How To Spot Scam SEO And Website Service Proposal Email
This is a topic that is very close to my heart as I’ve had one too many discussions with some of my clients, who are opening, reading and often falling for the numerous SEO Proposals, Poor Ranking Warnings [Scares], Web Development services, Website Audits and Domain Renewal Alerts that regularly flood email inbox of every business I know, including my own.
Have you ever got an email from a plumber telling you that your taps are leaking, and that you need to employ them as soon as possible otherwise you will be flooded within hours and will end up living on the street for the rest of your life? No? Do you know why?
First of all, you know for a fact if the taps are leaking or not. Then, there is a big difference in a leaking tap and a burst pipe – you will not lose your home over a leaking tap (only if you get a massive water bill you that cannot afford to pay, but this is a story for another time.)
SEO industry is probably the least transparent area of digital marketing. It deals with one the world’s most complicated online systems, competing with millions of other businesses for the few top rankings on page #1 on most business related keywords. Unfortunately, often search engine optimisation (for organic rankings) results are not really quantifiable, your ROI cannot be measured in exact figures and there are certainly no guaranteed deliverables within a set time-frame. (Definitely no short-term success can ever be achieved – this is a time-consuming, painstaking process, that requires long-term commitment and strategic planning and implementation. This is before hoping that Google will acknowledge the effort sooner rather than later.)
With Google algorithms evolving all the time, sometimes adapting to the changes might require a complete U-turn from what you were doing before. There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to ranking on page one on Google. Brian Dean from Backlinco has compiled the list of 200 factors that may affect your rankings, only a part of them you have control over ( like page-level and site-level optimisation) or any influence on improving (backlinks and user-interaction). A large proportion of ranking factors you have little or no control of what-so-ever. All you can do is monitor them and do your best to adjust.
I set out to write this article to pull apart some scam SEO proposals to help my readers spot them straight away. ( I personally do not even ever open those- these emails are what that SPAM button is for. Reputable SEO agencies never send out unsolicited emails. When you even consider opening one of them – you have just wasted your precious time making a decision to look through an email like that already)
However, since you opened it – I would like to give you 5 things to watch out for to spot a scam marketing email at a glance.
Here an email I just got a couple of day ago, I highlighted the dodgy parts in red:
–——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Tina Sharma <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 1:02 PM
Subject: SEO Service – GUARANTEED Page 1 Ranking !!!
Hope you are well,
I was surfing through your Website and realized that despite having a great design; it was not ranking on any of the search engines (Google Yahoo and Bing Twitter) for most of the keywords relating to your business.
We provide you SEO, SMO and PPC Services with the following essential parameters: –
01. Follow complete guideline of Search Engine.
02. Assured Keyword Ranking Top 10 Listing in the Search Engine.
03. SEO Weekly Report.
04. Complete Website Optimization.
05. No Hidden Cost.
06. Local Listing in Google/Yahoo/MSN.
07. Social Media Optimization.
08. Directory Submission.
09. Social Book-marking Sharing.
10. Oriented Article Writing.
11. Article Submission.
12. Classified Ads.
Please do let me know if you are interested and have any questions. Waiting for your reply!
Thanks & Regards
Online Business Executive
Note:- If this is something you are interested, please respond to this email. If this is not your interest, don’t worry, we will not send you email again.
THERE IS NO COMPANY NAME IN THE SENDERS EMAIL ADDRESS OR SIGNATURE
Have a look at the sender’s email address (this one is from firstname.lastname@example.org – I have actually received emails from people whose email address had one name and the signature – a completely different name! This morning I received a proposal for some web development from a guy with an email address email@example.com… Combination Ovens? Web development? REALLY????)
Funny, how an “Online Business Executive” [what is that anyway?] uses an Outlook, Gmail or Hotmail account for their business email address. Mail boxes are very affordable and often come unlimited with most hosting packages. Let’s say Online Business Executive is a valid position within a company, but there is no mention of the company name or a link to their website anywhere in the email. (Even if there was something, the company that sends you any proposals out of the blue needs to be researched with suspicion before any reply is made. Again, reputable SEO agencies never send unsolicited emails. They advertise (pay their own money) to promote their services if they need to. )
Also this particular email was not even sent directly to us. See how there is no email address visible after TO: (it should have been addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org)? This is simply because the list of recipients was entered in a BCC field (or using some dodgy bulk mail software) , which allows the scammers to send these scam emails to hundreds of businesses at once.
THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE
This one is a little more complex, as the example above is a 100% generic email, but I often get some with the actual website address of my business mentioned. (Once in case of a client, who is an online retailer, the link behind their website name was actually leading to a completely different website of a furniture producer in the United States!)
The statement about you not ranking on “most of the keywords related to your business” makes my blood boil, honestly.
