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8 Common SEO Marketing Scams to Avoid

Finding a good, trustworthy marketing company to help with SEO can be tough. With all the options available, it can be hard to choose. And it doesn’t help that there are multitudes of SEO scams out there.

seo scams

The cheapest options may look the most appealing, but they are most likely only SEO scams that will do more harm than good to your business. Cheap SEO scams will offer to boost your rankings in as little as a few weeks to a month. Most unscrupulous people offer guarantees they can’t uphold, then end up disappointing the folks who invested their hard-earned money in those services.

So, what does that look like? You hire a marketing agency because of their promises, then:

  • The first month, they say they’re getting started and setting everything up.
  • The second month, they’re still getting everything set up.
  • The third month, they say they’re getting started rolling it out.
  • The fourth month, they are starting to see some things move, but you aren’t.
  • The fifth month, you question their actions and results.
  • The sixth month, you’re peeved and drop their service.

The result? You’ve wasted your time and money. And they have just gotten 6 months of marketing fees and move on to the next client. And now every marketing agency raises suspicion… but you know you need marketing!

Some shady companies offer guarantees because they know they’ll find someone who will believe them. By the time the business finds out, the shady company has their money and they’re on to the next victim.

Don’t be that victim! Anytime someone offers you a guarantee in marketing, we suggest you run away as fast as possible! 

The truth is it takes from four months to a year for SEO to actually take effect. Among other reasons, this is because it takes time for Google’s bots to crawl your site. According to Dynomapper, “It depends on the kind of keywords, the type of website you have and what kind of business you are running, among other factors” as to how long it will take for SEO efforts to become effective.

The most important thing you should know is that there are no guarantees in marketing. If you see a marketing company advertising SEO with guarantees, it’s probably a scam. 

Common SEO Scams

Here are some known SEO scams that can help you spot a deceptive marketing company:

Guaranteeing The #1 Spot On Google

No one can guarantee a spot on the first page except Google itself. This is the most commonly used SEO scam out there. The company will say they can make your website the #1 result on the first page of Google and often for a low, affordable price. If it was that easy, everyone would be #1.

How does it work? What they don’t tell you is that their focus is making your company or brand name rank first on Google. Go ahead… Do a Google search for your company name… If it doesn’t show up on the first page of Google already, you have some serious problems and need more help than these guys can give.

More likely, however, is that you’re already there. Where’s the problem? The problem is that you lose 100% of the business from people who don’t know you exist. If they don’t know about your company, WHY would they be searching for it?

Elusive Practices

If the company you are thinking of hiring for SEO services can’t tell you the details, that’s a red flag. Be sure to read carefully over everything you’re given to see exactly what they plan on doing.

Common issues with this tend to come into the form of the what, how, or why they are doing what they are doing.

We went undercover to interview 40 firms. What we found was many of them using industry lingo or terminologies that the average person would not be familiar with such as “DA score, Domain Rank, Alexa Ranking, etc.” However, many of them, when pressed could not answer basic questions about what those mean, why they are important, or how they would accomplish that. This is a huge red flag.

Unwanted Emails Or Contact Forms

Scammers will often send out mass emails to try and get people to sign with them. Most of the time, these are not targeted towards you specifically. Other than these SEO scam emails, you may see an influx of contact forms filled out from your website that are completely fake. To avoid this and add more security to your site, consider adding a reCAPTCHA to your contact forms.

seo scams

The real problem here is that more often than not, many of these companies do not provide real contact information, real company information (and sometimes not even a way to opt-out).

They email promising that they can get you great results, but when you look closely, you have no idea who they really are.

“We Know Someone Who Works At Google”

While “knowing someone at Google” might be true for some businesses, such as being a Google Partner, this doesn’t mean your company will get an under-the-table advantage over other companies. Anyone that studies and uses best SEO practices can get good results.

Even if you know someone at Google, all of Google’s rankings and results are not controlled by an individual. They are controlled by software algorithms that Google keeps very close to the vest.

Think Kentucky Fried Chicken and their signature spices. They don’t want those spices and recipes getting out because any other chicken restaurant could copy and steal. Google is the same way with other search engines. No one will know the exact algorithm and no one person has the ability to control your rankings … even if they work for Google.

Even worse than this are the phone calls you get from “Google” about your business listing … These are ALWAYS scams. Google does not make phone calls like that.

Promising A Certain Number Of Visitors Per Day To Your Site

If 1,000 visitors per day are what you’re being offered, chances are they will deliver. Which would be a good thing, if the visitors were actual people. Most likely, the scammers will flood your site with bots, which looks good for a traffic count but is useless for your business.

You will not receive any new customers or publicity for this, and it will mess with your statistics, which can be hard to fix down the line. This tactic is a false promise made by scammers who try to wow you with the numbers, but fail to deliver actual results.

