How to Spot SEO Spam Solicitation | Artonic | Marketing & Web Design
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How to Spot Spam SEO Solicitation [Video]

Video Transcription

Matt Harper: [00:00:00] Hello, this is Matt Harper from Artonic, and I just wanted to show you an email that I received from a client today. This client is a longtime client of ours. We provide hosting services to him. We didn’t build his website, we don’t provide any marketing services to him, just hosting. We just host his website, but he received an email and I’m going to show that to you here. 

It looks like this. Somebody filled out the form on his website and it looks like Raylan Raylan. Well, that’s a little odd, first name and last name are the same. And I don’t know about that. Email [00:01:00] address we have here. We have a phone number, and we have the comment. It says, “I discovered a couple of key errors on your site that are preventing you from showing up on the local Google maps when someone searches for you near Brighton. I just made a visibility report for you that reveals what to fix. It’s completely complimentary with no strings attached. If you want it, just let me know where to send it. Take care.” Then we have an IP address.  

So, I want to show you some things to be aware of, some things to look for to determine whether an email you’re receiving like this is legitimate or not whether, whether it’s credible or not. Just on the surface, the fact that we don’t have a real person’s name here, or at least not a person’s full name, this [00:02:00] suggests that this form was filled out by a bot, not by a real person, but by a bot of some sort. 

What that means is that the company that sent this email, used automated software to send out this message through contact forms. Now they do have a real city here that’s kind of nearby. So, what they do when they fill out these forms is they use parameters. They’re doing searches based on location, and then they will use a real city nearby and put that in here to make it look more legitimate. Just to run through, we have the [00:03:00] first name and the last name that are the same. We have what appears to be a real email address, and what appears to be a real phone number. 

But then we have the message here and it says, “There are a couple of key errors on your site that are preventing you from showing up on local Google Maps when someone searches for you near Brighton.” Well, this company is not that close to Brighton. Google Maps is more locally based, so it’s not likely that this company would ever show up near Brighton, even if they had an active, ongoing SEO campaign. Unless it was a very far-reaching and very aggressive SEO campaign, they would not show up here, to begin with. So that’s one sign that this is not very credible.  

Then it says, “I just made a visibility report for you that reveals what to [00:04:00] fix, and it’s free, no strings attached.” Imagine that. This secret report that shows what to fix is free. Of course, this report is not created. It says, “I just made this report for you.” That’s not true. This person is hoping that this client will respond to this message. At this point, then they will create this report. This report is just created through automated means. They plug in the client’s website address and maybe a few criteria, hit a button, spit out a report, and then they deliver that report. It probably shows a bunch of, “You’re not listed here.” Especially if we’re talking about Brighton, the client’s not even that close to Brighton. [00:05:00] So, it’s going to show that they’re not listed. It’s a visibility report, right? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me that a visibility report’s going to reveal what to fix. Other than the fact that you need to fix the fact that you’re not showing up in those areas right? 

Well, that’s obvious, but of course, they’re hoping that the company responds to them. Then they generate this report that shows things that need to be addressed, and then they’re hoping that the company will engage with them to fix those things. 

So that’s what the message is here. That’s how I call this a scam because that’s really what it is. If this was not a scam, there would not be these inaccuracies in a message like this. This message here is just complete nonsense. 

Now, [00:06:00] we also have an IP address that we track when somebody fills out a form like this. So, let’s look at where that IP address is located. The company that they sent the message to is located out of Michigan and the IP address is located out of New York City, New York. 

That’s odd that some agency out of New York City is just randomly contacting a random business. It’s not like this is an industry-specific SEO agency that’s reaching out to businesses in that industry, across the country, trying to engage with them. 

This is just a random, very vague, very generic message that they send through the contact form. They’re out of New York City. So, that’s another red flag. [00:07:00] Let’s take another look, let’s look at their website and we can find their website by looking at the email address that’s provided here. We have the email address, and we have a domain. A lot of times these guys will not use their primary domain here, but it looks like in this case they did. Let’s look at the website that comes up for that domain, and we get this right here. This is quite obviously a very poorly built website. 

There’s no site navigation, there are no pages. There’s tons of white space and imagery here. It’s just a horrible-looking website. Their logo is about the size of a billboard, horrible design. These here probably go down to the bottom. [00:08:00] As we scroll through here, we can see that this whole website is directed towards this visibility report. 

You know exactly what they emailed about. “Get a free visibility report.” We click on this and what do we get? We get an iframe. This right here is a website inside of a website. I mean, this doesn’t get much worse than that. Any reputable company is not going to build a website that looks like this with a website inside of a website. This just looks horrible. 

Let’s go back to the homepage here and we will scroll down. We get to this section here and we have all these logos, like Forbes and Inc. and [00:09:00] Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post and Tai Lopez. Names that you may recognize and say, “Oh, wow, these logos must mean they’re credible.” 

