I know a guy who knows a guy who got his website ranking number one in Yahoo for “Sheep Shears Georgia”! – and it only took him a week!

And that guy is more than willing to take your money to do the same for you.  These guys are everywhere.  Some of them aren’t even guys.  Man or woman, they’ll happily promise you the world for a low flat fee – usually a couple hundred bucks.  And that’s far less than the rates Leverage Marketing charges for search engine optimization services.  And you’re free to pay them your money and test out their “guaranteed first page rankings.”  But before you do, here are some things to be very wary of (they’re scary!):

Look out for:

Reciprocal link building

This was extremely popular 5+ years ago and is one of the main reasons that sites used to have whole pages dedicated to outgoing links.  Just because it was popular (and somewhat effective) 5 years ago doesn’t mean you should do it now.  In fact, link schemes like this can throw up major red flags in the search engines and can have your site booted from the search results.

Paid directory link building

Many companies still base their “SEO” programs around this type of link building.  The basic premise here is handing over varying amounts of cash in return for a link back to your site.  In one way, this sounds like basic advertising and sounds relatively reasonable.  But dig a little deeper and evaluate the value of a link from the majority of sites that offer this deal, and you’ll find it’s rarely even close to worth it.  Many companies recommend that you give them $300 so they can submit you to Yahoo’s directory.  And you’re a yahoo if you fork it over!  This link will rarely generate traffic and won’t give your site any noticeable link value.  Add this to the fact that paid links are easily identified and devalued by search engines and you have an optimization tactic sure to disappoint.

Submission to search engines

Besides the fact that this can easily be done yourself by entering your URL in Google’s or Bing’s form, it is completely unnecessary for all but brand new sites.  Google and Yahoo are very good at finding your URLs on their own.  Ensuring that the important pages of your site can be found from a sitemap, however, is still a good idea.

Concentration on optimizing Meta keywords element

It used to be very common, and somewhat beneficial, to target specific keywords in the meta keywords element of your site as search engines used to look here to get an idea of what your site was about.  Of course this was and still is used by many people in hopes of improving their rankings.  If only it were that simple.  The value of working on this Meta Element is extremely low if at all.  Creating unique descriptions in the meta description element of your pages, however, is important – but for a completely different reason which will be a topic of another blog post.

Guaranteed rankings or guaranteed amounts of traffic

It’s hard not to be warmed over by a great sounding guarantee.  Let me guess, you want number one rankings for the highest search volume keywords that even remotely represent your offering and you want traffic by the thousands to come to your site, correct?  Well shoot, we can get that for you if you’ll just sign this twelve month contract.  Truth be told, great guarantees are hard to come by. And I have yet to see any SEO companies guarantee anything but wasted time, a lighter pocket book, and a grudge against SEO companies.  This need not be the case.  A quality SEO company will show exactly what they are working on and how it will impact your website.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  I guarantee it!

The number of companies offering the above ‘services’ is not as high as it once was.  Many consumers have wised up to many of the above mentioned careless tactics but there still are many phony companies out there.  In fact, this post was prompted by a phony SEO company whose proposal was sent on to me – it included each of the above tactics as main offerings.  I’ll leave you with one important recommendation:  When considering an SEO company to establish a relationship with, grab your outlined goals for your business and with your B.S. cap firmly on, review the offerings.  Is there anything that seems too good to be true?  Have the company you are considering explain anything that doesn’t seem possible.  And by all means, choose with your head and not based on fantasy.  Lastly, how many people are searching for sheep shears Georgia, anyways?