7 ways SEO consultants rip off their clients

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In my last article, I discussed the best way to use SEO services. I received a surprising amount of email from readers, all of whom had unhappy experiences with SEO. Quite a few complained that they had burned a great deal of money and got a great deal of nothing back for it. Many of the complaints they had surprised me. People complained about SEO suppliers doing things that I thought we had long ago eliminated. I thought the marketing community had smartened up and driven the SEO carpetbaggers out of town. I guess I was wrong.

It made me realize that a great business opportunity exists, one that I thought had dried up long ago. Not so. I can now give you the great news: There is still a pot of gold at the end of the internet rainbow -- you can still rip people off with SEO! This article explains how you can rip people off by merely pretending to provide SEO services for them. On the other hand, if you are somebody who purchases SEO services, please do not read this article, as it would mean you could no longer be ripped off by SEO sharpsters.

Rip-off #1: Don't provide position reports
SEO services involve promoting a specific phrase in a specific search engine. It does not matter if you are targeting multiple search engines or promoting multiple phrases or -- as is usually the case -- both. You still have to target your efforts at a single results page in a specific engine. Each search engine has its own rules; that is how they compete. So what works for one search engine will not work for another. This means the competitors inside each results page are different from engine to engine. Therefore, how you respond varies according to the individual search engine rules and the nature of the competitors' sites listed by that engine.

In theory, your job as an SEO provider is to ensure that your client's site matches each search engine's rules better than the competitors they have in that search engine for the targeted search. After all, potential visitors will search in a specific search engine with a specific phrase. If you have done your work well (joke), the client's site will appear in the results page for that search.

Your performance should therefore be judged by the place the client site occupies in each search engine's results for each targeted phrase. If you genuinely wanted to be judged on the basis of what you achieved for the client, then you would provide them with a list of the positions that the target phrases hold in each search engine, a "position report." Entries in a position report would look like this:

Being forced to provide data like these would be disastrous for any rip-off SEO company. If you were not achieving anything, it would be instantly obvious to the clients from the reports you supply them. If positions are falling or nonexistent, the client would be able to tell. So never give detailed "position reports."

If possible, try to avoid providing any reports at all. A surprising percentage of customers are happy to pay you every month despite having no idea what, if anything, you are doing for them.

Unfortunately, some difficult clients expect some form of report. The solution for these people is to provide meaningless reports filled with technical doubletalk (see Rip-off #2).

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Charles Herring
Charles Herring September 1, 2010 at 5:22 PM


How do you see automatic SEO features of web applications and content management systems fitting into picture with SEO companies? I just wrote a simple blog entry (http://www.herringconsulting.com/blog/seo-demystified) that covers the shift of SEO responsibilities to the web app and away from the SEO 'experts.'

I'd love to hear your comments.


Roin Lam
Roin Lam August 26, 2008 at 11:35 PM

This is so funny article, I laughed a lot and thought that many SEO 'experts' will feel shameful after reading this article.
I'm developing online company and spend $0 for SEO, I do myself using some good tips to promote the site. I agree the author of this article--SEO sometimes is just casting money in water.