but whether the SEO that you or your business receives is a scam. SEO is a legitimate method of letting search engines know what type of content is on your site and by getting other websites to link to your content.
There are, however, millions of self-professed “SEO Experts” out there that will take your money, do a few things that will show you some small results, then leave you with less money and nothing for a ROI. Even worse, they may employ “black hat” techniques, otherwise known as techniques against Google’s policy, to show you some results that could end up with your website being penalized or de-indexed by Google! Below are the main ways that SEO can be a scam for your business.
Low Quality Work
The biggest scam in SEO is just providing low quality work. The providers mean well but they just don’t intimately understand SEO and what they’re doing. They change a few title tags for you, put a bunch of keywords on your page, then call it good. You may see some small results from low quality work but it’s not worth the expense.
Forgetting About the User
Too many SEOs (Search Engine Optimizers) are so caught up in getting the website ranked high that they don’t consider if someone would actually click on the listing on Google in the first place. If they do click on it, they don’t think about what the user will see when they come to the site. If your SEO has done little more than spam keywords in your title tags and on your website, you’re in for a big surprise. You may rank well but you won’t see an uptick in business because people will see your site as little more than web spam.
Hidden Text, Links, and Other Shady Techniques
If your provider is utilizing automatic link building techniques, you may find that you have a lot of links into your website but when you go to check the page for the link, you can’t find it. On checking the source of the page, you’ll see the link is hidden from view (consider spam by Google). You may also find that the SEO company has hidden text on your website to get more keywords on your site. This is easily identified by Google as spam and can get your site penalized.
Low Quality Links
While it’s good to have a mix of links into your site, it’s not good to just have low quality inbound links. This won’t necessarily get your website penalized but it’s not really going to help it. An example of low quality links are automatic link building packages that create forum signature links to your site or blog commenting link builders that spam blog posts with “nice post”. This doesn’t look good for your site.
These link exchanges are usually automated processes that have scripts to build links to your site and everyone in the scheme. It will get you good short term results but eventually Google finds these methods, finds a way to identify them on websites, and bans everyone from Google that’s using the link exchange. Don’t get involved with these if you’re interested in mid to long term success.
Questions For Your SEO Company
There are other ways you could get scammed for your money but these are the main ways. A few questions to ask your SEO provider before starting a project with them are:
1. What are example websites that you have optimized, what keywords did you optimize the sites for, and what is the rank on Google?
1(a). How long ago did you optimize this site? (if it was awhile ago, you can tell whether the results have lasted)
2. What are your main techniques for optimizing a website? (Listen and press for details, ask them about what they will do to your website)
2(a). How do you build links? (If they mention anything automatic besides possibly article distribution, do not use them. These will be low quality links)
3. How long until I start seeing consistent results? (if they say you will see immediate consistent results, they’re lying. SEO takes awhile. You may see some short term results but it takes awhile for them to be consistent results)
4. What is your plan to optimize my site? (you may not know everything they’re saying here but ask for details, ask probing questions on specific tasks and listen for their confidence level and explanation. Low confidence or inability to explain in detail what they do means they’re not for you)
These few questions should help you stay out of selecting a bad SEO provider for your company. Post in the comments if you have any questions.