How to Avoid SEO Snake Oil: 5 Red Flags You Need to Know About Search Engine Optimization

How to Avoid SEO Snake Oil: 5 Red Flags You Need to Know About Search Engine Optimization
By Jeff M Miller

Every business needs SEO. This is because every business needs to be on the internet, to one extent or another. Unfortunately, most businesses cannot afford to do their own search engine optimization. They have to concentrate on running their business.

This isn’t a major problem, since there is an entire industry of people who’s business it is to get your business optimized for the search engines. However, when looking to hire an SEO firm, there are a few things that you need to be wary of.

  1. If they won’t tell you their methods for any reason, RUN!!
  2. If they claim to be a partner of Google, RUN!!
  3. If EVERY one of their clients refuses to give a testimonial, RUN!!
  4. If they tell you that they can SEO your site in no time flat, RUN!!
  5. If they guarantee results, RUN!! (this one has a caveat)

Let’s consider these warning signs in a bit more detail.

Number one: They refuse to tell you their methods. Why is this a red flag? Because the techniques used for successful SEO are not secret. Everyone who has studied the practice for more than a day and a half will know the general methods: article marketing, content marketing, pay-per-click, and so on. If your potential SEO “specialist” tells you that their methods are proprietary, it’s a good bet that they’re doing something that the search engines would frown upon. This may work in the short-run, but will have definite negative effects in the long-run. You DO NOT want to get banned from Google.

Number two: They claim that they are a partner of Google. Why is this a red flag? Because Google does not partner with SEO’s. At best, what they mean is that they took the Google Adwords class or something of that nature. By the same logic, I am a partner of Google’s because people can find my website through their search engine. At worst, they are simply lying. And lying is not a sustainable business practice. Eventually, the truth will out.

Number three: They claim that every single one of their clients wishes to remain anonymous. Now some may make the argument that it is perfectly reasonable for a business to want a non-disclosure agreement signed, and that it is plausible that this SEO firm has only catered to these businesses. In that case, they are likely getting backroom off-the-record referrals. Otherwise, who would hire them except the unwary? In the former case, you wouldn’t have heard about them, because they don’t need to ask you for business. In the latter, you don’t want them anywhere near your business.

Number four: They tell you that they can have your website optimized for the search engines in no time flat. While highly effective, SEO cannot be done overnight. The fastest results I know of are counted in weeks. If they tell you they can offer you an instant solution, just remember TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch).

Number five: They offer you guaranteed results. Every marketer knows the power of a guarantee. But when it comes to search engine optimization, buyer beware. The only way for an SEO professional to honestly provide a guarantee would require them to know the inner workings of the search engine algorithms. These algorithms are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the world.

One possible exception would be an SEO professional or firm that offered a PPC deal. For example, they run a link building campaign for you and agree to be paid by the click. Basically they are doing what Google Adwords does.

This does not eliminate the problem. There is still the issue of a guaranteed conversion rate. perhaps they get you one million clicks but only 5 people sign up. You have just bankrupted yourself.

Conclusion: Search engine optimization is an excellent business strategy. However, it takes time and must often be outsourced. When considering whom to outsource it to, keep in mind these 5 red flags, and you should do just fine.

Jeff Miller is an SEO specialist and marketing enthusiast with experience in the retail industry. He blogs about various internet marketing topics at http://milleronmarketing.com.

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