Small business owners are often bombarded with sales pitches promising instant SEO success and skyrocketing rankings. Many of us get emails or LinkedIn messages almost every day telling us how our site has promise but is doing everything wrong. They tell you they can fix everything and make you millions. However, it’s crucial to approach these sales tactics with caution. Many of them are misleading, offering short-term gains at best, while potentially causing long-term harm. In this blog post, we will expose six common SEO sales tactics that deceive small business owners and highlight their potential negative impacts over the long term. By understanding these tactics, you can make informed decisions and protect your business’s online presence.

Guaranteed #1 Rankings:

One of the most common misleading sales tactics is the promise of guaranteed #1 rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs). While achieving top rankings is a desired goal, it’s important to recognize that search engine algorithms are complex and ever-evolving. No legitimate SEO professional can guarantee a specific ranking position. Such promises are often based on short-term manipulations and can result in penalties, loss of rankings, and damage to your online reputation in the long run. Often the #1 ranking is for something nobody searches for, and thus is easy to get a top ranking. They get the ranking and fulfill their obligation without any boost to your bottom line, sometimes putting you in worse shape for your true long-term goals.

Overnight Results:

Beware of claims that suggest instant SEO success or overnight results. SEO is a long-term strategy that requires ongoing effort, patience, and continuous optimization. Legitimate SEO professionals focus on sustainable practices that build organic visibility and traffic over time. Any promises of immediate results should be treated with skepticism, as they often involve black hat tactics that can lead to penalties and reputational damage down the line. It is very rare for a site to be in a position to go from nowhere to successful within a few months. If you are doing it right, you will see continued progress, but overnight results, if still even possible, are likely going to get you in much worse trouble down the road. Sometimes trouble you can’t recover from without costs that may exceed your initial investment. Sometimes needing to build a new site on a new domain because your reputation is ruined by the sketchy tactics used to get the “overnight benefits”.

Cheap Packages or One-Size-Fits-All Solutions:

Some SEO sales tactics lure small business owners with cheap packages or one-size-fits-all solutions. These cookie-cutter approaches rarely yield substantial results. Effective SEO requires a tailored strategy that takes into account your business’s unique needs, target audience, and industry landscape. Investing in a comprehensive SEO strategy that aligns with your specific goals and budget is far more likely to deliver long-term success. You may be able to get a “base coat” by applying generic low cost tactics, that can help you stand out in rural areas with little competition, but in more populated areas, you need specialized tactics that help you stand out from your competitors.  A good SEO professional can help taylor their package to your company and save you money by assisting in the areas you don’t have resources, and training in areas where  you do, but cheap set it and forget it plans just won’t work in any competitive market.

Lack of Transparency:

Google Analytics charts and dataTransparency is a crucial aspect of any trustworthy SEO service. Be cautious of sales tactics that withhold or provide vague information about their strategies, techniques, or reporting. Legitimate SEO professionals should be transparent about their practices, providing clear insights into the actions they will take to improve your website’s visibility. Lack of transparency can lead to ineffective or unethical SEO practices that may harm your business’s online presence and authority in the long run. Your SEO company should regularly update you on the work they have done the prior month or quarter, and explain why it was necessary. It is important you are given clear performance updates. You won’t necessarily get more traffic every month, but if you do drop back, the SEO should know why, and what tactics to use to get back on track.  Your traffic and conversion analytics is yours and should be provided to you on a regular basis.

Paying for Backlinks:

Backlinks are the gray area of SEO. They are undeniably important, but the type of link that comes to your site is more important than the volume. The sales tactic of offering to purchase backlinks is not only misleading but also risky. Backlinks are valuable for SEO, but they should be earned organically through quality content and relationship-building. Purchasing backlinks from questionable sources can lead to penalties from search engines and a loss of trust and credibility with your target audience. Building a strong backlink profile should be a natural, ongoing process rather than a quick-fix solution. A good SEO has done relationship building and has the experience to know what relationships will most assist your business. Each link tells Google a story about the relevance of your business. You want links that show your relevance to your geographic target markets, your industry, and of course your customers. Anyone focusing on the number of backlinks has their eyes on the wrong prize and is misleading you because getting lots of cheap links is actually going to hurt you more than help you.

Ignoring Content Quality:

Content is the backbone of successful SEO strategies. Be wary of sales pitches that focus solely on technical optimizations or link-building without emphasizing the importance of high-quality, engaging content. Poorly written or irrelevant content may temporarily attract search engine traffic, but it won’t engage or retain your target audience. The best content is the content that answers your customers’ questions and makes it more clear and easy for them to hire or buy from you. Help remove their hurdles. Over time, this can result in higher bounce rates, lower rankings, and diminished brand authority.

The Potential Negative Impact of Bad SEO:

Misleading or uninformed SEO sales tactics can have significant negative consequences for small businesses over the long term. These include:

  1. Penalties and Loss of Rankings: Engaging in manipulative tactics or black hat SEO can lead to penalties from search engines, causing a significant drop in rankings or even removal from SERPs. Recovering from these penalties is a challenging , expensive, and time-consuming process. Most likely costing you more than the initial investment in the scammy tactics.
  2. Reputational Damage: Unethical SEO practices can damage your business’s online reputation. User trust and confidence are crucial for sustainable success. If your business is associated with manipulative tactics, it can lead to negative reviews, diminished credibility, and a loss of customer and search engine trust. Google tends to look at your site as having an “authority” and “trust” for different concepts and types of information. Once Google views your site as not trustworthy, you are in a very difficult situation.
  3. Wasted Resources and Financial Losses: Investing in misleading SEO services often results in wasted resources and financial losses. Small businesses may spend money on ineffective strategies, damaging their budget and hindering their growth potential.
  4. Missed Opportunities for Organic Growth: Relying on short-term gains and manipulative tactics deprives your business of the opportunity for organic growth. Building a solid foundation based on ethical SEO practices ensures sustainable visibility and long-term success. Any time you have spent going down the wrong path is time you will need to spend to go back to that fork in the road and start over doing it right.

An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer

As a small business owner, it’s crucial to be aware of the misleading SEO sales tactics that are prevalent in the industry. Guarantees of top rankings, overnight success, and cheap solutions often mask unethical practices that can harm your business’s online presence in the long run. By remaining vigilant, seeking transparent and ethical SEO services, and prioritizing long-term organic growth, you can protect your business’s reputation and achieve sustainable success in the ever-evolving digital landscape.