With the success some SEO's have seen delivering high quality services, there has been a rise in black hat SEO's and various techniques that do not comply with the white hat practices. To the untrained eye, or someone who is not familiar with search engine optimization, it may be hard to spot one of these incompetent SEO's. You see so many "fly by night" SEO experts, that it is important to be cautious and look for signs to determine the validity of SEO offerings. In reality, there are numerous ways for detecting a black hat, and here are ten of the most common ones:
#10 - Watch for Lofty Promises
A lot of bad SEO companies will make promises that seem too good to be true, and oftentimes they are. One of the most common promises the companies make is that they will make your site rank #one on Google. Realistically, you cannot guarantee anyone a #one ranking, because no one can predict Google's Algorithm. The only thing a SEO can do is to make sure that they implement the best strategy to optimize your site for on-page SEO and use effective link building campaigns (with transparent reporting) for off-page SEO services.
#9 - PR9 Links
We have seen a #of SEO companies that claim to provide a service of PR9 permanent links, for a very low price. I would say no matter what, this is always a scam. I have seen a few instances where individuals have video testimonials of it working, however I would still avoid them at all cost. It is just not realistic for PR9 sites to link to anyone, including extremely good websites.
#8 - Promising Immediate Results
SEO is something that takes patience and time. You have to optimize your site meticulously over an extended period of time to yield the best results. This takes time, and a good SEO company will tell you this up front before any agreement is met.
#7 - Blog Spamming
You have probably seen this before, but just in case you haven't, you should be aware of blog spamming. Blog spammers attempt to post a link or post some sort of a comment requesting to make a post. This can get your website into a whole lot of trouble and can really harm you by setting your progress back.
#6 - Poor Website
If you are considering hiring a SEO company, check out their website first. If it looks a little bit rough and unpolished, then chances are they haven't put much time into their work. That should throw up some red flags, and hopefully you can recognize the difference between a high quality site vs. a poor site.
#5 - Cloaking
If you are offered any sort of service that offers cloaking, do not accept it! This will give you a one way ticket off the SERP's and leave your site unsearchable for a long time reducing your web traffic and credibility.
#4 - Paid Links
Any time a SEO offers you paid links from various websites, it is not a good idea to use them (well, in most cases). These links will most likely not be permanent, Google doesn't like you paying for links, and you have to spend a lot of money for really good quality paid backlinks! A good SEO company will create quality content that is built around anchor text for the best possible backlinks.
#3 - One Size Fits All Approach
SEO for every website is specific to different needs and goals. You shouldn't have to buy into a specific package, because much of the time you have specific needs and competition levels vary. Every good SEO company should provide some kind of a custom SEO quote that is specific to your project.
#2 - Zero Examples or No Portfolio
If a SEO company fails to provide you with any examples of their previous work, then there is a good chance that they cannot deliver the service on a level that you need. As a customer you should engage and ask SEO's for their portfolio and references. If they cannot provide sufficient examples, then you should think about hiring a different SEO service provider that can present real life examples of their work.
#1 - Asking for Complete Payment Up Front
Since it is so easy for a SEO company to just set up a website and start taking on clients, you often hear about people getting ripped off. You should never have to make an outrageous payment up front without some pretty amazing outlines and an extremely reputable SEO company for that matter.
SEO is a vital service that many online businesses rely on in order to see some traffic. Try to look for signs to spot a black hat before you make an arrangement for SEO services to be performed. You should always look for a reputable company when thinking about SEO. Bad practices can leave with no ROI or even worse, you could be penalized by Google.
This article has been written thanks to Ben Anderson. Ben likes to give advice to bloggers and web masters to engage in the best practices possible online.
John oftentimes takes the lead as the Agile Project Manager and SEO expert on selected projects, which allows him to be hands-on with the latest trends.