In the professional world, some call them "SEO Vultures". You might hear them referred to as "Basement Dwellers" or just simply "Poachers," but they are everywhere. Eventually, as a business owner, you're going to have an encounter with them.
Their goal? To steal your trust, your business and your money.
Good SEOs are referred to by word of mouth or through a network. The best referrals generally come from other businesses saying "you should contact my SEO, they're really good.' However, as high as the demand for SEO is, the supply is even greater.
The reason for this is that clients often don't know what SEO is. It's a foreign language to them, so they don't know how to look for one or what makes someone an SEO. That leaves the door open for:
- College graduates who need money
- Bad SEOs who can't find business and are getting desperate
- Genuinely evil people who just want your money
How to Spot a Bad SEO
The first question you should ask yourself is: "how did they contact me?" If they reached out to you and use the following strategy, you should run for your life. The most used poaching strategy is:
1. Get an audience with the client
Often through cold calling or random emails. They might even make a vague claim that they were "referred to you" even though they weren't.
2. Present a list of 'errors' the site has. These might be nonexistent, meaningless or nitpicky.
If they mention image tags, site spacing, meta keywords or optimization of useless pages (FAQs, Policies, etc) then that's an easy red flag.
3. Paint an armageddon scenario
"Your SEO hasn't addressed these!? What HAS he been doing?"
4. Convince the client to fire their SEO without communication
"It's not worth talking to them, you should just send them an email cancelling your agreement right away."
Sound familiar? Yea, you've been vultured.
You might be saying to yourself "how on earth does this actually work?" Well, it stems from most clients not understanding SEO. Because of that, they don't want to host calls because it just ends up confusing them. They don't know what minification, disavows or even Search Console are and they often don't care as long as they get results.
The problem is, that lack of communication leads to a lack of trust and opens the door for engagements like this. Let it go on the record: SEO Poachers are dangerous. I can't tell you how many battered, bruised clients have come to me because they fell for the wrong SEO and ended up with a penalty or a huge dip in traffic. Since poachers aren't good at their practice, they will effectively ruin your organic presence by either utilizing some outdated technique or doing nothing at all.
How to Avoid SEO Poachers
This is more simple than you might imagine. If someone cold calls you or emails you out of nowhere in regards to SEO, just don't respond. Block them, ignore them, do whatever it takes because you're going to get a lot of people doing that.
Need a good SEO? Ask local businesses, ask others in the chamber of commerce and do your research. Also, you're welcome to reach out to us as well. The best SEOs come from personal referrals or long-standing relationships.
Poachers are easier to fall for than some might think. Keep yourself informed and keep yourself safe, because a bad SEO can do more damage in 1 hour than a good one can fix in a lifetime.