SEO and digital marketing are quickly becoming necessary tools to make it in the digital age. Search engine optimization, SEO, helps your business get seen by the right demographic. But like any company you hire, whether it’s an SEO company or a doctor, chances are you’re not going to know everything they’re talking about. It’s exactly this obliviousness that SEO scammers take advantage of. The great thing about SEO though is that it’s fairly easy to learn the basics, which can help you determine if the SEO company you hired is legitimate or not.

If you’re looking to hire a company to do SEO for your business keep an eye out for these red flags.

Blog Comment Pitches

Just ask yourself this, if a company tries to gain business for themselves through a poorly worded, lengthy blog comment just how well do you think they’re going to do with getting you business? If you take the time you’ll find that most of these pitches don’t even link back to SEO or digital marketing companies.

Avoid hiring any company that advertises in the comment section of any blogs or articles. Some companies will offer legitimate help through professional emails but we still recommend you do your research before going with them.

Guaranteed Rankings

Getting high rankings in Google on top keywords doesn’t happen over night. It can take months to years, and sometimes not at all, to hit your ideal keyword searches. Any SEO expert will tell you that they can’t guarantee a ranking. Google’s algorithm changes all the time and while SEO companies try to adapt and keep on top of it at the end of the day they don’t know all the ins and out of it.

Rankings should be goals, but any company that guarantees you anything is a red flag. It’s also not all about ranking. A scam SEO company may show you first-page ranking but it only matters if the keywords are related to your business. At the end of the day, a ranking isn’t the end goal- it’s sales and profit that you should really strive for. You want an SEO company that can deliver quality traffic, not just quantity.

Fast Rankings

Like we’ve said, it usually takes years to get a solid first-page ranking on competitive keywords. Any SEO company that offers you quick results is probably a scam. Scam SEO companies often use tactics that offer sharp increases in ranking but these quickly fall back down and often come with consequences from Google.

You should see steady results within three months. Some fluctuation day to day is completely normal but spiking between page one and not ranking at all is a sign of a scam. Keep in mind that your business and the keywords you are trying to rank for all impact how long SEO ranking takes. A reputable SEO company will be able to give you an ideal timeline – and no, it won’t be 48 hours.

Cheap Pricing

You get what you pay for. There’s a reason that saying has stuck around for so long – it’s incredibly true. If an SEO company is advertising quick results for cheap, chances are they’re just linking your site to spam websites. This not only associates your business with shady practices but Google levies heavy penalties against these. This tactic worked well at the beginning of the Internet but Google has become way savvier today.

SEO takes an extensive amount of expertise and experience, along with a reasonable budget. Some companies may offer bargain prices, but always remember that you get what you pay for – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Google Connections

Almost every SEO scammer out there claims some connection to Google. “I worked on Google Analytics” or even “My dad currently works at Google so I have all of the inside knowledge”. None of this is true. Google is pretty strict when it comes to their algorithm so don’t trust just anyone that claims to have inside knowledge.

Ask yourself this – if they really worked for Google, why would they leave such a large, profitable company to work for a small, cheap SEO company? No one trying to sell your SEO services works for Google, Google will never call or email you for SEO services, and don’t trust anyone that claims to have a special inside connection to Google. These are all red flags of an SEO scam.

Free Trials

SEO takes a lot of time and detail. Reputable firms put in long hours and hard work to get quality, long lasting results. No legitimate SEO company will offer you a free trial. Companies that offer free one-month trials are likely scams. It usually takes more than a month to see significant results, so a legitimate SEO company would not make this kind of offer.

SEO Secrecy

SEO can be complicated but it’s not secretive. You might not understand every technical detail of how it works or how the company is getting you results – and that’s okay. However, the company should be able to tell you the basic strategy they will implement to get you results, along with a monthly report.

SEO secrecy is a huge red flag and almost always signals a scam. If you’re giving someone access to your website, they should be able to tell you what they’re doing.

With all the SEO scams out there you might be wondering if you can trust any SEO company. You can. Search for company reviews, ask for references and examples and browse their websites to see content. Don’t be afraid to ask any and every question you have either.

Make sure to always speak with a real person before signing up for anything. Any reputable SEO company will want to make you feel comfortable and will be proud of their work. Transparency and honesty will be important to them. Be smart, do research and trust your gut when it comes to picking an SEO company for your business.