Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is becoming a critical part of any business, whether they are purely online or provide a physical service or product in a store with a website explaining their offerings. As is the case with any popular industry there are going to be a lot of businesses that try and make a cheap profit.
By this, we mean they are going to try and sell quickly, with a luring marketing scheme, get your money and be happy with themselves. Whilst this doesn’t lead to long term brand equity in any way it is often effective is making quick profits.
Many of these fake or cheap businesses target start-ups and small businesses looking to make a quick gain in traffic and move up the rankings without the required investment whether that is time, money or both.
It is often a reason behind the early struggles of these small business and start-ups as their brand image is damaged by a poor online presence. As a result, it is important to understand search engine optimisation before looking to hire an SEO agency.
A respected and trusted SEO agency will be able to help improve the websites rank and performance on Google. That is not to say that they will get it to be number one, but that they will be able to improve it with constant attention and improvements.
There are a number of lies that fake or cheap SEO companies will try to sell in order to entice businesses to hire them. There are some compelling reasons as to why the best companies do not use any of these lines to market to customers and these will be explained towards the end.
Here are a select few to help you better understand how to differentiate between a fake and a trusted agency:
“All industries are the same” or “I don’t need experience in your industry”
The fact of the matter is not every industry is the same. Yes, many industries involving the use of search engine optimisation are similar and the skills and knowledge acquired in one industry can be applied in another, but they are not the same. There are many skills required in achieving the best ranking possible and knowledge of the industry is required to do that.
Someone who has a good understanding of the industry will know what keywords are relevant, which are the most competitive and how to attract customers in the most effective way. In turn this leads to increased traffic and most likely, a better conversion rate.
“You only need SEO”
There are so many marketing methods available that it would be silly to only use SEO. Using a combination of channels is the best way to reach, engage and maintain an audience. Whilst digital channels are becoming a bigger part of marketing, social media, content marketing and search engine optimisation all work together to reach a target market in a different way.
These tactics complement each other well in addition to providing variety and diversity of marketing. Using a combination of tactics can ultimately improve marketing efficiency and broaden the market reach.
“The more links the better”
This used to be an effective marketing strategy but it is now recognised by Google as a ranking offence. The emphasis has been shifted from quantity to quality and Google can now penalise websites that have low quality and/or irrelevant backlinks.
This means that it is about providing high quality and relevant backlinks for your domain. Identifying trusted websites that will provide a strong backlink profile is significantly more beneficial than irrelevant links. Using Moz’s Open Site Explorer is a great way to check this.
“Duplicate content won’t hurt your SEO”
Content marketing plays a pivotal role in the success of search engine optimisation and that is why it is crucial to employ a trusted SEO company. Duplicate content can lead to a reduction in ranking and even penalties as Google now picks up on it when it crawls through your site.
Duplicate content is seen as a way of manipulating traffic to a website and as a result, re-posting another sites blog or any other plagiarism will have negative consequences in the rankings. Using duplicate content also fails to build a strong brand image as it is seen as a cheap way out of developing quality and relevant content.
“The more keywords the better”
Keyword stuffing can lead to poor rankings and penalties from Google. Keyword density used to be a big buzzword in the search engine optimisation industry however the emphasis has changed to be placed on more relevant and diverse keywords.
Keywords should appear naturally through content that is talking about topics relevant to the site and will attract traffic as opposed to keyword stuffing irrelevant content with irrelevant keywords.
This is because whilst irrelevant keywords might be able to achieve a good ranking, they won’t achieve it in a search that is relevant to your products or services.
“I know the algorithms”
Ultimately, no one knows what Google’s algorithms are. Google do occasionally mention a select few that they have changed or have put in place, but for the most part they are constantly changing and it is the search engine optimiser’s job to find out what they are and adapt.
The algorithm is constantly updated to perform a better ranking process so that the best, most relevant websites to the search are in fact at the top. Moz does provide a history of Google’s algorithm changes but only after it has happened and it is more of a tool used to explain changes in ranking.
As stated before, there is no way to know exactly when Google changes the algorithm with so many each year and lots of them are very small.
“I will put your site onto as many search engine directories as possible”
There aren’t many businesses that actually want to be found on hundreds of directories because many of them won’t be relevant to the product or service offering.
Building links on such a large scale can lead to penalties from Google as well and so ultimately, submitting a site to hundreds of directories will see no benefits for the business.
