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Are you Getting Scammed by a Marketing Agency?

So, you’re a small business owner looking to grow your audience and expand your brand. I promise you that you’re not alone! However, there is such a high demand for this kind of brand growth marketing. Which means there are also countless companies looking to scam you out of your hard-earned money.

For some businesses, this scam is already underway—they just don’t know it yet. That’s why I chose to write this article! I want to highlight some of the most common scam tactics in the brand growth industry. That way you can avoid them when hiring a marketing specialist. And, potentially, cut any current scammers out from within your business before any real damage occurs.

After all, I’d love to say that all content specialists such as myself are in it to legitimately help businesses. However, there are some that have spent their entire lives learning how to scam and manipulate the system. But, with this information below, you can easily discern the crooks from the true creators! That way, you can build your business in a safe and productive way!

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Here are Some of the Most Popular Scams to Look out for

I’ve been in the industry for nearly a decade. I’ve worked with countless clients both within SEO companies and on my own. That’s why I know the tricks and scams like the back of my hand. I also know the outcome of these scams. Deleted sites and Google penalizations. Demonetization of YouTube accounts and terminated social media accounts. Even fraudulent charges and outreaches from them as if they were you!

Of course, all of these things could quickly diminish the image of a brand. This could lead to them losing years of business connections in the blink of an eye. That’s why knowing these scam techniques before they target you is so important in this modern day and age. Although there are hundreds, I chose to highlight some of the most common and worst ones to keep in mind.

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Quantity Over Quality

So, you hired a marketing agency and they had all of the right credentials. The results were good and there were even trustworthy people within their ranks. Quickly, you saw a rise in traffic. Your links were on every site imaginable and your social media accounts got thousands of followers. Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Well, that’s where you’d be mistaken. The truth is that nothing that’s worth it is ever that easy. Just as it took time to build your business, it takes time to increase your traffic and followers. Now, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to have an influx of followers and links in a short timeframe. But, it is important to keep a close eye on how you are getting these new followers.

Unfortunately, many scam companies out there have found cheap ways to blast your links and social media. They send it to bots and other fake or harmful accounts and sites. In return, a lot of these sites will pay them! In comparison to what you paid the agency, the minor costs of buying followers are minimal likewise.

The Problem With Social Media Bots

A social media bot may be indistinguishable from a regular follower at first glance. That’s why it’s important that you take a good look into your follower base. Are they responding to your posts in a natural way? Do they respond to your messages naturally? Are they posting content on their own social media accounts? Where are they claiming to be from?

These questions may seem silly at first, but it’s how you discern a scam. The truth is that marketing agencies that are scamming you will claim to have real followers ready to follow you. However, they pay for these bots. And most will either be deleted in a few months or lost if these social media platforms find out.

What would that mean for you? That could mean a myriad of things; Your social media platforms could be deleted or temporarily banned. You could lose thousands of these ‘organic followers’ in a matter of days. And, your real followers could grow leary of you and your brand. If you’re thinking ‘none of these options sound good’ right now, you’re right. That’s because they’re not good. As a company looking to expand, your image is everything. You absolutely don’t want to associate with anything that could damage it along the way.

How Spam-Centric Link Building Could Destroy Your Ranking

Similarly, these scammers will also get countless links for you on all kinds of sites. Now, this is very possible with an established link builder such as myself. But, there are others out there that make connections with the wrong kinds of sites for profit.

What does that mean? Well, imagine you’re a gambling site or secretive porn site. Maybe even just a no-name site looking to latch on to the coattails of a more successful site. You need to increase your TrustRank online to combat your spam labeling but you don’t have a way to do that. This is where a gray or even black hat marketing company comes into play.

Working with small businesses that have trustworthy sites, these content marketing agencies link back and forth between the trustworthy and the inappropriate site to raise the TrustRank of the bad site and get paid for it. So, how does that negatively affect your site? Well, as one goes up, the other goes down. While this spammy site reaps all the benefits of building their trust with Google, you get docked down the second they’re found out to be a bad site.

In fact, in some cases, enough links between you and spam sites could actually penalize your site and shut it down until all the links are removed. Of course, by this point, the marketing company is long gone and you’re left fixing your shut-down site whilst trying desperately to juggle your angry customers in the meantime.

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Gray and Black Hat Techniques

You’ve been looking for the right marketing agency or specialist for you. You’ve also already probably heard the term ‘white hat SEO’ thrown around left and right. But, what does it even mean? Well, white hat SEO is the term given for SEO marketing that is done within the major search engines guidelines. This is where SEO content specialists such as myself like to reside. It’s the best way to organically gain traffic and followers. Especially without running the risk of being penalized or shut down by Google.

Unfortunately, white hat SEO is not the only form of SEO marketing currently out there. The yin to this ‘white hat yang’ is gray and black hat marketing. Below is a list of black hat marketing tactics compiled by Moz that you may have seen before. Or, if you’re unlucky, may have had happen to your site from a marketer you trusted.

  • Content Automation
  • Doorway Pages
  • Hidden Text or Links
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Reporting a Competitor (or Negative SEO)
  • Sneaky Redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Link Schemes
  • Guest Posting Networks
  • Link Manipulation (including buying links)
  • Article Spinning
  • Link Farms, Link Wheels or Link Networks
  • Rich Snippet Markup Spam
  • Automated Queries to Google
  • Creating pages, subdomains, or domains with duplicate content
  • Pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing, viruses, trojans, and other malware

If this list was overwhelming to you, then you now know the kind of annoying ‘competitors’ I have to deal with plaguing my clients with bad marketing and penalties each and every day! You also know all the possibilities out there for scammers to damage your site. This is why I personally recommend that business owners looking to optimize their sites make sure they have a white hat marketer on their side before committing to anything!

