We’ve spoken before about the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO, as well as some guidelines on how to choose an SEO company, but what we haven’t done is identify the ways in which shady SEO companies approach their victims and how you can avoid them.  Today, we’ll identify some of techniques these businesses use and give some pointers and tips on making sure you never get suckered by a shady SEO company.

The most important thing to note about shady SEO companies is that they function like most other shady companies.  They are running a confidence scam, in which they promise potential customers outrageous results for a small amount of effort. It’s not until later, when those results inevitably fail, that customers find out that they were actually victims all along.

Like any other con artist, these companies make most of their profit by using a few different tactics.  They will first try to sell their mark on the idea that they’ve stumbled on a way of making easy money that they could get in on. 

When it comes to SEO, if the first technique isn’t enough to get the person to buy, the company will oftentimes take a different tack to play on their victim’s insecurities.  They will talk about how everyone else in the victim’s field is starting to get in on whatever they are offering, making the victim feel as if they can’t afford to not buy the product they’re being pitched.

The worst part about shady SEO companies is that, unless you’re well versed in the topic, they can be difficult to spot on the surface.  The average con artist is exceptionally good at appearing trustworthy.  While some shady SEO companies send out massive amounts of email spam in the hopes of landing a customer, others are subtler about it.  They’ll approach small businesses personally, getting to know them and coming across as very persuasive and charming.

But, just like any other con artist, there are a couple of ways to tell if an SEO company isn’t as legitimate as it might seem.  Because even the best con can only go on for so long before people become suspicious, shady SEO companies tend to change names often. 

Do some research before you sign up with a “new” company and determine how long they’ve been in business.  Ask them to supply references of people they’ve worked with in the past, and check up on them to confirm. When checking with references, it’s a good idea to get as many particulars as you can. Did they experience a steady increase in traffic or did their website sky-rocket to the top only to fall at the next algorithm update?  A mark of shady SEO tactics is often the latter, as the unethical changes the SEO company made are discovered and the website is penalized.  Steady and consistent traffic increases, however, are a much better sign.

Never give a credit card number over on a call that you didn’t place yourself. Also avoid giving money to a company that doesn’t seem to exist in the real world.  Does the company you’re looking to invest in have an address on their website?  Do they have an office?  Can you meet someone on the team?

What it all boils down to is this: take some time and reconsider.  A legitimate SEO company will be happy to let you take your time and figure out a package that is right for you.  A shady one, on the other hand, is much more likely to try to pressure you into buying as quickly as possible. If you’re looking for some non-shady SEO advice, feel free to contact Agile Impact at our Seattle office or through our online form.  We would be happy to talk with you.