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Everyone wants their Google results to be better!

Maybe you got a random email about “errors on your site” or how you “could be ranking higher”.

Maybe you talked to an SEO provider who claimed he could catapult you to the top of the rankings.

Since there are a lot of shysters out there, we put together this handy guide for you to spot shady SEO offers that will only hurt your wallet and your website.

SEO Email Scams (aka “spammer”)

At some point in your company history, you’ve probably seen:

“Your website is ranking way below your competitors”
“SEO errors and issues”
“You are missing out on / losing traffic”
“You’re not showing up on Google search”

That was spam!

Don’t worry about it — nearly every business believes they may be missing out on web traffic. So these emails are worded precisely to stir up that emotion.

You can spot most of these emails because the wording or grammar will be a little off.

Usually they are from foreign companies.

Sometimes they are from larger corporations who claim to have done an SEO Analysis or a Website Error Report for you.

Bottom line, it’s just a sales and scare tactic. They are playing a numbers game sending the same email out to everyone, hoping to grab just a few unlucky people.

A good rule of thumb is to see how someone approaches you in the first place.

Do they ask you for a serious meeting, and want to find out what your goals are, what you are doing that is working or not working, etc?

Or do they lead with scare tactics or a bunch of confusing words that sound vague and technical?

BAD: “Our advanced SEO report shows a cluster of website errors leading to a loss in traffic.”

GOOD: “I noticed that your Home page says ‘welcome’ instead of having a headline that explains what you do and where you do it. Changing that could help you get found by more people when they search online, and anyway it’s helpful for anyone who reads your website.”

In the Good example, that person is trying to speak to you with clear words, and has shown that they actually took the time to look at your website specifically.

Never panic when you get an email about SEO.

Just think about it for a moment to see if it actually makes sense and sounds unique. And if you are still unsure, then contact your website provider to get their feedback.

Click to see a few of the common SEO spam messages, to check if they look similar to the email you got

Email #1

I came across your website today and noticed a few key factors your website is missing that would help you out-rank your competition.

Error and Issues need to fix: (Recommended)
– Your website seems to be attracting traffic, but this traffic is almost stagnant and limited, which affects potential sales as you move forward.
– Your website doesn’t feature in Google’s first search page for some of the major keywords in your niche, which affects visibility.
– Your website has been diagnosed with coding issues, which affects ranking.
– Your backlinks profile is not efficient enough to help your search engine visibility and bad Backlinks are penalized your website.
– Your website is currently not being properly promoted online, which is affecting your marketing strategy and goals.
– Your presence in social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is minimal. This is depriving you of a huge market of prospective referral client.

Email #2

Hi there, Did you know, your website is ranking way below your competitors? We can help you dominate them through targeted SEO. We have been in business for X years and helped over Y clients across the country. Let me know if you would prefer to see recent results and the estimate first?

Email #3

Please find some reason, why you are not getting enough organic traffic:

– Your back links are spammed due to the update, which affects link popularity.
– Development errors and issues found in your website, which affects indexing and crawling.
– Some of the competitive Keywords are not on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing, which affects visibility.
– No new Blogs, Articles and Press Release are found.
– Your website overall SEO score affected due to no online promotion.
– Your website generates less traffic as compare to your competitor.
– Presence of low quality inbound link.
– Your website has low DA and PA score

Please let us know if you would like us to perform a detailed website audit report.

Shady SEO Practices Of The Over-Promiser (aka “mustard stain”)

When you’ve hosted over 5000 sites (like us) you see a lot of sad things happening to your clients.

The biggest one is when a disorganized “SEO Expert” promises them perpetual first place in Google for their website.

This person is not necessarily trying to trick you.

They are just totally unrealistic about their abilities. And unwilling to help you understand how complex SEO can be, so that you have realistic expectations.

What exactly is a “Mustard Stain”?

Websites.ca clients have incurred so much pain from Mustard Stain providers, that they have practically become boogie man legends in our company.

The Mustard Stain is the solo guy or gal who runs an outdated website service, sometimes from their mom’s basement, who may be related to you or a friend-of-a-friend. A “Mustard” is an antisocial person who makes you pay through the nose for every little update, is hard to contact, is totally disorganized and unwilling to change, and you picture them having a crusty condiment stain beside the pocket protector of their favorite short-sleeve dress shirt.

Like a jealous girlfriend, Mustard Stains will attempt to sabotage a simple website move to a better provider, just like they have dropped the ball on your service for the last few years.

They will register domains to themselves instead of in your name.

They will hold email accounts hostage.

And it is always the business owner’s fault for not understanding their genius. You see, they could have founded Microsoft AND Apple rolled into one, but some other things kept getting in the way.

Every Websites.ca employee has to learn about the Mustard Stain and how they try to sabotage every single thing that our clients try to do.

If this sounds like your situation, we can probably help.

We don’t expect you to be a whiz at SEO.

So here are just a few of the major red flags you can look for, to decide if you are in the hands of a total amateur who is just going to syphon your marketing budget with absolutely no results to show at the end:

The Promise of #1 Ranking on Google

A serious SEO expert can probably get you into the top 3 search results for a few of your target keywords.

