As Web and digital marketing become hotter and hotter, more and more of our field will experience an influx of people who will claim to be “experts.” Here’s a list of how to spot an Internet charlatan -- someone you should avoid, whether they are in a sales or creative position -- if they say any of the following:

1. “THIS” Works

I begin with the bête noir of our lofty field -- the idea that there is a magic bullet. There is no digital magic bullet, and there is no holder of a digital magic gun. Creating content that converts users to customers, tagging pages so they show up high in search results, developing code that loads quickly and designing user-friendly and graphically pleasing interfaces requires hard work, the combination and talent of many and an iterative approach.

If someone tells you that one service they sell will solve all your digital marketing challenges, they are (Drumroll!!! Lightning!!! Thunder!!!) an Internet Charlatan.

2. Links are the Only Things That Matter

This is my personal favorite and it drives me crazy, because it is partially true. Links are not the only aspect of your digital marketing that matter, but they are critically important to your search results, rankings and perceived quality of your content. However, we all know from Google Penguin and Panda updates that shoddy links are not going to get you anywhere fast.

Building an online reputation comes from building relationships. Links to and from other people’s blogs, social media, articles and comments are critical. Quality links arise from people who want to build relationships because of the quality and value of your content.

If someone tells you that links are the only things that matter, they are (Drumroll!!! Lightning!!! Thunder!!!) an Internet Charlatan.

3. We’ll Get You on the First Page of Google

It is sad that we still need to cover this, but as more people take an interest in spending money on digital marketing, more people will be fooled by this lie. The Internet is so competitive now (trust me -- you think your customized baby straws are the only ones out there? Someone else in Texas (and China) is already making them.)

Being on the first page of Google is very important, as studies show that most people will click on one of those links. That should absolutely be your goal for the keywords that drive qualified leads to your website.

However, you should not believe anyone who tells you they can guarantee your results on the first page of Google. They cannot guarantee it, or they’re doing something illegal and trust me, Google will unleash some code with a name of a black and white animal whose name begins with a P and all your money, and potentially your hard work will roll right down the proverbial drain. Plus, Google may ban you, and then at that point, why are we still even having this conversation?

If someone tells you that they can get you on the first page of Google, they are (Drumroll!!! Lightning!!! Thunder!!!) an Internet Charlatan.

4. We can Definitely do That

Just today, with two different clients, I had conversations that appalled me. During one, a client informed me that a big consulting group told them they could implement a taxonomy during the contract negotiation phase and now, during the implementation phase they admit “they’ve never done one before.” Another client picked a designer who submitted a design that looks almost identical to their competitor’s website. (These are the days I hate consultants.)

When a company, or a consultant, or a design shop, or anyone, really, tells you they can do “that,” ask them for examples, samples and results.

If someone tells you they can do that, without proof of having done it before, they are (Drumroll!!! Lightning!!! Thunder!!!) an Internet Charlatan.

5. We Have a Secret Sauce for That

You know who gets to say “We have a secret sauce for that?” Google. Coca-Cola. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yep … that’s about it.

If a consultant or company tells you they have a secret way of researching keywords, or a secret way of prototyping, or a secret way of knowing what your target audience wants, then they are either wizards from Hogwarts or liars.

I am not talking about software that helps you write SEO code on the backend or a product like that. I’m talking about people who try to sell you on a proprietary way of doing something that doesn’t have some transparency.

For example, when my clients ask me how I do my SEO research, I tell them. I even hand them spreadsheets. What I do isn’t rocket science or neurosurgery, and even if it was, I think you have to be transparent about those things, too. “Hi Doctor, how do you plan on accessing my brain to take out my tumor?” “It’s a secret, Madam. How dare you even ask me?” Uh huh.

If someone tells you they have a secret sauce they won’t share, they are (Drumroll!!! Lightning!!! Thunder!!!) an Internet Charlatan.

So -- in your opinion -- how has an Internet Charlatan bamboozled you?

Editor's Note:
Another article by Ahava Leibtag you may enjoy:

-- Content Strategy: Is it Okay to Break the Rules?