Everybody wants their website to be ranked Number 1 in the search engines. However, it is imperative that you are vigilant against so-called SEO firms that promise the moon. Here are some of the top scams in search engine optimization (SEO).

Get Listed In 1000s of Search Engines for a nominal sum or prices that are too good to be true

What these unscrupulous firms count on is that you don't know that "listed" is not the same thing as "being found." That is, just because you are listed in a search engine or directory doesn't mean that you will ever be found. What good does it do you to be listed if your website is found at number 500,000 out of 1 million?

If you fall for this, you most likely will be submitted to 1000s of search engines including foreign search engines, sports search engines, pet search engines, and hundreds more search engines that a) you've never heard of and b) may or may not be related to your website.

We recently visited your website and noticed that you were not listed in major search engines...

These are automated emails sent to everyone on a list and we mean everyone! Even Google reports receiving these emails.

We will automatically link you to 100s of websites and increase your link popularity.

Automated link schemes are bad. They generate what are known as link farms, long lists of unrelated or loosely related links that plague the web. Search engines hate link farms because they manipulate search engine results. Be aware that link farm participation is cause for being banned from major search engines. Don’t get yourself blacklisted!

Guaranteed Rankings in Major Search Engines

Not all optimization firms that offer guarantees are bad. However, it's pretty difficult to separate the bad from the good. Most search engine optimization guarantees, when you get through the initial hype, are so general and promise so little that anyone that knows the ABCs of search engine optimization could promise the same.

Some guarantees, however, are just too good to be true. Here's what you should ask about guaranteed rankings:

  • What keyword or phrase am I going to rank under?
  • Which search engine am I going to rank in?
  • Where will I rank: top 10, top 20, top 30?
  • How much time do you need to achieve these rankings?
  • What exactly are you going to do to my site?

Any company that guarantees you a number one rank on Google is outright lying. Just because a company won’t guarantee it doesn’t mean they can’t do it either –it is simply something that cannot be set in stone. However, buying the top organic search engine rankings is not possible and Google decides the ranking of each website based on over 100 different factors. Now, if a company promises to get you in the top 10 or 20 of Google search results that is more realistic.

Firms that guarantee optimization may start to get a little panicky if your site isn't ranking within the guarantee stipulations. They might be willing to spam search engines to get you ranking. Spam manipulates and interferes with search engine rankings. And eventually spam will get you banned.

Make sure you completely 100% understand the guarantee before you buy from anyone with guaranteed rankings.

Recommending web content with specific keyword densities

Back when Google first started it may have been possible to rank with keyword-stuffed content but these days it’s worth your while to appeal to human readers more so than search engines. Sure, it’s a good idea to utilize keywords in your content but don’t overdo it. Run the other way if an SEO “specialist” tells you that your content must have a 15% keyword density or something of the like. Excessive keyword usage can get your site banned from the search engines.

Promising to get your content on the front page of social media sites

Some SEO companies may promise to get content from your site to the front page of social media sites like Reddit and Digg. They may tell you that they have a bunch of people working for them who will vote for your article in order for it to get to the front page. Not only do these unethical practices risk getting you banned (because it’s obvious when content doesn’t really belong on the front page), you won’t get much link love anyway unless your content is incredibly interesting and informative. In any case, you shouldn’t have to pay someone to get it on the front page for you anyway!

Suggesting black hat SEO practices

If an SEO company mentions any black hat practices such as putting hidden text on your website, adding your link to a link farm, or stuffing meta tags with keywords, steer clear. You can risk getting your website banned from the search engines by meddling with black hat SEO techniques. The short term results are not worth the long term consequences.

Keep these warning signs in mind when interviewing SEO companies. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. You may have to splurge on worthwhile SEO services but your investment will pay off in a big way.

By Shanti Anne Morais