As a business owner, you likely face constant solicitations from both legitimate and illegitimate companies trying to sell you products or services to improve your business. So how do you figure out what’s right or wrong? How do you distinguish between well-meaning sales pitches from real SEO firms and the spam we get almost daily?
The SEO spam emails we’re referring to tend to address you directly using your company or personal name and typically include statistics about all the things missing from your website, which were conveniently found during the free website audit they’re offering you. They might even make shocking claims of having insider knowledge of Google’s search algorithms to get you to the top of Google almost immediately. This can be alarming as a business owner, and you don’t want to ignore any legitimate claims, so how do you protect yourself and your company from the illegitimate ones?
One thing is for sure: spammers are getting better and better at crafting fake sales pitches, so you always have to be careful about who you trust. Sometimes, spam emails can be easy to spot, with horrible grammar and questionable email addresses, but other times, spammers are more adept at masking their fraudulent behavior.
We have a lot of experience with these types of spammers, so we gathered our best tips to help keep you and your company safe from scams.
Common features of SEO spam emails to look out for:
One of the most common indicators of a spam email is when the email starts out with an “urgent” warning about critical issues with your website. Spammers use these predatory tactics to get you to pay up for a fix right away, when in reality, none of what they mention is actually urgent, and many times, it’s also false.
You may see some technical jargon throughout the email, but typically these spammers are using automated tools to spit out the same information to tons of businesses. For example, we commonly see spam emails mentioning missing keyword meta tags, which on the surface definitely seems like it would be an issue. However, as any reputable SEO company knows, Google hasn’t used keyword meta tags since at least 2009. So although the claim may be technically true, we know it’s not harmful or beneficial to your website and is only being used as a scare tactic to get your hard-earned money or take away the trust of your current SEO company.
Even more surprising, many times these spammers don’t even bother telling the truth. We’ve seen plenty of emails claiming that heading tags are missing from our clients websites, only to find that heading tags are actually present on every single page, right where they should be.
Offering Quick Fix Solutions
No matter what anyone tries to tell you, SEO is never an overnight process. If you’re receiving a sales pitch and they tell you they can get your website to #1 on Google overnight, or in just a few easy steps, they’re lying. No one can do that. Any trustworthy SEO company should be honest with you, and that begins with what you can realistically expect out of your SEO campaign. It’s impossible for any company to guarantee #1 rankings across all of Google, as Google is unpredictable and rankings are constantly fluctuating every day. Real, trustworthy SEO companies will be honest with what you can expect, so if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Spelling and Grammatical Errors
One of the most obvious indicators of a spam email is incorrect punctuation, typos, and spelling or other grammatical errors. While you might not always see these issues in spam emails, when you do, it should be a huge red flag. You want to work with someone who can write clearly and cares about how they present themselves to you, especially in a sales pitch.
Suspicious Contact Info
Does the signature at the bottom of the email include the person’s first and last name, full company name, and a link to their company website? If not, be wary of trusting anything they say. Scammers purposely avoid providing clear, complete contact information to make it harder for you to verify their identity.
Even if you do find the name of the company or a link to their website, do your due diligence. Do a quick Google search to confirm that the company is real and legitimate. You may find the company doesn’t seem to exist or is even on a list of known scammers. Reputable professional sites such as LinkedIn can also be a good source for finding information on real companies.
Finally, take a look at the sender’s email address. Is it a personal email from gmail, hotmail, or another standard email service? If so, be hesitant about trusting their credibility. Spammers tend to create free emails like these so they can easily get rid of them once they’re flagged as spam.
Explicit Claims They’re Not Spam
Does the email include a disclaimer that says it’s “not another one of those spam emails you’re used to getting?” If so, it’s most likely spam.
Who is sending all these spammy SEO emails anyway?
Occasionally, you might receive these sketchy solicitations from real SEO firms with questionable sales practices, but most often, they are actually mass mailings coming from companies focused on lead generation. The sole mission of these companies is to get a response from you so they can pass the lead over to real, but usually untrustworthy, SEO companies in exchange for a commission.
In more extreme cases, these spam emails may be part of a bigger phishing scheme. Scammers may be attempting to trick you into giving them your sensitive financial information or access to your website. Even though many SEO spam emails are not quite this criminal in nature, it’s still in your best interest to be cautious when dealing with these sales pitches.
No matter what anyone might tell you, doing real SEO is a full-time job. Any SEO company that devotes time and money to sending out mass unsolicited sales pitches to strangers is obviously not putting their focus in the right place. Our advice is to look for an SEO firm that demonstrates real customer referrals and case studies to show their quality of work and dedication to their customers.
What to Do When You Receive a Spam Email From an Unreliable SEO Firm
More often than not, your best move is to send the email right to the trash and move on. At the very least, you definitely don’t want to open any attachments in these emails, as attachments can contain hidden pieces of malware that allows scammers access to your computer.
Major email providers, such as Gmail and Outlook, will also give you the option to report the email as spam. Marking the emails as spam will ensure any future emails from them will skip your inbox and head right to the spam box.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many hardworking business owners succumb to predatory schemes that originate in spam emails every day. It’s a risk to your company, finances, and overall security. If you’ve ever been taken advantage of by someone pretending to be an SEO professional or company, we recommend filing a complaint directly with the Federal Trade Commission.
As long as you remain vigilant, put your trust in a recommended SEO company, and take the necessary precautions, you and your business will be safe from spammers.