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‘Too Good to be True’ Low Pricing

Let’s say you had two cars on a lot. The one car is a 1995 Ford Taurus and the other one is a 2015 Toyota Corolla. Let’s also say that you know the average price of a 1995 Ford Taurus is $1800 and the average price for the Corolla is $14000.

Now, you ask the salesman for the price of both and, somehow, the Corolla is priced the same as the Taurus. The average person would immediately question the validity of the Corolla and begin to ask questions about any possible problems or car accidents related to the vehicle.

So, why don’t you do this with marketing agencies? The truth is that, no matter what the industry is, if the price seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. Of course, I’m not saying some companies won’t undercut competitors to get the more constant but less reliable business deals out there, but why would you want to work with these kinds of companies anyways?

Unfortunately, most of the time these companies aren’t looking for lowball business deals, however. Instead, they are looking for gullible companies that think absurdly low pricing is ‘run-of-the-mill’ or a ‘special deal’ only they acquired. Well, I hate to break it to you but any company or specialist worth their salt is not going to undercut themselves to a demeaningly low level simply to ‘make a deal’. In fact, most of my fellow peers and myself have plenty of clients currently and this is due to not underselling our services and letting our results speak for themselves.

The reason this matters is that a company underselling themselves drastically usually has ulterior motives such as black hat marketing and other scams shown above. Therefore, when I speak with any new potential clients or current clients, I always explain to them that low prices don’t always mean you’re getting a good deal. After all, no one would buy a car with no engine for a little less than regular price and call it ‘a good deal’.

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Pay-for-Link and Pay-for-Follow Users

Although this is similar to the social media bots discussed above, pay-for-link and pay-for-follow sites are a bit more devious as many marketers actually recommend them for new companies. However, I’m not one of those people. Why? Because more indepth knowledge of SEO and social media guidelines has led me to disagree.

The reason is simple; having fake followers and links on sites that are paid for actually negatively affects your business. Think of it like this; if every person on this earth could afford a Ferrari, do you really think rich people would be busting down the doors to own one? The same can be applied to paid-for backlinks. With a little bit of extra money and a standard writer, any site can be on the sites that offer these buyable links. Automatically, that means that this site more than likely is affiliated with a myriad of lower DA and inappropriate sites you don’t want to be connected to. It also means that other businesses looking at this link won’t find it to be very valuable knowing it was nothing more than a business expense on your end.

Similarly, fake followers are pretty easy to recognize when looking for them. This means that your competitors and legitimate followers could easily review your social media accounts and report them for fake followers leading to you being temporarily blocked or removed from these platforms permanently.

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The SEO and SEM Double-Sell

For me, this is one of the most annoying and yet highly common scams in my industry. In fact, I have even found myself being told this is normal by several people I have worked with in the past! Unfortunately for them, I refuse to work with people that do this and also refuse to do it in my own business.

The scam is pretty straight forward but what makes it so devious is that it truly preys on the little guys I choose to represent. Effectively, it preys on a small business owner’s lack of knowledge pertaining to our industry and then utilizes that lack of knowledge to its benefit by pretending that SEM and SEO are completely different and should be ‘sold separately’.

But, here’s the deal; SEO and SEM are not the same, but they are related. So much so that selling them separately to a company looking for a full SEO package is the equivalent of selling someone a cell phone and a cellular telephone and telling them that they work in different ways and are both needed to make a phone call.

If a company is trying to do this to you or you ever come across a company trying to play this game, the best way to handle it is by simply asking them what they offer. If you hear terms such as fast social, conversion software, or marketing automation, I strongly suggest you run. That’s a scam.

In most cases I’ve seen firsthand, the client ends of spending more than double on SEM alone and actually sees negative results from it since the main difference between SEO and SEM are Pay-Per-Click campaigns and gray hat marketing tactics. Although PPC is a great way to generate traffic, the gray hat techniques are not and can just as easily lead to your site being penalized as black hat SEO would.

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How can You Truly Spot the Difference?

Now that you know the various scams out there and what to look out for to avoid them, you’re still probably wondering how so many small business owners have been duped by these companies. The answer is simple; these scammers are experts at what they do. Don’t think for even a second that it couldn’t happen to you. Even the most tech-savvy companies could easily be embroiled in black hat marketing techniques and spam sites. Why? Because they know what they’re doing and they know all the answers to keep you content.

So, how do you spot the difference between a scammer and a real SEO content marketing specialist? Well, it’s simple; their portfolio. Fortunately for small business owners like you, it’s not hard to review a marketers’ portfolio and spot the anomalies. A low-quality marketing agency or specialist won’t openly disclose their background and—if they do—it won’t contain the kind of evergreen content and white hat techniques you want to be associated with. While scammers will all too often be on low-end sites or pay-to-write sites, a real SEO content specialist such as myself will have connections with hundreds of trustworthy pages and also have the results to prove it.

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The Scamming Conclusion

With all of this knowledge now under your belt, it’s time to find a marketing specialist that best suits your needs and won’t scam you in the process. I’m not going to brag about how amazing I am or why you should work with me over anyone else out there because, in the end, it’s you that should decide what’s best for your business. However, what I will say is that if you are looking for someone that refuses to do or work with anyone that does these kinds of scams, you have found her! Together, we can take your brand and expand it beyond your wildest dreams in a way that is legal and beneficial to you and your company! If that sounds like the plan for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and we can start building your personalized SEO content strategy today!