“I can guarantee the first page of Google” or “I’ll get you to the #1 ranking on Google”
This is probably the most common line told and it is definitely the most misleading. There is no way to guarantee a ranking on Google given the competitiveness and the fact that Google even states it in their guidelines only highlights the impossible nature of this statement. Even once a site gets to the first page or number one position, there is no guarantee that it will stay there.
It takes time to improve ranking on Google and constant attention from an SEO marketer. The volatility of rankings and constant changes in algorithms specified, means that it is impossible to guarantee any quantifiable change.
It has been touched on above but it is important to reiterate – the algorithm used by Google to determine rankings in search pages uses dozens of website factors and compares it to thousands of actual search results in order to get an accurate ranking.
“I’ll get your SEO fixed in a month for a flat rate”
As stated, improving SEO takes time and constant attention. It is a continuous process of improvement and development in order to achieve and maintain a good ranking. There is certainly no quick fix. Building the foundations of a successful search engine optimisation campaign may well be a quick process but actually executing it takes time.
The changing algorithms, as mentioned before, and changes in competitor’s links, site quality etc. all impacts the ranking of your website and therefore it requires regular attention.
These are just some of the most common ways in which fake SEO companies attempt to gain your business. Finding a trusted company is the best way to go about it through recommendations and/or research.
Having a good understanding of Google’s guidelines is also a great place to start as it is useful in determining the best SEO agency for your needs.
The best agencies stay away from any sort of “guarantee” slogan besides that of a great service because it is too difficult to achieve such claims and unethical to do so.
There are couple of key reasons behind why trusted SEO companies do not engage in these claims with some having been touched on above.
Outlined in greater detail below, are the key pillars of these reasons and will aid in determining the best agency for your business:
Guarantees and SEO do not have a good history
Many of the businesses that use the mentioned lies can be scammers looking to gain quick profits and this leaves a bad reputation. In the early days of search engine optimisation and some even still today, these scammers were prominent and put a stain on the entire industry with the use of “guarantee”.
In addition to this bad reputation, Google clearly states that it is not possible for any marketing agency to guarantee a ranking on Google due to the dynamic and volatile nature of the ranking algorithm.
Rankings are volatile and dependent on variables
Location and circumstance play a role in the search engine results rankings of sites and can change within the space of a few minutes. Many people will search for area specific services or products and therefore a search in Sydney for one product may see vastly different results than the same search conducted in Melbourne.
Current ‘hot’ topics in the media are also likely to influence results rankings due to increases and decreases in search popularity on a given subject. Search results can even differ between platforms and therefore it is clear why the best firms stay away from any sort of “guarantee” slogan or promotion as it is not possible to live up to in such a volatile area.
Ranking doesn’t necessarily mean performance
When it comes to the performance of a website, having a high ranking doesn’t necessarily mean that it is doing well because the site may not be receiving the desired traffic.
It is most certainly possible for any agency to achieve a high ranking for your website based around irrelevant keywords that are not within the competitive scope.
However, this is not only useless for business it can be harmful for the reputation of the site as people will not see it as a reliable source of information.
Achieving the desired traffic requires building the website up from the bottom by including the relevant keywords and making it user friendly and appealing.
Traffic is only the first step in achieving success through search engine optimisation as the conversion rate is the most important part that signifies the site is providing what users want and that their site experience is positive.
Conversions can include call-to-actions as well as physically purchasing products or services from the site each leading to potential profits and profits, respectively.
The reasoning behind a reputable SEO agency’s strategy to avoid any “guarantee” campaigns and set unachievable targets is the same reasoning behind the fake and scamming companies reasoning for it. It builds short term profits and fails to accurately and wholeheartedly solve a problem.
The lies told by these cheap and/or fake businesses is an easy trap to fall in to, especially for a small business or start-up looking to gain quick improvement in search engine results. Understanding the lies told by such firms is a crucial step in avoiding them and deciding on the right agency for your business.
Each SEO company is different, offering different services for different industries and may not necessarily always be the right one for you. However, what is important is knowing the difference between a savvy SEO company and a fake one.
It is then about gaining a deep understanding of the search engine optimisation guidelines and also how to best execute a strategy to improve website performance in order to choose the best and most suitable agency for the business.
The selection process in determining the most suitable agency for your business should be a well thought through and detailed assessment on both the business’ needs and the potential agencies’ experience and offerings.
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.