Bill Grunau

SEO Scams: Promising Page One Results and Fake Page One Results

SEO Salesman Lying Pinocchio Nose Growing A common SEO scam sales pitch is “we will get you on Page One of Google!”.  I used to say that any firm “promising” page one results was clearly a scam or at best a charlatan, but recently I ran across some instances where they were telling the truth, well sort of.  I have seen several large SEO companies promising and delivering what I consider fake, or at best useless, Google page one results to naive clients.  Here’s how they do it…

Figures Don’t Lie but Liars Can Figure!

During the sales pitch they promise X keywords on page one of Google within an amazing time frame, maybe 30 to 60 days, even 24 hours!  Impressed by their confidence and “promise” you sign up, I mean hey, page one of Google, who would say no to that!  30 days goes by, you get your report, and behold, you have X keywords on Google!  Did you get what you paid for and are these results of any value?  In short, NO.

Here’s the trick… The keywords they delivered, at least every instance I have seen, always include your company name (will duh, that was an easy mark) and other words that are very specific to your business.  One might think well that’s great, but wait a minute, does anyone search for these words?  The answer is generally no.  These keywords have pretty much zero competition and zero search volume.  Frankly you probably would have ranked for these words without any off-site SEO (in fact I wonder if they even do any real SEO).  Here’s the SEO Snake Oil; while it is technically true that you do rank on page one for those keywords, nobody ever searches for them!

Many clients don’t catch on to this and proudly look at their report showing their page one results, but then several months later they get irritated that they aren’t getting any inquiries.  So they fire that SEO company and hire the SEO Experts in Los Angeles, one that is promising page one results and the process starts over again.  Eventually they become disillusioned with SEO and convinced that all SEO is a scam.  Sadly firms like this are poisoning the well and giving the entire industry a terrible reputation resulting in a common opinion that no SEO company can be trusted.

How to Spot an SEO Scam and SEO Snake Oil

Here’s a short list of how to spot a SEO scam:

  1. Promises of “Google Page One Results”: in every instance I have seen this is either an outright lie or at best the page one results are useless.  If this is the opening pitch stop right there.
  2. Fast Results:  It takes time to rank for any keywords that are meaningful and have any significant search volume and competition.  If they promise results in 30 to 60 days, or may favorite 24 or 48 hours! this is snake oil.  Again the results will either be useless or fake.
  3. Lame Keywords: if the targeted keywords are yourbrandname and city or yourbrandname and location or the specific products you make or other words that are unique to you this is a redflag.  Of course it is important to do SEO for your brand and products, but this should not be the full extent of the campaign and ranking on page one for your company name certainly is not a big deal or a claim of SEO success.  You can check keyword search volume and see suggested keywords with the Google Keyword Tool.  It is easy to use, free, and a great way to verify if the targeted keywords are of any value or significance.
  4. Results on a Spreadsheet or Word Doc:  If your monthly report from the SEO firm is on a spreadsheet clearly created manually this is an immediate and huge red flag.  You should only trust results from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and a reliable SERP (Search Engine Rank Position) program.
  5. Really Cheap SEO: as the old adage says, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t”, or the other one, “good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good”.  SEO firms promising “page one results” for a few hundred dollars are clearly charlatans selling SEO snake oil.
  6. Silver Bullets:  if they offer a couple of quick fixes for your website like your title is too long or your title is not right, your  H1 headers need to be fixed, or your meta keywords need work and go on to say that this will fix everything this is Snake Oil.  There are no silver bullets that will fix all of your SEO problems with a single shot or two.  SEO is doing a lot of little things right and it is a lot of work to do it right.  
  7. SEO Spam emails: I love these because they are such obvious SPAM and BS, but wait… someone must be buying this because they still send them and I get them all the time!  The email will start with
    • I reviewed your site and it only has 68 backlinks…
    • I reviewed your website and it has very low traffic
    • actually any claim in the email that they have “reviewed” your website, even with some fake metrics/stats – they use the same figures for every email.
    • the email has a gmail or yahoo address – enough said…
    • No SEO company website or name shown in the email
    • and finally one of my favorites, the email is from Steve, or Kate, or whoever, and you call the US phone number, the person that answers the phone is clearly not from or even in the US and they either claim they are Steve or say that Steve isn’t here right now and they can help you.  Go ahead, call, press them for details about the review of your website, it is hilarious, I’ve done it a couple of times!
  8. We’ve cracked the Google Algorithm or we have an inside man at Google… – enough said, this is an obvious scam.
  9. Search Engine Submissions: We will submit your website to hundreds or thousands of search engines!  Today there is really only Google and Bing and while each has country specific search engines they use the same  algorithm.  Long ago it was a practice with marginal benefits to “submit” websites  to search engines, today it is a waste of time and unnecessary as the search engines continuously crawl the entire web and will crawl your site in time.  In fact, most of these charlatans use automated software to submit your website and guess what, Google and Bing and can spot this (yes they are fairly smart) and will ignore spam submissions.   You can speed up the crawl rate through Google Webmaster tools which is the proper way to do it.
  10. X Directory Submissions or hundreds of Directory Submissions:  a few years ago this was an acceptable practice with marginal benefits and it did no harm.  Post Google Panda and Penguin updates directories have very little benefit and many have been delisted by Google which means they have zero benefit.  Some in the SEO community even believe that poor directory listings could have a negative impact.

What to Look for in an SEO Company

OK, so the above was how to spot a scam, here’s what to look for in a quality SEO company you might also consider SMO (social media optimization).  At Esotech we now include both SEO and SMO in our Search Engine Optimization programs as we consider the two inseparable and equally important.

  1. What will they do?: ask for a scope of work and make sure they will be addressing both On-Site SEO (work on your website) and Off-Site SEO (link building).
  2. SEO Analysis: An SEO analysis or keyword analysis should be done before they start and this should be reviewed with you.
  3. Content and blogging: don’t lead them on this, but see if they talk about the importance of quality content and blogging (on your site).  If it is not part of their plan and recommendations enough said.
  4. Sample Reports: ask for a copy of a sample Sample Client SEO Report or website metrics report that you will receive.  Make sure that data is from Google Analytics and if it is search rankings it is from a verifiable SERP program – and then check some sample results to make sure it is real. 
  5. Case Studies: ask for a copy of SEO Case studies and when you review them look for actual data.  Many case studies have a few paragraphs about the client, the situation, and then what they claimed they accomplished which is fine, but ask for the data – show me the graph from Google Analytics or the actual search results.
  6. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: make sure the firm is using both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and ask that you be added to both accounts so you can check the numbers for yourself.
  7. References: at the end of the day the best way to confirm any seo company’s claim is by talking to a couple of real customers.  Nothing can replace the honesty of an actual customer.