September 21, 2014 2:25 PM
Many NTRCA members were recently affected by some underhanded, deceptive SEO (search engine optimization) techniques by a company named Accent Roofing Company, most likely implemented by a shady SEO company they hired. They littered YouTube with multiple copies of the same video, tagging many of our NTRCA members’ company names, in order to deceptively drive web search engine traffic their own way.
A big thank you to Bert Roofing for bringing this to our attention. The company has been reported to YouTube by many of us and, as of now, it looks like the videos with other company names have been pulled.
SEO is important to most businesses, including roofing companies, and many SEO-focused companies are in business to help customers increase their search rankings. But how to do you spot a bad SEO company? How do you select a good one?
In short, good SEO companies will use techniques to help you gain higher rankings in an ethical manner that involve no deception. This can take time and money, but the results can make it worth it. Bad SEO companies, on the other hand, often employ deceptive practices that are not approved by search engines, which can result in a site eventually being banned, de-indexed or penalized through lower rankings. Any short-term gain received by bad, deceptive SEO practices is NOT worth this kind of risk.
Bad SEO (or what some call black hat SEO) techniques include keyword stuffing, doorway and cloaked pages, link farming, hidden texts and links, and blog comment spamming. Good SEO (or what some call white hat SEO) techniques include research, analysis, re-writing meta tags to be more relevant, content improvement and web redesign.
Below are several tips and red flags to help you recognize a bad SEO company and avoid getting scammed:
1. They Offer Free Trial Services…and Want Access to Your Website
Companies using this tactic may make you an offer to try their services free for 30 days, if you’ll just give them access to your site. This is a red flag. Don’t do it. Never give your website login info to anyone offering you a free trial or to anyone else you do not know and trust.
2. You Were Made Aware of the Company Only through Email
Unsolicited SEO offers via email or a cold call should give you pause. Spammers often use spiders to crawl for a list of URLs and email addresses, so when you get an unsolicited offer via email from someone who claims to have visited your site, be wary. Like we recommend to those selecting a roofing company, do your research before hiring any SEO company.
3. Their Services are Under Priced or Overpriced
Beware of really inexpensive SEO service offers from sites like Fiverr and Elance. Good SEO takes time, expertise and working within the rules. Be leery of someone offering services at a significantly low (or high) price.
4. They Make Promises and Guarantees About First Page (or First Rank) Positions on Google or Other Search Engines
Good, effective SEO cannot be done quickly, unless it is done using bad practices. It takes time, research and likely some rework on your website to do it well. Do not do business with anyone that promises a particular page rank, or page ranking in a short time frame.
Ranking is done periodically by Google, not on a daily basis, and nothing you can do will speed up the process. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for a page to get ranked, and your ranking is also impacted by other sites’ rankings.
5. You Are Promised Hundreds (or Thousands) of Links to Your Site
Lahle Wolfe, CEO of LA Wolfe Marketing says: “Any links you get from such claims are more likely to hurt your site than to help it. Building links too fast to the wrong sites is considered black hat SEO and could damage the credibility of your website in search engines. If Google catches you building links with black hat strategies your site will be penalized or blacklisted.”
Instead, she recommends spending time building your own quality in-bound links by offering meaningful content and suggests avoiding reciprocal linking (an old SEO tactic that is no longer effective). “Robots are smart and know when you are trying to cheat the system,” she warns.
6. Companies That Are Not Easy to Reach and/or Will Not Answer Your Questions
Like we suggest to property owners when they’re hiring a roofing contractor: ask questions (and lots of them). If you get the runaround or get told the answer is a “trade secret technique,” look elsewhere. You are hiring experience, not trade secrets when you work with an SEO company. You should also be able to easily find the SEO company – online and via phone (and not just a cell phone).
7. The Company Does Not Easily Refer You to Past Clients
Ask for referrals. If the company refuses, is hesitant or only gives you a couple references, it may be best to look elsewhere for SEO help.
It may be that the SEO company is to blame for the deceptive videos pumped out on YouTube last week for Accent Roofing Company, but Accent will be the one reported and harmed. It’s important to choose carefully and to have a clear understanding of what the SEO company will be doing for you and their techniques.