Beware of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Scammers

If you are like me, you are getting inundated with crazy promises from so-called search engine optimization (SEO) experts. This flood is fueled by globalization, the ineffectiveness of old-school search-ranking techniques, and borderline fraudulent sales practices.

These scammers make claims such as “I guarantee that your site will be on page 1 of Google’s search results” and will even offer to point out all that is wrong with your site. I get these claims and offers daily. Many come from senders who don’t even have a business domain name set up—just an anonymous Gmail address. 

The problem with this type of sales technique is that it is typically based on flawed or even misleading facts. The latest fad is to send WC3 compliance reports that show warnings or errors. The WC3 is a consortium that helps set web standards, which ideally helps keep the quality of the pages higher. So-called SEO experts use the WC3’s reports to scare prospects into thinking there is something wrong with their websites. Recently, a consultant sent such a report to one of our website clients. The client believed what they had been told and became alarmed—rightfully so, you might say. After doing a little digging, the consultant ran a report on our client’s website, resulting in 7 warnings and errors. However, an IT specialist would say that such a report is almost perfect (also note that we subsequently made some adjustments to our code, leading to a perfect score). We ran the SEO consultant’s own website through the WC3 validator and came up with 291 errors and warnings. That is how desperate these scammers have become.

The WC3 reports are important because, although Google’s own Matt Cutts stated that they are not a ranking factor, they are indicators of user experience and page loading speed. If a web page was not built correctly, the resulting errors can affect users.

SEO expert Barry Adams added on his Polemic Digital blog, “It’s very unlikely your website’s code complies with all of the W3C’s standards. I say ‘errors’ because often they’re not really errors. The W3C standards are extremely strict, with no room for interpretation. So every little niggle in your code, every small deviation from the W3C’s strict standards, will generate an error in this validation tool.”

Adams continued, “there is also the misconception that search engine crawlers require a website’s code to be 100% W3C compliant, or else they will rank your site lower in the SERPs. A lot of SEO agencies recommend you make every webpage on your site fully W3C compliant.”

If you want to check out your own website’s score, visit https://validator.w3.org/. Based on reports that we ran on January 15, 2018, YouTube.com had 404 warnings and errors; CNN.com had 45; and ESPN.com had a whopping 609. Does anyone think that these websites are not among the most trafficked and most highly ranked in the world?

Many factors come into play to determine how well your website and brand perform in the mobile world. Gone are the days when you could game the system. You need to earn your spot in the search rankings by receiving five-star reviews, garnering social influence, posting quality content and obtaining inbound links. When others see you as an authority in your field, you are more likely to be recognized as a leader, and as a result, you will receive higher rankings online.

I am definitely not advocating that bad code is ok. Every day, we see someone who took the DIY approach, leading to a poorly coded website that tanks in the rankings. Spend your time thinking about the user experience.

Are you helping to solve a problem?

Do you have a clear call to action?

Does your website load nicely on all screen sizes?

Don’t fall for the scammers’ clever marketing emails! There is a reason that many of them do not have their own websites. They are rip-off artists and are not fundamentally different from identity thieves.

If you want input on your own website, feel free to leave your domain name in the Disqus comments below so that we can take a look.

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