“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.
26500 W. A----- R---7
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.
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.
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