Google says it flat out in their SEO Webmaster Guidelines, “Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.” There are plenty of disreputable and black hat SEO practitioners that are scrounging for clients. They’ll say anything they want to get you to hand over your carefully allocated SEO funds. Some of them may actually do a small amount work, however shoddy or black hat it may be. Oftentimes you’ll find you end up hiring another SEO firm to clean up the mess of the first one. The really bad ones will just take your money and run without even faking an attempt at doing SEO for your company, disappearing into the void of online anonymity.
One of the biggest giveaways that someone is trying to scam you is when they contact you out of the blue. Hopefully, most people know by now that the Nigerian government isn’t looking to deposit $100,000 into their bank account and recognize those emails for what they are – a con. Unsolicited email isn’t considered a viable marketing tactic, so most reputable companies don’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Opt-in email marketing, like when you give your favorite store your email address so they can send your special offers, is a much more successful and respected approach. Just like you don’t trust random e-mails selling miracle weight loss pills, don’t trust an unsolicited e-mail from an SEO services provider.
Many of these less-than-scrupulous SEO providers (or SEO con men) find companies that already have a contract with a white hat SEO company. Their biggest selling point is trying to convince you that you are vastly overpaying for your SEO services. They’ll say,
“We can do the same things as your current SEO provider for less than half what you are paying now! And we don’t get paid until you are ranking first for all of your keywords! And we guarantee our results! And we’ll handle your social media! And…”
Like a smooth talking used-car salesman trying to pass a lemon off for a Ferrari, SEO con men will do whatever it takes to convince you to leave your current SEO provider for them.
The simple truth is that good, white hat SEO providers don’t need to go begging for business like that. Their business is built on a solid reputation, the satisfaction of clients and referrals brought in from happy customers. They don’t have to resort to unsolicited e-mails and underhanded tactics to win business.
Think about it this way. How often does your company randomly contact potential clients? Not those that current clients have recommended you reach out to, not people you met at conferences or tradeshows, not people who connect with you on social networking site. How often does your company reach out to companies or individuals that have no idea who you are or why you would be e-mailing them? Probably not very frequently, right? Being known as a “spammer” when it comes to getting clients severely damages your reputation and devalues your brand. You don’t want to annoy or anger potential clients, especially ones you have no business contacting. Why would good SEO companies and consultants behave any differently?
The bottom line is that you should treat any SEO provider that contacts you first –unprompted and uninvited – with some serious reservations. Google, the behemoth of search engines and the main reason SEO exists, even admits that they get spam messages saying “Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…” Clearly spammers don’t discriminate when they’re trying to get business.
If you’re looking to hire an SEO provider, you have to do your research. Talk to other businesses you work with and see who they use for their SEO services and why. SEO often has a bad reputation because SEO con men are waiting to take advantage of uninformed business owners. Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines about SEO. Those are the hard and fast rules of SEO and a reputable SEO provider should know that. Good SEO companies should be able to provide you with client referrals and recommendations. Do you own research on a potential SEO provider. See what kind of information pops up about them when you start digging around online. If you start to notice red flags, time to walk away and make sure you’re not missing your wallet.