4 Ways Your SEO Company Scams You, and How to Fix Them


I have worked for several companies doing SEO and related services. I have seen first hand the ways these companies take advantage of their clients. Some SEO companies scam you deliberately, others just don’t know any better.

Here are 5 things that you will likely encounter if you have hired or are looking to hire an SEO company:

1. Reporting
Each month/week you usually get an SEO report. These vary widely, and often the client doesn’t understand the meaning of the numbers or isn’t able to effectively interpret the data to understand what influence the SEO company is having. These can include things like keyword rankings website traffic, adwords activity, and more.

The truth is, a good SEO can manipulate the reports quite easily. It’s quite simple to mask poor results. They can change the dates of the report to find a time period that has more suitable data, or even mask the fact that certain reports aren’t included while sending other *new* reports that distract the client from the truth.

How to fight this:
SEO companies take advantage of ignorance and disinterest. Most clients just pay them money and hope they get some sort of return on it. If you want to make the money you spend on SEO go far, you need to engage with your SEO company. Look through the reports, ask what they mean, and PUSH them hard. Always ask “what are you going to do this month to help me get more customers and revenue?” That will force them to focus on tactics that will actually make a difference rather than doing the same old things just to make you comfortable sending them a check.

2. Tasks & Tactics
SEO is a black box. Most people believe that and because of it they are pretty clueless as to the inputs and outputs. A common tactic used by SEO companies is to use big words and talk about complex tactics when all they are doing is masking the basic & not so useful work actually being done.

For example, they might talk about backlinks and link building. Most people don’t really understand what those things are let alone the value they have. The concepts usually do not change but they way they are accomplished is always changing. Effective link building today is nothing like it was 5 or 10 years ago.

How to fight this:
Routinely ask for a list of the tasks being done for your company. Always ask for clarification on what the tasks are, why they are important, and how they are going to bring you more business. If they cannot answer those questions then it’s time to rethink your strategy or get a new provider.

3. Lack of information around ROI and Conversions
If you are paying $1000 a month for SEO, how much are you getting in return? Ideally for every dollar you put into the machine, you get two more. In the SEO industry this takes time and knowledge to figure out, and few companies take the time to do it. If they are not able to prove to you the return on your investment, you should either scale back how much you are spending with them or just leave them entirely.

SEO companies take advantage of the common conception that it’s important to do SEO and rank in Google. They avoid having to prove your ROI by sticking with the “it’s important and everyone needs to do it, even if we don’t really know the results” mantra.

How to fight this:
Proving ROI is very hard, but you should not be spending hundreds or thousands of your companies hard-earned dollars if they aren’t able to at least give some insight on how they are bringing in more business. Demand data on conversions, leads, and sales. Ask them to prove their worth to your company, you will be surprised with what they can come up with .

4. Contracts
A characteristic of a shady SEO company is a contract, especially ones for 3 months or more. You will always hear the typical “SEO takes time to see results” shpeal, but frankly that should be simple a mutual understanding without the requirement of a contract. You should have the right to cancel even after the first month if you aren’t happy with how they are performing.

How to fight this:
If an SEO company truly values your business and has confidence in their work, they will have no problem doing a monthly agreement. Just make sure that you keep them on their toes. If you are in a contract now, demand that they change it to be a monthly agreement. It doesn’t matter what they come back with, if they aren’t willing to change they are just trying to take your money.

The key to all of this is an increased interest in the work being done for your company. Most people who have hired an SEO company do so because they have no time and lack the skills to do the work. They are so busy with their work they don’t follow up. Over time this has been so common that SEO scams are quite popular. Hold your agency accountable, and ask hard questions. Make them earn their money, and justify the reason for remaining your provider.

If you are interested, we provide a simple independent auditing service for those who have SEO companies or individuals doing work for their business. We take a look at the work being done and provide you with a comprehensive (but easy to understand) report outlining the problem areas, opportunities, and recommendations. Visit our digital marketing audit page for more information. And leave a comment below with your experiences, we would love to hear from you!