Ever since the birth of the .com era, business owners and entrepreneurs have been enamored by the idea of making money on the web with little investment and almost no maintenance costs. The thought of owning a website that hits it big, then sitting back and watching money roll in while you are relaxing on your yacht in the middle of the Caribbean, is tempting.
While the world of internet marketing is full of financial possibilities, it is just as full of individuals and companies who prey on the uneducated or uninformed investor. Most of their methods are legal, but quite unethical. There are three big cons to look for.
I discovered these when I first started the company in 2006. Domain snatchers are companies that watch the public notifications for newly established businesses (these are easily found online and in most newspapers) then go out and buy up all of the domains that are good matches for potential websites.
Then, they contact the new business owner and try and sell them the domain for an exorbitant price. The more successful the company, the higher the price. In 2006, a domain only cost about $8.00/year to reserve. These companies would mark them up and sell them for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
Domain Registry of America Scam
This scam has been going on for years. Just try doing a Google search for “Domain Registry of America Scam” and see how many results pop up. This company, now rebranded as iDNS, looks up your company information online and sends you a letter a few months prior to the expiration of your domain. The letter looks very much like an invoice and because it has so much of your company’s accurate information and is timed accurately with the near expiration of your domain, people assume it is an invoice and they pay it.
However, most people don’t read the fine print. It is actually a letter asking you if you would like to transfer the domain to them as your registrar. Shortly after paying the invoice, the company receives instructions on how to transfer the domain to them. Good luck asking for a refund! Especially since it was in the fine print.
These are probably the most common of all internet scams. If you own a website of any kind, you’ve probably already received numerous requests by these companies who can “Guarantee” top 10 rankings on Google and all major search engines. The most important thing to know is the difference between organic SEO and Pay Per Click (SEM). There are plenty of good informational sites out there that explain the difference between the two. Here are few things to look for in an SEO scam:
- Top 10 listings guaranteed! Even Google tells people on their own blog not to trust companies that promise this for organic SEO. Since the algorithm is always changing, and that sometimes causes significant fluctuation in search results, there is no way this can be guaranteed! Many of these companies know that there are so many misinformed website owners out there, they can easily deal with the attrition that comes when a company realizes that they aren’t getting what they thought they were paying for.
- Pay a one-time flat fee! If they offer to perform SEO on your website for a one-time fee but never ask for login credentials for your website, they are not actually optimizing anything. If anything, they are probably only adding your site to a “link-farm” which in the long run could actually hurt your rankings.
- They have a partnership with Google that gives their clients “preferred rankings.” This is a flat out lie! Don’t believe it. Google’s number 1 goal in life is to provide the end user with the most valid search results possible. That’s why they are so popular. Anything that might conflict with that principle doesn’t make any sense as it would work against their main goal.
- They “sell” specific keywords or key phrases as part of their contract. This is something that is part of SEM or pay-per-click campaigns, not organic SEO. Don’t fall for it!
- They send you unsolicited emails. It’s amazing how convincing they can be, even complimenting you on your site design and business concept, and then explaining how you are missing a huge target audience they can provide.
- They will submit your site to thousands of search engines on a daily basis! Seriously?! How many search engines do you use? There are only a little over 200 legitimate search engines in use today. The top three, Google, Yahoo and Bing, account for over 97% of all searches (Google currently is number 1 at approximately 65%)
- They cannot tell you what they do for SEO, due to trade secrets.While I wouldn’t expect them to write out their entire process and everything they do for every site, true SEO experts are passionate about their work and know the more you know about how it works, the more you can help be successful in what they do.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good, reputable SEO companies out there with SEO experts who genuinely work hard to optimize your site to the best of their ability. But for every genuine company like that, there are a few dozen hoping you don’t know how to distinguish between their scams and the real experts. My biggest recommendation is to read up on Google’s blog article about this.
If you’re going to believe anyone… believe Google!