“Just one question before I buy…when you f*** it up later, do I get my money back?”…Aimee Mann

So, I get the following email in one of my Gmail accounts that somehow bypassed the spam filter…

Subject: Suggestion re: toddmintz.com 1

Dear Website Owner 2,

If I could get you five times the RELEVANT traffic at a substantially reduced cost 3 would you be interested? N------- P-------- can place your website on top of the Natural Listings on Google, Yahoo and MSN 4. Our Search Engine Optimization team delivers more top rankings than anyone else and we can prove it. We do not use "link farms" or "black hat" methods that Google and the other search engines frown upon and can use to de-list or ban your site. The techniques are proprietary, involving some valuable closely held trade secrets 5. Our prices are less than half of what other companies charge 6.

I would be happy to send you a proposal using the top search phrases for your area of expertise. Please contact me at your convenience so I can start saving you some money. Please do not hesitate to email or call me if you would like further information.

P--- R---------
VP Sales
N------ P--------
26500 W. A----- R---7
Suite ---------
C--------, C------- 9----

I'm guessing that most everyone reading this article has received SEO spam and regular readers of Search Engine Guide know enough about the SEO process not to be suckered into believing the sorts of claims made in such emails. However, as a public service to all, I am going to deconstruct this particular spam and shine some light on the assertions it makes. The numbers that follow correspond to the annotations above.

1 & 2) Clearly, my contact information was scraped by an email harvester and my website was never actually examined by an actual person. Their software couldn't determine that toddmintz.com is the only website that I own in which I make no attempt to earn revenue …it is a place where I've posted two of my more personal stories …a reminiscence on witnessing Marvin Gaye's National Anthem live and a Fictional Google Western modeled on the ending of the movie 3:10 to Yuma. If a human would have examined my site, they would have easily been able to see that there isn't any commerce going on, that my name is “Todd Mintz” (knowing the name of the person you solicit will certainly increase the success of the solicitation), and that (if they looked at the bottom of the home page and or Googled my name) that I am in the same business that they “purport” to be in.

3) It isn't difficult to increase traffic 5-fold on an unoptimized website…especially if the site gets almost no traffic to begin with. However, business do not earn revenue from increased traffic…they earn revenue from lead generation / sales. Before any SEO campaign commences, a website needs to be optimized for converting visitors into revenue which involves not only SEO but copywriting & website design. Only once this process is complete should the traffic-building steps of SEO commence.

4) A common phrase in SEO spam…this generally means one of two things:

•  The company gets you to the “top” of Google/Yahoo/MSN via PPC.
•  The company gets you ranked highly for a nonsense phrase that adds no value to your attempt to generate revenue online.

Top rankings don't mean anything unless the term is relevant to a targeted visitor and the website is able to convert them into a customer.

5) Never work with an SEO firm that will not lay out in great detail the techniques they use to optimize a website. More than likely, their “proprietary” techniques involve spamming the search engines which could generate short-term traffic but also can get the site banned. Even if they don't use “link-farms” or “black hat” techniques, there are still plenty of ways they can screw everything up.

6) I'm sure their services are cheap…but are you getting any value for the price? SEO isn't a “one size fits all” service and deciding to go with a company because they offer the lowest price is a recipe for disaster.

7) Would you trust an SEO company that doesn't give out its actual physical address? A few minutes of Googling enabled me to determine that the address listed in the email is a UPS store…the same UPS store used by a very active adult media enterprise. Furthermore, I saw examples of guestbook spam and bloggers ripping these folks for email spam. I didn't see any SEO scholarship associated with this company which is a pretty strong signal that it's not a quality firm.

So would you trust your marketing dollars to such a company? Or, might it be better that you engage an SEO either through a referral from a satisfied customer or because you've read their writings on their topic online and can determine that the person is knowledgeable and actively engaged in the search marketing community.

At my former place of work, I had co-workers forward me SEO spam as if they were serious sales solicitations. I was even asked to contact such folks to try to learn about their offerings (which I never did). Clearly these messages somehow resonate with intelligent business people and perhaps I'm way too close to the SEO process to see how they could possibly find customers gullible to fall prey to their tactics. However, businesses can keep safe from such SEO predators by following one simple rule…even if the offering sounds good (and I concede this is probably the best written SEO spam that I've received), IT'S STILL SPAM and no good will ever come to a business from responding to and engaging with a company that contacted them via such methods.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

November 27, 2007

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.


I think I got the same exact email recently. My boss forwards the SEO spam he gets too but mostly because he knows that it irritates me not because he actually thinks it is worthwhile.

One point of contention I have with your response is point 3. After reviewing it again I may be reading it wrong but it seems like you are saying that SEO should not be a concern until the copywriting and design are completed. I actually believe that it is best to have an SEO involved in both of these processes so the site is built in the most search engine friendly manner from the outset.

Anyway great breakdown of a typical SEO spam solicitation and something I may use in the future when someone presents me with a similar email.

SEO is absolutely a consideration during the design / copywriting process. When I wrote that sentence, I had in mind that the website needs to be optimized for sales / lead generation before taking active actions to bring the folks to the site...perhaps I could have worded that section better.

Funny, that reminds me of how I got my start in SEO actually. If you have ever heard of a company called Internet Advancement, I think they have more negative publicity than anything else. They contacted me when I was running large marketing techniques for one of my clients and told me about the world of SEO and that its a specialized and tough industry that I couldn't learn. That set me off, so I hung up with him, and several months later, here I am, and SEO professional. This proves that something good can come out of these spammers. Good post!

Yeah Todd, I thought that maybe I was misinterpreting it but I just wanted to mention it anyway. You are right on the money though. When I see offers from "SEO's" they never seem to mention sales/conversion or even RELEVANT traffic.

Your last line sums it up.

Spam is spam... no matter what they are trying to sell.

But on that point. I bet they could spam the world with your details and seriously hurt your site with the same techniques that they use.

Thanks for the good post.

You have got to love this stuff. In a time where a ton of online marketing companies are already over charging for pretty basic SEO services, people like these spammers add fuel to the fire that the industry is full of snake oil salesman.

I hadn't seen that particular piece of SEO spam yet--very interesting--though I do get a lot of it. So much that I wrote a post last month entitled "The Wrong Way to Build External Links for SEO."

The universal elements are: the sender doesn't use my first name (it is NOT "webmaster") which is easy to find on my site, clearly don't know what my site is about, ask me to link to irrelevant sites (or receive links from same), and don't sign with their own (real) name.

It's reached the point where I'm tempted to publicly display the names of the companies that employ SEO spammers to build their external links--they must not realize how this is tarnishing their image. Or would that be just too nasty?

THANK YOU!!! This was the most informative material on SEO I have read since starting my on-line store.

I have tried several SEO companies, link exchanges, I'm in the Yahoo store and still have only received 45 hits in 90 days with no sales. Apparantly no in the world buys blankets, quilts, or comforters these days.

My site has supposedly been optimized by the company that built and maintains it but then again, I can't tell.

If you can provide any help, I welcome it.

George Carr

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