Think about it this way…

Would you rather have 1,000 people visiting your website every day that are tire-kickers or would you rather have 10 people who are ready to buy something from you?

Good SEO should focus first on the small numbers, not the large numbers. It is an organic strategy that is designed to compound over time.

Promising Instant Link Building

You want backlinks? You got backlinks …

Backlinks are an immensely important part of off-page SEO strategy. Google says that backlinks are a “vote” for a website. So often, people say you need to have TONS of backlinks, and these SEO “experts” tend to jump on board offering thousands of backlinks for you.

If a backlink is like a “vote” or recommendation for a website, who would you listen to?

  • Shady Joe – You know the guy…he sells watches that he just happens to have hanging inside his jacket.
  • Brenda Know-It-All – You probably know her too … she seems to feel like she knows everything about everything.
  • Eddie the Expert – This guy is a real expert. He knows his stuff and people constantly come to him for advice.

I would argue that if you’re going to listen to someone, you should listen to Eddie. Google is the same.

Shady Joe is those websites that are completely useless. They don’t offer any real valuable information. They are simply full of advertisements hoping to get some unsuspecting dope to click to them so they can make a few pennies for that impression. There is no value to the site so Google doesn’t give you any value for having a backlink from it.

Brenda Know-It-All is those websites that seem to have a ton of information, but it’s not relevant. There may be a post about a music company in Podunk and another one about a Doctor’s office in Dallas. This is what we often see with PBNs (Private Blog Networks). They are touted as a way to get lots of backlinks, but you get no SEO value from them because the type of information on them is too broad and the value is nonexistent.

Eddie the Expert on the other hand is a relevant website with relevant information or a respected media site. People frequent these sites for valuable information. Google sees these as the real “votes.” 

Scammers that offer instant link building often create bad backlinks on the first two types of websites. Sure, you get a lot of backlinks. This is a very dangerous practice, however, and done too much can get your website penalized by Google.

Even if it was the scammers, not you, who did this, the responsibility falls on your shoulders in Google’s eyes. The penalties can be as simple as reducing your overall rankings or as severe as a complete removal from Google.

“We Will Submit Your Website To Thousands Of Search Engines”

If a company says they will submit your website to thousands of search engines, they are trying to scam you. This is a fairly common statement. While “thousands” sounds great, the reality of most of these “sites” is that they are useless or may not even exist anymore.

Back in the google ole’ days, there used to be many more than there are now. However, due to mergers, acquisitions, business failures, and a variety of other situations, there are not near as many as there used to be.

In reality, there are only around 140 search engines (and directories) that have enough value to have any impact on your SEO. Reputable SEO firms typically will focus on getting you listed on 50-60 of these that will have the greatest impact on your business.

SEO Services Free Trial Offer

Let’s get this one straight. There are two problems here …

First, one of the more common SEO scams is hijacking. Free trials are for streaming services, not SEO marketing. Scammers use this tactic to lure unsuspecting customers in. Once they gain admin access to your website, they will download malware to it.

Often, these are “companies” or websites that may even look good on the outside. The bad intent is that they intend to offer you a free trial, really get nothing done so you don’t want to continue the service, but install software that uses your server resources.

We have helped a number of clients over the years that had this happen. We have seen everything from mining for bitcoin to using client websites to attempt to hack other websites.

The second problem with this is that a free trial only lasts so long, and SEO takes a lot longer to work. Often, the way these scams work is similar to a gym. You get a 30-day free trial, but you have to give them your credit card. If you forget to cancel, they charge you.

The problem here is not that someone wants to charge you, it is more in the fact that anyone that offers a free trial is doing so knowingly and willingly with the understanding that you really won’t get anything at all whether it be a 7-day, 14-day, or even a 30-day trial. It takes at least 2-6 months to get started ranking.

How To Avoid SEO Scams

Learning to spot these SEO scams could potentially save your business from getting hurt and losing reputation with both Google and your community. It’s hard to recover from being scammed, especially if your statistics and metrics are thrown out of whack by bots and malware running rampant on your site. Google does not forgive and forget so easily. 

One way to avoid SEO scams is to take time to get to know the SEO service provider. Developing a mutually beneficial relationship can help to head off potential trouble. Doing your homework and asking lots of questions is another good way to help you spot fake businesses and separate them from viable companies. 

Another way to avoid SEO scams is to request everything they want to do with your business in writing. You could also ask for examples of success they have for other clients. Talk to referrals and ask if they recommend that company or not. Getting real feedback from clients who have dealt with them before can give you valuable insight.

Don’t be discouraged about SEO. Although scammers do exist, if you arm yourself with education, you can make an informed decision about your SEO provider. After all, SEO is extremely important to get your business found for when people are looking for you but more importantly, to be found even when they’re not.


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