Keeping you there?

Well, that depends a lot on how your competition responds.

So a serious and trustworthy person would give you a few conditions on the guarantee that you will be #1 forever.

If it sounds like all-upside promises, be very wary. That is just not realistic.

Also…

If someone gives you that guarantee, ask them how they plan on backing it up.

Do they only get paid if you achieve the search results you want and stay there a certain amount of time?

There isn’t a standard way of charging in the industry; it’s just meant as an idea to call people out on their BS.

Generic vs Specific Goals

The shady provider will talk about “better search results”.

What they won’t do (and a solid provider will) is identify a phrase to target, and what realistic results to expect.

This phrase is often called a “long-tail keyword”, which means a specific combination of words your customers may be searching.

BAD: “oh yeah, you make pizza? We’ll get you on the top of Google!”

GOOD: “we should target 24 hour pizza delivery in your city. There are only two other companies doing that right now”.

No Keyword Research

While we are on the subject of keywords…

I would not trust an SEO provider that just took my advice on what keywords to target.

Unfortunately, lots of SEO services feel they have to operate like this, because it is really really hard and thankless to explain keyword research to small business owners.

(it’s even beyond the scope of this article)

But the simplest way to put it, is that what you THINK you should target may not be what your customers are searching. Or it may be what your customers are searching for and everyone else is focusing on, leaving similar phrases wide open for a lot less energy.

At the end of the day, the SEO provider should be asking you a lot of questions about how your clients talk, and suggesting a few keywords of their own, rather than just taking your word on what you “should” be ranking for.

Keyword Stuffing / Robotic Talk

Look at the text for your big SEO project.

Is it filled with endless repetition?

“Pizza, pizza delivery, pizza toppings, tasty pizza, 24 hour pizza delivery, the best pizza delivery”.

Your SEO provider should create an effective reading experience for humans, not bots.

Plus, it does absolutely nothing for your Google results to keep repeating the target keyword.

Have it in the headline, the page name, and once on the page. That is enough.

Tons of “Soft” or Light Content Blog Posts

If they plan on just spamming a bunch of crappy blog posts, send them packing immediately.

A really bad provider will use templates for their blog articles (or hire them out to non-english speaking writers).

Say thanks but no thanks to 20 versions of “X Flavor Of Pizza Is So Tasty” type posts.

It takes unique blog content to rank high on Google. Crafted writing, helpful experience, or both, are a must.

Good blogs require thoughtful (aka expensive) writers.

If you can’t see your ideal customers getting excited to read the blog, then it’s probably a giant waste of time and money.

“My network of websites are going to link to your site”

If you are being promised that you will get a ton of “inlinks” or “backlinks” to your website, ask for more details.

Google loves when trustworthy sites with a good reputation link to your site.

Your Mustard Stain provider’s Private Blog Network sites?

Not so much.

May work for a short time. Will eventually be punished.

Edgy SEO tactics like this CAN work. We are not going to lie to you. But they are usually used by people in the know to benefit their own websites. And they have to constantly change, because Google is adapting to them.

So better to go by the old adage “there is no free lunch”.

You may have paid the SEO expert, but did they actually do anything of value for your potential customers? If not, it’s probably just a shady tactic that will do jack all in the long run.

Meta Keywords

If someone even mentions “meta keywords”, immediately discount everything they say.

These were a big deal in the past.

Now, Google has updated their search engine to ignore them.

So someone who uses that phrase is either WAY out of date, or just trying to blind you with jargon.

Next!

“Let’s make a new page for every single thing you do”

This is when the SEO guy says he’s going to make a new page for every service-area combination you have (eg. plumbing Brampton, plumbing Mississauga, plumbing Etobicoke, etc).

Or it could be fanning out your services to every possible specific description: plumbing, emergency plumbing, 24 hour plumbing (a page for each).

Google will rank pages on your website for similar, contextual things. So it is no longer necessary to have so many short pages for each specific thing.

Better to have one longer page with very robust content that explains everything for a single category of service or product.

Caveat:

Local service businesses can get away, to a certain extent, with very similar pages that target slightly different keywords.

We worked with an SEO expert that made a unique page for every major route that a moving company served (eg. Vancouver to Seattle, Vancouver to LA, etc). And each page ended up ranking, even though it had very similar content.

So… this rule is not hard and fast. For now! It may be punished in the future, as Google updates their algorithm.

The point is that you should use common sense and aim for the minimum amount of web pages that thoroughly explain your service and address customer concerns.

Lack of Reporting

Bottom line, an SEO provider should be accountable and should show you monthly reports on how their very expensive service is helping your website get more traffic.

Is your website already connected to Google Analytics?

Do you have a baseline measurement of current traffic to check against future results?

If not, then you won’t be able to properly gauge the value of the SEO work.

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Hopefully this helps you spot the SEO offers to avoid.

For a comprehensive breakdown on modern SEO techniques, you can check out our longer article Small Business Website SEO: How To Get On The First Page Of Google.