SEO scam alert!
Every time you receive an unsolicited email sent by a self-described SEO expert from a faraway land promising to unlock the secrets of search engine optimization – beware. Odds are your helpful-sounding new “friend” is an email spammer/SEO scammer.
OK, it’s not exactly like the Nigerian prince who emails you in broken English to explain that you can get rich quick by helping him transfer millions of dollars out of his war-torn home country.
Instead, the all-too-familiar SEO scam goes something like this:
- An “SEO expert” or “online strategist” emails you with news that he or she has analyzed your website and noticed that it is underperforming. (Note: You also may have noticed shady SEO pitches showing up in the comments section of your website.)
- They often mention unspecified “problems” or “errors” that are causing your website to underperform – but don’t worry, there’s good news.
- They say they can easily rocket you to the top of Google search results for your most important keywords.
- You’re told you’ll gain more traffic and more online customers if you just reply to the guy or gal from Australia (not always, but Australia seems to be a popular fake address because people there are thought of as friendly – “G’day mate!”).
Problem is, the vast majority of these unsolicited emails are about as phony as the Nigerian prince and his royal fortune.
How did the SEO spam artist find me?
If you’ve received one (or 12) of these emails recently, chances are excellent that it was not a personal note to you but rather a piece of spam generated in bulk by a software program. Often, the sender is an SEO lead generation company whose function is to collect contact information from leads (like you). If you take the bait, they’ll hand it off to a company that does actual, if questionable, SEO work.
The messages may range from grammatically ridiculous to personalized and legitimate-sounding. But in reality, it is almost certain that no human being has spent a single second analyzing your website on the other side of the globe.
The usual M.O. is that if you contact the sender to discuss web services or search engine optimization, you will be sold to some other unidentified SEO company that will run a quick analysis of your site and then try to sell you on a short-term contract for half-baked SEO maneuvers that build zero long-term value.
Though you may have received a personalized email with your name and website address, the message(s) most likely arrived at your inbox through the magic of automation.
The software systems behind the scam are capable of using publicly available data to generate lists of websites, website owners and contact emails; then add the boilerplate text and send out the mass mailings. Alternatively, your contact info may have been on a list purchased by the spammer. In this labor-free scenario, even a negligible conversion rate can yield viable leads.
But the SEO spam email seems tailored to me
The email sender may greet you by your first name and might even identify your website by name. However, you’ll notice that most of the rest of the message is generic. And though it is common for prospects to be told that their site is failing to rank for important keywords, it is rare that said keywords are identified.
It also may seem tailored to you because, as a smart online businessperson, you are acutely aware of the importance of search engine optimization and very interested in using SEO strategies to boost your web traffic and then turn those visitors into leads and customers.
Yes, it also may seem tailored to you because, hey, who wouldn’t want to have their website pop up on page one when people search for their products or services on Google.
The easiest emails to identify as fake are the poorly written ones or those that sprinkle in lots of extra hyphens where hyphens don’t normally appear. However, others are actually well written and may even make reference to actual ranking factors.
The top 6 warning red flags for this particular scam are listed here in How To Spot Crappy SEO Pitches You Can Ignore. (PS – Some of the spammers even conclude their spam pitches with the line, “PS: I am not spamming.”) Three of the most obvious red flags are:
- The correspondence is unsolicited.
- The company is not named.
- You receive an identical pitch from multiple senders.
Humorous evidence of the generic nature of these spam emails comes from Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s web spam team, who posted a message received by a colleague at Google, offering to make “a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO-wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results.” If this email came from an actual human being, he or she must be a very stupid one (“Duh, Dear Google – If you pay us, we’ll help Google rank higher on Google”).
Here at Vital, we get these pitches all the time even though we publicly identify ourselves as SEO experts and rank well for keywords around “SEO strategy.” This means that any alleged SEO consultant who made a quick visit to our website would realize that emailing us is a waste of time – further proof that these SEO email pitches are phony-baloney.
Our clients regularly get these emails too, and sometimes ask us if they are worth looking into.
Should I consider SEO services from an unsolicited email?
Absolutely not! There’s a button labeled “delete,” often represented by the icon of a garbage can. That’s where this belongs. Reporting it as spam is also a good option.
Not only are such offers not worth investigating, they actually serve to undermine the credibility of legitimate SEO service providers – fueling broader skepticism about search practices in general and sowing confusion about the difference between trustworthy SEO providers and fast-buck scammers. The black hat SEO spammers want to scare you into paying for a service they are at best poorly equipped to provide.
Far better to stay focused on the sensible, measurable SEO goals and strategies that you’ve already put in place – or, if you feel your SEO strategy is lacking, to upgrade your efforts either on your own or by working with a legitimate provider.
One reason these scams are still operating is that SEO strategy is complex and, done right, quite time-consuming as well. Due to the power of wishful thinking, it’s not surprising that some of us may be tempted to respond to such an email. But there are no easy fixes.
If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself the following question: Do I really think that hiring someone I don’t know, who reached me through an unsolicited spam email, is a wise investment in SEO strategy?
Real SEO – part art, part science – is a painstaking process that takes time and cannot be mechanized. Contact us today if you’d like to talk more about the crucial role of search engine optimization in a successful digital marketing program.