December 08, 2009

8 SEO Danger Signs

Attention all business owners:
Keep a link to this site and always refer back to it before employing an SEO consultant or web developer.

An entire industry of scam artists has cropped up and is preying on small business site owners: SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, “experts.”

I’m writing this article as one of our customers has recently fallen victim to one of these SEO “experts.” When he told me of this, I realized I did not fulfill my role of educating my valued clients and friends on the many myths and dangers of Search Engine Optimisation.

For that, I apologise. My penance shall be to share with all of you 8 SEO Danger Signs…

#1 - Guaranteed results
Any company that guarantees results is trying to trick you. Typical methods of this trickery include:

Setting up an AdWords campaign, where you -- not they -- pay Google to appear in the "Sponsored Links" that appear on a page.

Or they have some sort of criteria that they will meet but will not be of value to you. For example, I can guarantee that we will be #1 for -- because Google will always put a URL (address) as an exact match first. Click here to see my example, or Google your own website URL.

So if someone says they guarantee results, ask them how while slowly backing away.

I may sound a bit forward on this point, but I feel safe doing so since Google themselves tell "No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google."

#2 - We only do SEO
If the company only does SEO, and doesn't actually create websites, they are probably shady operators. Not definitely, but probabaly.

The reverse does not, however, apply. There are plenty of web development companies who employ shady, or "black hat", SEO techniques which will result in Google delisting sites.

In fact, I know of at least two Toowoomba web development companies that use "black hat" techniques. It is happening in your backyard!

#3 - Not answering the question "How do you do it?"
There are no "trade secrets" or "proprietary methods" in SEO. If a company chooses not to tell you how they intend to improve your site, then they are probably using methods that will result in your site getting delisted by Google in the long run.

#4 - Using any "tricks" to make Google see something different
Sadly, this is an example of what one of our customers was told to do, by an SEO "expert":

"He suggested that in the blank area on the sides of our site that we have our keywords listed in white so they wont be seen by visitors but Google will still pick up on them."

Google's job is to find sites that are relevant for a human being, so they take a very dim view of techniques like this which are aimed at providing different content to the search engine than a human would see.

And by "take a dim view" I mean they will go as far as removing sites all together from their indexes.

#5 - Not requiring access to edit the website's content
An SEO "expert" who does not intend on modifying your website's content is like a mechanic who says they don't need to physically have your car to fix it.

All legitimate SEO techniques require access to your site. The main one is "look at each page on your site and make sure you actually use the words that describe who you are, what you sell, and where you are." Also known as keywords. And don't overdo it so that it sounds like gibberish to humans!

To make sure that no underhanded content, methods, or links are employed, ask the SEO "expert" to give you the content to update and do it yourself. If you don't understand why you are doing something, walk away or seek a second opinion.

#6 - You'll get results in 24 hours
Going back to my mechanic example, I would not be satisfied if my mechanics, The Motor Shoppe (who are fantastic by the way), told me "Your car will run really well tomorrow."

It is easy, using underhanded "black hat" techniques (the ones Google hates and will penalise you for), to get a site bumped up for a short time.

What a site owner should really be interested in is long term results.

#7 - How is AdWords involved?
Often times, SEO "experts" are setting up Google AdWords campaigns on behalf of site owners. AdWords are the "Sponsored Links" that appear above and to the right of Google search results.

If an SEO "expert" is using AdWords as part of an SEO campaign, he or she should make it very clear that they are recommending AdWords, give you a choice as to whether or not to use it, discuss maximum budgets per click and per month, and implement tracking to see if it is worthwhile.

AdWords is the source of 95% of Google's $24 billion revenue, so there are certainly people that see value in it. However, it is something that your SEO "expert" should be educating about and guiding you with, rather than hiding from you.

On a similar note, if you have an AdWords campaign as part of an SEO campaign, be sure you are paying Google directly rather then the SEO "expert" who will simply be adding markup for doing nothing. Pay for the time they are helping and advising you.

#8 - What "linking" is involved?
If you are expected to link to random people, then walk -- nay -- run away.

Linking between websites is an important factor in Google's PageRank technology. Because of this, we should all link, but do it only to companies we know and trust. Remember, you are potentially losing traffic to a site when you link to it, and are effectively giving a word of mouth referral.

Link, but link carefully. 

Summing Up
Hopefully this list of SEO danger signs will prevent a few of our valued customers and friends from getting involved with shady SEO "experts" or web developers.

If anyone has any other experiences or danger signs to share, please share in the comments section. Please also share this article as you hear your clients, suppliers, and associates pondering the use of an SEO "expert."

Further Reading

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro


  1. That was a cool one. I really enjoyed reading the content and while it is a bit technical in some areas, I understand the overall message.
    Thanks heaps. You have educated me!

  2. Another Great blog James!

    We recently had a client who asked us about a similar style of 'we get your site listed in 24 hours' scheme. They promised to share with you a secret of how to get in the top 4 results on all search engines for a small (if you consider $495 small) fee then you could do all the setup you wanted (i.e. they actually don't do any of the work).

    We advised the client to not expect any real results if they decided to go through with it, but in general advised them to stear clear. This particular scheme said that it was a time-limited offer and would need to be purchased before 4/12/09 (presumably this was the anticipated date that the 'black hat' technique was to be fixed by Google so that it no longer worked or worse, 'delisted' your site if used).

    Buyer beware, generally the best ways to bring your website up to the top levels (pages) in any search engine is by the following (amongst others):

    - Have keywords for your webpages that align with your page content (this allows search engines to verify that your keywords are relevant to your content)
    - Update your site regularily, through amending content, updating content, adding new products/services, having a regular blog, updating FAQ pages etc.
    - Sumbitting your site to Search Engines (do not 'over-submit' though as this is thought to hurt your ranking)
    - Ensuring your business is easily accessible through your keywords (i.e. 'Dream Machine Toowoomba' accesses us on the top of the search engine results, but 'Dream Machine banana' does not, for obvious reasons)
    - Age of your site: naturally the longer that your site is around (but updated) gives more validity for search engines to list your site higher.

    Many other techniques are around and most are of benefit to your site (remember that this is not a science), but just beware of anyone promising something extraordinary, most often than not it will do more damage than good.

  3. Thanks Chris and Emily.

    Chris, great feedback and some great points there.


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