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The Biggest SEO Scam of All
By Cari Haus
While there are many ethical SEO firms serving Internet
users today, a few notorious practitioners also exist. One
of them called me just the other day.
"We can get your site to be number one in the search
engines for the top 20 search terms you choose," promised the telemarketer. I don't usually give telemarketers the time of day, but somehow found this fellow to be intriguing. It was a cold and snowy day in Michigan right at the moment, and somehow I felt warmer just hearing him glow about the sunshine beaming through his own office windows.
"Show me results," I requested. So we cruised the web
together, and he showed me some client sites that really
did have top rankings. At first glance the sales spiel
sounded rather inviting, but after taking some time to
consider and evaluate his company, I determined that what this friendly young salesman offered was nothing more than a scam.
As I did my homework, several red flags jumped out at me. By researching his company on the Internet, I learned that they employed no less than 250 telemarketers soliciting SEO clients on a continual basis. With all due respect to the size of this company, I found it hard to believe that they could service the numerous SEO clients they were recruiting in a very meaningful way.
I asked the salesman about this the next time he called.
He informed me that their SEO service was highly automated, built on proprietary technology that was so ahead of its time that no other firm could compete. In case you didn't catch it, the previous sentence contained red flag #2. In the words of the old adage, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably it."
The above was only the tip of the iceberg, however. Upon
further questioning of my enthusiastic sales contact, I
learned that it wasn't really my url that they wanted to
promote. Their plan was much more beneficial--for
themselves, that is. They would set-up urls to be doorway
pages to my website. Their urls, not mine, would be
optimized to get high in the search engines. They would
maintain control of and ownership of the urls, so if I ever
went out of business, they could sell all that traffic-and
value I had paid so dearly for-to one of my competitors.
Pretty nice deal for them. I pay them big bucks on an
annual basis to drive traffic to a url which they-not
me--own. Of course, I would benefit from whatever sales
came through their url as long as I continued to ante up
I had a good friend who fell prey to this scheme a few
years back. An unscrupulous SEO "specialist" talked her
into paying big bucks for a website with a url which the
SEO firm owned and controlled. The SEO firm then billed my friend much more than they had originally contracted for. When she balked at the bill, they threatened to shut down traffic to the site.
While this firm also promised hordes of traffic and top
search engine listings, the only significant traffic my
friend ever got was garnered through pay-per-click. To
make matters worse, the SEO firm hid links to their sites
throughout the html of her website.
Another fault I found with the SEO firm mentioned first in
this article was the search terms they crowed about taking first place for. To say the least, they were rather
obscure. It's a pretty impressive accomplishment to come up first on the web for the search term "furniture" or even "log furniture". But if you design a page that brings up your company first on Google for a search of "Birmingham Tuscaloosa Avenue Dry Cleaners", big deal. And that's what this SEO firm was doing.
Although I never seriously considered dropping $3000 or
whatever it was for their services, the final clincher came
when I asked what type of traffic I could expect for
digging into my pockets.
"I can get you an average of 100 hits per day," he told me. Then he showed me stats on some of their clients sites that had, over the course of a year, built up to 100 hits per day. I don't know about you, but I want a lot more
than 100 unique hits per day on my website. I've achieved those kinds of numbers-and better-by myself. Why should I pay them for what I consider to be mediocre results?
Don't get me wrong. I do believe in SEO firms, and because of the success I've been having on some of my top search terms, may engage in that business myself someday. But after researching the issues carefully, I would warn fellow webmasters to beware of any SEO firm that:
. employs a boiler room full of telemarketers
. automates most or all of their services
. insists on gaining and retaining control of the url to be
. focuses on lengthy and obscure search strings
. touts sites that are garnering a mere 100 hits per day as
examples of their success.
Of all the bad practices mentioned above, the one I found
most offensive was the idea that the SEO firm should own
or control my url. While owning the url would seem like a
good idea for the SEO firm (they could always collect their
fees by threatening to shut down the site), it isn't so
nifty for the client. If I pay a firm to build my
business, I want them to do just that-build my business.
To pay a firm to build traffic to a url they own is really
like paying them to build their business-and that, in my
opinion, is the biggest SEO scam of all.
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