10 Lies You Should Never Believe From SEO “Gurus”

While the days of the snake oil salesman are long behind us, we’re still plagued by people out to make a quick buck at our expense. As business owners, it’s sometimes not apparent when a charlatan is trying to wheedle money from us, especially when it relates to something we don’t know much about.

Take search engine optimization (SEO). While it’s generally accepted that a well-run SEO campaign is an essential part of any online marketing strategy, many business owners still aren’t really clear on how to improve their search rankings; and so, they turn to supposed experts for help.

The problem is, those SEO “gurus” are often using outdated tactics to try to move up search results — or simply promising the moon without being able to deliver. Thanks to Google, those “quick-win” SEO tactics from years ago no longer fly.

Here are ten lies to watch out for when interviewing people to help with your search engine rankings.

1. I Can Get You The #1 Position On Google.

Why this lie continues to perpetuate, I’ll never understand. Hear this, and hear it well: no one can guarantee rankings on search engines. Except maybe Google, but you’re not Google, and neither is that guy you hired to work on your SEO.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state very clearly that you should be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Be very skeptical of anyone who promises you top positioning.

2. Every Industry Is The Same In The SEO World. I Don’t Need Specific Experience In Your Field.

This is in response to your question, “Do you have experience helping companies in my industry?”

Ideally, the SEO professional you work with will have expertise in your field. The truth is that all industries are not equal in the SEO world. Some, like business services, are much more competitive for top keywords — others, like manufacturing, are less competitive and therefore easier to dominate.

Unless you’re in a very small niche that no one will have experience in, keep looking until you find an SEO expert who has a proven track record in your field.

3. Duplicated Content Is Fine.

The person or firm you hire to help with SEO may or may not also be a content marketing expert. It helps if they’ve got skills in both areas, because content is essential to your SEO strategy.

No matter how awesome or well-written it may have been, re-posting an article you published elsewhere on your own blog is not a good idea. This is due to duplicate content filtering and the effects of the Panda 4.0 algorithm which launched a few weeks ago.

4. The More Links, The Better.

Just a few years ago, SEO “experts” would use many spammy tactics for acquiring links to their clients’ websites, and Google largely permitted it. Though it wasn’t officially allowed by Google, Google did nothing to penalize those who were doing it. And the sad truth is that those tactics worked extremely well. As such, SEO was mostly a popularity contest driven by the number of inbound links you had to your website.

Those days are gone, so don’t let anyone tell you differently. While the acquisition of inbound links is still an important part of any SEO strategy, Google has shifted their emphasis from quantity to quality. Large quantities of spammy inbound links can now harm your rankings — or even get you slapped with a manual penalty.

5. The More Keywords, The Better.

While keyword density (what percentage of the total copy of a page your keywords comprised) was a major buzzword a few years ago, the focus now is on using a variety of keywords and their variations (known as long-tail keywords) sprinkled naturally throughout the body copy.

Naturally,” you will note, does not mean that every third word is that keyword. Don’t work with anyone who tells you differently.

6. I’ll Submit Your Site To Hundreds Of Search Engine Directories.

And you’ll be wasting my time. Yes, while you can submit your site to the major search engines, this will yield absolutely zero benefit. There are not hundreds of legitimate directories you want to be found on. Honestly, there never were. This tactic can actually trigger an unnatural link warning or penalty from Google, so stay far away from anyone who says they’ll do any link building or “submissions” on such a large scale.

7. My Techniques Are Too Complicated To Explain.

You may not be a tech head, but you are perfectly capable of understanding how someone you’re paying money to can improve the rankings of your site. In all honesty, it’s not complicated at all. Good SEO campaigns are the result of the successful melding of what I call the Three Pillars of SEO: Content, Links, and Social Media. Each pillar is not complicated nor difficult; it’s just a matter of having the resources to implement each, and the expertise to implement each according to best practices.

8. You Don’t Need To Worry About Google Algorithm Updates.

The truth is, we all need to at least be aware of them and how they change the industry. In general, if you’re practicing above-board SEO strategies that involve producing useful and relevant content in order to build your brand organically and naturally, you should be fine. But still keep your ear to the ground on what Google’s up to.

