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Beware of SEO Trollers: How to Tell the SEO Experts from the Hacks

by Mary Ann Hegvold on June 27, 2017

How many times a week do you get emails and phone calls telling you that you have terrible SEO? For us it's got to be 3-5 times every single week. What are they seeing that causes such grave concern for my company and my website's health?

The simple answer? In most cases they haven't seen anything. In fact, many of them have clearly never even looked at our website before they start telling me at first how wonderful it is, followed directly by "but you aren't ranking on the first page of search results."

They're using scare tactics to try to get me to react in a way that throws money at a problem that may or may not even exist.

Thankfully for us we understand how to effectively rank for phrases that we target. But that's not everyone's area of specialty. If you're not aware of what to look for, you might take these calls or read these emails with anywhere from a sense of unease to outright panic.

Larry the "SEO Expert"

SEO-Expert-Larry.jpgI recently received a phone call from a guy named Larry who told me he was with a digital marketing agency and was a Google Partner. He wanted to be sure that I knew that my company was not on the first page of search results.

That is probably the most ridiculous statement I've heard in a while. And I bet Larry realized that after we finished our call. First, we are on the first page of search results for phrases we find important to us. And second, this guy (who I've never spoken to or emailed) had no idea who he had called. He didn't know his audience. Had he known we were also a digital marketing agency there's a chance he wouldn't have even tried to call us -- especially if he'd actually looked at our website or our search results for relevant phrases.

Learn more about how to really understand your target audience(s). Download a Free Persona Development Guide 

Annoyed-MAF2.jpgI asked him if he knew what my SEO strategy was. He said, "No, I don't." So I replied, "Then how on earth would you have any idea if I'm on the first page of search results for what's important to us?" There was no reply and Larry knows that he should probably remove us from their call list.

He's right that I'm not on the first page of search results for about a million things not related to what we do. But his sales tactic was fear and I'm here to remind you that fear isn't going to create a long-term, trusting relationship that works with your company's goals to create a web strategy that produces more leads. This guy wanted me to buy ads and start an SEO program that he wasn't even sure I really needed.

And that's what makes me so angry with the SEO trollers out there. They're calling people or emailing them and throwing out jargon that makes you think you better take action right now or your company will be in dire straits. When really, they have no idea what's best for you.

I mentioned that he also threw in there that his company is a Google Partner. I'm not bashing Google Partners, but I don't like that people use that in their sales pitch so that people will think, "well then they must know how Google works." No one truly knows, but we have spent time studying what works and what doesn't and creating content strategies for clients that support what Google wants to see.

Being a Google Partner does not automatically deem them the right solution for you and they don't have a secret connection at Google that makes them more successful than other companies. 

4 warning signs that AN SEO vendor is not being upfront with you

Here are four things you should be especially wary of when you receive an SEO solicitation:

  1. Guarantees - I've heard the guarantees that I'll be on the first page of search results in 30 days or 60 days (insert whatever timeline they think you want to hear). There is nothing they can do to trick the system to get me on the first page of results by a specific date. Unless you run an ad. But organic results can't be guaranteed and you should be wary of anyone who makes those claims.

  2. Warnings that you're not on the first page of the search results - Like Larry did to me, he blindly stated that I wasn't on the first page of search results. As a marketing agency a) I knew better since we do track our SEO results for important phrases all the time and b) I knew he was trying to scare me into action. Don't fall for it. If you have concerns, find someone who will work with to assess the actual situation and create a plan that gets you there by strategically aligning your SEO plan with your company's goals.

  3. Too cheap to believe - We won't claim to be the cheapest company out there for SEO services, but there's a reason for that. It's because doing good work for clients requires a time commitment from our team. They need to understand your needs, create a keyword strategy, create content, and report on what's happening every month. To do all of that requires our clients to invest in the process. But it's worth it because once you've stopped paying for SEO on those phrases, you'll continue to reap the benefit of the work we do.

  4. Use of too much jargon and abbreviations - If you get to talking with a possible SEO vendor, don't let them run you over with abbreviations (SERP, KPI, etc.) or SEO lingo like "juice" and "signal". Yes, over time you'll know what those are too, but sounding SEO-smart doesn't actually mean that vendor will produce good SEO results. You should be able to understand the general process and plan for what you'll be doing to get your SEO program underway and maintained with a general timeline expectation.


  1. Someone you can trust and communicate with well. If you don't trust us, you're not going to fully buy into the work we do. And that won't benefit anyone. We want to work with companies who like us and we have mutual respect for each other's knowledge in our areas of expertise. This creates a team approach to creating a content strategy that will produce better ranking for seo keywords that are important to you.

  2. Someone who can prove their work and explain how they got there. Ask for past work examples and the process that was used. If the vendor knows what they're doing they'll be happy to explain the process without giving away another client's trade secrets.

  3. A baseline report for your own SEO. Whether it's in the sales process or one of the first things you do together you should be able to see a report on where you stand and where your competitors are at for phrases important to you. It doesn't have to be super detailed, but you need some idea of where you're starting to know how and when you've progressed.

  4. The writers for your content have the same native language and dialect that you're trying to aim for - I have worked with SEO companies from other parts of the world who give the writing responsibilities to someone who isn't from the United States. Their writing quality was considerably lower than when we have a writer who is fluent in the dialect and grammar used in the U.S. This also holds true when you need something written in Spanish (as I'm sure in other languages too). Try to find someone who natively speaks Spanish with the dialect of the region you're targeting. Cuban vs. Colombian vs. Mexican dialects of Spanish can be different enough that it matters. Ask who will be writing your content and if they're from the same area you're targeting.

Don't Worry... SEO doesn't have to be painful

I hope if nothing else, you'll be able to take these phone calls and emails with a better sense of confidence. And if you're looking for an SEO vendor to help you appear on the first page of search results for things that are important to you, we'd love to talk. You might also start with reading this blog too: 5 Website Optimization Techniques that Improve SEO. Spoiler Alert: There’s No SEO Magic Bullet!

We always start the process by seeing where where you're at and what would make the most sense to get you on the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page -- See now you have one of the acronyms in the bag!). 

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Topics: SEO

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