As a small business owner, you may not be familiar with Search Engine Optimization. In short, Search Engine Optimization or SEO refers to how visible your website is on search engines like Bing and Google, and the methods you use to increase your ranking. The more unique and visited your site is, the higher your ranking will be and the more people will see it.

Even if you just created a website, you are probably eager to increase your visibility online to gain new customers, especially if you already have an online marketplace setup or you use a public forum like Etsy, Amazon, or Ebay.

You may have also noticed all the marketing and advertising companies that have popped up online recently. While most of them are legitimate, there may be ones that are trying to scam you, especially when it comes to SEO. They may claim to know how to raise SEO. They may even claim to have insider knowledge and can “guarantee” a boost in ratings. Unless they are Google themselves, this is a lie.

The fact is that, beyond the generic information provided by Google here, SEO criteria are hidden. After all, if anyone were to find out how search engines rank websites, they could manipulate the system unfairly. If everyone were to find out, the system would be useless at ranking sites by merit.

The best, although it may not necessarily be the fastest, way to raise your SEO ranking is to simply provide new and original information on your website at a regular interval. Spread it around your contacts and, if it goes “viral,” you will experience a boost in traffic that will look favorably on your SEO ranking.

Protect yourself and protect your business by knowing what an SEO scam looks like. Here are the top four SEO scams to watch out for.

Guaranteed Rankings in a Day/Week/Month?

One of the most common and popular SEO scams, some companies will “guarantee” a favorable SEO ranking within a short time frame. Unless you are Ryan Reynolds and you are just starting a website now, there is no way you can achieve a massive, sustainable spike in SEO over a long period of time.

These companies will resort to behavior like hiding invisible web links in your code, or use keyword stuffing in your content in order to increase your visibility. However, search engines frown upon this behavior and, when caught (because it is not a matter of if!), you will be penalized for it. Do not risk your business’s reputation. Think about the long-term.

Free SEO Services

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As a business owner you do not get paid in exposure. It should be immediately suspect if an SEO company tells you they will give you free services. Why? Well, they will most likely ask you for private information concerning your website, like your administrator login and password, or at worst, your credit card and other financial details. Do not give your private details to anyone you do not know.

If it seems too good to be true, be cautious. Tell them you will not give them private information and see how they react. Contact their previous clients and ask them about their services. Make sure you can absolutely trust them before you give them your information. In addition, you should be suspect of anyone who can claim short-term results, especially when SEO cultivation and improvement is a long-term project.

They Are New Yet Boast Their Experience

New companies should not have a wealth of experience, generally speaking. Of course, exceptions exist like an executive leaving his or her company, starting a new company, and transferring over his or her clients. However, be suspect if an SEO company is new and constantly tells you of their ability and expertise, especially if they will not show you their portfolio. They may be lying to you. Here is a tool where you can look up the age of a web domain.

Ask them who their previous clients were. Contact those clients for a recommendation. Fact-check everything they say. If a 22 year old is calling him or herself a CEO and their last name is not Zuckerberg, you would be suspect of them. Why not apply the same standard to businesses and corporations?

They Mention Insider Contacts

You may be approached by an SEO company that boasts their connection to an “inside man” at Google, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. Not only is this information meaningless to your SEO but it may be a sign they are trying to scam you. First, hundreds and thousands of people work at these company. They work as janitors, chefs, receptionists, marketers, and drivers.

Even if an SEO company knew a member of the team that created, updated, or patched the search engine in question, those members would have signed non-disclosure agreements, forbidding them from sharing insider knowledge under threat of termination or even a lawsuit. Why would they share secret information with an SEO company, and why would that company share information with you?

Second, people do not determine SEO rankings, algorithms do. Even if their contact wrote the algorithm and was willing to share information about it and you could verify who they were, this connection is still meaningless. Search engine algorithms are constantly being updated so by the time you hear any information about it, it is too late to help you. Be wary of companies like this.

So What Should You Expect From a Reputable SEO Company?

A reputable SEO company will have a representative meet with you, analyze your site, and provide tips and recommendations to improve your SEO. They may try and push a service (because they are a business, after all), and if they do, this service will be presented as gradual, offering slow and stable growth over the long-term.

You will be provided with accurate information about marketing and your industry, the types of reasonable results that you can expect, and you will not be pressured into purchasing anything if you state you are not interested. If that is the case, they will leave you their contact information for you to mull over their services and whether you want them to help build and grow your online reputation.

A good SEO company will not be aggressive, they will not promise you the moon, and they will not lie to you. However, the onus is always on you to check, just like any other business partnership you are participating in.

Write On provides SEO services to its clients, among many other things. Do you have a question about SEO and whether it is the right plan for you? Feel free to leave a comment and we’d be happy to help you out.