With the increasing influence and change of marketing focus to Internet, we have the usual unsavoury characters arriving on the scene. Where there is money, there is a scam. SMEs are particularly vulnerable to this as most do not have the resources, the time or the knowledge to distinguish a genuine SEO company from the fraudsters.
Let us start at the beginning and explain to the uninitiated what SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is. Search Engines use a technology known as ‘spiders’ to seek out websites, making a record of the website content and then using their unique algorithm to judge whether or not the content of the website is relevant to the search phrase requested by a web user. Each search engine uses a different algorithm, putting different emphasis and weighting on different factors such as content, word density, meta-tags, usability, together with a range of qualitative and quantitative measurement matrices.
Search Engine Optimisation is a method which improves the visibility of a website within the results pages of free search tools such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL and so on, by strict compliance to the search engine’s algorithm. SEO actions should enhance the relevance of your website for your chosen keywords/keyphrases, improve usability and therefore increase the relevant traffic to your website.
Here are the telltale signs that should send the alarm bells ringing in your head and therefore avoid falling for one of the many scams that is plaguing SEO industry.
SEO Company Trick number 1.
‘We have a last dedicated (reserved) slot left on the 1st page of Google!’
Don’t just take my word for it; here is what Google says on their website on this claim:
” Google never sells better ranking in our search results…Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice…be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
Google’s own website tells you loud and clear that there are no reserved places for any organisation on their first page. First page organic slot is earned by satisfying the complex algorithm that Google uses to judge whether your website content is the most relevant to the search term. There is no magic wand to achieve this other than being relevant!
The second opportunity for you to be on the first page is presented by Pay-per-Click (PPC). Google’s paid results appear on the right & top of the page, which are clearly marked as “Sponsored Links”. For those who are not familiar with how PPC works, let me demystify it. The highest bidder gets on the top of the page, with the 2nd highest on the 2nd place and so on. To take part in this live auction you have to have an AdWord account, specify the terms you want to bid, and then set the maximum bid you are willing to pay for a click. Google does the rest for you. You can set daily budget for your bidding but in essence you are signing a blank cheque to Google.
So part of this plan is the unscrupulous SEO Company will take a monthly fee from you for so the called ‘management’ of your PPC. They take a cut from the fees paid to Google, so in effect not all the money you pay for your PPC ends up being used for advertising as a percentage of your money goes on feeding the SEO Company’s bank account!