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How to Detect Poor SEO Consultants or Companies

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    Anyone who’s anyone in the SEO biz will remember about half a year back when Derek Powazek went on a wild-eyed, mouth-foaming diatribe against SEO.  “SEO is not a legitimate form of marketing… SEO is poisoning the web…you’re sacrificing your brand integrity in a Faustian bargain for an increase in traffic that won’t last the month.”

    The irony is that this particular blog post was an inspired tactical SEO maneuver and an outrageously obvious piece of link bait.  (And yes, that was correct usage of the word “irony”.)  A storm of responses arose from the indignant and very legitimate SEOs of the likes of Danny Sullivan and Peter da Vanzo, all righteously blasting Powazek and defending what SEOs do and why they do it.  In a very clear and concise manner, I might add, which completely ripped Powazek’s blog post to shreds.  Go team SEO!

    Putting Powazek’s pseudo-intellectualism aside, however, the man does make an excellent point.  There are many “SEOs” out there who are…how shall I put this…complete and utter crap.  And spew complete and utter crap in the form of a marketing pitch so that you will buy into their ability to make your site perform and pay off for all of the time and money that you have invested in it.  And of course, them.

    On the flip side there are some excellent and very earnest SEOs out there who do their job and do it well.  Who really know their stuff, and who get excited when your site performs because it reflects well on them and their abilities.  The question is, how do you as an uninformed potential consumer tell the difference?

    • Transparency

    Real SEOs aren’t interested in smoke and mirrors.  Fact: you’re paying them for their expertise.  If you could do it, you would.  Anyone CAN learn SEO – the reason that you’re paying someone to do SEO for you is because you’re not interested or because it’s not worth your time.  So a real SEO will have no problem being quite clear about exactly what he or she is doing, and answering all of your questions patiently.  Scammers and spammers, however, will try to dodge questions and use oblique and evasive terminology that will confuse you enough to think that they know what they’re talking about.

    • Promises

    Rule numero uno of SEO: Never.  Promise.  Anything.  Ever.  SEO is evolutionary to the extreme – Google needs to constantly and consistently update its algorithm to keep ahead of spammers so that they are serving relevant and useful results to users.  Therefore, SEO methodologies likewise need to constantly and consistently shift in order to keep up with the Googles.  Which means that a website ranking because it utilizes a specific factor may drop in rankings tomorrow because the importance of that factor has been drastically reduced. Anyone claiming that they can guarantee a number one space for your site for competitive keywords is flat out lying.  An SEO who can provide long-term results will use language such as “should” and “attempt”.  It sounds counter-intuitive to hire someone who is specifically NOT guaranteeing results, but in this particular instance it’s the best way to go.

    • References/portfolio

    This may seem like business 101, but I’m saying it anyway.  To be fair, many times an SEO will need to sign an NDA with his or her clients. That’s fine.  If such is the case, he or she should be able to provide two to three professional references in lieu of a portfolio.

    Of course, my ultimate fail-safe recommendation to not get scammed by SEO scammers is to just learn a bit about the industry yourself. I would recommend Google Webmaster Central and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Barring that, use the above-mentioned tips, and be skeptical. And never, ever be afraid to ask questions.

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