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How Search Engine Optimization Companies Lie To Us

How Search Engine Optimization Companies Lie To Us

As most business owners are already well aware, the amount of competition companies face is endless. Around every corner you see pamphlets being passed out, billboards offering “the best prices,” or reports showing your own clients how you are failing them and how they can fix the damage. Running a business can be a vicious world where you are constantly challenged not only by your competition but your clients as well. The only hedge against such challenges is competency.

One is competent if they do their job right and if they do it well. Almost equally important to competency is legitimacy, and many business owners understand this fact as well. In our digital age, one of the quickest tests of legitimacy is a quick Google search away. If your clients or potential clients search for you on the internet and see you at the top of the search results, chances are they will view you in a more favorable light than someone who is nowhere to be found. But getting to the top is no simple task, and it is why thousands of purported search engine optimization companies have emerged all around the world. They make claims such as “we will make you the top firm in Philadelphia” or “our internet marketing service will increase your rank in Google in one week!” But will they?

Here at Direct Line Development, a web design company with offices in Philadelphia, Denver, and Austin, we specialize in search engine optimization (SEO). We often have new clients come to us frustrated because they had spent a significant amount of money paying other SEO companies, but never received the results they paid for. They aren’t necessarily looking to switch companies, they simply want an expert opinion. We then analyze the optimization work that has supposedly been done on their sites and explain to them why they haven’t been boosted to the top of Google as they had been promised. This is why it knowing what SEO is and how it works will give you the heads up if your site is actually being properly optimized. 

This article takes the years of our experience in search engine optimization and uses it to break down how many of these SEO companies dupe their customers into unfair contracts with unrealistic expectations. Our goal is to show how you can expect a competent and legitimate SEO company to work with you to produce tangible results over a realistic timeline. We hope that you will then be armed with the knowledge to make these important decisions correctly the first time around instead of after you realize you’ve been taken for a ride.

A Majority of People Do Not Understand What SEO Is

Everyone wants to be at the top rank of Google’s search results, and the reasons are obvious, but first place only has room for one winner. Therefore Google has made it extremely competitive to reach that position. It is essentially a contest between who has the most rights to be promoted for a particular word. When conducting search engine optimization work, we construct a page and site so that it incorporates many of the favorable features that Google’s robots are searching for when determining a site’s rank or potential rank. Without going into too much detail here, these things include having a website that is several years old, having an authoritative position on the internet (meaning many sites from diverse backgrounds and high-profiles refer to it), having new and updated content on your site, good user experience where visitors frequent your site often and spend lots of time on it, etc. 

The Main Ways SEO Companies Cheat You

Words that no one is looking for

We have mentioned several times in other articles the importance of developing a semantic core that consists of a variety of words and phrases that you would like to promote and then subsequently tracking that promotional progress through Google Analytics. This is no secret, and any company who is remotely familiar with search engine optimization should do this as well. So let’s say you sign your contract and your new partner develops a list of words for you. Within a week you get a visit to your office from the company who is boasting how you are already the number one spot for over ten of the chosen words and within the top ten positions for many more. They’re excited, you’re excited, and everyone feels that the money was well spent on an expert who clearly knows what they’re doing. We suggest you look closer.

What the company has done is create a list of every possible word and phrase for which your company could potentially be searched, but the keyword here is potential. Sure you might be the number one rank for over 100 different words and phrases, but that is because no one is using those words to search for you. Google has created an online marketplace in which the most competitive words and phrases are constantly battled for by companies just like yours. To be in the top ten submissions for these words takes time and effort, with many of the results taking several months before they become organic. It’s best not to waste your time and money on words that will bring you no traffic or customers. You can see this easily by taking a look at Google Adwords.

SEO keywords of first competitor's website searchSEO keywords of second competitor's website searchSEO keywords of third competitor's website search

You should also be aware of words that are regionally competitive. If you are in Philadelphia, Denver, or Austin, chances are there will be lower amounts of the search traffic for surf shops or jet ski rentals, so your business could occupy those top positions more easily. Again, take a look at Google Adwords to see where the searches are coming from.

