We’ve seen these emails, and you probably have too. They usually begin with something like, “Start ranking on Google in less than 30 days.”
And it often continues with, “Our SEO strategies deliver results every time. Here’s what we do: [insert impossibly long list of SEO tasks]. And we’ll do it for your company for this exceptionally low price. AND if you don’t see results, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee.”
At first, it might sound great, because why not? You might think, “It’ll either work or it won’t, and if it doesn’t, I’ll get my money back anyway.”
But these “too-good-to-be-true emails” are just that, and the consequences of using these companies’ services could be more expensive than you think.
In this blog, we’ll break down why these promises are empty, the risks you take by hiring these companies, how to spot these bad actors in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, and strategies to find excellent SEO experts who can actually deliver results.
What Is Guaranteed SEO and Why Doesn’t it Work?
Guaranteed SEO marketing packages make a significant promise. Usually, the guarantee is how high your website will rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs) in a short period of time, the specific keywords you’ll rank high for, or a specific number of pages that will rank number one.
These companies might even tell you some scary things like if you don’t use their SEO services, you’ll be invisible, and your company will fail because customers will never find you.
Even worse, this type of service rarely delivers on its promises. So you’ll assume a ton of risk and are unlikely to see any meaningful results.
Why Don’t Guaranteed Marketing Packages Work?
It’s impossible to guarantee results that SEO strategies will deliver amazing results every single time. No matter how knowledgeable, SEO experts have zero control over how Google ranks websites. And it’s not as simple as doing everything “right.” There isn’t a checklist of tasks that, if done correctly, will result in ranking on page one.
The fact is the algorithms are constantly changing. The Google search algorithm changes about 12 times per day. So SEO experts are using their knowledge of best practices and the latest significant updates to position your website to rank well in search results. But under no circumstances do they know the exact outcome of their work.
This doesn’t mean SEO isn’t necessary. SEO is critical to the success of your website, but there isn’t one specific strategy that will lead to guaranteed results.
The Risks of Guaranteed SEO Services
These guaranteed SEO marketing packages are full of promises. What they don’t tell you is they usually rely on black hat techniques that can ultimately lead to your website being penalized by Google.
These techniques include things like keyword stuffing, which is adding an excessive number of keywords to a web page in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in search engine results. They might use link spamming, which is artificially inflating the number of links to a website to improve its search engine ranking by paying for links or bulk using low-quality websites. Or, they could use cloaking, which is a technique that presents different content to the search engine than is presented to the user making it appear that the site is more relevant to a particular search than it actually is.
While these types of black hat SEO strategies may help you achieve short-term results, they will ultimately hurt your website’s ranking and could even get your site banned from Google altogether.
Even if you don’t get penalized, the tactics used by most guaranteed SEO services are often short-term and unsustainable. Your website’s ranking will eventually drop, and you’ll have to start over again.
You must also be wary of what you hired the company to do. When you notice their work isn’t helping you rank higher or it’s not resulting in meaningful website traffic, you might say, “Hey, I want my money back.”
That’s when they’ll show you how they did what they said they would do. Before you sign a contract, you’ll get a long list of promises, but read them carefully. What is “more traffic”? Just a handful of new visitors to your website could be considered more traffic.
What does it mean to “rank higher”? Well, just a little higher is still achieving that obligation, even if your website is still buried on page 10 instead of page 11.
Or, they might be helping you rank for low-quality keywords. Sure, you’re on the first page, but is anyone even searching for that term?
The worst case scenario is that they use black hat techniques to land you in a favorable position on a SERP, but then the performance takes a nosedive, so you cancel your guaranteed SEO marketing package—but the damage is already done, and you’re worse off than when you started. Yikes.
The Typical Services Offered in Guaranteed Search Engine Optimization Packages (And Why They Don’t Work)
Most reputable SEO companies tell you the strategies they’ll utilize to help your ranking. And every strategy will be customized to fit your business goals. Conversely, the SEO scammers will give you a simple checklist of tasks they’ll do every month regardless of whether or not it will impact your bottom line or help you achieve your goals.
These tasks alone aren’t necessarily wrong. Many reputable SEO companies will do this type of work. The problem is that the companies pushing cheap monthly SEO packages usually oversell their work.
At first glance, they make it seem like they’re doing a massive amount of work for an incredibly low price, but after digging into the details, you’ll realize they’re not doing much.
