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A Business Owner’s Guide to SEO Spam

Posted in: Search

Hello,

Hope you are doing well. I came across your website and I would like to discuss an important business opportunity with you.

I am the SEO manager with a reputable marketing company that can promote your company to the top of the search engine rankings with no long term contracts.

Please contact me at your convenience so we can fix important errors on your website and start saving you money. We’ll be pleased to serve you.

Thanks and Regards,

Denise K.

Sound familiar? We receive unsolicited emails from people claiming to be SEO experts all the time, and chances are you do too.

The trouble is, it’s not always easy for business owners to distinguish between spam emails and legitimate sales pitches from real SEO firms.

While some spam emails can be pretty easy to spot, other spammers use more sophisticated tactics to mask their fraudulent behavior. They may address you by name or cite startling statistics about the missing metadata they found on your site during an audit. They may also claim to have insider knowledge of Google’s search algorithms that can help you rank first for the most valuable keywords in your industry. So how can you be sure the message you received is from a spammer?

Keep an eye out for these common features of SEO spam emails:

Scare Tactics
If the message starts with an “urgent” warning about critical SEO issues with your site, it’s not someone trying to do you a favor; it’s a scammer using predatory tactics to frighten people into handing over their money.

These folks tend to use a lot of technical jargon that makes it sound like they really are experts in their field. More often than not, however, they’re using automated tools to find problems with your website that aren’t really problems at all.

They may mention missing meta tags, for example, because they’re easy to find with these automated tools. What they won’t tell you is that some meta tags — like the “keywords” meta tag — aren’t used as ranking factors in Google’s search algorithm, and are therefore not pertinent to your SEO efforts.

While warnings like this can be misleading, other SEO scare tactics amount to outright lies. We’ve received plenty of spam emails with warnings about missing HTML header tags, only to find upon closer inspection that these tags are right where they belong.

Bold Promises and Quick Fixes
Be especially wary of pitches that promise to solve all your SEO problems in a few easy steps. SEO is a long game, and no true expert will tell you otherwise. Furthermore, a reputable SEO company will never provide “guaranteed rankings” for your website on Google. This is because website rankings on Google fluctuate constantly, and real marketing teams know better than to make false promises to their clients.

Spelling and Grammatical Errors
Not all spam emails will have curious typos and misplaced punctuation, but these errors make it easy to spot spammers right away. If the manager of a leading SEO firm can’t be bothered to spell check their emails, they probably aren’t who they say they are.

Incomplete or Otherwise Suspicious Contact Info
Scroll to the bottom of the email and check out the signature. Does it include the person’s first and last name? How about a link to the company’s website? Spammers will often provide incomplete contact information that makes it hard for recipients to verify their identity.

If they do include the name of their company in the email, try cross referencing it with a quick Google search. You may find that they come up in a list of known scammers, or that the company doesn’t seem to exist at all.

Be on the lookout for personal email addresses from services like gmail and hotmail as well. Spammers will often use these addresses because they can easily dispose of them and create new ones when they’re flagged as spam.

Explicit Claims That They are Not Spam
Of course we saved the best for last. If the message includes a disclaimer that says it’s “not like those spam emails you’re used to getting,” it is absolutely spam.

Where do these spammy SEO emails come from anyway?

While they may occasionally come from real SEO firms employing questionable sales practices, more often than not they come from lead generation companies whose sole purpose is to send mass mailings of unsolicited sales pitches to business owners like you. In the event that they get a response, they hand off the lead to real, but usually shady SEO companies in exchange for a commission.

In some cases, these emails can even amount to phishing schemes, in which scammers attempt to trick people into providing website access or sensitive financial information. Although not all SEO spam emails are quite this nefarious, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Keep in mind that doing real SEO is a full-time job. If an SEO company is devoting all this time and energy to sending unsolicited sales pitches to strangers, they’ll likely be too busy to do good work for their clients. More trustworthy SEO firms, on the other hand, can rely on referrals and case studies that illustrate the quality of their work to generate new business.

So what you should do next time you receive a spam email from a sketchy-sounding SEO firm?

Nine times out of ten, you can send it straight to your trash bin and move on with your day. As a general rule, you should never open attachments in these emails, as they may contain hidden pieces of malware that allow scammers to spy on your computer or take control of it from afar.

Some email providers, such as Outlook and Gmail, give you the option to report spam messages as well. This can help them weed out spammers so that you will (hopefully) receive less of these emails in the future.

Unfortunately, honest business owners lose money to predatory schemes that originate in spam emails every day. If you’ve been taken advantage of by someone pretending to be an SEO professional in the past, you can file a formal complaint directly with the Federal Trade Commission.

Together, we can all do our part to stop spammers in their tracks.

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