How do I avoid SEO cowboys?

15 Feb 2016
Category: SEO Keywords: seo cowboys,seo scams,black hat seo

Probably not an SEO cowboyUnfortunately Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a field which is heavily populated by chancers who will say any kind of nonsense in order to make a quick buck.

This is because there is no industry standards body or recognised qualification that can help you identify genuine practitioners. It’s easy for con artists to throw jargon about and sound like they know their stuff – when actually they’re just spouting nonsense.

This is exacerbated by the fact that Google is so secretive with its algorithm (in an attempt to stop people from gaming the system) that it’s near impossible to say definitely exactly what is effective and what isn’t, which muddies the water when you’re trying to get the facts.

The unbelievable deals

On one side you have people promising the earth for just a few bucks. They usually say that they will get you thousands of backlinks overnight, and often make promises about the exact positions you’ll be able to reach in no time at all. It seems too good be true – and it is.

Like anything, search engine optimisation takes time, and while it’s not rocket science, it does take some skill. If you’re going to get hundreds of backlinks in seconds, chances are they are pants quality backlinks and may do you more harm than good.

And even Google won’t make you promises about rankings in the natural listings, so if an SEO company is making promises – they’re telling porkies.

The eye watering prices

At the other end of the scale, you’ll have SEO companies that charge breath-taking amounts for SEO work. In every industry you’ll have people that overcharge, and that will always be the case as long as ‘who you know’ remains more important than ‘what you know’, and as long as people judge something’s value based on its price.

The top end agencies will do a great deal of analysis and research and will have the skills and experience to be able to target their work very well. Their SEO experts will be highly paid, highly qualified individuals who can have a big impact on the presence of the website, its traffic levels and conversion rates.

However, there are quite a few agencies out there that talk the talk, charge prices, but then don’t do anything special at all.

The danger of bad SEO

The obvious danger of hiring a dodgy SEO is that you waste a great deal of money and don’t see any results. But it can be even worse than that. If the agency uses black hat methods, or even just looks suspicious enough to get onto Google’s radar, then the website could be blacklisted - meaning it fails to show anywhere in the results.

This can have a disastrous effect on a company’s business, particularly an ecommerce store that relies on online sales for a significant proportion of its revenue.

So how can you avoid them?

Mostly it’s just a case of common sense. Do a bit of research and compare the results that you get from different places. The outliers are likely to be better removed from your choices. Here are a few basic guidelines:

Signs of a good SEO company

  • Have the given you a detailed breakdown of exactly what work will be carried out?
  • Are they going to give you access to data that demonstrates progress?
  • Can they show you tangible results that they’ve achieved in the past?
  • Can you speak to one of their previous clients and discuss the service and confirm results?
  • Are they able to explain concepts in simple terms that you can understand?

Signs of a bad SEO company

  • Are they making guarantees or specific promises about positions in the natural listings?
  • Do their prices seem unusually high or low?
  • Do they use a lot of jargon they know you won’t understand?
  • Are they cagey about what work will actually be carried out?
  • Do they lack solid evidence of results?


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