Google SERP of Google Adwords SEO toolWelcome page of Google Adwords SEO toolKeyword Planner tool in Google AdwordsSearching new keywords with Google SEO servicesGet Ideas of key requests in Google Adwords

Looking to learn vs. looking to buy

The main purpose of SEO is to herd people to your site in order to convert them into buyers. It is a business strategy. Not all visitors to your site will have the same objectives in mind, and this is something that you (and your potential online marketing company) must be aware of. We can tell you right now that online browsers can roughly be divided into two categories: seekers of information and seekers of commercial offers. Those seeking information are browsing the internet to learn something. Those seeking for commercial purposes are browsing to buy something. The prevalence of both on the internet is relatively even, but the rate at which you will convert them to paying customers is certainly not. Obviously, those who want to buy something will have a higher conversion rate, but that also means that competition for these types of browsers will be much higher. For example, even if you reach the top rank for requests that are searched 1000 times a month, you will receive 10-50 less buyers for words that fit into the information category than for words that fit into the commercial category.  

Commercial Requests

Informational Requests

web design companyresponsive web design
web design serviceswhat is seo
website design costwebsite design ideas
graphic design studiobest seo tools

Very often, commercial requests contain specific keywords that indicate they are searching for a particular item, service, performer, etc., while informational requests are more all-encompassing.

It is much easier for SEO companies to bring you to the top for information-based searches due to the lack of competition. And chances are, you will see your business or firm rise to the top, but what you won’t see is a steady influx of new customers.

Lack of real progress

Once, we saw the results of supposed search engine optimization work done by a company for a frustrated business owner. On paper, it looked as though the company had indeed done work to bring their site up by 10 positions. Since they began work with this company, their position had risen from 37 to 27. This was after several years. Sure we all love to see the upward slope on graphs indicating progress and the potential success it brings, but you need to understand the sources from which this “progress” more likely stemmed.

Google is anything but stagnant in its technological development. It is constantly changing its search engine algorithms to best promote what people are actually searching for. What’s more, is people will most definitely change their search trends over the course of a few years. If you are only rising in small increments over a long period of time, you should take a look at the graphs you are shown more carefully and question the specific work that the company has done to bring about the results they are showing you.

Scoring Results

Your SEO company representative bursts through your doors with a grin stretched across his face. He hands you a report that is simply beautiful: highest rank for all of your important keywords, a tenfold increase in traffic, more visitors are clicking on your top-ranking positions in Google. But you think to yourself that you still don’t have any customers to show for it. This is because the results have been framed in a way to look good on paper, but do not reflect what it actually takes for search engine optimization to be truly advantageous in a financial sense. This is a crucial factor when searching for an SEO company to work with on your website.

In Google Analytics, you should pay careful attention to the parameters through which your data is viewed. Look for things like "Avg. Session Duration," or "Page / Session," or "Bounce Rate." These figures, when taken into account, show that the “high results” you have been receiving are actually from low-quality traffic. These are the people who stay on your site for less than 2 seconds, who accidentally visited it, who close out of it immediately. Sure, you’re getting more clicks, but that isn’t what you want. You want results. To make sure an SEO company isn’t bringing you manipulated data, it’s best that you become familiar with Google Analytics on your own and analyze the results independently of what your promotion company is giving you.

Deception based on Geodata

Unfortunately, companies do this all the time. Material by SEOHow To Do SEO For Your Own Website Part 1: The Semantic CoreHow To Do SEO For Your Own Website Part 1: The Semantic Core64 Tips And Tricks Your Site Needs For Successful SEO Promotion In 201864 Tips And Tricks Your Site Needs For Successful SEO Promotion In 2018 They are preying on the fact that you may not know exactly how Google works, and deceiving you because of it.

