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Picture the scene;
Spring is here, the sun is finally out, the evenings are light again and birds are singing. I’ve had a great day at work. The kids come running up to me as I walk through the front door, pleased to see me, gagging to share the news of their day with me. The dog brings me my slippers*. Dinner is on and it smells amazing. The footie is on the TV. That evening all is perfect and I sit down to quickly read my emails:
Dear Mr Williams
We are contacting you today to inform you that we were unable to find your site in Google.
Your website doesn’t currently rank in Google for any of your key terms.
As a result you are missing out of valuable and relevant traffic as well as custom.
We have also noticed that your site only has 7 back links.
We can guarantee you top rankings for your key terms…
(Insert screams of frustration here, possibly a breakdown, tears, the kid’s panicking about the sudden demise of Dad and worryingly asking Dad what is wrong, cries of WHYYYYYYY as I look at my email again, the dog howling at the sudden increase in noise and panic, a rapid increase in blood pressure and the News suddenly reporting Armageddon, tonight’s football is cancelled oh and dinner is burnt)
I know this type of reaction is slightly worrying and maybe I should simply delete and move on. But these emails really get me going.
Most site owners will have all seen the emails that start in this manner. They go on to tell you the many ways your site is failing and how the company that is contacting you can help you rule the world.
They aren’t uncommon and have been doing the rounds for a long time.
The reason I am writing about it today is because I received yet another one the other day and they really do get to me (plus I haven’t had a rant for a couple of months now).
Being an SEO, Digital Marketer or whatever title we now give ourselves these days, this type of lazy outreaching seriously angers me.
I take it personally, why wouldn’t I.
It gives all of us honest SEO’s and agencies a seriously bad name.
For many companies or site owners this can be their very first encounter with SEO or any kind of Digital Marketing. An opinion is built right there and then and we are all tarred with the same brush.
Be it the dodgy sales pitch or the terrible work that follows, this will form that individual’s perception of the entire industry and that makes my blood boil.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these are generic emails slightly altered to include the sites name.
All the facts are 100% incorrect. The promises guaranteed by the sender of the email can’t be guaranteed at all and the overnight success isn’t to be believed.
I can always tell when someone has been stung by one of these firms by the look in their eye when I tell them my profession. That look of disgust that comes your way makes you feel like a second hand car salesman who sells “cut and shut” cars.
I also have another problem with these emails.
I simply can’t leave it alone – sometimes I just have to reply.
I know, mournful me but like I said, I take it personally. This is my profession that is being cheapened by some fly by night charlatan.
It’s like some bizarre professional pride. I don’t mind opinion but when I get sent an email telling me I’m not ranking for terms I’m actually 1st for from a company claiming to be a leading SEO company, I need to put the record straight.
As for a lack of back links – seriously guys, has any research been done into this?
Of course it hasn’t and each email is slightly changed to appear individual.
But just now and then I need to reply with facts and figures just to make these buffoons aware that there are people out there who do know how to do the job.
Of course I never get a reply but deep down I know its 1-0 to me.
Even if they read the first line and delete – I win. I know, I know, just don’t take this moment from me.
It’s my win against the frauds in our industry.
An alternative is naming and shaming, I’m not into that. Although to be honest I doubt the companies who peddle these emails actually have a reputation to defend. But when I receive one of these gems that also includes gems about how they are partners of Google and how they can guarantee a 1st position, it pushes me close.
OK, so what is the message behind this rant?
I am tired of people having the wrong perception of our industry and I am fed up with this being many people’s first contact with this profession.
You can also add to the list the “join our link farm” offers and the “if you don’t buy the following variations of your domain someone else will” threats.
Never mind the amount of times someone has emailed me directly here at Koozai to ask if I need help with online marketing.
And how many of you have been contacted on LinkedIn with amazing offers despite the fact that your bio gives more than enough information to suggest you may well know what you are doing without their kind offer of 4,000 free directory submissions with blog and forum commenting.
With this amount of spam being peddled no wonder people think SEO is a con.
The minimum number of people who are stung by these “amazing offers” the better. Not because all the custom should go to the big agencies but because it is better to have a site that at least ranks for its URL than one that can’t be found anywhere (thanks to the underhand tactics of these less than professional companies).
Too many people get stung.
They give these guys a ring and then get blinded by science and sign up. Promises of rankings beyond their wildest dreams dazzle them into signing up.
Even those who are already with agencies who are doing a great job for them could find their heads turned by claims of being able to deliver better rankings for a seriously low cost.
Who on earth could turn that down?
If it’s Too Good to Be True – It Probably Is
So this is a plea to all of those site owners who suddenly receive any variations of the aforementioned emails:
PLEASE IGNORE IT.
