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Empty Promises and Odd Prices – 5 SEO Company Red Flags To Avoid

SEO Red Flag

If you own an email address and work at or run a business, you probably have received the lovely emails detailing some unknown company’s ability to revamp your SEO efforts. From outlandish claims to questionable prices, don’t be deceived by these propositions.

In addition, you may have been contacted by engine optimization companies in your area who are also looking to sell you on their services.

How do you know which company to choose?

Although most of your decision will be based on your gut feeling, initial meeting, and the information they present to you, you should also be on the lookout for the following red flags commonly exhibited by shady SEO companies.

Offering a ‘Too Good To Be True’ Price

There are companies that offer their SEO services for a ‘too good to be true’ price. For instance, GoDaddy offers their SEO services for $2.95 a month.

Really? $3.00 per month for a large digital marketing investment?

If I didn’t have a college education, experience working with and implementing SEO services, general intuition and good ol’ common sense, I’d be convinced that this was an amazing offer.

Search engine optimization is a long-term investment you are making for your company. The tactics implemented are designed to take months upon months in order to have a lasting effect. With the amount of work that goes into each tactic, doesn’t it seem a bit suspicious that these companies are charging such a low amount for their time and energy?

Should you choose to be convinced by the ridiculously low prices provided by companies that do not specialize in SEO, understand that the amount of service you receive will be equivalent to the price.

$3.00/month? Don’t expect great results.

Unrealistic Services and Empty Promises

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that it takes time to gain a strong ranking in the search results. However, some companies (specifically ones that are incredibly spammy) love to tell you all about their ability to get YOU and YOUR business to the top of the search rankings in a week. Insert cheesy salesperson wink here.

Ha. That’s a good one.

Organic search engine optimization takes time, strategic planning, and more time. It can be compared to building a garden from the ground up. You start with a single seed. By properly watering the seed, providing sunlight and adding more plants, over time you will have a beautiful and prospering garden.

With SEO, you have to take your time and build upon your resources and ranking. From keyword research to link building to implementing other tactics, you need to build your ‘digital SEO garden’ over time.

Typical empty and unrealistic SEO promises include (enjoy my sarcastic exaggerations):

  • Top Google Rankings in Only 2 Days!
  • Increase web traffic by a billion percent!
  • High Quality SEO Tactics for Only 1 Penny!

Do these phrases seem too good to be true? It’s because they are. Authentic SEO companies understand that they cannot guarantee top rankings, amazing website traffic, and other metrics. However, they will do all that they can in their power to strive towards those goals. Google even mentions the following line in their guidelines on search marketing: No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Do not fall for the blatantly empty promises from less than reputable SEO companies.

Lack of Reporting Measures

If you have the opportunity to meet with an SEO company, either in your local area or in a major city, be sure to ask about their reporting measures. Their answer will be telling of their validity as an SEO company.

A few companies love the “search for yourself” method. Essentially they tell you to search for a keyword related to your market, products or services, and see where you rank. Talk about lazy.

A great SEO company will provide you with much more than rankings. Be sure that your SEO company provides information on:

  • Traffic to your website
  • Links built
  • Directories
  • Listings claimed
  • Maps
  • Local search efforts
  • Maintaining or improving your search marketing plan

For the amount you’re paying for SEO, you deserve far more reporting than ‘just check Google’. Besides, depending on your location, device and search, your results may differ from theirs as Google takes a variety of factors into consideration when gathering search results.

Only Focuses on Rankings

Sure, showing up in the top search results is fantastic and will garner awareness for your brand in the long run. However, SEO deals with much, much more.

The purpose of SEO is to improve the amount of traffic to your website and ultimately drive sales of your product or service. Search engine optimization should be seen as an ongoing investment, not as a race to the first spot on Google, Yahoo or Bing.

If your SEO company only cares about improving your rankings, and not the traffic to your website, number of leads and quality of marketing for your business; run.

Type of SEO tactics used

You want your SEO partner to be completely upfront about each tactic they will employ, how they plan to implement said tactics, and what typical results will be. If the company is not transparent about their practices, it could come back to bite you in the end.

After you ask about their typical strategies, the ‘We Promise A Gajillion Links and a First Page Ranking in 30 Minutes’ companies will use cunning language to steer you away from your original question.

