The SEO Business, Is It Really
An 80% Scam?

By Peter Kent – Foremost Expert On SEO

" SEO businesses are 80% scam," I told this to a new client the other day..."damn right", he said, "I've been scammed already!"

I've been saying to people my "80% scam" estimate for several years now and what is amazing is that no one has ever disagreed. Nobody's ever said "that's a little harsh, don't you think?" Never has a person, in the SEO business or buying SEO services, said to me "how is that possible?!"

No, the "scam" comment invariably elicits shrugs or outright agreement.

I always hear things like...

  • "I'm sure you're right...I've worked with a couple of SEO firms, and never really got much for my money."
  • "I've already been ripped off...I'm just trying to find someone legit"
  • "Absolutely...there's so much snake oil in this business I didn't know where to look."

Unbelievably, during discussions with people in the SEO business, I've heard admissions!

  • "Yes, we have to offer search-engine services, but we're still learning." [from a small Web design firm]
  • "Sure, we do SEO for our clients. But we don't do it well." [from another mid-size Web firm]
  • "We sell SEO services, but to be honest we don't really understand it." [from a mid-size Web development firm doing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of work a year]

In those comments above you'll find part of the problem. Majority of Web-design companies and Web-developers these days offer SEO services, though most really don't understand it. Why? Because everyone else is offering it.

When clients want the full service -- "I need you to develop and promote my website" -- you can't succeed if you don't offer SEO services because the guy down the street does. So you both offer SEO, though neither of you know how to do it correctly.

Obviously not everyone in the SEO business is running a scam. Just that this business is predominantly a scam. You can find really good people in this business, but it's hard.

What IS An SEO Scam?

What, exactly, do I mean by a scam?

First, there are the outright scams, the businesses that claim to be performing services that they simply are not. One common area of the "scam" is the site-registration companies that promise to register your site with hundreds of search engines. A client handed me a list of search engines her site was being submitted to and a bunch of the search engines didn't even exist anymore.

There are many businesses claiming to perform "SEO work" on client sites every month, as part of a monthly or yearly fee. What work? Well, it's hard to say, as many SEO business confuse their clients with science jargon leaving them with no real idea of the work that's being done. Often, not much work is being done.

But there's another aspect to the scam. Sometimes businesses are actually doing the work they promised, but the work is usually pointless. For instance, submitting your site over and over to Google, Yahoo, and Bing is totally pointless.

The Secondary Scam

I admit I use the term scam loosely. I also use it to mean the provision of services that are quite simply bad. The people providing the services are not intentionally misleading their clients, they are not criminals intentionally conning their users. They simply don't know what they are doing, and probably have no business being in the business.

Every industry has incompetent people, but I feel it's valid to group these people into the "scam" category--as a form of shorthand, you understand--simply because such a huge portion of the SEO business is made up of incompetent people.

How come this is? SEO at some levels is very simple -- put keywords into the Title and Description, add links, and so on and at just a slightly more advanced level it's actually quite difficult.

It's a difficult business to learn in fact …

  1. It's a confusing industry. The rules are hidden from the public. It's like being an engineer when the laws of physics are unknown and the rules change every few weeks.

  2. Thanks to #1 above, the business is full of information that is ambiguous or no longer correct, misinformation, speculation, and outright nonsense. It's hard to learn a skill when a significant portion of the background information is wrong.

Thus the market has a very large proportion of people that understand a little about the subject, but not enough.

I often see a lot of sites that have been "optimized," in my line of work. Clients will come to me, show me their web site, and say things like "well, we had it optimized, but I'm not sure if they knew what they were doing." All too often I discover that "they" didn't!

Summary Of The SEO Scam

Maybe I'm being unfair. It would be nicer if I said the SEO business has very low standards. Either way, low standards or scam, for the average person, the results are the same. It's easy to pay a lot of money for search-engine optimization services and get very little in return.