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How to Protect Yourself from Shady Search Marketing

Search marketing done right lands your site the first listing on Google or Bing results, but the consequences of search done wrong are much, much worse: In January 2016, the founder of a search agency in Texas was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for his shady practices. This fraudster’s company used deceptive tactics to affect the search engine rankings of his clients by creating fake reviews, fictitious websites, and manipulating hidden text on websites—without his clients’ knowledge.

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, so I know it’s not easy to manage all the moving parts of a search strategy. When a company starts looking for a partner to drive their search marketing efforts, it can be tough to tell who just talks the talk and who really knows their stuff. As the above story illustrates, not everyone can promote your site without resorting to criminal activity.

In order to ensure that your search marketing partners are knowledgeable, ethical, and have your goals in mind, make sure to ask these four questions before signing a contract with an agency or expert.

1. How Do You Stay Up-to-Date on Best Practices?

The search industry changes quickly. The technologies we rely on (search engines like Google and Bing) have their own objectives that don’t always align with businesses. Even a small change in how Google works can make your prior approach totally ineffective. When working with a search expert, be sure to get a sense of how current their expertise is. You don’t want to find yourself working with last year’s best practices.

Two key signs to look out for are article length and keywords…

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