Here’s a handy resource for keeping track of each Google algorithm update, when it occurred, and what it changed: Google Algorithm Change History.

9. All You Need Is SEO.

No marketing plan will succeed if it’s focused on a single marketing discipline. Your website rankings can improve through your active presence on social media, consistent blog posts, and even your offline marketing efforts. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but ensure that each piece of your marketing strategy maximizes your SEO benefits.

10. I‘ll Get Your SEO Fixed In A Month For A Flat Rate.

SEO is not a “set it and forget it” strategy; it needs ongoing attention. Remember that SEO does not happen in a vacuum. Your competitors are constantly working to improve their SEO, so if you stop doing so, you’ll fall behind. Certain one-time projects can be extremely beneficial, such as initial SEO website audits, link profile audits, and professional keyword research. But these should be treated as foundations and starting points of successful ongoing SEO campaigns.

Ultimately, you need someone who’s willing to work with your company for the foreseeable future and make recommendations for improvement as you go along.

Be Smart In Hiring An SEO Consultant

If you’re going to invest time and money in hiring someone to help you with your SEO efforts, you need to be confident in their ability to do the job right. Start by doing your homework on a few potential firms. A smart SEO company will have plenty of information on its website about how they help customers and the strategies they use.

Next, look for reviews of those companies. Try searching for the company name and “review” and see what pops up. Usually no news is good news; if the company has had angry customers, mentions are likely to pop up.

See how the company’s own site measures in terms of search ranking. Use a tool like Alexa to see how popular the site is. The lower the number, the higher it ranks out of all sites from a traffic perspective. Remember: SEO is imperative for the survival of your brand online. Work with a company or individual that doesn’t make promises they can’t keep.

Have you heard other lies from SEO “gurus”? Leave a comment and let us know!

Stock image used with permission of Shutterstock.com

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing | Search Marketing Column


About The Author: is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency.

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  • http://www.righdirectionmarketing.co.uk Roger England

    Interesting post Jayson. May I suggest #11: “Don’t worry about how you write, it’s only read by Google-bots!” So often, clients get bogged down with the technical aspects of SEO, they lose focus on the most important things that rank your site – humans! Writing content that people will enjoy reading mustn’t be overlooked, too.

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/williamharveyuk William Harvey

    Hi Jayson, thanks for the post.

    I’ll kick this one off…

    I agree in large but the following “I Don’t Need Specific Experience In Your Field.” I disagree with.

    A good SEO/SEM consultant will have the skills to back calculate any given sector and analyse the various metrics, and then be in a position to place the clients competitive position.

    A good SEO consultant will also gain relevant information such as companies online goals, financial forecasting and targeting, new product line, old ones, products to push etc, what’s trending in the sector, what will be new for the coming year etc etc. – there’s 100′s of questions.

    Then there’s detailed competitor analysis – there’s way too much to list here.

    From all of this information, which is a requisite before starting any new campaign, allows a good SEO consultant to fully understand a sector and in some ways (online) more so than the client.

    We SEOs always hear praises from clients, especially presenting this data during a brainstorming session and hearing how we’ve opened their minds to new and real possibilities.

    Yes I agree that there are too many bad apples, but good SEOs and SEMs add tremendous value to the client but the neg SEO articles keep coming.

  • 7evident

    #12 seek to employ an SEO consultant who asks for payment when successful on pre established targets – then you are certain that what works for you, works for them. Win/win is best!

  • http://www.LinkedMediaGroup.com Linked Media Group, Inc.

    For many of us who started out in search ten plus years ago I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen like this which have minimal value to the reader. Chasing Google’s Algorithm in any shape fashion or form is a “fools game” and a complete waste of time.

    The market has shifted: today, every brand needs to create meaningful content and share it across the social web. They are much better off NOT wasting any time at all on SEO at all other than just using a functional plugin like Yoast.

  • Jared

    Are you serious? What professional does work up front and ask for payment only if you like it?

  • http://idontsing.com/ Tom Jones

    Great article. Too many people don’t understand to ramifications of using a bad SEO “guru”. They are only looking at dollar signs in the immediate future when too often it ends up costing them in dollars and rankings later on. I emailed this to all the business owners I know. This sums it up really well.

