So you’ve got your business up and running, and now it’s time to start implementing your content marketing strategy.
Of course, this means you’ll need to hire an agency or a freelancer to work on your SEO to improve your search rankings, but hey – isn’t that just a bunch of keywords, backlinks, and a little bit of research every once in a while?
Surely you don’t have to spend so much to get working search engine optimization!
Unfortunately this isn’t the case at all. Not only will a cheap SEO company often be ineffective at producing results, but they may even push your rankings down even lower!
SEO techniques and strategy have changed a lot since the dawn of digital marketing, and a cheap agency may be using outdated techniques or even dirty tricks in their “optimization” methods that are actually penalized by Google.
In this blog entry, we look at the ways in which a cheap SEO company could hurt your search engine rankings, and how to detect them.
1. They Use Private Blog Networks For Linking
This is by far one of the shadiest and most potentially damaging tricks that a cheap SEO company might use to artificially inflate your rankings. A private blog network, or PBN, is a bunch of seemingly unrelated sites that one can pay to have their links included in posts. Buying and selling links in a “link scheme” such as this is a violation of Google’s terms, and they’re always watching for new PBNs and sites that have purchased their services. If you’re ever caught – and believe me, you eventually will be! – your site’s rankings may tank, or even be removed entirely.
You can catch them right at the negotiation phase with your prospective SEO company by checking if they offer a “link scheme” or any way of improving traffic and linkage that isn’t organic link building. You can also check your site insights, or use a free backlink checker, and have a look at your backlinks – if you see an assortment of unrelated, irrelevant blogs which contain spam-like content that links back to you, your SEO company may be using a link scheme!
2. They Might Be Automatically Spinning & Scraping Articles For Your Linked Content
It’s a given that spamming the exact same content and linking back to your site is a big no-no for search engine rankings. The solution is to create variations of content that tell variations of the same story, also known as “spinning.” However, a cheap SEO company might decide to just run a single piece of content through software that swaps every few words with a synonym and call it a day.
Sure, in theory this produces content that looks different, but in practice, content that is automatically spun will read like an absolute train wreck, and will probably be flagged as low-quality content which will damage your site’s performance and credibility.
Another technique that a cheap SEO company might use is called scraping, defined in Google Support as this practice:
“Some webmasters use content taken (“scraped”) from other, more reputable sites on the assumption that increasing the volume of pages on their site is a good long-term strategy regardless of the relevance or uniqueness of that content.”
Scraping is related to article spinning, as one technique involved in scraping is to run the stolen content through spinning software to give the appearance of being unique. Google can very easily detect scraped content and will ruin your day if your site is caught scraping because your cheap SEO company wanted to make a quick buck.
Both spinning and scraping can be detected by searching Google for exact sentences lifted from the content that your provider has produced for you. If you see any very close matches, you may be a victim of these black-hat techniques.
3. Keyword Stuffing
A classic technique of cheap SEO from its more primitive days, keyword stuffing is when you plug in as many related keywords as possible in your content, meta tags, links – basically anywhere that a keyword can fit. This used to work when search engines weren’t as smart as they are now, but times have changed, and keyword stuffing is now universally considered a bad thing by even a cheap SEO company. Not only is keyword stuffing spam and therefore will negatively impact your rankings, it’s also terrible to read when implanted in your content.
Even if keyword stuffing did work to introduce traffic to your site, your stuffed content would turn people off as soon as they saw its spam-like appearance.
Naturally and organically integrating keywords into content is an art form that comes along with high-quality content, and you can’t cheap out on high-quality content. An SEO company will also ensure that keyword density is no more than 5%, as any more is both spammy and hard to read.
4. Low-Quality Content
“You can’t cheap out on high-quality content.” That was two sentences ago, and you need to read it again. Quality content has a price that covers a good writer, proper editing, research skills, and active avoidance of plagiarism. If you lose out on any single one of those elements because you skimped on your content spend, you can kiss your rankings goodbye. And it goes without saying that if your SEO company is cheap, their content will be cheap too.
AVOID Cheap SEO Companies At All Costs!
Of course you want to save money – every additional spent cent is a reduction of your profits. However, going too low with something as critical as SEO will end up with not just low performance, but potentially negative performance! There’s no set metric on how cheap is too cheap, but like with many things, the answer to weeding out bad SEO companies is “research.”
Check reviews and ask for studies of past clients. Read up on a candidate and see how long they’ve been in the industry. Discard random newbies on Fiverr. And hey, if an SEO company is any good, shouldn’t their own site and content be doing well on Google too? SEO agencies with higher rankings on Google are a fair bet.
Cheap SEO may seem like a tempting proposition, but you’re going to run into more trouble than the savings are worth if you go for it. SEO is an extremely important part of your performance, and it should definitely be given the proper respect in your overall marketing strategy.