There are many shady SEOs out there; we call these guys Snake Oil salesmen because they’re scammers who would sell their own grandmothers given half a chance.
These are the guys who offer “Guaranteed” first page listings in a ridiculously short period of time. They target small businesses that don’t have a huge budget and are easily sucked into the vortex of deception. Of course, it’s not only small businesses that get approached, but these are the guys who will feel the impact most.
Whatever means these SEOs use to achieve rankings and deliver promised traffic, they cannot be ethical. At the end of the day, many small business owners don’t know any better, all they really know about SEO is what these conmen have sold him. Promises of great traffic and impressive listings, and they are sold. These are the bandits that give us ethical SEOs a really bad name and they must be stopped.
So what can we do, you ask?
Agreed, these “guarantees” are very tempting. According to a blog post by Rishil on SEO Moz, the only way around this is to ensure that you have measures in place to protect your current clients and ensure that you empower and enlighten all new clients.
These are interesting observations, and I tend to agree. The argument goes as follows:
As ethical SEOs, we need to protect our clients by empowering and educating them. When a client receives a fluffy email from a shady SEO (this will happen often) that promises them 1st page glory within a matter of days, we need to make sure that that she or he is aware of the SEO processes and elements that make such guarantees virtually impossible. If something sounds too good to be true… it is!
If we have done our job properly, our clients should have some knowledge of basic SEO. Enough to know when there are fundamental SEO issues at play. Make sure that they know what all the essential processes involved are and how critical it is not to miss a beat. Taking all this into consideration, once clients examine the validity of what conmen are saying, the facts will speak for themselves. They will realise soon enough that it is a scam and that there is no quick way to get these kinds of results. To prove the point further, ensure you always use Google webmaster guidelines as a reference to back up your claims.
I use this tactic for several different questions that clients may have, and nothing works better because the guidelines provide solid, factual information directly from the horse’s mouth. There is a wealth of information available to everyone and nothing dissolves doubt faster than hard facts. Take this SEO Definition by Google for example:
Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue. Amazingly, we get these spam emails too: “Dear Google.com, I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…” 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.
On the other side of the fence, we have all seen potential new clients who are mystified and delighted by these black magic types. These clients have been promised all the riches in the land, with guarantees to boost. The best way forward is to ask them the very same questions that you asked your clients. By educating and enlightening them you will not only earn a great deal of respect, but you will also be one step closer to eradicating these conmen from the world.
It’s all about complete transparency and truth; don’t beat around the bush and always keep the client in the loop; this is a principle that we at MediaVision believe is the most import of all. If we empower all clients to distinguish between ethical and shady SEO, then half our job is done.
At the end of the day, there is nothing more impressive than a solid track record of ethical practices, transparency with all existing and potential clients, empowerment, training and communication. All this, backed up by a comprehensive strategy and realistic targets, and you have all the ingredients needed to succeed as an ethical SEO agency, because good can prevail over evil.