Well, it doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t say, “Featured in these publications.” It doesn’t say, “Endorsed by these publications.” It doesn’t say anything about it. It’s just eight logos thrown on a page that doesn’t link out to anywhere. These logos are not linked. They’re not linked to any kind of review, any kind of publication of this company, anything of the sort. They’re just logos, static on a page. 

These logos mean absolutely nothing. What they’re trying to do here is show credibility because they have none. So, they’re using these logos to [00:10:00] show credibility in the absence of credibility. A very common thing to see is these types of logos on a page where they’re not linked out to anything. 

It doesn’t say that they’re endorsed by these companies or anything like that. They’re just logos thrown on a page, trying to demonstrate credibility. So that’s another thing to look for as you’re researching whether somebody who’s reaching out to you is credible. This is a common thing that I see in these instances, especially the Forbes logo, and the Inc. logo, those are very common. 

And sometimes these might link out to an article, but these publications, are not difficult to get published in. You can spend just a little bit of money, even a few hundred dollars, and get articles published about your business on these websites. [00:11:00] So even if you do see that these are linked out to an article, they’re still probably very spammy. 

It’s not always the case, but it very commonly is. Scrolling down further, we have these very ugly boxes here. Looks like somebody built this website in about 30 minutes and they talk about, what they do. They increase exposure. They grow customer base, et cetera. We scroll down, and we have this enormous stock image. That means absolutely nothing. Somebody went to a stock imagery website, and they typed in “SEO,” or they typed in “results” probably, and found this image and said, “Hey, our website has almost no [00:12:00] content on it. We need some imagery to spruce it up. Why don’t we just plop this giant image of an up arrow onto the page?” 

Are you starting to see some signals here that maybe this company’s not very credible? Then we come down here and we see, it says, “The results speak for themselves. Here are just a few of the many major cities we rank in. We hold many positions on page one against our competition.” Then they show here Chicago SEO, and they show the search box here. It says Chicago SEO, and it shows them at the top of the page.  

Now before starting this video, I did a little research on this and I did a search on Chicago SEO, and they are not in the first position on the first page. No [00:13:00] surprise. What you’re going to find in the first position on the first page is an advertisement. And you’ll also find an advertisement in the second position in the third position, probably the fourth position and below the organic results further on down the page, you’re going to find more advertisements.  

So, let’s say they’re talking about an SEO ranking of the first one here. Well, that’s not the case either. I looked them up, I did this exact search, and they show up on page four. About the 37th or 38th position, somewhere in that ballpark, nowhere near the top of page one as they’re claiming here. You can do these searches yourself and verify statements like this to see if they’re true. You’ll probably find that they’re not, which was the case here. [00:14:00]  

Then we come down here, we’ve got something to schedule a meeting with them. This is using a service called Calendly. And if we look at their calendar here, we can see that there are hardly any times not available in their schedule here. Probably because nobody is falling for their little trap here. If they had any appointments scheduled, you would see those times disappear as we click through these different days here, and it doesn’t go out further than the ninth. You’ve got a restriction on how many days out it goes, but that’s another sign when somebody’s calendar is wide open, even though tomorrow there’s one spot taken. 

Next week, it’s all wide open. Then we get to the bottom, “Stop Losing Customers to Your Competition,” “Get Started Now,” and “Also find us here.” Why do you have another [00:15:00] link out? And it says, “Also find us here.” That’s just very strange.  

Now what we don’t see on here is an actual contact form, at least we haven’t seen that yet. They do have a “Contact Us” page here. Here’s the contact form and that’s all that we see on this page. What we do not see on the contact page is an address for them. We don’t see an “About” page. We don’t see anything about the owner of the company. We don’t see anything about the team that’s doing this work. We don’t see anything about where they’re located. You should see those things on a contact page. Even if the company runs virtually, even if they don’t have a physical location, you should still see an “About” page, something about the team, something about the owner. Something along those [00:16:00] lines. We don’t see any of that there. 

So that’s the whole website, this one page that’s half taken up by giant stock imagery, and then the other half taken up by bogusly placed logos and some horribly designed boxes and some, claims that are not true, and then a form to get ahold of them. 

That’s the entire website. So, when you look at a website like this, this is an SEO company, right? They should have a portfolio, or case studies or, something about the history of the company that is going to give you some credibility that you know who you’re working with and, you can research them and find out if they’re credible, but it’s missing all that information. 

It looks like this website was built in about 30 minutes and it probably [00:17:00] was. Again, who knows this domain might have just might be one of the thousands of domains. This might be one of the thousands of websites that they have that they just put together. They do some Black Hat SEO, to get some rankings for it. Then they blast out a bunch of spam emails.  

