As someone who sells search engine marketing services for a living, nothing bugs me more than snake oil salesmen. Promising the sky and talking spaghetti, they end up turning off companies forever to search. While scams on paid search are out there, SEO scams are numerous and seemingly ubiquitous.
My ‘favorite’ scam has long been from an organization (not going to mention their name, but will say I’m unsurprised that some of their folks ended up in jail) that said they worked out a deal with a former Google engineer who could get you the email addresses of anyone out there based on keyword searches they’ve performed. Not that they filled out a form – just that they searched for something.
Anyway, the scam goes that the former engineer worked out a deal with Google for one year to be able to use this technology and sell these email addresses to companies. While this cyber-snooping is something Google is technically capable of, I mean, c’mon. The worst part is the salesmen were so slick that they made their snake oil look pretty darned effective for internet lead generation and sold more than a couple bottles.
The problem with these and all other scams out there is that they often end up turning off the businesses from search engine marketing. It definitely happens when the company falls for the scam, but it even happens for the business folks that sniff it out before signing a contract and end up painting our entire industry with the same brush.
This sucks for us: we don’t even get the opportunity to discuss what we offer. This sucks even more for the businesses who are leaving a potentially lucrative marketing arrow out of their bag.
There are two SEO scams out there that aren’t quite as blatant, but much, much more common:
- Guaranteed Placements. While this can be confusing given the myriad of products Google is now offering, there is no such thing as guaranteed placement within the organic, or natural search results. I would argue the same for paid listings, but that requires a long discussion, so let’s leave that to the side for now. But don’t believe us? See what Google says about guaranteed placements. Their help section says in bold: “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.“
- Special Relationships with Google. While Google offers special programs for some of their services, such as Google AdWords Certified Partnerships, they offer no such thing for SEO providers. You’d be amazed at how many companies – or rogue agents within companies – offer up this tripe. Further down in that official Google Webmaster Central help page linked to above, it says, “Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google.”
Given my hatred of SEO scams and these two in particular, imagine my joy at seeing a tweet from the estimable Donna Fontenot today linking to a Search Engine Roundtable article about a company that actively markets itself promoting both these scams. Read the whole article for a good laugh, but here are some snippets:
It all starts with an individual asking if a company named BetterPlacement is a legit company. The user said they claim (which they do) to offer guaranteed first placement in Google and also claim “the first company authorized to work directly with” Google.
Of course, this is an easy rumor to squash and Googler JohnMu did so with his post.
But it didn’t end there! A guy with the user handle, bruben25, came in afterward to argue with Google’s JohnMu. John replied asking, “Are you affiliated with the company the user has asked about?”
The guy denied being associated with the company. So then Google’s largest face behind search spam came in, Matt Cutts and replied:
Let me make it more relevant for you as a Google employee based in the United States: I would definitely avoid Better Placement. … Based on a quick assessment, I personally would choose not do business with Better Placement. Do you have any other questions about Better Placement or betterplacement.info, bruben25? Or any other SEO firms based in Toledo? By the way bruben25, I’m not sure we got a 100% clear answer as to whether you were affiliated with Better Placement or betterplacement.info in some way?
The guy came out again and denied being part of them saying, “Matt I am not part of Better Placement, nor is my firm even in the same city.”
Seriously? So Matt replies again saying:
bruben25, part of the reason I asked is that according to official business filings with the Ohio Secretary of State, the agent for Better Placement is one B. D. Ruben. Here, you can read the official document: http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/reports/rwservlet?imgc&Din=201035100591It’s interesting because http://www.superpages.com/bp/Toledo-OH/Better-Placement-L2223491442.htm lists the contact info for Better Placement and betterplacement.info as firstname.lastname@example.org. And your handle is bruben25. And the agent for Better Placement is B. Ruben, according to official records with the state of Ohio.
For those of you not familiar with them, JohnMu is a Googler all over the forums and Matt Cutts is their biggest education/pr/reputation management…whatever you want to call him guy. He’s constantly doing videos and educating people on how Google’s search engine works – or at least the parts of it they want the public to know about.
So, the next time you get an email out of the blue or someone offering you guaranteed placement because they’re super-cozy with the folks in Mountain View, run away, run away!