Unlike many in our industry I'm not against what some consider annoying forms of advertising and marketing. I don't have a problem with cold calling, I don't think all unsolicited emails are spam and I don't think there is anything wrong with direct mail.

Many of these things are frowned upon in the SEO industry, and I understand why. It's because there has been an abundance of "SEO" companies that engage in these methods, perform crappy service and ultimately rip people off. Every industry has its thieves. The ones in the SEO world have created a black mark that makes the entire industry look bad and has caused many in our industry to frown on legitimate forms of advertising.

Before I go any further, let me state I'm not for blind cold calling or email spamming. Good marketing via direct mail is highly targeted, not just sent to random addresses. The same holds true for cold calling and email marketing. Good and proper marketing rules must be followed if you want your business to succeed long term.

Bad Email Marketer, Bad!

Let's start with examples of the bad. Remember back when you used to get all those reciprocal link requests via email? Probably not hard to do, especially since you probably received one yesterday. Personally, I'm amazed people still do this. Of course they are getting smarter...sort of. Maybe not. Now they start the emails out with "This is not spam," or "We are not spammers." (Uh, just saying something doesn't make it true.)

You can usually spot these generic link request emails because they are sent to "info," "webmaster" or some other generic email address for your domain. Once you start reading them, you immediately begin to hear about "the value" of trading links. (Perhaps they missed the memo explaining that non-targeted links have no value to you or your visitor.) Participating in non-targeted link exchanges like the ones that show up in your email is sort of like trading in a Ford Pinto and expecting to receive a Lexus in return.

Another type of junk email that has become a blight on the SEO industry are the ones telling you a "site analysis" has been performed for your site. These messages are mass generated and aim to convince site owners their web sites are sub-par in the eyes of the search engines. Our clients get these all the time and often send them my way asking for an explanation of why someone else things their SEO isn't right. These emails are easy to refute; we simply point out to the client the keywords being suggested in the email are not the right keywords for the site. And then we point to the keywords they are performing strongly for and all goes back to normal.

Ring, Ring, Ring, Let's Sell You That SEO Thing

And then there are the cold calls.

I received a highly untargeted cold call from another SEO company just yesterday. I needed a pick-me-up so I decided to have a little fun with them.

The call was pretty typical. They started off telling me something was wrong with my site and how badly I needed their services. Unfortunately for them, what they thought was wrong with my site actually wasn't. This is how these calls generally go.

In fact, those doing the calling have likely never seen the site they are referencing prior to making the call, let alone having performed any kind of site analysis on. Which begs the question, if you are not even remotely familiar with someone's site, why are you calling to tell them it's all wrong? Let's get the people who know what they are talking about on the phone.

If you play along long enough, you'll find out that even the "researchers" are using automated tools and outdated information to find something basic (and often superficial) to declare that your site is all wrong.

There Has to be a Better Way

So is there a right way to do these things in our industry? Sure. SEO is no different than any other industry. We advertise in magazines, promote our businesses at conferences, and we buy ads online. These facts alone defeat any argument that says advertising is wrong. It also defeats arguments like this one: "if you were good you wouldn't need to advertise that way." How many industries do you know of where companies stop advertising because they finally have "enough" business?

There is some truth in that last statement when it comes to the spammers. If these companies were any good they wouldn't need to find bogus or false reasons to contact a company and pitch their services. They also wouldn't be promoting stale strategies that provide little benefit.

On the other hand, I'm fine with companies who market via email or cold calling in a well-thought out and knowledgeable way. It's more than just targeting your audience. You could do that with a direct mail campaign. It's about knowing your audience and interacting with them individually.

Any SEO company calling other SEO company to sell their services can clearly be written off. Any company that calls you about your site, without knowing who you are, what you sell and having a true understanding of how to improve your business should be discarded immediately. On the other hand you can often spot fairly quickly the companies that have done their research and are able to present a clear, compelling and professional case for why they called.

We all know telemarketing sucks. It doesn't matter who is doing it or why they're doing it, most people hate it. That said, cold calling doesn't necessarily have to be banned from your marketing arsenal. Walk up sales people tend to be annoying as well, but they do have their place. There are right and wrong ways to market via all channels. As with every other business, it's important to simply find the proper course before taking action.

December 3, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


This article made me smile. I am sure any SEO professional will see his own workday reflected in the descriptions of the SEO spammers.

The best, not mentioned here, are the emails pitching SEO or asking for a link exchange not with my site or any of my client sites, but with some site I have never heard of. Those come in at least once a week.

I have to disagree about the telemarketing. On 2 seperate occasions I have been involved with clients who started off without it and decided to bring it into the whole marketing fold. First time it was to directly promote the site I made for them, loosely targeted audience. Custom landing pages were made, hardly a soul showed up.

Next time it was brought back into the game but this time it was for a speaking event and a private RSVP landing page. Extremely targeted audience. Out of hundreds of names on the list, a whopping 23 people registered. The final percentage for that was well under a 5% conversion rate. They spent thousands on the list and chalked it all up as a loss in the end.

Telemarketing should not be welcomed as a legitimate form of marketing anymore frankly. It is intrusive, whether at home or work. It costs companies tons of money dealing in lost productivity having to deal with these calls from these companies that "forget" to take your number off their list.

I don't understand why anybody would hire a SEO company that isn't ranking in the search engines. Is like hiring a mechanic that doesn't know how to drive. SEO companies should stick to ranking their websites and advertising.

@SEOSapien - what keyword(s) should the SEO company rank for? There are literally thousands of SEO, SEM and website marketing related keywords, not to mention local identifiers. Will any one do, or should it be a specific set of words that the company must rank for to qualify?


You got great points here, we also have received lots of cold calls here to which are fun to answer especially when the person is trying so hard to explain the value of there service of the phone that you has no value what so ever. The sad part is that several small business owners fall victim to these type of things all the time. I personally think focusing on your existing SEO clients can one of the best ways to get leads and new clients is word of mouth from your existing clients.

@Yellow SEO - I agree completely. Word of mouth is wonderful for business!

Stoney, It's not necessary that you will hire a SEO company only if it ranks highly in Search Engines.

I know a couple of good SEO companies that are not in ranking but they have given me 100% satisfaction by their good works.

I agree in the main but I accually got one of my best clients through them phoning me telling me I needed SEO!! I was on the phone for a couple of hour with this person and in the end they out sourced quite a bit of work to me and still do!!
oh a link is SEO GO

the cold calling and seo spam always strike me as ironic. if my seo was so bad, how'd they find me? i don't have business listing in the phone book, man.

I love this article. I own seo company and I get the occasional email from another wannabe seo company telling me that my site is nowhere to be found and that they can help me. I usually respond to these emails with the line "idiot! do your research before spamming me."

I had another guy email one of my clients saying that she had no traffic whatsoever. First of all, again, you need to better on your research before spamming my clients and trying to steal them from me. Second, if i didn't go to high school with him and his sister, I would be one nasty sob towards him. I just simply removed him from my friends list in facebook.

Bottom line is do your research before spamming. No, that's not going to happen because spammers don't do their research.

Very true, some one should be careful of choosing an SEO company

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