Now, what we also see down here is this Google review thing that keeps popping up very annoyingly in the bottom left-hand corner. It’ll disappear here in a moment and another one will pop up. If you click on that, it takes you to their Google reviews. If we go to their Google reviews, it shows that they’re out of Miami. Interesting seeing how the email that was sent came out of New York. Nonetheless, that could just be their email server, so, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt there, but we look at these reviews here, and they have 13 total reviews. [00:18:00] Everybody has given them five stars, which you know, is possible. Artonic has mostly five-star reviews as well. 

If we start looking more closely at the reviews themselves, we’re going to see something very telling. What we see here is first, if you read these reviews, just the way that they’re written and the tone that they are written in, they sound like something that doesn’t ring true to me. It doesn’t sound natural when you read these reviews. So, if you do read these reviews, one thing that you’re going to see is the words “Miami,” and “SEO,” and you’re going to see these words strategically placed throughout these reviews. Why? Because they had people place these reviews. 

Now there’s only [00:19:00] 13 of them. So maybe they reached out to their friends and family and said, “Hey, here’s a review that I wrote, will you do me a favor, go to this link and post this under your Google account?” The agency probably wrote these reviews themselves and asked somebody else to post them, because what we see here is, “Miami SEO expert.” 

Well, that sounds like a keyword or a key phrase to me that this company is trying to rank for. So not a natural review in my opinion. If we go down here, what do we see? “SEO services in Miami.” Again, If I were trying to come up with a list of keywords or key phrases that I think people are going to search for to find SEO services in Miami, these are the exact phrases I would use.’ 

If we go down further, here we see [00:20:00] “SEO field in Miami” and “Top expert in SEO.” We don’t see Miami in this one. The next one we see is “SEO agency in Miami.” Are you starting to see a pattern here, because I am. So, as you go down through these, you continue to see those types of words. 

One of them just says, “Hi there,” and then the only review in here that has a response from the owner is the one that just says, “Hi there,” and it says, “Thanks for your review” from the owner. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. The other thing that you can look at here is when all these reviews were left. 

If these are reviews that are being left naturally, you should see them spread out over a [00:21:00] period. Maybe you see one from this month, last month, a few months ago, a year ago, a couple of years ago, or five years ago, you should see a timeframe for them. What we see here is a year ago, a year ago, a year ago, a year ago, a year ago, they’re all the same. 

They were all left at the same time. Why? Because this company wrote all these reviews, reached out to 13 of their friends all at the same time and said, “Hey, go to this URL and post this review for me, if you would please,” and some people decided that they would do that for them. So, there you have it. There are several things that you can look for when it comes to receiving solicitations by email for SEO services, especially SEO services. 

And I’ll mention one more thing to be aware of with [00:22:00] these types of companies and scams. Many times these companies will say, “Hey, listen, you don’t have to pay us a penny unless we get you ranked in the top five positions on Google for these keywords.” 

Now they’ll charge an arm and a leg for that. Maybe they’ll charge 10, 20, $30,000, or more who knows? They charge a lot of money though. But it comes with that guarantee, right? So, you might think. Well, if they’re going to guarantee it, that sounds like, a safe bet. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, because what they do is they will do a bunch of Black Hat SEO. Black Hat SEO simply means they’re doing a bunch of spammy SEO tactics to get you ranked very [00:23:00] quickly in a top position. You then pay them the money because they got you ranked there, right? You pay them only to find out a month or two or three later that your website gets completely delisted from the search engines due to Black Hat, SEO techniques. 

Google does not look kindly upon trying to gain their algorithm. And when they catch you doing it, they will penalize you severely. The cost of cleaning up a mess like that can be several times the cost of whatever you paid for that service, to begin with. Now, of course, you’ve already paid this SEO company the money, you’re no longer ranked, and your website is no longer found anywhere. I’m sure if you try to get ahold of them in six months, they probably changed their phone number, changed their email address, et cetera. So even when they offer that kind of a guarantee, [00:24:00] that is another sign that it’s a scam. You should not take the bait on that. Any legitimate SEO company is going to tell you that a good SEO campaign takes time. 

They’re going to put together a strategy for you. They’re going to share that strategy with you, and they’re going to show you how much work is going to be involved in achieving good SEO rankings. With that said, I hope this helps you avoid getting scammed on an SEO solicitation. 

And, as always, if you have any questions, if you want us to verify if something is legitimate or not, feel free to send it over to me. I’d be happy to look. You can email those types of emails to [email protected], or just give us a call if you want a legitimate quote for SEO services, if you want us to [00:25:00] put together a real custom-tailored strategy to get your website more exposure on Google, Bing and in other places on the internet, feel free to reach out and we would be happy to have that conversation with you. 

Thank you.