November 2023 Google Core Update

Is SEO A Scam? – How You Avoid These 9 Common SEO Scams

Is SEO a scam and how you avoid it


Here is the easy answer: A lot of SEO services promise too much and deliver so much you might think it’s effective. While in most cases, it will end up hurting your business over time. There are however agencies and services that give you great results. Those services and agencies deliver promised results over time, and not instantly.

Here are the key takeaways from our article, “Is SEO a scam?”

Many businesses, regardless of the field they’re in, have come to understand that a strong presence on the internet is essential to stay relevant and afloat. Of course, the more visibility your business has, the more likely you are to bring in customers and make conversions.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, has become one of the most commonly used online marketing strategies to improve a website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, there are people who are skeptical about whether SEO is a scam, especially those who are new to the concept. After all, SEO can be quite complicated, and it’s easy to see how someone could get taken advantage of if they’re not familiar with the basics.

In this article, we’ll dispel some of the most common myths about SEO being a scam, and provide some tips on how you can avoid being scammed.

So… SEO – Is It a Scam?

As you may know, SEO works by optimizing a website for search engine algorithms. Doing so helps to improve the visibility of the site in search results pages, which in turn can lead to more website traffic and conversions. Content creation, links, technical aspects, and user experience are all important SEO factors that contribute to a site’s ranking.

In general, SEO isn’t a scam as long as it’s done correctly and by someone who knows what they’re doing. SEO efforts do deliver the results it promises, but only if it’s done the right way.

is seo a scam - white keyboard in the background and a warning label saying "scam alert"

However, there are a few unethical SEO practices that could be considered scams. There are many SEO companies and individuals who claim to be able to guarantee results, or who use black hat SEO strategies that go against Google’s guidelines to achieve rankings quickly. These are the types of people and companies you want to avoid.

Hiring an SEO service provider is a big decision, and you must do your research to ensure you’re working with a reputable and trustworthy company.

9 Common Scams in SEO and How to Avoid Them

Digital marketing firms that offer SEO services can be found all over the internet, but, not all of them are created equal. While there are legitimate SEO firms who will follow the guidelines set by Google to help improve your ranking, there are also those who use methods that go against the browser’s policies. Some even overcharge for their services or promise things that they can’t deliver.

With that said, here are the 10 common scams in SEO and how you can avoid them:

Scam #1: Offering Free SEO Trial Services

free seo trial scam - with a background of different free trial seo tools and services

While free marketing services offers always spark our interest, be wary of firms that offer free SEO trials.

To improve your SEO, a company must be fully involved. Hard work, time, and dedication are just some of the things needed to see results. As such, no legitimate company is just going to give away their services for free.

In addition, if they ask for your website’s log ins or your hosting account in return for the free services, beware. This is a common way for scammers to gain access to and hijack websites.

To avoid this scam, do your research on the firm. Read reviews and see what other people are saying about their experience with the company. If you can’t find anything online or if the reviews you do find are all negatives, it’s best to stay away.

Scam #2: Guaranteed Google Page 1 Rankings

guaranteed page 1 rankings scam alert - with the text saying "guaranteed scam ranking"

Business owners always want to rank #1 on results pages, which is why a “guaranteed Google page 1 ranking is so appealing.

However, this is something that no one can promise because only Google knows what goes into its algorithms. In fact, their response to this scam is clear. “Google doesn’t guarantee top rankings in search results.

Any business making these kinds of promises should be avoided.

Your competitors didn’t rank overnight, they spent thousands of dollars and hours to get where they are.

Any firm that tells you otherwise is not being transparent with you and is more likely than not using black hat SEO methods to achieve results, which could get your website penalized.

Avoiding this scam shouldn’t be too difficult. Ask the firm what their plans are for your website and how they intend to get you to rank.

If they can’t provide you with specific answers or just give you that “guaranteed Google page 1 ranking” card, then walk away.

Ascendily guarantees rankings. Does this mean we’re a scam?

We can see how this might be a question that occurs after reading our offer on our homepage. But we simply guarantee that you’ll be ranking over time and within 90 days for keywords that will bring you more traffic and sales.

These ranking guarantees are not page one or rank one guarantees. But we guarantee that you’ll be getting more traffic and sales within 90 days.

Scam #3: They Know Someone Working at Google

Sign sayin "Hello, I'm from Google..." to portray how this is a scam and not real.

When someone says they have a “special relationship with someone who works at Google, it should be a huge red flag. Firstly, Google is a massive company with over thousands of employees.

Even if they happen to know the head of a certain department or an account manager, it’s highly unlikely that they will be able to get you special treatment. Take note that Google’s algorithms are designed to be fair and everyone is given an equal opportunity to rank.

Don’t waste your time or money on a firm that tells you they have a Google partner. Instead, invest in a company that is transparent with its methods and can show you results. This way, you’re getting the best value for your buck.

image saying "3000+ referring domains seo backlinks" which is clearly a common seo scam you should not use.

Some businesses use what’s called DA-based link building. This is when a company contacts other websites and offers to pay them in exchange for a link back to the client’s website (paid links).

