10 Signs That Your SEO Is a Quack

There are so many SEO/SEM firms cropping up that talk a good game but don't deliver results. This is in part because there's so much information that is freely available about search engine optimization. On the surface, SEO sounds easy -- and it really is -- once you've had a number of sites to experiment with. What's even easier than SEO, however, is discussing SEO as if you know what you're actually doing (when you don't)!

Here are 10 signs to watch out for that may very well indicate that your potential SEO is a quack. Please note that one of these individually may not be bad, but if you notice more than 2 or 3 of these when speaking with any SEO company, you may just want to head for the hills!

1. Your SEO company talks about Meta tags and Google PageRank (PR) as if they are the magic bullet to high rankings. For the most part, there's no reason to even bring up the keyword Meta tag nor toolbar PR in a discussion about what needs to be done to get better search engine exposure for your site. Both of them are issues that quack SEO companies will talk about because they actually believe they are the key to SEO success. They are not. I've discussed in previous articles the Meta keyword tag's lack of importance, so I won't go into that again here. In regards to PageRank, increasing the little green bar graph's number should never be the ultimate goal of a professional SEO campaign. A good campaign will automatically increase your real and true PageRank (as measured by Google) without your specifically setting out to increasing it on your own. Since PR doesn't bring you traffic and sales (nor rankings), increasing it should not ever be the main goal of your campaign. This fact is of course lost on SEO quacks.

2. Your SEO company's site (or those of their clients) has the same Title tags on every page. Sounds crazy I know, but I've seen this more than once! I once got a client who had previously used a very major SEO company that most people have heard of. They had been with this firm for a whole year, and yet the Title tags on every page of their site were all the same (the name of the company). Since Title tags are probably the most important (and easiest) thing to change on a site, any SEO company that can't do this one basic thing for their own site or their clients' is most definitely a quack!

3. Your SEO company talks only about optimizing for the "long tail." Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with long-tail keyword phrases, as they can bring a lot of traffic when all is said and done. But you don't need an SEO company if those are the only phrases you're interested in -- you can do it yourself just by writing articles. Your SEO company should not be afraid to optimize for the actual keyword phrases that most people would use at the engines to find your site. Yeah, it's gonna take time and money to go after the most competitive keyphrases, but there's usually a happy medium. Most sites have plenty of phrases that are somewhere between long tail and highly competitive. Those are the ones you definitely want to target.

4. Your SEO company tells you it's ALL about links (or ALL about content). SEO isn't ALL about anything. It's about lots of things all added together to make the perfect combination for your site. A linking campaign alone will never be as effective if you neglect your on-page content, and vice versa. Be sure that your SEO company looks at your site from all angles and makes sure all your bases are covered. Otherwise, they're probably a quack!

5. Your SEO company tells you that you need a linking campaign even though you already have tons of links and are a well-established popular site in your niche. Not every site needs every SEO service out there. Just because your SEO company likes to sell link-building doesn't mean you actually need it for your site. Why should you pay for something you don't need? The same thing goes for sites that already have great, well-written, optimized content. If you've got that, perhaps you just need a linking campaign to help boost your traffic and sales. Don't allow an SEO quack to fix what isn't actually broken.

6. Your SEO company is almost surely 99% quackish if they tell you that they can rank your brand-new site in Google for keywords that will bring you traffic within a few months. In fact, if they claim they can do it in less than 9 months, they're either inexperienced or lying. Google has an aging delay that is most certainly related to the age of the site, as well as a certain trust factor. It is only the very rare and wonderful site that can get around this delay. But if your site is like most, you're going to have to look to the long term for your Google results, regardless of what the quacks might try to convince you of.

7. Your SEO company never mentions that they may very well need to redo your site architecture so that your important pages are prominently featured within your site navigation. In this case it's very possible you're dealing with an inexperienced, quack SEO. This is usually something that is not a quick fix, so most quacks are reluctant to discuss it with you (if they even know it's important). But if your site architecture is not search-engine-ready, everything else you do will have much less impact.

8. Your SEO company can't provide you with any quality references. This one pretty much goes without saying, but do be sure to get references, and do be sure to actually call them. Yeah, a reference may very well turn out to be their cousin, but you should be able to get some feel for the company you're choosing if you can at least talk to some references.

9. Your SEO company tells you that you have to have a DMOZ listing or your site will never be able to get high rankings. Sure, a DMOZ listing is great, but it's a link just like any other. Submit and forget about it. If you don't get in, it's no big deal -- there are plenty of other links you can get instead.

10. Your SEO company's site mentions that they'll get you high rankings in AltaVista, Fast, Inktomi, Lycos, Excite, HotBot and the like. If it does, you are 100% positively dealing with a quack! 'Nuff said!

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.


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