Now that the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is commonly being used, lots of self-proclaimed “SEO Experts” have come out of nowhere, giving false guarantees and offering ranking promises.

Today, it’s rare to go more than a few hours without receiving a spammy email about your SEO, or getting a cold call from someone guaranteeing results they can’t possibly deliver. Private schools in particular should remember that success in the past doesn’t necessarily mean success in the future. Anyone who tries to guarantee or promise results is most likely trying to get to your hard-earned cash.

Since private school SEO tends to be both highly competitive and expensive, it seems to draw some of the most shady business practices. As the owner of an inbound marketing agency that embraces the concept of “practicing what we preach,” we often see a few of these SEO scams from companies that fail to put their client’s needs first. Learning how to avoid these scams will help your private school eliminate expensive headaches.

Here are some tips to avoid private school SEO scams: 

You Don’t Own Your Website’s Design

This is a huge private school marketing scam to watch out for:

Investing in a private school website design can be a huge undertaking. Private schools that need a fully-sized customized design, with several different page templates or unique features and functions can easily see costs in excess of $12,000.

Surely you should own your website design for that price?

That is not always the case. Many times, agencies will keep the rights to the design of your website. If you decide to switch to another agency later, you’ll face the additional cost of rebuilding your website using non-proprietary software.

You should never lease your website, nor should you sign a contract that doesn’t give you full ownership of the web design and content after the agreement expires.

Blogs on Domains You Do Not Own

Another private school SEO scam we commonly witness is agencies selling blogs on domains your private school does not own.

First let’s get one thing straight, 99.99% of the time your blog should be a part your private school’s website, and on the same domain.

Hosting your blog on a separate domain not only increases your costs, but it also creates more work for yourself, because you’ll have to make sure both have consistent content, additionally, one site will be competing with your main website. Both sites will be attempting to rank for the same keyword, and when your efforts are divided between two different domains, the chances of either of them ranking well decreases dramatically.

To make things worse, there are countless SEO companies selling blogs and sites where the domain is registered to the agency rather than the school or administrator.

This is an even worse position to be in than not owning the rights to your web design since now whoever owns your domain is running the show, and you could lose any equity you ever build in that URL, for any reason, at any time. All of your content will be generating authority and links for a website that could disappear the second you stop paying the company who sold it to you.

If someone tries to sell you on a website they control the rights to, run. Run fast and run far.

No Access to Your Own Traffic Metrics

Understanding cost per inquiry and cost per client is important to managing your own digital marketing. By calculating these two figures, you can accurately assess the ROI from all of your campaigns. If you don’t have direct access to your PPC data, Google analytics, or conversion tracking, you’re essentially flying blind and can only guess about what is working and what isn’t.

Without being entirely transparent with campaign data, how could an SEO company do more than pretend they are successful? Depending on the contract, you might be stuck with a proprietary admin panel that only shows you some of the data, or worse, you could be prevented from seeing any analytics at all.

If a private school intends to make educated decisions, there is no upside to limiting the data at their disposal.

Sending PPC Traffic to 3rd Party Landing Pages

The reasons why some agencies run PPC campaigns to sites outside of a private school’s primary domain are varied. I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of this strategy right now, instead I want to focus on what this will mean in terms of campaign tracking.

Lets say your PPC traffic gets sent to a website out of your control. Now you’ll find yourself without Google analytics data that can help you calculate if the campaign is actually profitable.

You might know how many inquiries you get and how much your agency gets paid, but you’ll be left without the resources to examine or fine-tune the small details and determine your campaign’s ROI.

Inflated Hosting Costs

Another tip to avoid SEO scams for private schools is that the web traffic of any private school’s site will rarely call for a hosting charge greater than $100.

But I talk to clients all the time that get a monthly “hosting” invoice of $500 or more from their agency just inflating their hosting charges because it’s an simple grab for cash. I’ve even heard of one private school who got charged recurring costs for “mobile optimization” along with other ludicrous web hosting bills.

If your ad-spends and agency retainers are high enough, sometimes recurring costs like inflated web hosting fly under the radar. Make sure to examine your invoices to ensure you’re not getting hosed for what should be a  relatively minor expense.

“We Have a Partner at Google”

There is one thing you will always want to remember: Google or any other search engine does not partner with the third party SEO companies (even us!). The search engines provide unbiased results based on the keywords and no special treatment is given to any particular company (unless of course you have opted for Google AdWords). Since there is no such partnership, if any SEO expert is claiming one, stay clear of them. Also, no Google employee will be willing to risk their job and allow any third party an unfair advantage over the others.

I hope this article helps you to avoid these private school marketing scams.  So, avoid getting search engine optimization services from a company selling these scams and don’t let a digital marketing agency make a fool of you!