Reasons NOT to Switch SEO Providers Based on Email Solicitations


If you have an email account (and odds are that you do), you need to know that there’s another rash of SEO spam circulating the Web. It is a repeat of an old one used by several shady SEO companies that offer search engine marketing on-the-cheap. As a testimonial to the problem, I received the exact same wording from 3 different companies within a few hours of each other, which tells me that it’s a “successful email template” that SEO predators are buying and re-treading for their use to mass-email folks.

This particular fraudulent email begins with, “I was looking up websites under the keyword ‘xyz’ and found your website, (domain name). I noticed you are not ranked un the first page for your primary keyword searches. There is no reason you can’t have the top rankings based on your site’s content. I can help you….”

There are slight variations of the email, but it’s all the same junk. Too many website owners who are showing upward mobility in the search results will get the spam email and believe it. Then they’ll get suckered.

Here’s the basics of “why” and “how” the email is a fraud and a scam, and should be ignored:

The “person” (if they’re real) that says they were looking up websites didn’t actually do any work. Typically, the emails are from a fictitious person, sent by a company that mass-emails from multiple accounts much like a telemarketing center. They actually use predatory software to do automated keyword lookups on Google, then harvest the domain names of websites that appear on pages 3 through 10 (or whatever they set the software to use). The software also is smart enough to crawl the website associated with the domain name looking for any email addresses that appear on the site.

The software they’re using then plugs the variables into a form letter. The “variables” are the keyword selection, the domain name, and the email addresses it finds on the site. (When I receive these kinds of messages, I get them four or five times because a copy of the email is sent to each email address on my own website… which is another indicator that it’s spam.)

Compounding the already obvious misleading aspects of the email, many (most) of the SEO fraudsters use “email seeder” programs that are embedded in the emails or in the links contained within the emails. An email seeder program infects the computer that activates it. Simply by VIEWING the email, or simply by VISITING the link of the solicitor, a script can be planted on the website owner’s computer that does two very nefarious things:

Sifts through the computer owner’s email program (Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, etc) and harvests all of the email addresses in the inbox… then adds those domain names to the list of sites to solicit, and sends additional spam emails to the addresses it finds, and

Hacks the computer user’s email account and uses the computer owner’s email program as a mail server to send out thousands of spam messages to additional recipients. (If you have ever receive a spam email from someone you know, then their computer is likely an email seeder that has been hacked).

In other words, ensure your spyware and virus protection software is up-to-date.

For more information about the nature of this spam/scam/fraud, people should read the article I published on March 19, 2009, titled, “Are You Low Hanging Fruit for SEO Fraud?” Yes, this scam has gone on for several years. Why does it continue? Because it is very effective at defrauding people out of their money.

A few points that you need to consider:

There are no good Samaritans “out there” in cyber space who philanthropically spend their day searching for websites that they can help out, and then compose individual emails to each website owner to ask for their business. No one has that kind of time. Instead, these are automated emails that are sent out as mass-spam, and the scam artists behind these emails are banking (literally) on the numbers game of 1% to 2% return on hundreds of thousands of messages sent.

Just as these fraudsters are unethical in their premise, they are also unethical in their service. When a search engine marketing campaign is done PROPERLY, there is momentum and progression towards the top of the search engines. The SEO fraudsters capitalize on the upward progression by harvesting sites as they pass through the “almost there but not quite yet” pages on Google. Once these companies seal the deal with a 12 month contract, they do NOTHING but collect money, and the upward momentum carries the site to better placement (page 1 or page 2)… which is very short-lived because the marketing efforts have stopped at that point. The next thing the website owner knows, their site has fallen in the rankings again, but the website owner is now in a “no guarantee, no money back” contract for another 8 or 9 months-another victim of SEO fraud.

An interesting side note to all of this, and a “buyer beware” caution: Sometimes the fraud emails include additional misleading assertions. For example, some claim (or infer) that the website is not performing well for “all of its primary keywords.” It’s a deceptive statement, because there’s no way for an outsider to actually know what “all of the primary keywords” are without having access to analytics reports and other marketing data that is not publicly available.

Another example, the spam emails (and often times, telephone solicitations) sometimes convey that the soliciting company is privy to Google’s super-double-secret algorithms, or that they have some other “insider” relationship with Google that gives them an edge over everyone else. Simply not true. Google (and Bing and Yahoo!) continue to change their algorithms monthly, and occasionally make major updates to their algorithms for the SPECIFIC PURPOSE of avoiding any breach of their proprietary criteria. Google vehemently and specifically does not want to show any favoritism to any company. Their entire integrity for untainted organic search results is tied to the premise that they can’t be bought. If any SEO company were “in bed with” Google, their search engine business model would crumble because of ethics and public perception.

What all of this boils down to is that there are countless unethical SEO fraudsters who prey on the ignorance and innocence of the unsuspecting website owner. Without any repercussions or precedence set in court for SEO fraud, the fraudsters are a growing component of people looking for a “free lunch”-i.e., do nothing and get paid for it. The problem won’t go away any time soon, so the important thing is to ensure that website owners are EDUCATED and INFORMED about these kinds of scams. In today’s tough economy, the temptation is there to save a few dollars and get more results for less money. Sometimes the “wishful thinker” takes the bait, and by the time they realize that they’ve been ripped off, the damage to their website is done and they have even less money to recover from it.

If you are happy with the relationship you have with your current SEO provider, and if they are demonstrating positive and/or improving results, don’t rock the boat. The old expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies.

My advice to all who get the fraudulent SEO email solicitations is simple: Be smart. Don’t become a victim.

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