Five Ways to Spot a Dodgy SEO Firm

Written by and published


1. Evasive; shifty.
2. Unsound, unstable, and unreliable.
3. So risky as to require very deft handling.

As the SEO Manager at Sitening, it’s important to me that our client needs are not only met, but their expectations are exceeded. If we have to stay until 10 or 11pm to get the job done, then that’s what we’ll do. We’re all Search, Social Media and Internet Marketing geeks who love what we do (and we have the t-shirts to prove it).

However, one thing I’ve noticed with the proliferation of Social Media is the amount of people referring to themselves as Social Media Gurus, SEO Experts, or Internet Marketing Rock Stars.  People who are truly worthy of these titles don’t feel the need to give themselves a title — they don’t have to. Do you see @chrisbrogan referring to himself with such a title?

So, where do these new self-titled gurus come from? Can you really replace a seasoned pro with someone who knows how to get around on the Internet and expect the same return? You’d be surprised how many people think so and gladly hand these people and companies money. They think they’re getting a great deal because the upfront cost seems extremely reasonable. In the long run, though, it’s going to cost you twice – first for the first company to mess it up, and second for the second company to come along and fix the mess.

If you’re unsure about how to spot an Internet marketing company who doesn’t know their META Tags from their canonical URLs, here’s five ways to tell:

1. There is no semantic structure on the company’s website

H1, H2, H3 tags are important for separating out content on a page in an ordered manner. Companies whose pages are extremely long with no structure are either bad at formatting, writing for the Web, or both.

2. They Have a Flash-Based Website

Unless a brand is extremely well-known (I’m talking about the Nikes and Adidas of this world), then avoid a website where the primary content is presented in flash. I’m not biased against a flash website, but we’re talking about Search Engine Optimization here, not your animation skills (or your template designer’s animation skills). I am fully aware that Google has improved its algorithm to include indexing textual content in flash files, but if the purpose is to rank and rank well, why use flash to begin with?

3. The URLs Aren’t Optimized

I’m a stickler for the details – the small things that other people may not notice or even care about drive me crazy. Not many things on a website drive me crazier than an unoptimized URL. I mean, really, there are so many forum software builds, Content Management Systems and e-commerce stores that have plugins to help you do this. Even a static page.  For example, I recently came across a website who’s homepage was index1.html, the ‘about us’ page was index2.html, the service page index3.html and, well, you get the picture. What a waste of a good URL.

4. The Company Has No Page Titles

No, that was not a cue to laugh or swear. There are SEO companies out there who claim to offer SEO services who have no page titles. Seriously, if all you see at the top of your browser when looking at SEO companies is Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, then get the heck out of that website and don’t look back. If that company has no comprehension of a page title and the impact it can have on their own website, they are certainly not going to be effectively optimizing your page titles anytime soon. If there is a page title and all it has is a company name, that is still not good enough – ranking for your brand name is not SEO.

5. You Can’t Find them in Google

If the company hasn’t shown the competency to show up in Google for their own name or targeted keywords, the likelihood of their increasing your presence in the SERPs is less than negligible.

The five items I listed may seem obvious to the seasoned SEO or Internet marketer, but I’ve seen companies offering Internet marketing services who are guilty of all of the above.

Honorable Mentions:

  • They have a splash page
  • They offer to have you at #1 in Google in 24 hours
  • Part of their SEO service is to submit your website to all the major search engines
  • One of their SEO Strategies is keyword stuffing

8 Responses to “Five Ways to Spot a Dodgy SEO Firm”

  1. pratt

    The only other one I’d add is that they offer to get you (and keep you) indexed in over 25 major search engines for only $39.95 a month. I get about 3-4 snail mail offers for this a month. Hilarious, yet scary for the untrained eye.

  2. So I’m a little confused by this post.

    First you say your title is “SEO Manager at Sitening” but then you infer that people with titles like that are posers. Are you saying that you don’t consider yourself an SEO expert or just that you’re just too modest to say so?

    Then you tell us “how to spot an Internet marketing company who knows their stuff”. A company that knows their stuff would be a company that’s really good at what they do, right? But then you give us five things to demonstrate just the opposite. Typo perhaps?

    See why I’m a bit confused?

    But I think I know what you’re getting at. I just think I would have appreciated an article that took a more positive tact. Just my point of view.



  3. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for your input. I apologize if my wording was confusing and appreciate your pointing that out. I’ll see that it gets tweaked.

    As for my title, “SEO Manager,” that title was given to me by Sitening (it’s not a self-ordained title). By no means am I inferring that everyone who has such a title (including myself) is a ‘poser.’ However, I think it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who calls himself or herself an ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ is necessarily an expert or guru. In other words, it’s always best to check the credentials.

    A legitimate company or genuine SEO professional will be able to withstand the scrutiny and will in fact encourage it. My article was intended to make that job a little easier for the person who may not fully know how to go about doing that.

    Thanks again for contacting us.


  4. Tony Murphy

    nice list – though you missed out the “6 million directory listings by tomorrow ploy”

    and any company can guarantee you first page listings if you are happy to pay gazillions of dollars to Google Adwords etc.

    Fun post……