When you are looking for a quality SEO consultant, it can be hard to differentiate between the snake oil salesperson and the experts. The only way you can identify the real ones from the ones that will waste your money is their results with other sites.

You may be saying, “Well they all have case studies where they ranked their clients on the 1st page of Google and even some as number #1.” That’s true but this where you separate the B.S. from the facts. If you care about the money you are/or potentially spending on SEO and the visibility of your website on Google, then you need to do your homework. The following steps are what you need to do instead of just trusting an SEO provider’s claim.

I was on eLance, and I received an SEO proposal from a US vendor. Below was his case study verbatim.

“The only client that we’ve had stop services in the past year has been stlshortsale.com.
The reason that they stopped services were they attained all desired rankings and were able to hold those rankings without further optimization requirements.

The owner came to us looking to rank for four main phrases:

St. Louis Short Sale
St. Louis Short Sales
Short Sale St. Louis
Short Sales St. Louis

After three months of work, the site was ranked #1 in Google all four terms. To date, the site is still ranked at the top of search engines for all of the terms listed.

Throughout the seven months that we worked on the website, the owner invested a total of $3,250 in SEO and received organic profits of $15,326.”

 Sounds impressive, right? I even Google searched the term “St. Louis Short Sale” and his client came up #5 on the 1st Page. However, did the ranking for these keywords have any real ROI impact for the client? Let’s find out.

  1. Go to Google Adwords and sign up for an account if you don’t have one. (it’s free)
  2. In Adwords, go to “Tools”, and then click on “Keyword Planner”.
  3. In the Keyword Planner, go to “What would you like to do?
  4. Next, add the keywords the SEO provider ranked for in the “Your Product or Service” text box

St. Louis Short Sale
St. Louis Short Sales
Short Sale St. Louis
Short Sales St. Louis

  1. Next, add the website URL to the “Your Landing Page.”


  1. Insert the industry the site was focused on in the “Your Product Category.”
  2. For this example, add “Real Estate” and click the blue button “Get Ideas.”
  3. Next, click on the tab “Keyword Ideas” as this is where the rubber hits the road.

Okay, analysis time so let’s see if ranking for the keywords and spending over $3,000 was worth it for this website.

So, after that introduction take a look at our keywords in the table below.

Keywords Google Rank Avg Monthly Searches % of Click thrus Avg Monthly Visitors
St. Louis Short Sale 1 10 33% 3
St. Louis Short Sales 1 10 33% 3
Short Sale St. Louis 1 10 33% 3
Short Sales St. Louis 1 10 33% 3
Total Visitors 12

Avg monthly traffic based on receiving 33% of all unique users for the keywords.

Keywords Avg Monthly Visitors Price Per Click Value of traffic per month
St. Louis Short Sale 3 $0.00 $0.00
St. Louis Short Sales 3 $0.00 $0.00
Short Sale St. Louis 3 $0.00 $0.00
Short Sales St. Louis 3 $0.91 $2.73
12 $2.73

As you can see, each keyword has approximately ten unique searches every month. Also, the suggested bid for three of the search terms is $0 and one for $0.91. From these tables, you can see that just about no one is searching for these terms and nobody is advertising for these terms.

Another gotcha is that not all listings get clicked on for a search term as shown in Table 2. According to Google, if you ranked number #1 for a search term on the listings page, only 33% of unique users will click on it. For this example, the four keywords above have a combined total of 40 monthly searches. Since they are all ranked #1 in the search listings, this means that 33% or 12 of those total searches with a click on the stlshortsale.com listing every month.

From the tables above, the total amount of expected traffic for reaching #1 on Google for those four keywords is 12. Yes, 12 extra visitors per month. So, this SEO firm charged their client over $3,000 in a seven-month period for 12 additional visitors per month. If this same client, wanted to advertise on Google for those four keywords, it would have cost him or her $2.73 per month.

From the case study above, this should give you an idea how many SEO providers can fool clients and steal their money. Next time you receive an offer for SEO services, asks for past website ranking examples. Then, follow the steps above to determine if this provider is a real SEO expert or another one of the snake oil salesperson.