They’ve gone by many names over the years. Charlatans. Snake oil salesmen. Politicians.
The one thing they all have in common is that they’re scam artists. They’re looking to pull the wool over your eyes and get something out of you with minimal effort. And like it or not, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is lousy with them.
The problem is twofold. First, there’s how jealously Google guards its algorithms. Everything we know about how the search engine functions is based largely on observational guesswork — the only people who can say with certainty what the algorithm is and does are the company’s own engineers.
Second is the fact that, at least on the surface, SEO seems almost overwhelmingly complex. To a layperson, it seems like a highly technical field, one that requires years of expertise to grasp. This means that when someone comes along who claims to know what they’re doing, it’s easy to fall into their trap.
Here are a few things you can look for to help you tell the difference between a fraud and a genuine article.
They Offer Guaranteed Results
One of the first things you learn about SEO is that nothing is guaranteed. While it would certainly be nice if you could secure the highest spot on the search engine results page (SERP), that isn’t what SEO is about at its core. It’s right there in the name.
It’s about making your website better. About improving it so it plays nice with Google’s algorithms, and creating better, more valuable content for your audience. The real experts understand this, so they’re not going to promise you the sun and stars.
The “experts,” on the other hand, are likely to make sweeping claims and concrete guarantees, a sure sign they’re either clueless or scam artists.
They Claim To Possess Insider Knowledge
Remember when we said the only people who actually know how Google’s algorithms function are its own engineers? While per The Search Engine Journal, a court case from earlier this year may require the company to publicly disclose its algorithms, for the moment, the inner workings of the world’s largest search engine are functionally a mystery. And anyone who claims to know those inner workings is full of it.
Everyone who works with Google’s search engine signs a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement (NDA). And anyone violating that NDA could easily find themselves on the wrong end of Google’s entire legal department. As such, if someone comes to you claiming they have insider knowledge from Google, disregard them.
They Act Like Technical SEO Is All That Matters
There was a time when technical SEO was the be-all and end-all of search. When keywords and backlinks were all your page needed to perform well. But that time is well behind us.
Savvy SEO professionals understand that. while technical optimization still plays an important role, a page’s content is infinitely more important. If your content doesn’t provide value to its audience, then it doesn’t matter how much technical work you do — you aren’t likely to perform.
A scam artist, meanwhile, may try to downplay the importance of content creation and content marketing. They may try to talk about buying and selling backlinks or confuse you with technical jargon. Again, don’t listen.
Seek The Right Expertise
There’s no shortage of snake oil salesmen in the SEO space. Learning how to recognize them is the first step to guarding yourself against them. We’d also advise teaching yourself some of the basics of SEO, as well —all the better to recognize when someone is trying to fleece you.