Getting a link from another “high DA” website will typically raise the domain authority of your own, providing the impression that your SEO efforts are paying off. But, according to both John Muller and Gary Illyes of Google, Google doesn’t use Domain Authority as one of their ranking factors.

Authority is not one of the “domain-level” ranking criteria that Google has acknowledged. Even so, people continue to use the Domain Authority measure as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for their overall link-building activities.

Although your domain authority may go up when you engage in such practices, it will have no impact whatsoever on raising any of the crucial KPIs from the organic search channel ( sales, traffic, leads, etc.). Therefore, it’s best to avoid any firm that’s engaging in this type of shady SEO tactic. Instead, focus on building relationships with other websites and earning links by providing quality content.

Scam #5: SEO Firm’s Auto-generated List

example email from someone trying to sell backlinks which you should not buy

If you suddenly receive an email from an SEO service provider that has your website’s information on hand, it’s likely that they’ve purchased a list of website directories.

When your site starts to rank well in search engines, spam mail typically starts to pile in your inbox. This could be a good sign that your current SEO marketing company’s effort is working.

Try adding a reCAPTCHA to your forms to shield your website (and your email) from this scam.

Scam #6: Submit Your Website to Hundreds of Search Engines

a image showing all the different search engines

SEO scammers will typically offer to submit your website to hundreds or even thousands of search engines. The problem is that there are only a handful of major browsers that will actually bring you traffic.

The rest are either defunct or so minor that they’re not worth your time and probably won’t have any effect on your rankings.

Together, Google, Yahoo, and Bing own more than 86% of the market share in the United States for search engines as of September 2022.

Market share of Search engines in September 2022

Other browsers like DuckDuckGo and Ecosia have a tiny portion of the market. There’s really no need to submit your website to every search engine out there.

As such, it’s better to go for SEO agencies that will focus their efforts on the major browsers that will actually bring you traffic.

Scam #7: Featuring Guest Posts From Writers

guest post seo scam example

Some SEO scam artists will try to sell you on the idea of featuring guest posts from so-called writers.

This act turns into a problem when the so-called writer inserts a link to a different website unrelated to your business in the delivered blog post or later requests that one or more of the words in the article become links. 

Plus, some of these writers may be inexperienced and will add low-quality content to your website. This could actually hurt your ranking rather than help it. Instead, it’s better to write the content yourself or hire a professional writer that you can trust.

Scam #8: Offering the Lowest Price

are cheap seo companies worth it

We all want to save money, but be wary of any SEO company that offers its services at an unusually low price. In numerous instances, these firms are using bad SEO techniques that will get your website penalized by Google. Some may even use clickbaits to generate fake traffic to your website.

It’s important to remember that SEO takes time, and it’s an ongoing process. A reputable SEO company will never guarantee you overnight success.

If an SEO business offers you the moon for a low price, it’s likely too good to be true. Do your research and make sure that the company is using ethical SEO practices before you sign any contract and give them your money.

Scam #9: SEO Firms That Take Ownership of Content

agency not giving ownership of content for my business

It can be a huge problem if an SEO company takes ownership of your website’s content, even if you’ve already paid for it. In some cases, these companies will put a clause in their contract stating that they own the rights to any content that they produce for your website.

To avoid such a situation from happening, it’s good to always take the time to read over any contract before you sign it. This will ensure that you understand what rights you’re giving the company and what rights you’re retaining for yourself.


How do I report someone for SEO fraud?

If you suspect that someone is engaging in SEO fraud, you can report them to the search engine company that they are trying to defraud.

For example, if they are trying to manipulate Google’s search rankings via fraudulent methods, you can report them to Google.

To report someone for SEO fraud to Google, you can follow these steps:

1. Go to the Google Search Console website.
2. Click on the “Security Issues” tab.
3. Click on the “Report a Security Issue” button.
4. Follow the instructions on the screen to provide details about the person or company you are reporting and the SEO fraud they are committing.
5. Submit the report to Google.

What is domain SEO service scam?

A domain SEO service scam is a fraudulent scheme in which a company or individual claims to be able to improve a website’s search engine rankings by optimizing its domain name. This type of scam is typically targeted at small businesses and individuals who are looking to improve their online presence and get more traffic to their website.

In most cases, these scams involve the use of deceptive tactics to convince the victim to pay for the supposed SEO services. For example, the scammer may use fake testimonials, inflated claims about their expertise, or even fake rankings and traffic data to persuade the victim to pay for the service.

Once the victim has paid for the service, the scammer will typically do very little, if anything, to actually improve the website’s search engine rankings. Instead, they may simply take the victim’s money and disappear, leaving the victim with little to show for their investment.

If you are approached by a company or individual offering domain SEO services, it’s important to do your research and verify their claims before agreeing to pay for their services.


As you can see, SEO is not a scam as long as you’re working with a reputable company that uses ethical practices. Of course, there are numerous scammers out there who are trying to take advantage of businesses, but being aware of the mentioned scams will help you avoid them.

If you’re ever in doubt, always do your own research to make sure that the SEO company you’re working with is legitimate. A little bit of research can go a long way in protecting your business from fraudsters.


Kevin Jeppesen

I help eCom, Crypto & Online businesses to grow rapidly over time using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Ads.

View more about me
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