Link Building

The Worst SEO Scams and How to Identify them

The Worst SEO Scams and How to Identify them

You’ve probably been approached by a dozen emails with promises to multiply your web traffic overnight. These people offer you a package of backlinks, claiming it’s the jet fuel your website needs to soar to the top of search engine results.

It sounds tempting.

You’re on the verge of making a decision that you believe might be a game-changer.

But here’s what really happens: These backlinks, instead of being your ladder to success, turn out to be anchors. They could drag your site’s reputation through the mud because they’re low-quality, irrelevant, and sometimes even harmful.

Your site would probably fall victim to Google’s penalization like one of our recent clients.

bad sites on Ahrefs

So, how did you end up here?

It’s simple: the allure of quick wins and the pressure to quickly scale your business made you a target for SEO scammers who thrive on the urgency and naivety of hard-working entrepreneurs.

Keep reading to find out how you can prevent SEO scams.

What are SEO Scams?

SEO scams refer to fraudulent or deceptive practices by individuals or companies claiming to offer search engine optimization (SEO) services, but who instead use unethical methods or outright lies to take advantage of clients.

These scams typically prey on the lack of understanding about what SEO is and how it works.

You’ve probably received a dozen emails like this if you have an online business or dealt with link building in any way or form. A large majority of SEO scammers are pretentious link builders with Gmail accounts, sharing useless websites that might cause more harm than good.

You’ll see one outreach email below that we have received and probably you as well at some point.

SEO Scams

These SEO scammers often aim to extract money by promising spectacular and immediate improvements in search engine rankings and web traffic, which they either fail to deliver or achieve through methods that can damage the client’s reputation or lead to penalties from search engines.SEO Scams

Investing in SEO is wise, but it must be done wisely to help you scale your business.

Let’s dive deeper into understanding these scams and discuss how you can build a robust, ethical SEO strategy that genuinely contributes to your business’s growth, rather than jeopardizing it.

How do you Identify an SEO Scam?

There is a general rule to everything in this world. If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. 

When link builders guarantee instant results and ranking on the #1 page of Google, you should turn the other way immediately.

SEO Scams
One link-building site that promotes itself heavily on Facebook and Instagram without any legitimate proof of its excessive claims.

SEO scams are everywhere. The company in the screenshot above, we discovered through Meta’s algorithm, which probably thought we were interested in SEO services after looking at our competitors.

For those unaware they can fall victim to a scam like the one above. But lets see how you can identify their red flags.

What are the scammer’s claims?

At AgilePR, with 6 years of SEO experience, we will not guarantee that you’ll rank number one on Google within days for every single keyword. Nor will we claim that you’ll get thousands of backlinks from us for a small fee of 19.99.

However, just like with the agency above, they boldly claimed 1000 and even 100,000 backlinks per month. As mentioned, if something is too good to be true, it probably is. So how do you identify the validity of an SEO agency’s claims?

Here are three ways.

1, Use Mozbar’s Freemium Service

SEO Scams via Mozbar

The first thing to sign up to is Mozbar and download its Chrome Extension to help you get a quick glimpse of an agency’s SEO performance. While this is not a 100% accurate guarantee, it can give you a glimpse at the website’s authority and spam score. A low DA and high spam score reaching at least 40% might raise some suspicion.

However, there are cases where the agency is new or has a small client base. Mozbar’s free service might be inefficient for better website analysis of an SEO agency that claims high results. Therefore your next step should be to identify botfarms.

2, Detect Linkbot Farms

Linkbot farms

Linkbot Farms, more commonly referred to as link farms, are a type of SEO scam or black hat SEO tactic that involves creating large networks of websites or pages to generate a high volume of inbound links to a particular website.

The primary goal of this strategy is to artificially inflate the perceived authority of a website in the eyes of search engines, thereby boosting its ranking in search results.

Linkbot farms can be detected in two different ways. We use Ahrefs to help us identify the issues with a website.

IP address

referring IP on ahrefs

Referring domains

When it comes to a website that has thousands of backlinks, it seems like a great place for an SEO scammer to promise to place your business there. For a nice fee of course. The traffic looks ok, the site looks legit and the numbers are in the thousands for backlinks. Seems good, right?

