SEO – The Snake Oil Salesmen Are Alive & Well

For a small business or startup, using the internet as a business tool needn’t cost the earth. That’s what I tell people who really don’t have any kind of marketing budget.  You don’t need marketing like you need some app developers Atlanta for example, to help you can an actual product! There are millions of free (or almost free) professional-looking website templates, hosting for the average brochure site is very competitive which means there are some very cheap deals out there. You could have a blog for free (or almost free). You can email market for very little cost using an ASP service such as Constant Contact or Sign-up.To.


But there’s one area in particular that the ‘cheapo’ solutions just do not cut it, and that’s SEO. You either do it right, or you may as well not do it at all. Worse, taking up a cheap or ‘too good to be true’ solution can get you into trouble.

Recently I received a series of emails, identical except for the name, asking me to link to a website. I usually ignore these link requests as they tend to be automatically generated and sent as spam. But I was interested to see that site I was being invited to link to was a law firm in the west country. I contacted them to ask them to stop sending me the emails – they claimed to know nothing about it but seemed concerned.

A few weeks later, when I chased them up, I was told that their IT division had been ‘doing some search engine optimisation‘ and they thought the emails might have been as a result of this. In other words, they had subcontracted it out to a firm who promised them great results but didn’t divulge their ‘secret’ (probablyblack hat) methods. The link building had them probably been sub-sub-contracted out to an even dodgier (and cheaper) firm, et voila.

It’s so easy for companies looking for legitimate SEO services to get sucked into these vortices of crap practices.

The other day I got a typical email telling me “We have noticed that you have invested in a website yet may not rank on Page 1 of Google for many of the profitable search phrases related to your business. If a Page 1 ranking is important to you simply respond to this email and we will provide a complimentary full status, keyword, meta tag and web page analysis on your site. We are the only Optimisation Company with the necessary expertise to be able to offer a guarantee of Page 1 Google ranking for at least 10 of your relevant search phrases.”

What is the recipient to make of this? How are people to know that no reputable SEO firm would give guarantees of this this kind, much less do a proper job for free?

The snake oil salesmen are alive and well and selling SEO.


If I’m asked ‘how do I do a good job of SEO on a limited budget?’ this is what I say:

  1. Do not respond to email spam promising something that seems too good to be true. It is.
  2. Know that good SEOs do not need to send out spam in order to get business
  3. Consider learning how to do it yourself. Sam McArthur at Forty Firstoffers an excellent value DIY + mentoring service. Not only does it save you money, it equips you with the know-how to spot the charlatans and to recognise a good service, should you decide to outsource your SEO at a later date.