4 Signs an SEO Firm is a Fraud
Ian Lurie Jun 5 2009
This post started as a detailed roast of a couple of SEO firms here in Seattle. I use the term ‘firms’ very loosely. But I have my limits of meanness, and decided that they may simply not know any better. This post gives them a chance to withdraw any claim of search engine optimization expertise and retire from the field with dignity. But guys, if you keep trying to sell your ‘expertise’ to unsuspecting small business owners, all bets are off.
If you’re a small business owner, or even a big one, and you go looking for an SEO expert, it’s hard to tell the real deal from the total fraud. I’ve outed other firms before and used their promises and tactics as an illustration of what not to do. Now, thanks to a couple of SEO practitioners I just found here in Seattle, I can give you more signs you should run screaming from an SEO ‘pro’:
The keyword machine gun
If they’ve written stuff that looks like this then they’re a danger to themselves and others:
Wow. I thought I was a keyword whore.
I mean, never mind the fact that this reads like a computer developed a horrific case of the hiccups. Do you really think search engines will accept this as OK?
The keyword machine gun technique may work for a day or two. But it’s a faulty tactic that will land anyone with a long-term business plan in trouble. Avoid it.
That used-car smell
If their carefully-crafted sales copy reads like a 2nd-grade grammar quiz:
…then it doesn’t matter what they’re “given” away. RUN.
That kind of writing is almost certainly a precursor to the used car lot-style sales pitch:
…that is wrong on so many levels I’m not sure where to begin. Own the 1st three pages of Google? Lock competitors out of the search engines? Dude, what the hell are you smoking? Are you trying to tell me you can get my business to control the top 30 spots on Google, for every important search phrase?
Yes they are. And no, they can’t do it. No matter how many times you repeat ‘SEO Seattle’ in a paragraph, you still only grab 1 spot.
If you feel like you’re buying from a guy in a plaid jacket who swears his grandmama last owned this car, flee the scene.
The same consultant is connected with another person who purports to offer ‘automated web marketing systems’. Cough.
I’m not sure what they mean by ‘automated’, so I won’t go too far. But anyone claiming any automated technique for SEO should make you suspicious. And in case the folks in question post a comment below saying “Our automated stuff is for social media, not SEO”: Automated social media marketing is even worse.
Ah, now we get to brass tacks. If the SEO ‘guru’ you’re reading about can’t do SEO for themselves, that’s the clearest sign you’ll be wasting your money.
If, for example, the guru’s web site has no title tags, that’s a bad sign:
See where it says ‘Mozilla Firefox’? If the page had a title tag, it would say something else. Firefox defaults to its own brand name when no title tag exists.
So an SEO expert left out one of the most important elements of on-page SEO.
“Hmmm. That can’t be right,” I said, “I must be mis-interpreting some super-secret SEO tactic.”
So, I viewed the source code to see what’s up:
Alas. No title tag. And no description tag, which of course means no sensible search snippet in the search results. And a doctype declaration for XHTML when the page is all table-driven and barely compliant with HTML 3.
If you’re not an SEO pro, these may seem like silly details to you. But good SEO is driven by lots of ‘silly’ details that, when you put them together, spell success or failure for your campaign. And a consultant should know that.
I really am. I don’t care what kind of business you’re trying to open: Car repair, copywriting or SEO. If you’re opening it, you had damned well better know what you’re doing.
Otherwise, you’re ripping people off. You’re committing fraud when you try to tell unsuspecting customers that you can help them. Because you can’t. And you know it.
It makes my blood boil when I think that these guys have likely taken money from small business owners who have little enough as it is.
Go learn your profession before you practice it. Otherwise you’re no better than a thief.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More