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve

    I also disagree with #2. A good SEO, especially a veteran, who’s been there and done it, understands the intricacies of doing SEO for different industries. A good SEO understands that he/she has to do enough research in the niche to do SEO properly, but the core principles are the same no matter the industry.

    If you assume that all SEOs use some cookie-cutter strategy for building links, then OK, you’d be right.

  • http://onlineventures.asia/ Online Ventures Asia

    We try to educate our clients about quality. It’s our belief that in the end Google will have to provide quality results that satisfy the user. It’s our long term strategy. I find it annoying when I talk to SEO companies and they’re more interested in payment than process. Sometimes I wonder if they really have a process? ;-)

  • https://plus.google.com/+KristinSnodyOlson/posts Kristin Snody Olson

    Isn’t that the truth. It’s almost funny, but I know the truth is that some folks still buy into this.

  • sunder kry

    Some time ago i was working in a company that time i told them that what we are doing that is not a good seo and they force me to do wrong seo. Today i’m happy to leave that company couse i was right.

  • 7evident

    Absolutely serious, but not “if you like it” – when pre agreed targets are met.

    To flip the question, what “professional” would expect payment for SEO services that don’t bring his client results and ROI? What exactly would a client be paying for without seeing their website visibility significantly increased?

    Do you go to Walmart and get greeted at the door by the cashier saying “what budget do you have?”

    It’s time the SEO industry all works on results in our opinion. That’s why this is how we do it, and I suppose why we have tripled revenues year on year for the 5 years running since we did, with no bad credit…

  • http://www.BestOnlineResults.com/ Joshua

    How about I am best friends with Matt Cutts? I have heard SEOs hurl this at prospective clients to win business.

  • http://steveg.com/ SteveG

    Walmart is not marketing. Try this same scenario with TV or Radio and Newspaper advertising.

  • https://plus.google.com/+KristinSnodyOlson/posts Kristin Snody Olson

    Well said!

  • digitalscrm

    I agree with William. I’m a veteran in Digital advertising since 2001 (agency side and as a consultant). Not long ago I had a chiropractor as a client. Even though I did not know his industry, research quickly showed me his competitive market wasn’t that strong and that his business had a good chance to do well. Plus, I knew that there was a lot of room to work on social media strategies (video training, blogs, facebook, twitter, white papers, testimonials, TV interviews, PR, etc.).

    Result: His site made it all the way to positions three and four on Google with some of the keywords related to the “brace” they were selling and the medical white papers, etc. Locally, they made it number two.

  • sascha

    There are just three of that “lies” I ever heard by SEO´s. No SEO even not the worst one would tell you thinks like “Duplicated Content Is Fine” or “You Don’t Need To Worry About Google Algorithm Updates”. This article is just a sort of linkbait. ^^

  • sharithurow

    Hi there-

    Wow! I should add some of the lies I constantly hear.

    With all due respect, snake-oil SEO is not long gone. It is alive and well and thriving. I’m astounded (and admittedly, impressed) with some of the stuff that black-hat SEOs are doing. Though black-hat SEOs are not necessarily snake-oil SEOs. But that’s another discussion.

    My 2 cents on being a specialist in an industry: I have a background in medical genetics and biochemistry. I have a very good science vocabulary that makes me particularly suited for the medical industry. The do-it-all SEO probably does not have the education, experience, etc. that I have in science & medicine.

    That being said, there are people who have expertise in other industries that I don’t have.

    My point? I see no harm in wanting to work with an SEO who has some niche experience and successes. It’s an added benefit.

    Oh yeah…I’m Matt Cutts’ best friend.

    Kidding. :-)


  • disqus_7lEAhytOR7

    These SEO people call me every day all day trying to get me to sign up with them. I really hate the SEO industry and everything about it.

  • Mozartnow

    There is a process and I would be pleased to explain in detail how it works and why , we don’t have a black box to create quality link foundations.

    We have writers they cost money , you go to a mechanic does he say well once you drive the car for a month and its fine then pay no.

    If you looking to rank in say the UK why do this you host somewhere else I I had a client hosted in Michigan their business was in Florida ? why do you think Google is stupid or your smarter then them is that it ?

