“…there are so many on the scam in your business and taking the money for a few months, and the site never moves.”

We received this short email from a potential client the other day and I have to admit that it’s a valid observation of some SEO branded companies.

In fact, because of the stigma that now surrounds the term ”SEO” or “SEO Company”, I’ve even considered working towards rebranding the digital marketing we offer to not include SEO based terms. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of SEO and the terminology this would also mean possibly disengaging with many potential customers.

In some ways it slightly annoyed me. We have invested a lot of effort into ensuring we present our company as a reputable, reliable digital marketing agency. To be lumped in with the “1000 backlinks for $50” type SEO companies is, in all honesty, slightly insulting.

So why am I writing this? I suppose it’s because I’d like to view the situation from the client’s perspective and attempt to give a solution, bringing some trust back to the SEO companies that work hard and use completely organic white hat methods. I would also like to make it easier for potential clients to identify the SEO companies that are “on the scam”.


How to Spot SEO Scams?

To be truthful, the majority of clients are uninformed or misguided when it comes to SEO. It may sound harsh, but it’s true. Something like 95% of all clients I have worked with over the last 7 years were unable to tell you what, for instance, Google analytics is, or what benefits could be gained through having it…let alone the benefits of running a dynamic SEO campaign.



So my first piece of advice for clients is to educate yourself when it comes to SEO.

I’m not insinuating you should sign up to school and start writing your research thesis; simply reading a few high level articles on what SEO is, how it has changed over the years and the volume of on-going work which is involved in a successful SEO campaign will more than suffice.

Great Example Articles:




A great example: you wouldn’t head to a car dealership planning to buy a car without a little research into the car you like first. So, why approach a SEO company without doing the some research yourself? Effectively, you are leaving yourself wide open to abuse.

This is my first and most important piece of advice to help protect you from the less reliable SEO companies out there.


Too good to be true

An oldie but none the less still a goodie: if it sounds too good to be true, especially in the SEO realm, there is a great possibility it is .

A good question to ask yourself is: what is the no.1 ranking for your chosen keyword worth?

Let’s assume you want to have the no.1 spot for the keyword phrase “Plumber London” on Google Adwords.

A quick bit of SEO math:

          Search volume per month: 2292 (google.co.uk)

         Average traffic Share of no.1 place: 32.5% (Interesting article http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2276184/No.-1-Position-in-Google-Gets-33-of-Search-Traffic-Study)

         Google Adwords Suggested bid (CPC): £14.85

         (32.5% x 2292) x £14.85 = £11061.77

          So, Google Adwords is basically telling us the no.1 ranking on Google for this keyword per month, should cost somewhere in the region of £11061.77 per month. (This is an approximate only, very rough estimate)

So you should ask yourself: why would someone offer an organic no.1 Google ranking for this keyword for £200 a month when Google themselves are charging £11061.77 per month.

Hopefully you can see from this example the value of a no.1 ranking on Google.

The days of hitting no.1 on Google for a few hundred £ are long gone. (Assuming a non-long tail competitive keyword phrase)


Blackhat SEO

You should always be on the lookout for Blackhat SEO on offer; this tends to fall in the bracket of scam SEO as the results offered tend to be unrealistic and there is a lot of “cutting corners” that take place.

This method will also lead to penalties on Google!  In a Blackhat SEO campaign good rankings can often been seen in the first few months, followed by a sheer drop in rankings and traffic when Google catches up and spots all the unnatural (black hat) links that have been built.

I learnt a new word today relating to this…


“In computing, spamdexing (also known as search engine spam, search engine poisoning, Black-Hat SEO, search spam or web spam)[1] is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes”

Commonly also known as black hat SEO, this is something you should being keeping an eye out for.

Phrases to watch for:

“…Guaranteed Page One Rankings..” – maybe, but only “for a very long tail niche keyword” with no search volume.

“.. Blast your website with 1000+ backlinks” – links from websites you definitely do not want to be linked from…this will most likely result in a Google penalty.

“700 Backlinks Google Panda Penguin Safe in High PR” – similar to above.

“400% increase in traffic” – context: I had 1 visitor, now I have 4… this is just cheap sales talk. Relevant traffic is what you want, not just traffic. 10 million hits are no good if they don’t produce any conversations for you.

All in all, if someone is offering no.1 on Google for £100 a month, or many many backlinks for only a few pounds, this isn’t going to help your website rank. In fact now more than ever (due to Google penguin, manual action penalties, panda etc) it is extremely likely to do more harm to your websites rankings than good!


How do you identify a reputable SEO company?

Now you’ve read up on what SEO is, how it works, and you’ve become a master at identifying the companies “on the scam”; how do you go about finding yourself a legitimate and reputable SEO company to help bring you to the top of Google?

Once you find a company that doesn’t promise you super stardom in the eyes of Google, you are going to want to have a look through their website and services to make sure they’re the type of company that can provide the service you require.

Check the company you’ve found can be located in Companies House. This is a good indication that you will be dealing with a real company and not a one man band trying to make quick penny. SEO is about the long term relationship. http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/

They offer resources on their website to help fully inform you about SEO so you’re not making a judgement in the dark.

They offer a ‘portfolio’ of current and past customers who have good Google rankings. They may even have a testimonials section with positive customer feedback.

Their email contains their company URL and not Hotmail or Gmail. (ie …[email protected] not [email protected])


Seo is Real

You may have the impression that SEO is a thing of the past. Although this may pertain to the methods of old, SEO is still very much an extremely important aspect of digital marketing. It has simply changed into something far more organic and natural where ‘quick fixes’ don’t come into play anymore. In a world where search engines wish to provide its users with the very best of what they’re searching for, an SEO campaign becomes long term and on-going process where you are proving yourself to be a leading relevant source when it comes to your keywords.