Our website is ranking #1 on page one on the keywords I optimised it to rank. And that’s that. I did it.
(Also what is “Google Bing”? Or “Yahoo Twitter”? Some new search engines? I only know Google. Bing. Yahoo. Twitter.) Seriously, are they just dropping the words we know in a random order?
It takes hours, days of research to determine what are the most important strategic keywords for your particular business type. You need to research your ideal client, your target location, audience, problems you might help the clients solve. Why would any professional spend all this time for free, just to send out an email (as they admit at the end of the email , they know you might even never reply to)? I know what this time costs and believe me – there is no way I would spend it researching a business that has potentially no interest in hiring me. Would you? Really?
This is one of those lists of services/promises that crack me up… every time.
It is a collection of [often not even real] digital marketing terms you do not know, but most likely heard of something similar, so it makes the email look very serious. I love how they entered No Hidden Costs as a service and then mentioned Classified Ads and Directory submissions. Most of the ones that count are not free at all (especially Google Adwords), so there will be definitely extra costs involved. As for Submission to Thousands of Search Engines service that might be also included, over 95% off searches are made through Google, Bing & Yahoo, there is no point wasting time on small players, they will make no difference.
And by the way, the nonsense starts from number one – “Follow complete guideline of Search Engine” – this is the saddest part, seriously!
Wouldn’t it be lovely if Google released a complete official guideline for SEO (not to mistake with Backlinco blog post I mentioned before). However, I doubt it would make any difference- if you check Brian’s article, you will see what I mean – so many factors are completely outside your control.
GUARANTEED PAGE #1 RANKINGS
This is a funny one. For a new business ( just a couple of years old), unless it is a niche business with low online competition level, appearing on page one will take probably a couple of years to enter page one, and this is with correct page-wise and site-wise optimisation, regularly updated dynamic content and great user-engagement optimisation. You need longevity and a bit of more history with Google to rank well. The longer you are online the better your chances are (provided all your main URLs are unchanged too – again, this is a subject for whole new article).
THEY WILL SAY ANYTHING TO SHAKE YOUR CONFIDENCE
I have to use a different Spam email example, that I received just as I was working on this article. Again this one was received from email@example.com and has no mention or a link back to her company website.
Dear owner of www.ezmarketing.ie
I’m sure you have been contacted in this matter many times before but our value proposition is much different. We show the client results before we ask for any further commitment.
As a business owner you might be interested to gain profit by placing your website among top in search engines.
Your website needs immediate improvement for some major issues with your website.
–Low online presence for many competitive keyword phrases
–Unorganized social media accounts (?????)
–Not compatible with all mobile devices
-Many bad back links to your website
I have selected your website www.ezmarketing.ie and prepared a FREE website audit report. This is for you, completely free at no charge.
If my proposal sound’s interesting for your business goal, feel free to email me, or can provide me with your phone number and the best time to call you. I am also available for an online meeting to present you this website audit report.
I look forward to hearing from you – thanks!
PS: I am not spamming. I have studied your website, prepared an audit report and believe I can help with your business promotion. If you still want us to not contact you, you can ignore this email or ask to remove and I will not contact again.
If Emma had actually audited my website and social media channels, she’d see that we provide SEO services ourselves and we are not likely to respond to a contact form request for SEO help. And, oh yes! She is Spamming – if they want to show results before commitment, why didn’t they just email me the ” absolutely free SEO report” she insists she has prepared after studying our website? I could then see all the issues explained in detail and decide if I want to hire this company.
But there was no results shown before commitment. None. Whatsoever.
In fact it was full of lies. EZ Marketing website ranks well as I mentioned before on all important for our leads generation keywords. We simply have no bad backlinks; it is easy to check your backlinks – there are so many free online tools available online to check your backlinks and basic SEO score too.
“Not compatible with ALL mobile devices” [that ALL sounds very scary]. Our site is highly mobile compatible. Most of my clients use their mobile devices to browse the internet, I know how important it is for my website to look good and be easy to navigate on the phone (or I will never get any enquiries)
- A respectable Digital Marketing company, SEO agency or Web Developer will never reach out to you first. Use a Spam button on anyone who does.
- Any chance of a new domain reaching the top of page #1 when it comes to organic listings one fast are practically non existing. In our experience only domains with 5+ years history with Google can really benefit from an SEO push and rank in the top 4-6 listings.
- SEO results will show within the next couple of years, minimum after 6 months.
SEO cannot be just about your website – digital marketing must address the business as a whole, know and understand the target audience and business goals. It has to be all about generating more business with your website and sometimes it is not just about your position in Google search listings, but much more about direct marketing and strategic paid traffic acquisition.
P.S.: Please use that Spam button more often!