Buyer Beware: How to Spot Dodgy SEO Companies

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If you’ve ever hired an SEO company before, there’s a good chance you hired a bad one. The market is full to brimming with cowboys who will happily take your money and leave you with nothing to show for it. In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the common tricks SEO services use to exaggerate the effectiveness of their services and try to ‘sell you a lemon.’

What Does ‘Guaranteed SEO’ Really Mean?

It’s very common these days for SEO companies to offer a ‘Page 1 Guarantee’. You may notice that we here at Premium don’t do that (although we do offer a ranking increase guarantee).

Here’s why.

You will find almost universally with companies that offer a ‘Page 1 Guarantee,’ they will apply the guarantee only to keywords which are so ridiculously low in competition (and traffic) that it’s virtually impossible not to rank for these phrases. If you’re a rental property manager, they may offer you a Page 1 guarantee for something like ‘best rental property manager in whangarei’. That may sound impressive, until you realise that particular keyword has virtually no search volume (less than 10 people searching for it every month).

The big phrases – the ones with all the traffic and, incidentally, a lot of competition – are much more challenging to rank for. Many sub standard SEO outfits won’t even try, because they don’t have the knowhow or resources to rank clients for the competitive keywords that actually matter.

Understanding Packages and Search Phrases

Another little trick commonly employed is offering a massive number of keywords in your package, for a relatively low price. For example, you might see a company offering a ‘100 search phrases for $500/month’ deal.

Again, this is sleight of hand. Most of those phrases will have virtually no search volume – and little competition, so they can rank you and show you an impressive ranking report, but your traffic doesn’t improve because you’re only ranking for keywords that no one is searching for.

You’re much better focusing on a smaller number of targeted, high traffic keywords that will actually help your business if you rank for them. So don’t be too impressed by companies offering hundreds of keywords in their packages – usually more is less with that sort of thing.

Putting Pricing in Perspective: Cheap Doesn’t Mean Effective

Remember, you aren’t buying a toaster here. You’re investing money in your business, and you need to get a return on that money. Cheap SEO that doesn’t get you results in terms of rankings, traffic and sales is money wasted, whereas relatively expensive SEO that actually works will provide a positive return. It’s important to look at return on investment first, and the absolute cost as a secondary factor.

Long Term Contracts

Another thing to watch out for in the SEO industry is term contracts, especially if they’re long (like 12 months). SEO firms that deliver results are happy to allow their clients to stop at any time – at Premium we stand or fall on whether or not we’re delivering results for clients month on month. When an SEO outfit requires you to go on contract, it’s usually because they aren’t actually that confident in their ability to rank you any time soon, and they want you legally tied into a situation that may not even actually work for you. In this scenario, even if you accidentally chose a bad company and they got your website penalized, you would still have to keep paying them!

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Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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