Avoiding Common Search Engine Optimization Rip-Offs


There are plenty of cheap, rip-off “SEO” companies that promise to deliver miraculous results for pennies on the dollar. Here we’ll talk about some popular misconceptions site owners may have about what makes for good search engine position, and how to not fall prey to these kinds of scams.

If you see any of the following techniques promoted by a company, be leery:

We submit your site to thousands of search engines! Even if you add up every kind of search engine – standard, meta search, pay per placement, and anything else, there aren’t “thousands.” This doesn’t even take into account the fact that many of the smaller search engines draw their results directly from Google, Yahoo, and MSN. (The only reason many of the smaller engines are in operation is so they can display their own pay-per-click ads and make ad revenue.)

When it comes to search engines, you only need to concern yourself with the big three: Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Live Search. (Some webmasters and companies go so far as to only concern themselves with their Google position.)

Statistics vary, but these three sites deliver well over 90% of searches. Chasing all kinds of other search engines, many of which are glorified spam directories, just isn’t worth the effort.

We can you get a priority submission! Also see, “Guaranteed listing in 7 days!” First of all, never let a company charge you to submit your site to Google, Yahoo, or MSN. That process is simple and free.

Don’t let anyone fool you: neither Google nor MSN offer a “priority submit service,” and no one can guarantee listing in a certain number of days unless the search engine itself does.

Yahoo does offer a paid inclusion/priority submit service, but it’s not worth it for most sites. Even if you use it, the service is easily accessible by anyone, and you don’t have to pay someone else’s markup on it.

With that said – the free submission forms are not the best way to submit a site to the search engines, and it does not mean that the site will be included in or stay in their indexes. If the site has no inbound links, is poorly coded, uses improper redirects to another URL, has stolen the content of other sites, or appears to be spam, it may not remain in search engine indexes.

The best way to have a site noticed and indexed is to let the search engines discover it naturally via a link from a relevant site that is already established in the search engines. This is the most effective way to minimize or altogether bypass the “sandbox effect” (an extended period of poor or fluctuating rankings) that new sites can sometimes experience.

A quality SEO can help you get your site into search engine indexes as quickly as possible, without the gimmicks.

We submit you to thousands of directories! Simply put: there aren’t “thousands” of directories worth submitting to. There are a number of established, well maintained directories which search engines trust; but the majority of directories carry little link value, and even less traffic. On top of that, some directories use redirection, ‘nofollow’ tags, and other code which totally nullifies the value of the link.

Most general-purpose directories require a fee for submission. This fee can vary dramatically, but one common scam is to submit your site to paid directories without paying the fee. The “SEO company” then provides the directory’s confirmation page as proof that they have submitted your site. They have submitted it, but the listing will be denied because the fee wasn’t paid.

The main thing to consider is that the Internet is just like the real world – there are good neighborhoods and bad. You do not want search engines to find links to your site in the types of irrelevant, spam-filled, generic directories that these companies often put you in. Search engines do pay attention to who links to you, and who you link to.

Rip-off SEOs also frequently encourage you to link to other, unrelated sites, who will then link back to you. Google is especially adept at detecting these attempts to manipulate your ranking, and will penalize you for it. Search engines also pay attention to the number of new links sites over a given period of time. If you engage in a spam campaign as these types of companies are known for, garnering hundreds or thousands of cheap and irrelevant links, you may possibly be even be removed from the index altogether.

A real search engine optimization firm will get to know your site, and identify opportunities to develop quality, relevant links to it.

Magical Meta Tags. Another big trend seems to be companies offering to “optimize your site’s meta tags” so you can achieve top rankings in the search engines.

Meta tags are simply optional code placed within a web page that helps browsers and automated crawlers identify the content of a page. Ten years ago, search engines paid a lot of attention to them, and users of some of the meta search engines like Webcrawler can probably remember the ludicrous amount of spam that always ended up in search results.

As search engine technology has evolved, meta tags are becoming less and less of a factor in a site’s ranking. Some have gone so far as to say that Google doesn’t even consider them anymore. While Google has not officially commented, Yahoo has explicitly stated that meta tags do not influence a site’s position in search results.

Proper meta tags are still part of a well-optimized website. Search engines sometime use the “description” meta tag to provide a summary of your site in their search results, and the tags are still good for other purposes. However, don’t let anyone tell you that this miracle quick-fix will do much, if anything, to help your ranking.

A competent search engine optimization firm can identify numerous on-site techniques to enhance your site’s search engine rankings, many of which can have a powerful effect. A hallmark of fly-by-night SEOs is an unwillingness to do any real on-site optimization, because that would actually take work.

We generate tons of content! Typically, the cheaper these companies are, the lazier they are (volume over margin means less time for individual attention). They use software to automatically submit your site to “thousands of directories and search engines” (see above), and they also use software to automatically generate content and/or steal content from other sites.

Let’s say you have a site about finding a job. They may offer to generate hundreds of articles for you to put on your site. The articles will in turn create lots of content, which of course will lead search engines to think that your site is an authority on the subject of job seeking.

This sounds good on paper, but the fact is that we’ve yet to see software that can generate articles about targeted keywords that don’t read like they were written by a computer. Worse yet, these programs often intentionally overuse keywords, leading to results like this:

“When trying to find a job, you should look in all listings of jobs, so that you can find the job you are seeking and apply for that job.”

“Keyword stuffing” is a common practice. When it’s this obvious, search engines penalize. The content on your website needs to be unique and well-written. A good rule of thumb is this: “Will it sound like spam or bad English when a user reads it?”

Another common use for of software is to “scrape” for content. Unscrupulous companies canvass the Internet for unique, human-edited articles and site content relevant to your targeted keywords, then add it to your site.

This technique solves one problem only to lead to another: search engines hate duplicate content, and they will in most cases heavily penalize a site that features it. This effect can be manipulated and has even been proven to be bypassed, but even if you can accomplish this, the moment someone manually reviews your site your work (and money) are down the drain.

Any real SEO will tell you that creating original content for your site, even if it costs more or takes longer, will deliver a real and lasting benefit.

In summary, be careful who you let handle your site and your online brand. There are some great deals out there, but in most cases, you get what you pay for. Companies wishing to develop strong, lasting search rankings are best served by investing in a competent and thorough search engine optimization firm that can actually deliver what so many of the scam artists falsely promise. The cost will be greater, but the long-term increase in traffic and sales is well worth it.



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