Nothing attracts the scammers like a recently launched new, redesigned, or rebuilt web site. Like mosquitoes, scammers seek a fresh warm meal. The scammers (or rogue optimizer’s) common approach is to claim that they are Google authorized or certified consultants and they tell you that your site is not being found by the search engines, or you are not listed by the major search engines … well, the scammers seemed to have no trouble finding you! What should that be telling us?

Web site SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization’ can potentially improve a site and its search ranking. SEO is a combination of applied techniques and tactics that vary based on a company’s goals and other defining factors. Responsible web marketers design and build sites that are search engine-friendly from the ground up… and good SEO efforts can help improve existing sites too.

Scammers insert doubt and fear into the SEO process and prey upon innocent business owners. Companies can protect themselves and find reputable SEO sources. For valuable, authoritative SEO insight and direction we merely have to turn to Google, the King-of-Search.

On their web site Google states, “Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results.”

Google also points out these things to consider:

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.

  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.

Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.

  • You should never have to link to an SEO.

Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.

  • Choose wisely.

While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course.

  • Be sure to understand where the money goes.

While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results.

  • What are some other things to look out for?

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO company:

  • owns ‘shadow’ domains
  • puts links to their other clients on ‘doorway’ pages
  • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
  • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
  • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
  • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
  • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
  • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

A landscape contractor client of ours who has been approached by scammers inquired of us about one scammer in particular… their claims were appealing, but still found them somewhat dubious. We ran the scammers name through the Better Business Bureau and found they had a poor rating and had operated under a number of alias business names in the past. This old axiom applies particularly well to new scammers, ‘if their claims seem too good to be true then the likelihood is… they aren’t true’.

Being aware and informed is the best ‘mosquito’ repellent you can have. Send the scammers fleeing with your insight and knowledge.

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