SEO: How To Avoid The Big Ripoff

Would you buy SEO from this guy?

Would you buy SEO from this guy?

I don’t like to criticize competitors. I think it makes me look bad. I much prefer the approach, “I’ve heard great things about so and so; they really seem to do a great job. Here’s why our clients hire us…” But there are too many business getting swindled by SEO professionals who are either crooked or quite ignorant, and someone has to sound the warning. Here’s how to avoid hiring the wrong SEO firm and getting ripped off.

Don’t Respond To Unsolicited Emails

I get 20 or so emails each day selling me on SEO services, despite the fact I run an online marketing firm. Due to experience, it takes my brain about 0.001 of a second to recognize them for what they are–automated spam. I don’t know who responds to these emails, but apparently someone does, or they’d stop sending them. Here’s an example of one I received recently, along with my comments in [brackets]. I’ve changed the name of the emailer, just in case there’s a 0.0001 chance it’s a real person.

Hi, I am Amit, SEO Consultant. [The from: line of the email did not match what the emailer said his name was.]

I hope you are doing well and have time to read my proposal. [Apparently I do.]

Advertising in this online world is one of the most inexpensive and highly effective methods of promoting a business. [This is true.]

We are a Leading Indian Based SEO Web Development Company and one of the very few companies which offer organic SEO Services with a full range of supporting services such as one way themed text links, blog submissions, directory submissions, article writing and postings, etc. [By “very few” I’ll assume he means any number under five million since, as I mentioned, I receive around 20 of these emails per day.]

We are a team of 85+ professionals which includes 28 full time SEO experts. We are proud to inform you that our team handled 180+ SEO projects and obtained 100000+ manually built links in the past 3 year. [More on this later.]

 Let me know if you are interested and I’ll present you with a proposal that would not only improve sales of your company but also brand your products.

 Feel free to contact me in case of any enquiry.

 Kind Regards


Online Consultant

Note: We are not spammers and are against spamming of any kind. If you are not interested then you can reply with a simple “NO”,We will never contact you again. [Ha!]

The thing to understand is that there is no Amit in India who sent me, or you, an email. These emails are sent out by a computer program that sends millions of them out every month, hoping that one of a million people will respond. Don’t do it.

Beware Amazing Promises About Link Building

When you start learning about SEO, one of the first things you’re told is that Google puts a lot of weight on the incoming links pointing at a website. All other things being equal, the more links one has pointing to their site, the better. A few years ago, this was more or less true. As a result, companies in low wage countries like India and China hired hundreds of link builders and promised to build thousands of links every month for a few hundred dollars. Quantity was the focus, rather than quality.

This does not work anymore. Over the past two years Google clamped down hard on the practice of building large quantities of low quality links. Companies that invested for years and hired SEO firms to build thousands upon thousands of links to their sites are now being penalized, seeing their rankings disappear and their traffic drop to a fraction of what it once was. The solution is to contact all the websites where those links are located and request that they be removed, and then use the Google link disavowal tool to neutralize what’s left. This is time consuming work. Clients that come to my firm can expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for us to clean up their bad incoming links, depending on the quantity.

It’s understandable that a lot of companies would find themselves in this position. The tragedy is that companies are still being suckered into signing up with SEO firms that build low quality links. Just recently I was pitching a client on our link building services and his response was “For that price I can go hire a whole team of guys in China to build links for us.” Another client came to us within the past week, and when we gave him a proposal his response was that he was paying a fraction of what we were asking compared to his existing firm. The company he was working with, he told me, was charging him approximately $1,000 per month for “around 20 articles in PR 3-4 sites/blogs, 40 directory submissions in PR 4 directory sites and 10-20 social bookmarking sites.”

I knew right away that he was being ripped off. These numbers are simply outrageous. You can’t buy 20 high quality articles for $1,000, and whenever an SEO company talks a lot of PR (PageRank) you can be sure they’re behind the times. Just ask Dave Davies, who penned this article Why PageRank Doesn’t Matter back in 2012.

I asked the client to send us a list of the links the SEO company he was using was building for him, and sure enough, when we examined it the links we saw were, as my SEO manager described them, “awful.” It wasn’t just that he was paying good money and getting nothing in return, but that he was paying thousands of dollars and the SEO company he had retained was doing very real damage to his site. He is now worse off than when he started, and will have to pay just to get back to where he was before he did any SEO.

Get Educated

I don’t blame clients for signing up for these harmful services any more than I blame myself if I get ripped off by an auto mechanic. It’s the service provider who is at fault. But as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. If you want to avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous or behind-the-times SEO firms, which likely make up the greater portion of the industry, you have to get educated about online marketing, at least to some degree. Here are some articles, written by myself and others, to get you started:

If you take the time to read all the above articles, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be taken advantage of by an SEO firm. It will take you a good hour or more to get through them all, but isn’t that worth it to save $10,000 and several months of lost time growing your business?

Joshua Steimle is a Hong Kong based entrepreneur writing about startups, entrepreneurship, and online marketing. Connect with him at: 
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