Not so fast!

When look at the image below, try and see the difference between the number of backlinks and the number of referring domains.

referring domain spam

You can clearly see that the ratio between backlinks and ref. domains are huge. For every domain, there are nearly 100 backlinks. By doing that math, this would mean that if we were to subtract 455K backlinks by 4.7K referring domains, each domain would get roughly 97 backlinks.

How is this possible?

Did they specifically ask for a dozen backlinks from each domain?

If you dig deeper and look at referring domains you’ll see that most of these are also nonsensical domains with zero content. They are directories, threads or communities that gather millions of backlinks. 

referring domain spam

The website ‘” alone gives 6.3K backlinks to this website. While this alone does not guarantee that the site is bad, but if this occurrence happens a lot, like with this website, you should avoid these domains like the plague.

In our article, you can see how you can check these backlinks better on Google.

How can you Prevent SEO Scams from Happening to you?

SEO Scams

One of the most common scams is the promise of guaranteed rankings, particularly claiming a #1 spot on Google. SEO is inherently unpredictable and depends on numerous factors, many of which are outside of one’s control.

Any company promising specific ranking results, especially in a short time frame, is likely not being honest.

1, Educate Yourself About SEO

The first step in preventing scams is understanding the basics of SEO. Knowing what it involves — such as keyword research, content optimization, link building, and technical SEO — can help you identify when unrealistic promises are being made.

Be wary of SEO firms that promise quick fixes or guaranteed rankings. SEO is a long-term strategy, and results can take time. Understand that improving rankings typically requires ongoing effort and adjustments based on shifting algorithms and competitive landscapes.

2, Research your Contact

Before hiring an SEO consultant or agency, do your homework. Look for reviews, case studies, and testimonials. Check their website and portfolio. A reputable company should have a track record of success and be willing to discuss their methods and provide references. 

If an SEO provider claims to be associated with major search engines or to have a special relationship with Google, verify these claims. Remember, search engines like Google do not endorse individual SEO consultants or agencies.

3, Ask for Detailed Plans and Reports

A legitimate SEO service provider should be able to outline their strategy for your website. They should also provide regular, detailed reports that explain what actions have been taken and what the outcomes are.

Transparency in activities and results is crucial. This is why the first question you must ask them is if they have any references or testimonials. At AgilePR, we usually point to our Trustpilot page to show some level of trust.

You can also test their expertise by asking them for their resources, such as content, eBook, case studies or press releases.

4, Avoid Black Hat SEO Techniques

Ensure that the SEO plans used by your consultant adhere to industry standards. Black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, invisible text, and doorway pages can lead to your site being penalized by search engines. Familiarize yourself with these practices to ensure they are not part of your SEO strategy.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Quality SEO services require significant effort and expertise and thus come at a cost. At AgilePR, we have to invest a lot of time and energy into launching an email campaign for bulk orders. We also have to pay for SEO and PR software tools to help us scale our work faster.

This is very time-consuming without these software tools.

Conversely, very high fees do not necessarily guarantee better results. Request detailed proposals and understand what you are paying for. While budget-friendly options can be tempting, extremely low prices can be a red flag.

Proper SEO involves a lot of work and expertise, which can’t be offered at rock-bottom prices without cutting corners. Often, these low-cost services use automated, cookie-cutter tactics that don’t consider the unique aspects of the client’s business or industry.


The Worst SEO Scams and How to Identify them

These unscrupulous tactics from SEO scammers, not only fail to deliver sustainable results but can also inflict long-lasting damage on your website’s credibility and search engine standing.

Understanding the nature of these scams is your first defense to prevent them. Always verify the credentials of SEO consultants or agencies, demand transparency in their methods, and prioritize strategies tailored specifically to your business needs.

Remember, the real value in SEO doesn’t come from quick fixes but from building a solid foundation that attracts and retains traffic through genuine relevance and quality. Armed with knowledge and a critical eye, you can ensure that your journey to the top of search rankings is both successful and secure.

If you need help with proper link building we’re here to help. If you need more guidance on how to outsource link building, you can read more here.

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