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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Some SEO services ‘ripping off’ Australian companies: Small Business Ombudsman

By August 22, 2019February 22nd, 20214 Comments

Some SEO services ‘ripping off’ Australian companies: Small Business Ombudsman kate carnell 1 » May 24, 2022

We were right all along! 

A while ago, I posted this story on the WebBuzz Blog sharing my experience about a conference speaker vehemently complaining about the bad service he received from his digital marketing agency.

Later on, we learned he was not alone.

We scoured online reviews of digital marketing services, and what we found wasn’t pretty. 

seo scams experienced by these unhappy AustraliansMany Australian business owners were being ripped off in droves by “digital marketing experts”, who really had no idea what they were doing. 

And our concern was validated by the recent call from Small business ombudsman Kate Carnell for businesses to come forward with their SEO horror stories. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Competition (ACCC) received more than 100 complaints about SEO-related businesses in 2018, but the ombudsman believes many businesses aren’t reporting sloppy work because it has become so prevalent in the industry.

Does the SEO Industry Need Regulation?

Digital Marketing, especially Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), has become an important part of doing business online. 

I know this from personal experience. 

Several years ago, I used SEO to make my Sydney mortgage broker website beat the SEO ranking of large banks.

Some SEO services ‘ripping off’ Australian companies: Small Business Ombudsman Seniors First seo 2015 2 » May 24, 2022

I love SEO because it enables small businesses to compete with big companies. Good local SEO services can ‘level the playing field’ on Google Search, and when done well, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to promote products and services online.

But SEO is an inexact science that involves using hyperlinks, keywords, content, and other strategies to convince search engines like Google that your website is relevant for the people making your target search queries.

13 Million Australians make 6 million Google searches every day, so it’s really a massive opportunity for business.

However, a lack of regulation in the industry has allowed self-appointed “marketing experts” and “SEO gurus” to flourish. These dodgy operators run SEO scams that damage the industry, and make it harder for reputable SEO companies to break through the trust barrier with prospective clients. Clients often come to Webbuzz with an already highly suspicious mindset; everyone seems to be guarding themselves against being ripped off.

This is why as early as last year, we have been advocating for better regulation among digital marketing providers in Australia. It has now reached the point where, we believe, something needs to be done to address the increasing number of SEO complaints plaguing the industry.

Top 5 Signs Your SEO Marketing Agency is Dodgy 

avoid seo scams like the plague

If your current SEO agency is no good, you’ll have a hunch something’s wrong. Photo by from Pexels

A shoddy SEO marketing agency can hurt your business. 

Aside from the money you could lose, bad marketing practices may also cost you in lost sales and customers too. 

To help you out, here are the top five signs that there’s something wrong with your SEO agency:

1. Unclear terms and conditions 

It is important to clarify terms of engagement right from the start.

Spend some time to read and understand the T&Cs and be sure to ask questions about any contract provisions that you don’t understand. 

2. Poor quality SEO reports 

Aside from accountability, progress reports can also help you keep track of your marketing ROI. 

Ask the SEO provider about the types of progress reports you’ll receive. These reports should be relevant to your business goals.

While SEOs cannot guarantee what rank you will ultimately achieve, you should receive reports containing the results of the strategies you have agreed upon. 

Some strategies may not work for every industry, but your SEO agency should be proactive in keeping you in the loop and should always have an action plan. 

Pro tip: ask the potential agency to provide you with sample reports so you can check how they are presented. 

3. Lack of communication 

Bad communication is a BIG ‘red flag’ for a poor SEO agency. 

How can you expect results if the agency is not even promptly responding to your chats or emails? 

You can be sure that this will get even worse once they have taken your money.

4. Little curiosity on how your business works 

If an agency is not curious about your business (how it works, your target customers, your brand promise) any campaign is unlikely to work well. 

A reliable digital agency will not present an SEO strategy without first studying your business. 

SEO requires customised effort, every time. If the agency you are considering shows you what feels like a generic strategy, take your money and run. 

5. No genuine SEO reviews or customer testimonials 

Finally, ask for an agency portfolio containing previous client work, testimonials, and / or case studies. 

If possible, ask for campaign results from another client in your industry. 

See any client logos on the SEO provider’s website? Pick up the phone and call them. Most people are happy to impart their experience, good or bad.

Pay Attention to Your SEO

Some SEO services ‘ripping off’ Australian companies: Small Business Ombudsman austin distel wD1LRb9OeEo unsplash 3 » May 24, 2022

Effective SEO requires proactive client-agency work. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Based on our own agency experience, most campaigns benefit greatly from the input of an engaged business owner or manager.  

It pays to be actively involved in your provider’s SEO campaign. Be proactive, check their monthly reports and ask a lot of questions.

SEO can make or break your business online. And choosing the wrong provider can be very costly indeed.

Have you had a bad experience with an SEO agency? Leave a comment so you can help educate others.

Cheers, Darren

Darren Moffatt

Darren Moffatt

Darren Moffatt is an award-winning entrepreneur & Director of Strategy & Content at growth marketing agency, Webbuzz. An experienced digital strategist, he is an in-demand public speaker on the topic of digital disruption and online marketing, and regularly features in the Australian media.


  • Rhys says:

    I agree, and the problem isn’t helped by Google allowing agencies to run paid ads such as ‘Page 1 rankings’ for $28/month, as some agencies tout, but for this you’d be lucky to get any good than damage to your site. Great SEO costs money, as you likely paid for your mortgage website, but even the greatest agencies can’t protect themselves from Google core updates that can strip a site of it’s authority overnight. When we started out we fell for the cheap backlinks, which ruined our hard work, it’s quality not quantity.

    • Ben Carew says:

      Hi Rhys, yes you make some great points here about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Perhaps the most important factor these days is the UX (user experience) signal of the site back to Google. If users are not staying on page long, are not going deeper into the site over multiple pages, or the page load speed is bad, then your SEO is unlikely to be good no matter what you do. ‘On page’ optimisations are always important, but equally any site needs backlinks – and usually quite a lot of them. Every site and industry vertical is different; our view is that the SEO strategy should be matched to the business objective. For instance, if a business needs a lot of localised search traffic around a city or suburb, then a greater focus on local SEO & Google My Business is better.

  • Thanks to the author for sharing such a great post. The article was very well written and providing great info about Ombudsman seo rip off!! It can be really great for people like me who are looking to get such kind of more knowledge about it.

  • Thanks for such a great post, i really appreciate it

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