Unfortunately, you see this all too often. A business owner knows nothing about search engine optimization (SEO) except that they need it and they are approached by someone willing to take advantage of them to make a buck. Skip forward about 10 months and the business owner starts wondering why they aren’t getting more leads from their website to just find out they’ve been duped the whole time by a company that really hasn’t done anything.

How do they do this? Well, they do something like claim to be able to get the website on page #1 of Google. Sure… anyone can do that – for a term nobody’s really searching for that doesn’t have any competition. That’s easy and it can be done in about 15 minutes. They do it and then show the website ranking for that super easy term and collect their paycheck. If there are only 10 searches a month for that keyword, then it doesn’t do the business owner any good but the company did what they said they would do.

Why Does This Work?

It works because business owners are… busy… with business. They’re trying to run their company and they have SEO on their checklist but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Since this is often the case, these shady SEO companies know this and make calls promising to rank your website higher for a monthly fee. Sure, they do their work and send their reports, which maybe takes about 20 minutes and then they’re done.

Since SEO does take some time (that’s true in case someone says that), the business owner is surprised to see some results in just a month. Again, those results are worthless but they see them and keep the SEO company on board, doing their thing.

Let’s look at different parts of SEO and SEO contracts so you know if you are investing your money wisely or foolishly.

Month-to-Month SEO Contracts

signing a contract on a tableThe great thing about going with a month-to-month SEO contract with a company is that it sounds like a great deal. After all, you can sign up and then quit whenever you want, right?

Yes, you can but let’s think about this for a minute.

There are some parts of SEO, like on-site SEO, where if you fix parts of a really bad website, you get a bump in rankings. You will. Or, like I mentioned, tweaking a page so a low-competition keyword ranks. That stuff works but it’s not the kind of SEO that works for the long haul… no way.

True, long-term SEO is doing things that will get your website higher in rankings and actually keep you there after the SEO contract is over. So, a month-to-month kind of SEO contract is kind of like renting an apartment instead of owning a house.

There are SEO activities that Google might not reward you for doing for months or even a year from when they’re started. And think about this, if your SEO company, right away, does 20 things to help your website rank better and it does, then how do you know which of those 20 things made the difference? You can’t know.

Another trick they use is where you get some great links they set up for you to help your website rank higher but it’s on websites they control. As soon as you stop paying them, those links to your website come down and your website no longer continues to rank.

Does month-to-month sound like a good idea now? I hope not. It’s not the way to go.

With a 12-month or even 24-month contract, you get your SEO company really working for you. Sure, you have to watch out for any tricks they might pull but this gives you time to really look at what they’re doing. With a longer contract, the SEO company will be less likely to use more “black hat” kinds of techniques to push your website up higher, too quickly. If Google sees that kind of unnatural activity, they can put some penalties on your website and you’re much worse off then and it would have been better to not do anything with SEO.

Do They Sub-Contract?

Would you rather have a salesperson as your SEO contact or the real person doing the SEO?

If the company you sign up with sub-contracts the work, then you’re only dealing with a salesperson, not the actual people doing the work. If you have questions, you’re more likely to get answers meant to just keep you happy so the salesperson keeps making their commission.

Find out if you will be able to contact the actual people working on your account before you sign the contract.

Is There a Non-Compete Clause?

Let’s say you find a great SEO company and they get you ranking over your competition. Your competition is going to notice because they’ll get less traffic, less calls and less sales. When that happens, they’re going to reach out and get help. What if they contact the same company you are using? What happens then?

You want to make sure the company you hire to do your search engine optimization can not do work for competitors in your area.

If you’re a plumber and they do work for another plumber 200 miles away, then that’s fine in most cases because you’re not really competing with that other plumber. This can be a good thing because as they work on multiple campaigns in the same industry, they can find things that work for other accounts and do the same for your account – getting you ranking higher!

Ask for Real Proof Before You Sign

man using a phoneDon’t get fooled by a company showing you websites ranking high or #1 for certain terms because the website they’re showing you might not be one of their clients. It looks like a real website ranking high for a keyword in that screen shot and it is but did they actually do that work?

The easiest way to check is to call the companies that they show they are ranking high and ask if they hired the SEO company you’re talking to.

Go for the Lowest Price?

Going cheap with SEO can be costly. Over time, they can end up costing you more than the companies that charge higher rates.

The cheap companies can use “black hat” tactics that can eventually get your website in trouble with search engines like Google. In the end, you’ll have to pay a someone else to first clean up what the other company did. Meanwhile, you’re losing out on traffic and sales while you try to get thing just “back to normal.”

The effects of bad SEO last a while and you get what you pay for, so absolutely do not go with the cheapest company.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True… It Is!

If you hear things like, “we have a special relationship with Google” or “our special techniques” then run, Forrest, run!

The secret to SEO is… there’s no secret!

Honestly, SEO is a lot of technical, grunt work. It’s tedious. It’s very detailed. It’s just something you don’t want to do or take the time to learn to do because you need to run your business. If you had the time, you could learn it. There’s no long-term “secret sauce” that one company has that others don’t. SEO companies just have people that understand it and love to do it. That’s it.

I love it. To me, it’s like figuring out a puzzle and that gives me satisfaction. You get into the mind of Google and then give Google what it wants. You look at why some websites rank higher, then backwards engineer why so you can apply those same techniques. You dig into technical aspects of a website to make it easier for Google to understand and rank.

You’ll Need Content

When your SEO company comes back to you saying they need content written, don’t be shocked. They really do. They need lots of it and it has to be original content, not found anywhere else.

Think of content as a salesperson that works for you 24/7 and 365 days a year (and even on Leap Years). You pay for it once and it keeps working for you, non-stop. Think about that. How much would hiring someone cost? Hundreds of times more! With your website, you pay for something once (good content) and it keeps working for you, paying you back.

OK, if that didn’t just blow your mind, please check your pulse.

I remember back in 2005 and then in 2009 when this revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. It hit me that hard because I was making money. Wow, was I. I put content on there and did that work once and I got paid every month, like clockwork. How easy it is and what you get paid has changed but the concept it exactly the same and it still works!


When it comes to buying SEO for your website, it pays to do your homework. Do some research (like you’re doing now) and then find out all you can about that company and what they’re doing. They should be able to give you simple, honest answers to questions you’re asking. If they don’t, then that should send up red flags.

Check their references and testimonials. Talk to their clients and see how their experiences have been.

Read over the contract and make sure it has everything in it that you need. If it sounds too good, then it just might be. Giving them control of your website should be a scary thing. It’s your business’ reputation on the line – all that you’ve worked for over the years. Don’t just trust that to anyone who walks in off the street. It’s better that you go looking for a search engine optimization company than take offers from the ones coming to you.


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