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Everyone wants to rank first on Google and every company wants to tell you they can get you there. The truth is, there are a lot of companies who will try to pull SEO scams and tell you what you want to hear. Whether it's telling you you can be number one on Google in weeks to filling your website with spam links, here are a few lies business owners should watch out for before partnering with an SEO firm.

1. Only Reporting on Keyword Rankings

This is one of the biggest red flags we often see. Keywords are a critical part of the SEO process, but they aren't the only or the most important thing. "SEO experts" will often present you with sparkly reports that tell you you're ranking number one for a high number of nonsense keywords that do nothing for your business. It's very easy to manipulate a report to look good, and keywords will often be the only thing these companies report on.

Not all keywords are created equal, so ranking number one for "dirt patch underwater jet ski" doesn't do much for you. If a company tells you that keywords are the only thing that matters, they're lying to you. Ideally, your SEO company will collaborate with you to see what areas and categories you are trying to rank for and go from there. It's better to rank number 10 for a keyword critical for your business than to rank 1 in a bunch of random keywords.

2. Guarantees

"You'll be ranking number one on Google in a month! Guaranteed!" "Your website will get 100% more traffic in a week!" "You'll be ranking for all your top keywords!"

We hear this all the time and every time we roll our eyes. This is another huge lie told by SEO agencies to get you to sign up. The truth is, there is no exact time frame for how long it takes to rank highly on search engines. Some industries are more competitive than others, Google is constantly updating itself, and other companies are also constantly putting in SEO work. Sure, a company can tell you that your rankings will improve and you'll rank higher, but guaranteeing the number one spot on Google is an impossible promise.

Google themselves says that you should not trust a company that tries to guarantee the number one position. Further, no company has a special relationship with Google. So any guarantee that they have "insider knowledge" is false. Google does not partner with outside businesses for SEO purposes.

3. Not Explaining Their Strategies

"It's too complicated, let us handle it."

SEO, while a technical service, can be explained to almost anyone who takes the time to listen. Don't ever believe a company that tells you that you wouldn't understand what they are doing behind the scenes and that you should just trust them.

Doing effective SEO is a process like anything else. Good Search Engine Optimization businesses will take the time to sit down with you and explain the process start to finish. While some of the more technical strategies might be confusing, the overall tactics should be very clear.

4. Utilizing Spam Tactics

This one is a little harder to detect, but if you use the tactics above and get your SEO company to explain to you their strategies, you should be able to get an idea. There are many bad practices or Black Hat SEO techniques that companies employ to get quick results. These are frowned upon by Google and can damage your site's ranking way more than it boosts it. Google heavily punishes cheaters on its platform.

Here are a few things to watch out for. If the content a company is writing for your website seems strangely stiff and not interesting to read, they may be employing keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is exactly what it sounds like. Companies will write content that is just a jumble of keywords they want to rank for. The hope is that Google will see how many times their site mentions a certain keyword and think they're relevant. More often than not, however, Google will notice that the content is low quality and ignore the stuffed page or even temporarily blacklist the site so it can't show up on Google. If your SEO service seems to be writing nonsense, they may be keyword-stuffing your website.

Another Black hat SEO tactic that companies frequently try to employ is link spamming. If a company's sales pitch to you is the promise of "hundreds of inbound links", you should be wary. Obviously, links are important and you want people to link to your website, but you want high-quality links, not spammy links. In fact, if you all of a sudden get hundreds of spam links, Google might punish you for trying to cheat the system. Link schemes are frequently employed at bad SEO companies. They will often secretly link all their clients' websites together. Even though you may get more links from their other clients, the links will most likely not apply in your industry. If Google finds out all these unrelated businesses are linking to each other in a circle, you could be in trouble.

5. Focusing on Traffic and Rankings Rather Than ROI

As we talked about briefly earlier, rankings aren't everything. If your SEO service gives you reports with 1,000% higher traffic and 500 first-ranking keywords, but you haven't really seen an increase in calls or leads, you may be getting tricked. Bad SEO companies can easily flood your site with traffic that stays only for a moment before bouncing away, giving the appearance of humongous traffic boosts. In reality, this traffic does nothing for you but bump up the number.

It's important to monitor your ROI (return on investment) when dealing with SEO companies. Reasonably, if your traffic does go up by 1,000% with real clients, you should see a significant increase in calls and leads. It won't always match it exactly, but it should be there. Further, if you're spending thousands a month on SEO for an extra hundred dollars in sales, is it really worth it? Make sure you know what you're getting for your investment!

6. Quick Results

This one seems a little odd. Obviously, quick results would support that your SEO company knows what they're doing, right? As you're probably starting to realize, there are many ways to artificially inflate traffic and rankings. A huge jump in rankings or traffic in the first month should be a little suspicious unless your website is just starting out or you had almost no content on your site before.

Small gains in the first few months are to be expected. Good SEO is an investment and a process. It takes time to grow, with steady returns along the way. Most SEO success stories were built up over time. That's not to say you won't see some good increases as you start out, but you should be wary of your site taking off overnight.

Do your research before hiring an SEO company

All of these bad tactics can make hiring an SEO firm seem a little daunting. Despite the warning signs to watch out for above, there are many great SEO tactics and SEO firms that can actually work for your business and get you real long-term growth. You've got to make sure you look into the company you're hiring to see that they have proven results. A good SEO agency will be upfront with you about what they're doing and what's going on with your account.

As always, if you need help wading into the SEO world or have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us.