6 Warning Signs of a Dishonest SEO Company

6 Warning Signs of a Dishonest SEO Company

What a Dishonest SEO Company Can Cost You

We don’t have a whole lot of empathy for shady SEO firms. Yes, everyone’s trying to make a living, but they make theirs by stepping all over small businesses.

A bad SEO company can cost you:

  • Ranking penalties from Google.
  • Getting banned completely from search engine results.
  • Money and time to attempt fixing this.
  • Your business’s reputation.

Search engine penalties are very difficult to bounce back from. In the following video, a small business owner sent a question to Matt Cutts, former head of the Google Webspam team:

“Matt, Does the good guys still stand a chance? We’re a small company that hired an SEO firm that we thought was legit, but destroyed our rankings w/ spam backlinks. We’ve tried everything but nothing helps. What can a company with good intentions do?”

As you saw for yourself, Matt doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of sympathy. Even though this business essentially got duped by a dishonest SEO company, the way Google looks at it, your business should be researching these firms before hiring them.

Luckily for you, your business won’t get fooled! The following warning signs are pretty surefire indications that you’re dealing with a deceitful SEO company.

Warning sign #1: They are vague regarding their methods.

SEO takes time, effort, and skill – but it’s not rocket science. An SEO company should be able to explain their approaches in plain terms.

Are they beating around the bush? Do they claim to have “proprietary methods”?

That’s just not how search engine optimization works. The majority of SEO is all over the web for anyone to see. Take our blog posts for example – if you have the time and desire, you could learn much of what you need to know just by reading each post.

Of course, there are certain programs that SEO companies pay to use for their clients, but they should still be able to tell you which they use or at least a broad overview of their functions.

If they are explaining their approaches and you don’t quite understand, simply ask for clarification. You’re paying them to make changes to your website.. You have the right to know what’s going on.

Warning sign #2: They claim they can get you ranking #1.

While a trustworthy SEO company shouldn’t be vague in their approaches, they’re likely to be somewhat general regarding time and ranking spot.


Experienced SEO firms care about their reputation and customer satisfaction. They care about whether they fulfill their promises or not. When it comes to SEO, you can have a general idea on results, but we promise there isn’t one company out there that can know exactly where Google will rank your website.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”h3cJq” via=”no” ]“Nobody knows the inner workings of Google’s algorithms – except Google. Don’t be fooled by claims from shady #SEO firms.” @osc_webdesign[/ctt]

Warning sign #3: They say you’ll see results in days.

Like we’ve already mentioned, sometimes when claims are too specific, it’s a sign you’re dealing with a dishonest SEO company. Lasting, credible search engine optimization should take anywhere from four months to a year for you to start seeing results.

Perhaps you’ve received emails offering “We can get you ranking in 24 HOURS!” Are these people flat out lying? Actually, not always.

Many dishonest SEO companies take part in “black hat SEO”. This involves a number of tactics that have been banned by Google and will result in a penalty for your website. In the meantime though, they can actually get your website ranking quite high, quite quickly – until you’re not.

When Google catches on, your website will likely be penalized or banned from search results. It will take a very long time to get your business out of this mess, and (as you saw in the video) Google will have little sympathy for your plight.

Wondering why credible SEO seems slow? Check out this article on why SEO takes so long.

Warning sign #4: They have links for sale.

As you can see below, this dishonest SEO company is offering an unholy trio of bad SEO offers.

“Get Top 10 on Google”
“Within 3-6 Months”
“Buy DA40-DA100 Backlinks From $1 per Link!”

Dishonest SEO company example.

The ‘DA40-DA-100’ refers to the supposed domain authority of the websites you’d be buying backlinks from. Domain authority is an up to 100-point score calculated by Moz that estimates how credible your website is. The more trustworthy and credible you are, the higher you will rank.

We’ll tell you one thing for certain; websites with high domain authority will not be selling links. Selling links is actually a practice that has been banned by Google for years. Here’s what Google has to say on the subject in their quality guidelines:

‘Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site’

Warning sign #5: They promise you a specific number of links each month.

As you know, buying links is a big no-no. That means you have to head the route Google wants you to go, which is earning them by creating great content on your website that people want to link to.

Dishonest SEO companies hate this route. They don’t want to spend hours researching keywords and writing content, they want to spam as many places as quickly as possible.

When you earn links the right way, you can never predict the number of backlinks you will receive. It’s all up to who reads your content and if they like it.

Warning sign #6: Their messages are littered with spelling errors and little personalization.

The business model of most spammers, including spammy SEO companies, is “the more the better”. They push out as many offers as possible in hopes that someone will take the bait.

It only makes sense, as they’re attempting to send out thousands of emails etc., that they will have very little personalization for the recipients. If you’ve been sent an SEO proposal and they can’t even get your business’s name right, that’s a bad sign in any event.

You don’t have to be an SEO guru to sense something’s “off”. Go with your gut – if an SEO company seems suspicious, don’t gamble with your business’s future online.

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