    Clients need to learn to read , Google is based on a math equation its called the Markov chain , before it was Google is was called back rub and Brin and Page wrote their thesis on what the Markov chain — so .

    Most times firms have their site built by a web designer great , looks nice was it built with seo in mind ? no it just looks good , a web design builds a site he is done , seo models don’t often match what designers do .

    Most clients live in a little bubble inside their minds and they believe everyone has heard of them , they have not most firms on local level never reach more then 40 miles from their base , why NO Branding , none.

    Press releases , classified ads , social media all triggers seo reaction and the social signals from Google plus are amazing and carry tons of link juice back to the main engine , why Google own G+ why not.

    Your site is not on its own ip big firm no brains sharing ips with what sometimes 100′s or 1000′s of other sites wont help come off the dime whats it going to cost for a dedicated IP 30.00 a month .

    I can give 200 Google signals that they give out and if followed all work , most firms sign and one week later like some lost child they go do we rank yet , my god are your egos that huge that in one week or one month you should rank its like dealing with children , women often say men act like kids when you deal with them from the seo level you see why .

  • Nathan Daniel Stowe

    Overall good advice, although I’d quibble just a bot with #6. True, if you are a plumber, you don’t want to be in dentists.com, but there is value in submitting to respected local search directory sites.

  • Ginger Morris

    I just contacted a SEO. He told me first he has to do an analytical study of my site. $1,500 and he will give me a report of his findings. Then I can find someone to make the changes or he can. He said it would be $60 an hour. He said once he makes that changes it is done for GOOD and only tweet the site every 3 months or so to keep it updated. I have only a 6 page site. http://www.NaturalLookMakeup.com I have had so many take my money and over the last 5 years change the site 3 times because there were not tags, search engines and on and on and lies, lies and money out the window that I don’t have. HELP.

  • 7evident

    My point precisely, I would personally never pay to place an advert, only for results – isn’t that the basis of PPC? (Go on, argue the Google business model isn’t working…)

  • 7evident

    “you go to a mechanic does he say well once you drive the car for a month and its fine then pay no.”

    True, but if it ain’t fixed, then you go back or expect a refund… Am I right?

    Any SEO agency worth dealing with should be more than happy to be paid on results – because results are what the client is paying for…

  • Philip Bonnici

    That’s helpful and insightful. Thanks!

  • Sana Sattani

    It could either be a copied material or people would have marked as spam, hence Google too marks at spam after receiving a fraction of spam request.

  • L. Esteban V Munoz

    that guy is a thief, I am a SEO beginner, and you really for a 6 page site dont need to pay 1500 for only a report.

  • Mike Search

    Yes, chasing the algorithm alone is a “fools game,” but recommending clients ignore SEO strategy (at minimum, know the basics of search-friendly architecture) is even more foolish.

  • http://www.LinkedMediaGroup.com Linked Media Group, Inc.

    You may want to read up on the Yoast plugin – it’s comprehensive and any brand using it will have basic SEO in place just by integrating it with a web site. I’m not advocating not paying attention to SEO – I’m underscoring how great content has overtaken SEO. But, you are right Mike – should have balanced the comment out a bit more towards SEO baseline practices.

  • http://www.maxtratechnologies.com/ MaxtraTechnologies

    Great Job Jayson DeMers Most of company do that for capture a project

  • Mike Search

    Yes, Yoast is a great plugin, and I recommend it for WordPress sites often. My point is that SEO is a required marketing task for the promotion of great content, just as much as social. If your content sucks, nothing will help you, and SEO (real SEO, done correctly) should not be synonymous with crap content.
    I spend most of my day cleaning up the mess that other “experts” have created in an attempt to “chase the algorithm” with no regard to quality. An honest, real SEO expert should help you produce great content in a format that emphasizes the signs of quality, unique, easily accessible content to search engines.
    Great content hasn’t overtaken SEO, it is part of SEO.

  • Ali Kazmi

    One tip what I was looking for a suitable answer which is that we will submit your website on 10000 search engine or directories in two day. How could it possible I get some information on this article but its not clear yet. How they can do that in just 5 $ also they give guarantee on fiver .they will do all work manually.


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