On the contrary, true SEO companies will explain HOW they obtain backlinks, what methods will be in place to raise your ranking, how they plan to drive traffic to your website, and the big kicker, how they will leverage content to tie it all together.

In the SEO world of today, content is the key to improved search marketing efforts. If your SEO company does not mention content in any aspect of your strategy, put down your pen, say ‘Have a good day’ and leave.

In order to have a successful search strategy, your business needs to produce and distribute original, fresh, and branded content to users on the Internet. From leveraging blogs and social media to reputable sharing strategies amongst other websites, content will be the turning point for your search marketing strategy. This holds true especially after Google’s latest Panda update.



Beware SEO firms that possess any of these warning traits. From uptight marketing firms that have been around since the dawn of time (with little experience in SEO) to straight up scams spamming your inbox with false ranking claims, the SEO industry is muddled with phonies. Look for a trustworthy, authentic and knowledgeable company to take care of your search engine optimization needs.

Hint: We can do that.



Join the Conversation

6 thoughts on “Empty Promises and Odd Prices – 5 SEO Company Red Flags To Avoid

  1. Too many companies don’t do due diligence when taking on SEO help, or indeed any technical help.

    I think this post sums up what happens when things go very wrong: http://www.sudorank.com/five-ways-keep-web-business-secured-human-factor/

    This is the most dangerous part of taking on SEO help IMHO. As much as they can be a great help (Which i’m sure Titan is a good example of) they could also be a bunch of people with no experience who’ll resort to shady tactics to fulfil their remit.

    1. Hi John,

      I read the Sudorank article you provided a link for and it raises some good points. You definitely need to be careful who you employ and how much access to information they get. We’ve had a few trouble spots of our own with past employees. The same kinds of things most businesses deal with. But because of the type of information we handle we’ve made sure to put as many safeguards in place as possible to avoid problems. One thing I’d like to mention is the problem with the SEO industry in general. It’s too easy to enter. Anybody off the street can become an SEO consultant. Read a few articles and suddenly they’re an expert in the field. Then they print some business cards and start selling their services to business owners that don’t know any better. We’ve run into a lot of business owners that have been burned by such people and this has led to the industry as a whole getting a bad reputation.

  2. I would stay away from Directories. Sure there is some good sites like DMOZ, but even people that used DMOZ received penalty notices in webmasters. There was a guy saying that he received an unatural link warning and his example was DMOZ that Google gave him.

    I would be very careful. Citations are okay pending they are quality sites like yelp, angieslist, etc..

    Have a great day.

  3. This is an excellent article. Very few SEO companies develop their strategies and long term plans. Even clients are fools to seek quick ranks and link the money they will give on how quickly ranks are achieved. SEO companies take advantage of that to mint money and ranks go for a toss.

  4. Great write up, Anne! Your $3.00 per month marketing budget is brilliant. I understand not every small business has deep pockets, but any decent SEO will cost you at least $500 per month. Then it goes up from there. You DO get what you pay for. Cheap is going to get you crap and most likely penalized. We had a CPA client who hired us for $800/month and he paid his first bill, then I found out his old web company hadn’t linked up to his Webmasters account (nor were they running one from another account), so he was blind sided when I logged right in and saw the manual spam notice sitting there FOR OVER 6 MONTHS!! No wonder he was losing rank.

    I informed him of this mess and that I would have to charge him to clean up and disavow and it was not part of our SEO campaigns and if he didn’t do this, then I couldn’t work with him because I told him my integrity is to not rip people off and be deceitful. I told him his old SEO guy should clean it, NOW and for FREE!

    Unfortunately, it would’ve been a good client, but in the end, I’m not going to work with a broken site for free to clean up someone else’s mess. Oh… he was paying them $300 per month and they were building links for a CPA firm to mommy blog and bakery blog sites. It was truly unreal 🙂

    Thanks for letting me share my, one of many, stories! Will be adding you to my Outlook RSS feed. – Patrick with Whiteboard Creations in Cary NC

  5. Hi Patrick!

    Thanks for your comment and for the RSS feed add! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    $3 a month for SEO does seem a bit low, doesn’t it! 😉 That’s quite the story you told. I was shocked when I read that Webmasters hadn’t been linked up. I love the comment about mommy and bakery blog links too!

    Thanks again for reading, have an awesome day!

    -Anne

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