Look, if it has got you thinking that actually “we don’t have a digital campaign and maybe we should get one”, please do some research. Have a look around. Go with a reputable agency. Don’t go with the chancers. It will be a total waste of your money and it will give you a seriously blinkered view of what the industry is really all about.
I would like to point out that this isn’t a dig at those who may practice the arts of so called Black Hat SEO techniques either.
There is a difference between those who knowingly use or hire a company to carry out techniques that may be deemed as Black Hat to those who believe they are receiving a more ethical campaign. Black Hat has its place, whether you agree with it or not. Used in an environment agreed by both parties, it serves its purpose.
So if you do receive one of these emails, what should you look out for? Here are some claims that should get your alarm bells ringing and you running a mile:
“You are not ranking for your key terms”:
Really how do they know what terms you are going for? Are you even working with any terms? The whole process of keyword research should be a well thought out plan, if you have done this then the chances are you know what you are doing.
If this is the first contact they have with you then they have no real way of knowing exactly what terms you want to or are working with.
“We can guarantee a top ranking”:
No they can’t.
No one can.
No I don’t care what they say, no one can.
Google is a 3rd party platform, only Google can guarantee anything.
“We are one of Google partners:”
If anyone ever says anything remotely similar to this for any service they provide – RUN.
Google do not have any kind of partnership that will affect any kind of ranking or placing on any of their platforms. Be it SEO, PPC, Local SEO, Google+, anything. There is no such thing.
The second you hear that get out and get out quick.
Individuals and companies may hold accreditations but this is something total different.
“You are missing out on more traffic due to the poor performance of your site:”
They have already got some important facts wrong, what makes them think they even know what traffic you are receiving.
They don’t have access to your Google Analytics account; they have no way of knowing the traffic your site is generating.
Sure all campaigns can be improved but they are just scare mongering.
“We don’t send out a report of the work we have carried out nor can we provide you with any case studies:”
Why on earth not?
What is the big secret?
Any company that won’t give you complete transparency on the work they carry out are more often than not either not doing anything or are carrying out some seriously dodgy practices. Again RUN.
How can you turn it all down?
And so it continues – when all put together this creates an offer you can refuse. However, make sure you do. If it was all so easy and all so cheap then why isn’t everyone doing it? Mainly because it isn’t that easy.
There are no quick fixes, no quick results, and no overnight rankings. Not without a backlash from the likes of Google.
Many is the time clients have come to us on the back of being stung. The work usually starts with a clear up job before the actual campaign can start, such is the mess that has been left behind.
So look out for these emails. Here are some other signs too look out for and AVOID:
“For just £*** amount we will submit your site to all the major search engines”
They shouldn’t need to. If this is a selling point then I wouldn’t go near the agency. The truth is you don’t actually need to submit your site to any search engine.
If your agency is doing all the right things then your site will be found naturally.
WOW – A free trial.
RUN and run fast. Any agency that can carry out decent quality SEO work on a free trial basis (that will showcase what they can do for you) is only going to do your site harm.
SEO isn’t an overnight fix and never has been. No work, that can be done in a free trial period, will bring you the type of results that would convince you to sign up. If they can then they are doing something that is possibly going to harm the longevity of your site within the search engines.
Seriously quick 1st Page Ranking – “within 48hrs”
Following on from the above point, this should get alarm bells ringing.
If it was as easy as this then surely everyone would be doing it right?
They aren’t and the reason they aren’t is because more often than not the tactics used to get such amazing rankings so quickly are the same tactics that will see you disappear without a trace a couple of months later.
“We know someone at Google”
Many agencies have contacts at Google, such as account managers etc. but you can be sure that no one has a contact within Google who, firstly, will have any influence on where you rank, secondly, will have the knowledge to influence where you rank.
“We know Google’s Algorithm”
No one does.
Ok there maybe a few people on this planet who do but as far as I know they are locked away from the world in a dark room in one of the Google offices so that this secret can never be interrogated out of them**
**disclaimer, I can’t prove this, but the fact remains, no one knows the algorithm.
You can’t actually find the agency within Google
Let’s face it, if you can’t find the company pitching to you in Google – then seriously, how good are they?
And please don’t fall for the favourite line “we don’t want to rank as we don’t really use our site to bring in custom”.
Final Thought – At the end of the day you get what you pay for
Think about it, if all it took to be top of Google was one of these amazing £100 deals then everyone would be taking them up.
You get what you pay for. It’s as simple as that.
If you are serious about your online marketing then have a realistic budget and do your research. Make sure the company you go with are ethical, can report on the work carried out and provide you with honest results.
Of course this will cost more than the fly by night “offers of a lifetime” but what you get are results with longevity that will benefit you for years to come and more importantly not a penalised site.
So the next time you receive one of those emails in your in-box – hit DELETE.
*for the record I don’t wear slippers.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.