Let us try to break it down. Let’s say you are a company based in Jenkintown, a smaller suburb about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Since the size of the area is small, the majority of your targeted customers will come from Philadelphia. If your SEO company were to show you the optimization results based on the Jenkintown location, it is possible that your company could have achieved a position within the top 5 of Google’s rankings. But that same keyword analysis would likely not fall into the top 100 should the data be adjusted for search submissions coming from Philadelphia.

If your SEO company does not make you aware of these facts early on or at least provide you with the necessary location data on the reports they give you, this is a red flag that they might not be the most trustworthy company to work with.

Promotion only through purchasing links or Black-Hat SEO

If, when you sign your contract with your promotion company, they do not wish to change any of the texts, articles, pictures, code, etc. on your site before they begin their promotional work, chances are they will be attempting to elevate it through black or grey SEO. Understanding the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO is very important in the digital marketing age we live in. 

White Hat SEO is what we do here at Direct Line Development. It is about promoting quality content and code while gaining authority within a particular industry and its sphere of the internet. Its results are organic, but take a bit longer to produce results in the short-term, but once they are achieved, they bear fruit for years to come. Black SEO, which is what at least half of all online promotion companies engage in, is simply the purchasing of links and nothing more. For white SEO, you will see the company work vigorously for over half a year and then the results will finally pour in. For black SEO, you will see results almost immediately, and they can be quite good too. But this is short-lived. Google constantly works to prevent such techniques from being used on its search engine. You will probably have around 2-3 months of bliss before your site receives the dreadful “ban” from Google. When this happens, not only will you lose your ranking and positions, but your site as a whole will be virtually unsearchable using Google.

If a company is promising what sounds like it may be too good to be true, chances are, it is.

Contact Us and we will give you a Free Audit!

Search engine optimization is no simple task, and its complicated nature is something that we take into account with our clients. If you feel that some of the scenarios laid out above may apply to you and want to make sure you aren’t being deceived, give us a call and we will run an audit of your website to make sure everything is in order and that you aren’t wasting your money.

If this article was useful for you or if you have any further questions on the topic, be sure to let us know in the comments section below!


12th February 2018

This is a good read, we see all the time that companies are told that they are getting great results, but got meaningless keywords that never get searched. As consultants, we need to educate the client so they can protect themselves. It is so important to do things the right way

12th February 2018

It's nice that someone is talking about SEO so open and show us, who is not in the industry, what is truly important and how to not get fooled by the companies who don't care about their clients and only want money. SEO is complex and it's not that easy for people to understand how it works.

14th February 2018

It is extremely important to keep your current company honest and to make sure that the results they are showing you are real.
We often hear from clients that they have a Marketing company or a "GUY" doing SEO and that they are doing a great job driving traffic to their websites, the truth is that when we take a deeper look we find that their Website traffic is coming from other sources. SEO strategies are constantly changing, competitor strategies change and need to be adjusted constantly!!! Great Article!!!

14th February 2018

Probably one of the most common things that I hear from businesses is, "we hate digital marketing companies because someone ripped us off". Frankly, I want every single one of them to read this article. It pains me to see companies writing off the internet as if it were something that is going to be less important moving forward, clearly that is not the case. I have had business owners come to me touting a #1 rank position for keywords until I look up the keyword and see that it has zero monthly searches. Great article, seriously something that every business owner should read.

17th April 2018

Definitely great insight for anyone who is currently working with a SEO provider. Gives you a ton of questions to ask to make sure your money is well spent.

20th April 2018

Great article as there are A LOT of companies that charge big fees for SEO without delivering real, tangible results.

5th June 2018

Those companies that are using only Yoast and calling it SEO work is what gives the bad reputation of other hard working companies. Doing your research about digital marketing companies is something you have to take serious and do some deep diving.

3rd July 2018

It is important to have all of the facts laid out on the table before committing to an SEO contract. It's amazing that some companies out there don't do it right and sell unsuspecting clients on non-tangible results.

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Cyril Allgeier
Cyril Allgeier
(713) 851-7945
Stephen Greenspan
Stephen Greenspan
(484) 808-7179
(720) 370 3720