5 Tips to Avoid Becoming an SEO Victim
First it was Internet Advancement. Now, it is Visible.net. Washington State appears to be on a mission to get rid of shady SEO firms which promise more than they can deliver and give the entire industry a black eye. I personally am glad that somebody is cracking down on firms which make overreaching promises. Here are 5 tips to avoid becoming a victim of bad SEO firms.
1. Avoid firms which contact you out of the blue.
I have no specific research to back this up, but I would venture to say that 99.99% of all "cold calls" come from unscrupulous or unqualified firms, many of which cold calls are outright scams. Do not respond to unsolicited emails, phone calls, facsimiles, snail mail, or other direct marketing from a purported SEO firm. A reputable firm will rely on its reputation in the industry, client referalls, search engine rankings, and other means to attract customers to it. In other words, customers should come to the SEO firm, the SEO firm should not come to the customer.
2. Avoid firms which guarantee you a #1 ranking.
No firm owns the search engines, therefore no firm can guarantee you a #1 ranking. If this sort of representation is made, it is a huge red flag. I know what you are thinking: "If they fail to deliver, I will just get my money back." Just try getting your money back. Chances are you will never get it, or you will have a #1 ranking which gets the firm off the hook - the problem is that it is for a keyphrase that has absolutely zero qualified traffic.
This illustrates the often misplaced notion that search engine optimization is about a #1 ranking. SEO is not about that at all, as a #1 ranking is worthless if it does not drive qualified traffic to your site which results in conversions. SEO is about conversions, not ranking for irrelevant keyphrases.
3. Avoid firms which claim to have a "special relationship" with major search engines.
No SEO firm has a special relationship with Google or any other major search engine. Period. Does not require further explanation.
4. Avoid firms which sell SEO as an "out of the box" solution.
Search engine optimization is not a product, it is a service. There are many companies which are selling SEO as an out of the box, package deal. In other words, they offer SEO services at a predetermined set fee, for a predetermined set of services. One common manifestation of this is in the nature of "Choose one of our proven SEO packages."
A firm offering out of the box solutions is not performing any sort of competitive intelligence at all. Each industry is different, each client is different, and the search engine optimization solutions for each project should therefore be different. What works for one client, in one industry, may not work for another client in another industry. A firm which fails to take into account the industry landscape, client business goals, budget, and other factors when developing an SEO strategy is doing you no favor. Each client should be provided with a customized solution based on a number of factors specific to that client. If your selected SEO firm is not performing keyphrase research and competitive intelligence prior to the development and execution of a customized strategy, you should find another firm.
5. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Most people who hire an SEO firm are business owners or professionals working on behalf of a business owner. Therefore, we might expect that these potential SEO clients have some degree of business savvy about them. Unfortunately, many don't, and they buy into the "get rich quick with a #1 ranking for a few hundred dollars" line. Come on, folks. You can't compete with Amazon.com for $500.00. Think about it. Search engine optimization requires an investment on par with the goals of the project. Rome wasn't built in a day. Use your common sense when evaluating various proposals from potential SEO firms. Like the baby in the picture above, be skeptical of offers which sound too good to be true.