Here’s what you’ll often find:
1. Initial Website Audit
Typically, they’ll run software that identifies areas where you could improve your rankings. All SEO companies will do this. However, an audit doesn’t mean they’ve done any work to start improving your site.
2. Competitor Analysis
Some companies will look at your competitors and tell you how well you’re ranking in comparison. Obviously, this is dependent on whether or not they know your competitors. If increased volume is their goal, it’s unlikely they’ll spend time understanding your market and industry.
3. Keyword Research
Again, every SEO agency will do this, but some are better at it than others. The companies that are out to churn through clients aren’t likely to invest the amount of time and effort that goes into quality research. As a result, they might choose the keywords based on how easy it is to rank for them (so they can prove they met their end of the bargain) rather than the impact the keyword will have on your business.
4. On-Page SEO
With this step, they’ll likely add meta tags, update titles, check site speed, optimize images, etc. To understand if the work is valuable, you’ll want to know what changes were made and how the new version compares to the old version for performance and ranking.
5. Content Marketing
Here’s where things really start going downhill. The biggest SEO scams will promise you four to six blog posts per month. It sounds great, but it’s only a 400-word blog for most of these. That’s often not going to cut it to rank on Google. Currently, the most competitive content is long-form. So now they will load your website with low-quality content that’ll be detrimental to your performance in the long term.
6. Linking Strategies
Here’s where things get dangerous. They might promise to get you so many backlinks per month. Unfortunately, they might utilize black hat SEO techniques to meet this obligation. Specifically, they’ll pay a certain amount to get you listed in a bunch of places where you don’t want to be listed. In 2012, Google launched the Penguin algorithm update that penalizes companies trying to reach the front page by paying for spammy backlinks. You might see some improvements in your rankings for a short window of time, but any progress will be short-lived.
7. One-Time SEO Package
SEO is about curating a consistent, high-quality website based on current best practices. The work is never truly complete, which is why one-time SEO packages are a waste of time and money. The company will perform an audit, make minimal changes in a short period of time, and leave you with the bill. Unfortunately, you’ll likely see no improvements from their efforts.
How to Spot These Cheap SEO Package Scams
Of course, you can spot these scams in your email when they’re selling cheap monthly SEO packages with promises they couldn’t possibly deliver on—guaranteed or not.
But scammers are savvy if nothing else. They’ve found ways to try to hide the most egregious red flags.
They’ll promise they only use white hat techniques, but they don’t. They tell you about all of their satisfied customers in industries just like yours, customers who are probably not authentic. They might have robust websites discussing their expertise and process in vague language. (e.g., Our experience speaks for itself. We bring a breadth of knowledge to the table.) They’ll tell you how well they will communicate with you through the entire process, which isn’t true either. However, they’ll likely be excellent at contacting you through the sales process.
Okay, so if they can dodge all the apparent signs of a scam, how do you spot them? Below are five strategies that will help you.
Look at Reviews
We’re not talking about testimonials on their website, so use Google and search “[Company Name] Reviews.” But don’t just look at their star rating—dig into the review content.
Scammers know you’ll be checking the reviews, so there will likely be plenty of positive reviewers, but they might be fake. Even more challenging, some companies will go so far as to threaten legal action against anyone who leaves a negative review.
What you’re looking for is a pattern of similar complaints. As you scroll through, if numerous one-star ratings claim the service is a scam, it’s probably best to go elsewhere for SEO.
You’ll also want to check multiple review sites. Here are a few options:
Do the case studies on the company’s website correspond with actual companies or people? Remember, they might have a handful of good outcomes for clients, but those clients might have paid a lot more than what they’re advertising as their cheap guaranteed search engine optimization package. The work they’ve done for their top-tier clients gives them just enough credibility to sell to clients who will pay less, but then they cut corners to focus on having a volume of clients rather than completing quality work.
Determine Whether They Use Aggressive Sales Tactics
Maybe you land on a site for a company that offers SEO services. They have a phone number you can call and a form to fill out for a free consultation. They might also have a live chat function. If the live chat opens up seconds after you land on the page, and it looks something like this, it’s likely a scam:
Aggressive sales and a guaranteed SEO package are a big warning sign that you’re interacting with a company that can’t follow through on its promises.
Compare Packages and Pricing
If you were shopping for a car and saw an advertisement for a new shiny vehicle with all the bells and whistles for an impossibly low price, you’d be suspicious. What’s the catch?
