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How to Spot an SEO Scam

Ever since the inception of search engines, there have been SEO scams and con artists. Here are some red flags you can use to spot an SEO scam.

Eric Steiner
By Eric Steiner   |  

 Nov 02, 2019

A Brief SEO History

When first launched, search engines were erratic, unorganized, and unreliable. Businesses quickly discovered the importance of search results and then used black hat SEO tactics to boost their sites’ rankings.

Since search engines use content to determine the context of a given page, marketers began saturating their sites with content – even if the content was worthless. Today, Google uses an algorithm to “grade” the value of website content based on over 200 ranking signals. Marketers must now create helpful content relevant to their audience.

The Business of SEO Scams

Unfortunately, even with today’s new SEO standards, business owners should be wary of SEO scam artists. Many scammers insist on selling the same tired tactics to unsuspecting companies, making promises that they simply can’t keep.

Fraudulent SEO consultants typically target small businesses with limited resources, which are unlikely to retaliate after discovering that they’ve been tricked. Many small business owners are looking for a "quick fix," making it easy for scammers to entice them with their offers. Here are some red flags to look out for when dealing with "SEO experts":

  • Offering instant results: SEO success doesn’t happen overnight. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Claiming to have a “relationship” with Google: Many SEO consultants try to leverage the Google brand to gain trust among potential customers. They may claim to have a “special relationship” with Google, but these relationships simply do not exist.

a small business owner who was the victim of an SEO scam


SEO scammers typically take advantage of small business owners who they know don't have the funds to retaliate.
  • Making “guarantees”: Some SEO fraud companies may offer a “guarantee” that your page will appear in the top search results. Steer clear of any company making this kind of promise.

Of course, small businesses aren't the only victims of SEO fraud. Even larger companies can fall prey to SEO scammers, causing their sites to fall back several pages on search results. Buying “instant results” can have a negative impact on your brand and reputation. Worst of all, a lower search engine ranking can lead to a significant loss of revenue for larger corporations.

The Bottom Line

SEO is an essential part of any digital marketing campaign. When it comes to building your brand’s presence online, on-page optimization is a great place to start. In addition to well-written content, offering quick load speeds and a seamless user interface will boost your rankings.

Don’t fall prey to an SEO scam offering an army of “link builders” – instead, craft engaging, informative content that speaks to your audience. Focus on the products your company offers, and pay attention to analytics and feedback from customers. Most importantly, have patience. A solid SEO strategy may take time to develop, but the rewards will be well worth it.

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

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