SEO, optimizing your site’s content and relationship to the web, is not rocket science. Nor is SEO some hocus-pocus process that only “experts” can effectively understand. SEO is simply about making your site rank for the terms your audience are using in search engines. Ranking at the top, for the terms your audiences are using the most, will get you the most clicks from the qualified audience you need. There are specific tactics that can cause your site to get closer to the top. There’s no “tricks” to it, but many of today’s “SEO experts” are tricky. The tricks they play don’t get sites ranked higher. Instead the tricks are played on their customers. They’re tricks that get more hard-earned money from the people depending on them the most. Learn what these trick are and how to avoid getting tricked.
Tricks SEO “Experts” Play on Their Customers
- The More Spaghetti on the Wall Trick: Bigger footprint doesn’t equal making a massive impression. Some website owners get tricked into thinking “if I build it, they will come.” This ends up inducing the creation of tons and tons of non-targeted content, content that isn’t geared towards getting rank for the key terms that matter. It essentially becomes a process of throwing spaghetti against a wall, hoping their content marketing strategy “sticks” at some point.
- The Ranking for the Brand Name Trick: Unscrupulous SEOs will often focus on getting a site ranked on Google, often in the #1 position, but for only a brand’s name. This isn’t very helpful unless the audience already is familiar with your company. Instead of competing for terms that are relevant to the product or service being sold, being ranked for a brand name is relatively pointless. Your competition won’t be able to rank themselves above you for your brand name anyway.
- The Appeasement Marketing Trick: Instead of showing up with results, being able to say how many leads can be attributed to searches for relevant key terms, bad SEOs show up with coffee and donuts. Donuts are yummy and coffee is addictive, but what’s better is bringing more good customers. Being able to say “our #1 rank on Google for this type of product got us X number of leads” is the only thing an SEO should bring to your attention. The amount of time they spend appeasing you in other ways means they aren’t getting the results you need.
- The More Malarkey Trick: An SEO that talks about how great they are in every other sentence is a dead-giveaway for someone selling malarkey, not SEO. Flashy clothes and fancy cars don’t equal results for you. If they aren’t getting SEO results for themselves, and aren’t ranking for the relevant key terms among THEIR competition, then you can bet what they’re selling is malarkey, not results.
- The Guaranteed SEO Trick: This trick, Guaranteed SEO is one I talked about in an earlier article. Instead of refunding money, bad SEOs simply guarantee to give you more of the bad service you already paid for, for free. If it didn’t work in the first place, how is more of the same going to work?
- The Appeal to Authority/Expensive Credentials Trick: Having a degree in SEO, an award from a magazine or organization, or a high position in a very visible media company doesn’t make someone’s opinion more valuable. It might make it more credible, to people, but Google doesn’t care about those things. All Google cares about is the accuracy and precision a site shows when following Google’s rules. If you follow the best practices of SEO, Google rewards you. If you don’t, no appeal to authority will matter.
- The Irrelevant Terms Trick: Some SEOs will get a site traffic based on high volume search terms, ones lots of people are searching for. If the terms don’t match the products and services your company is offering, the increase in traffic isn’t going to help much at all. For example, an art gallery is trying to sell art. An unscrupulous SEO might create a page inside the site geared towards getting visitors who are searching for “painting classes” or “art therapy”. These are terms that might get clicks, but are they clicks that matter? Unless the gallery is making money offering painting classes or art therapy sessions, these clicks won’t matter at all. The site’s traffic will increase, but the visitors won’t stick around long once they realize that’s not what’s available. In the long run, using this tactic will actually hurt a site’s ability to get qualified traffic, real art buyers.
- The Siphoned Authority Trick: Links pointing into a site help the site rank upwards. Links pointing out of a site can cause the opposite to happen. Smart SEOs will often pay a high ranked site to link to a client’s site, or their own. Unscrupulous SEOs will often put links pointing outwards from a paying client’s site, draining the site’s “SEO juice” out. Links at the top of a page matter more than links at the bottom. Some hackers go through the trouble of breaking into sites just to put hidden links at the top of pages, ones the site owner can’t see, but the Google crawler can. This siphons the authority from a site slowly over time, stealing “visitors” before the visits even happen.
- The Fake Crowd Trick: Believe it or not, some SEOs will stoop so low as to pay people to Google your site and click in. I worked for a web hosting company back in the 90’s where I caught the principals telling employees to “keep reloading the site”. It let them produce reports they showed to the Board without having to Photoshop the numbers. Paying attention to the geography of the visitors, their actual locations in the real world, is a low-effort way to reveal whether numbers are real or pumped up dishonestly.
- The Shill Trick: Similar to the Fake Crowd Trick, the Shill trick takes it a step further. Instead of just pumping up the page hits, paid mercenaries fill out lead forms, pretending to be what looks like qualified prospects. When it comes time to compare revenue to lead numbers, the revenue simply won’t be there. The customers were never real. The SEO can simply blame the disconnect between leads and revenue on poor web design, the lead desk, bad salespeople, broken CRMs or the quality of the products or services. Salespeople hate getting a spreadsheet of leads and wasting their time writing emails and making calls that will never materialize into sales. But this doesn’t dissuade bad SEOs from using this tactic, often followed up by pricey recommendations for how the website needs redesign or the CRM needs replacing.
- The Munchausen-by-Proxy Trick: Some bad SEOs will actually hurt a site on purpose, linking spammy sites or preventing the search crawler from inspecting the site. The lack of organic traffic that results from this dirty trick is evident and used as a reason to demand higher prices to “fix it”. I’ve seen sites get published with NO-INDEX directives, so the crawler robots are sent away. I’ve remedied these situations before the person who afflicted the publisher can sell them a “phony cure” wherein the damaging factors are disabled, and the flow of traffic starts up, seemingly from “hours and hours of high paid expertise applied”.
How do you avoid these dirty SEO tricks from being played on YOU?
Use Google’s free tools. Both Google Analytics and Google Search Console are free. They simply need to be attached to the site. Both can be enabled and configured in under a half hour, total. There’s no excuse for either of these products to be left off the table when engaging with an SEO to improve your site’s rank. The former reveals what’s happening with visitors on your site. The latter reveals how your site is being seen and handled by Google.
A site owner can learn how to use both products using Google’s own documentation or from YouTube videos where hundreds of online marketers have created videos to explain these products to you. If you know how to use these products, or at a minimum appear to know how to use them, unscrupulous SEOs won’t see you as someone who is easily tricked.