The same is true for SEO marketing packages. But unlike consumer goods, SEO services can feel intangible, so it might be hard to know what is fair and what is incredibly cheap and probably a scam. That’s why it’s important to start comparing all of your options. Reputable or not, prices will vary from company to company, regionally, and based on what’s included in the organic SEO packages.
However, if you meet with enough companies, you’ll start identifying a reasonable price range. What complicates this process is that companies often have different pricing structures, including hourly, monthly retainers, and per-project pricing.
In this case, you’ll want to focus on the services offered in each package. You can ask for a time estimate for different projects or services if it is an hourly rate. If it is a monthly retainer, you can ask them how much time they might invest in the services or projects each month.
Ask, “Do They Guarantee Results?”
No matter how reputable a company may seem, it’s a scam if they guarantee your position on Google SERPs. This is not the company you should entrust with your website strategy.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO company
Suppose you’ve found a company that seems reputable, but it still might not be the right company for your brand. The next step is ensuring they have the right experience and skills for your project and industry.
Here are some questions you can use to vet your options:
Have you worked for businesses like mine in this industry? Ideally, they’ll say yes, and give you a list of clients. However, if they don’t have experience in your industry, their work in other industries may be comparable. The goal is to understand if they are familiar with the work you’re hiring them to do.
How do you select keywords? There isn’t a single “right” answer to this question, but they shouldn’t simply focus on traffic. They might mention searcher intent, meaning whether or not someone is using the search term for commercial or informational purposes. They could also discuss competition level and cost-per-click. Additionally, they could tell you about the tools they use to do keyword research.
What kind of reports will we receive and when? You’ll want to know precisely how they’ll communicate performance. A typical report should outline all the tasks completed and why, the impact of the work, any obstacles limiting progress and strategies to overcome them, and the next steps.
What kind of work can we continue in-house? Maybe your team has excellent content writers, so you don’t need custom content, or you need less content than usual produced by their SEO team. Ideally, the SEO company you hire should build a custom package that augments the work already happening in-house.
Can you tell me more about your SEO methodology? Reputable firms are transparent about the work they do, and they’ll happily share their approaches with you. It’s always concerning when a company is vague about its SEO plans and goals.
How long will it take you to improve my website’s ranking? More than anything, you want honesty in their answers. Typically, any response of six months or less should be concerning, and you don’t want to hire a company that overpromises and underdelivers.
Do you guarantee results? The answer should be no. They should never promise you any guaranteed results. Instead, they should outline their strategy and the key performance indicators (KPIs).
The Benefits of Working With an Experienced SEO Agency Like Metric Marketing
SEO is a complex and ever-changing field. Even though it takes time and effort to find the right agency to work with, it’s worth it long term. An experienced agency that can help you stay ahead of the curve and get the most out of your efforts will have a deep understanding of the latest trends and best practices in SEO. They will also have access to proprietary tools and resources.
The right partner can help you build a comprehensive strategy, and they’ll be there to help you troubleshoot problems as they arise.
How to Get Real, Lasting SEO Results for Your Website
There are a lot of factors that go into achieving real, long-lasting SEO results for your website. You need to have a clear and concise strategy, focus on high-quality content, and ensure your website is optimized for search engines.
One of the most important things to remember about SEO is that it takes time. You can’t expect to see results overnight—or in 30 days—and you need to be patient and keep working at it over time. If you’re consistent and persistent, you will eventually see results.
It’s also important to remember that SEO is constantly changing. What works today may not work tomorrow, so you need to be prepared to adapt.
Finally, SEO is a team effort. It takes a lot of hard work from everyone involved, – from the designers and developers who create your website to the writers who produce high-quality content to the marketers who promote your site online. If everyone on your team works together, you’ll be much more likely to see success with SEO.
Receive a Customized SEO Strategy Today
At Metric, we carefully customize every SEO strategy to meet the needs of your business. We focus on research, technical SEO, content marketing, and on-page SEO. We want to combine our expertise with yours to create professional, industry-leading work. We prioritize our relationships with our clients and have found that because of that, the results speak for themselves.
We’d love to chat with you about the importance of SEO and we’re prepared to answer your toughest questions. (Psst, you can also check out all of our SEO services.) Give us a call at (734) 404-8714 or fill out our online contact form to tell us what you’re looking for.