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SEO for Growth

5 Tips for Spotting Scammy SEO Consultants (and Legit Ones)

Not all SEO consultants have your best interests at heart. Here's how to tell the sketchy ones from the legit ones, so you don't get conned.

5 mins read time
Haley Kuehl
Haley Kuehl

May 31, 2022

Search engine optimization is a powerful thing, and brands that practice it properly can enjoy more traffic, conversions, and revenue as a result.

But the unfortunate truth is that the SEO world has a dark side, and there are plenty of untrustworthy contractors and businesses who claim to be SEO experts but are far from it.

If you're not sure if the SEO services you're paying for are paying off, here are five tips for spotting scams.

5 Signs of Scammy SEO Consultants

When you're shopping for SEO consultants (or evaluating your current ones), beware of these five signs of a scam.

1. Guaranteed Results

Remember, SEO stands for search engine optimization, not search engine control. As such, SEO consultants can only optimize their clients' content with the goal of achieving desirable results, not guarantee those results from the get-go.

So if an agency starts making SEO promises that sound too good to be true, then we've got bad news — they probably are.

For example, they might promise:

  • Millions of new visitors
  • The #1 spot on Google.
  • 1000x more sales
  • Incredible outcomes for rock-bottom prices

Unlike promises of general improvements, those types of fantastic and ultra-specific results are simply impossible to guarantee.

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2. Insider Information

Outside of search engines themselves, everyone has access to the same SEO-related information.

For instance, when Google makes a major change to the way their algorithm works, they don't just tell a select few SEO experts and keep everyone else in the dark.

Instead, they let everyone know about it at the same time via posts on the official Search Central Blog and other official channels.

When Google posted about their May 2022 core update, for example, they included details about how long it will take to roll out, changes site owners can expect, and where webmasters can leave feedback or comments:


So unless your new expert SEO consultant also happens to be Google's head of search (spoiler: they're not), then they won't be able to provide you with any insider information. And if they say otherwise, that's your cue to walk away.

3. Obsolete Tactics

Modern search engines have only been around for a couple of decades, but they've changed a lot over the years. That's why it's important to be wary of SEO consultants who say they use outdated tactics — if they do, they probably don't know how to optimize for current algorithms.

Outdated tactics you'd do well to steer clear of include:

  • Link exchanges in which your website links to a number of other websites solely for the purpose of obtaining backlinks from them in return.
  • Keyword stuffing in which your website is crammed full of as many high-volume keywords as possible.
  • Writing for keyword density, a ranking factor that Google no longer uses.
  • Over-using keyword-rich anchor text, such as in a large-scale guest posting campaign.

Since that's just the tip of the iceberg, be sure to research other outdated SEO tactics before committing to an SEO agency.

4. No Track Record

All SEO consultants worth their salt have a provable track record, and that's true whether they have 10 months or 10 years of experience.

So, you should think twice about SEO consultants that claim to be seasoned pros but don't have a track record to show for it.

Even if it's just for a couple of websites, an expert SEO consultant should be able to show you how they've:

  • Increased high-quality traffic (not just traffic in general)
  • Driven higher rankings
  • Identified and targeted the most relevant keywords

They may even be able to show you how they've improved lead generation or boosted a company's overall revenue.

The point is, if they know what they're talking about, then they should have the record to prove it. If they don't, it's time to start shopping around.

5. Focus on Short-Term Returns

We'd all love it if we could generate stellar results tomorrow, but that usually isn't possible, and SEO is no exception.

After all, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for Google to even crawl your newly optimized pages, so it stands to reason that legitimate SEO consultants won't dwell on delivering fast, short-term results.

Instead, they'll work with your team to create a long-term SEO strategy you can keep track of as you go.

So while you may not be able to get mind-blowing results this week, you will be able to see marked improvements in a matter of months. And most importantly, those improvements will last.

And if an SEO consultant tells you they can get you to the first page of Google in a few days, that's a red flag you (and your bank account) can't afford to ignore.

Don't Give Scammy SEO Consultants Your $$$

There are unscrupulous SEO consultants and companies out there, but that doesn't mean you have to buy what they're selling.

If you know which warning signs to look for, you can weed out the scammers and find trustworthy SEO agencies capable of delivering truly amazing results.

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Haley Kuehl

After getting her start in teaching, Haley fell in love with SEO because it let her combine two of her favorite things: writing and getting nerdy with data and code. She now has more than 12 years of SEO and inbound marketing experience with clients ranging from small ecommerce brands to huge associations and SaaS companies. She prides herself on being able to see the big picture while also noting the nitty gritty details that make a difference for users and search bots. In her free time she bakes a LOT of bread and cookies and loves to travel.

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