Although it’s something that almost every business can benefit from, SEO often gets overlooked for more traditional, tangible marketing efforts. This is partly because SEO usually takes much longer than other digital marketing services to show results (up to several months) and partly because SEO is still something of a foreign language to many business owners.
Those who have had success in SEO will tell you that these two factors are completely inconsequential when compared to the benefits of achieving higher rankings in Google. Once SEO has been demystified, it actually is fairly straightforward and easy to grasp–to an extent.
Unfortunately, the delayed onset of SEO’s benefits coupled with its perceived complexity also make the industry a hot target for scammers and tricksters. At Sympler, we constantly hear horror stories from new clients about how their previous SEO partner had duped them, cheated them, or otherwise failed to deliver what was promised.
The disheartening reality is that industries which by the very nature of their existence provide opportunities for scams are going to be wrought with scams and shady players. SEO is no different, and one of the primary avenues used by less-than-desirable SEO providers is sending out email solicitations to unsuspecting business owners with a free SEO “report”.
These messages often use loaded language and promises of instant results to entice the reader to fearfully and quickly sign up for services that they may not need, or even worse, that the “provider” has no intent whatsoever of actually delivering on.
To support their claims, SEO scam artists often include a list of “errors” that they say are associated with the reader’s site, and that need to be fixed in order to be seen on Google. They will most likely choose vague, technical language to describe the errors, hoping the reader has no knowledge of SEO whatsoever and can be easily swayed into believing their website is compromised.
While not everyone is vulnerable to SEO scams, even the best and brightest of us are still at risk. If you’re a business owner, and especially if you’re actively seeking SEO services, it’s important to be able to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate offers. Here are a few examples of how a free SEO report can be deceiving.
They Promise Quick Results
While the actual time required to see results from an SEO campaign differs widely, there is essentially universal agreement within the professional SEO community that it takes quite a while–a few weeks, or a few months.
SEO scammers often tout quick turnaround times, guaranteeing top rankings positions on Google in as little as a few days. While this would immediately raise a red flag to an SEO expert, not everyone realizes the lengths of time associated with properly-executed SEO campaigns.
Legitimate SEO campaigns will never show results overnight. Even if a black hat SEO tactic miraculously results in quick rankings increases, the damages suffered from a Google penalty will quickly reverse this, penalizing your website and causing rankings to dip lower than they were before.
They Overinflate Site Errors
Many free SEO reports are notorious for over exaggerating web errors to make it seem like there are as many things wrong with a website as possible. While the best SEO strategy will cover all possible bases, there is a hierarchy of importance when it comes to SEO error correction.
Adding alt tags to images, for example, or making sure a meta description has an acceptable number of characters, are necessary SEO tasks–but only after a multitude of other, more crucial tasks are completed.
SEO scammers know that many people won’t understand these errors, so they include as many as they can find to intimidate the reader into believing their website is ridden with them.
Their Reporting Includes False Negatives
Often in SEO, when an auditing tool highlights an error, it’s not actually an error at all, but rather a false negative that has some underlying explanation. Pagination, for example, often results in duplicate content errors that aren’t actually errors, but rather the auditing tool is unable to interpret the content correctly.
Free SEO reports sometimes include false negatives to make their list of errors as long as possible. To the unsuspecting eye, these errors may seem important enough to merit immediate action.
They Lack References
Any legitimate business is going to have references from past clients or customers that they should be happy to provide. If they aren’t willing to do so, it’s a sign that they either have something to hide or nothing to offer at all.
Particularly in the SEO world, clients who have had success are more than happy to recommend their SEO partners in a testimonial, review, or some other format. If you can’t find a single third party opinion of an SEO company, you shouldn’t trust a word they say.
Every industry is going to have a few bad apples out to rig the system, and SEO is no different. Fortunately, with a little knowledge and some research, business owners can avoid falling prey to free SEO report scams.
At Sympler, we pride ourselves on providing fully transparent reporting to our clients, giving them the most accurate portrait of their SEO campaign possible. To learn more about our SEO services and our reporting process, contact us today.