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Shady SEO – The FirstFound Scam Guide

Posted on 4th May, 2010 by ffdevteam

Search Engine Optimisation

Online marketing has acquired a bad reputation over the years, and it’s thanks to scam artists. For every professional company committed to ethical techniques and White Hat SEO, is a band of rogues just trying to make a quick buck. To try and help you distinguish the one from the other, the bloggers here at FirstFound have put together a Scam Guide. It’s by no means comprehensive, but it will help you avoid some of the more prevalent scams.

The FirstFound Scam Guide to Shady SEO

The Number One Scam – Guaranteed Rankings

The whole point of SEO is to get your business listed as high up on the search engines as possible, as that’s where your prospective customers are looking. It’s the goal every SEO company strives for.

But sometimes, it just isn’t possible. So any company that out and out guarantees you a page one listing is being economical with the truth. Either that or they’ve got a keyword lined up for you that nobody is searching for. Also be sceptical of anyone saying a “space has opened up on Page One” – that’s not how search engines work.

FirstFound’s Tip to Avoid the Guaranteed Listings Scam: Ask them what keyword they want to target, and then ask yourself if you can imagine anyone putting it in to Google. Also check that they’re talking about organic search, as with enough of your money, they can get to the top of the Pay Per Click listings.

The Too Much of a Good Thing Scam – Link Spamming

High quality, relevant, dofollow, one-way links are SEO gold dust. We’re not going to take issue with that. In fact, we wholeheartedly agree that a few good links are usually essential for SEO success. No, what we take exception at is the people who only remember the last part of that sentence. If someone tells you “links are SEO gold dust“, you need to dig deeper.

When you’re talking about thousands of low-quality backlinks from unsavoury sites, links are not gold dust. They’re potentially harmful. At worst they’ll get you blacklisted, at best they’ll waste you money. Either way, they’re not going to help your listings.

FirstFound’s Tip to Avoid the Link Spam Scam: Ask them where these links are coming from. If they can’t tell you, or mention astronomical numbers and no guarantee of quality, steer clear. You want to hear words like “relevant” and “good quality”.

The 2D Pyramid Scheme Scam – Triangular Linking Schemes

As we touched upon above, one-way links carry more weight with the search engines than reciprocal links. Cunning scam artists have found a way around this though. If you link your site to site B, site B will link to site C, and site C will then link back to you.

But if site B and C both need more links, then surely they won’t have any authority to pass back to you? The triangular linking scheme sounds good on the surface, but you can be sure the sites you link to and are linked back from won’t be of a good quality. They probably also won’t be relevant. And a relevant reciprocal link is generally better than an irrelevant one way link.

FirstFound’s Tip to Avoid theTriangular Linking Scam: Ask the SEO in question what the Page Rank of the two sites you’re linking up with is. Then compare it with your own. Chances are that you’ll all have a PR of 0-2, and will be passing very little authority round in a circle. Also ask for URLs and check out the sites yourself. On the off chance that they are relevant, email the owners yourself and save a few pounds!

The Your Site Isn’t Your Site Scam – Intellectual Property Rights

This applies more to web designers than SEOs, but it serves as an example as to why you should always read your contracts. Once you’ve paid for a domain name to be registered, paid for a site design, paid for the build and then paid for it all to go live, you’d think you now own a website. It’s a reasonable assumption.

However, some companies retain IPR on website designs, meaning that if you decide to leave them, or have work done elsewhere, they’ll turn your website off and redirect your domain name back to their site. Leaving you with no website, and considerably out of pocket.

FirstFound’s Tip to Avoid the Intellectual Property Rights Scam: Always, always, always read the small print. If it looks dodgy to you, make sure you at least buy your own domain name and hosting through a third party. That way if they do ever turn your site off, you’ll be in a position to have a new site built straight away, and you won’t lose any links or authority your domain has built up.

The My Mate Said Scam – We’ve Got an Insider

This is a particularly transparent scam, but one that seems to be used a lot. Sometimes an SEO will claim to have a “man on the inside” at Google or Yahoo, and have access to “secret knowledge and techniques”. Without wasting too much of your time, they don’t.

The Search Engine algorithms are changed almost daily by teams of dozens of engineers. The chances of one of those engineers knowing all the inner workings of the search engines may not be astronomical, but the chances of such a person selling that knowledge to SEOs is.

FirstFound’s Tip to Avoid the Insider Scam: Laugh. Laugh long and laugh loud. Then hang up.

We’re not here to name names, to comment on selling practises or to try and drum up business at the expense of our competition, just to provide you with honest advice on some of the more unscrupulous tactics and techniques the shadier quarters of the SEO industry employ. If you have any additions to the FirstFound Scam Guide, please leave a comment in the comments section below, or contact us via the FirstFound Twitter account.


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