We’re all used to the spam calls that begin, “This is the IRS. You owe this much money in taxes. Please call this number right now or they will file a lawsuit against you.” The voice is a robotic recording, and you sigh with annoyance and delete the voicemail for the millionth time.
What you may not know is that some marketing companies operate on the same “spray and pray” principles. Engaging in unsavory recruiting techniques is one thing, but trying to confuse or mislead potential clients is another.
Recently, one of our SLS clients passed along a message they received from another marketer. The marketer (a real human) claimed to be a Google partner, claimed that our client had “incorrect indexing of information” on their website, and that he (the marketer) could only speak to the owner of the website! Because only the firm’s owner has access to the checkbook, of course.
This call was nothing more than an aggressive solicitation for our client’s business, using scare tactics and intimidation. The firm’s website is already indexed correctly, so there’s nothing for them to worry about. This was just another marketing company using questionable tactics to solicit one of our clients.
Welcome to the World of Black Hat Marketing
Trying to steal clients aside, there were several red flags in this conversation. What were they?
- Leading with Google partners. Let’s be clear—these guys want you to think they’re with Google in the authoritative sense. But just what is a Google partner? From Google itself, “Google Partners is Google’s program for advertising agencies, digital marketing professionals, and other online consultants who manage AdWords accounts.” In other words, a questionable company might pay for an Ads account, and name-drop Google to convince potential clients that it’s connected to the Lord of Search Engines. Yes; Google certifies its partners, but only for pay-per-click advertising. They are NOT calling on behalf of Google to scold you for having a bad site, but that’s what they want you to think.
- Claiming “incorrect indexing of information.” This plays off the first claim—that this marketing firm is someone with know-how directly from Google, and you’d better listen or your website will get dinged, Son. When a website’s pages are not indexed, it usually has to do with Google being unable to crawl the pages. But if you already have a reputable marketing firm working with you, it’s very unlikely that you have this a problem. Are you already ranking? Don’t have a bunch of dead links or missing 404 pages? Notice that the marketer didn’t offer any proof of the incorrect indexing. This is a scare tactic.
- Only wanting to speak to the owner. Cold calls rely on convincing the person on the other end of the line to take action. These marketing companies, therefore, want to target the person in charge of the firm, who can approve business decisions—like the decision to pay them lots of money to “fix” the supposed problems.
Black hat marketing is defined by the use of deception and manipulation to get what you want. In the short term, black hat tactics may “work.” You may rise in the rankings. You may get more traffic. But it does not establish a strong reputation, lead to a robust web presence, or—the bottom line, no matter how well you rank—create quality conversions. Your website should be tailored to your ideal clients, not just anyone on the Internet!
If any company promises you that you’ll “jump to page one of Google!” watch out. It’s not that hard to get on page one of Google, or any other search engine, as we discussed in our article here. But will you be on page one for the keywords you want to rank for? Probably not.
Here are a few other black hat tactics that run along the same lines. Remember, besides being unethical, these tactics are likely to hurt your site in the long run, even to the point of being banned by Google if the offenses are serious enough. Just a few of these tactics are:
- Keyword stuffing or spamming
- Stolen or duplicate content
- Re-phrasing content and using it as your own (“article spinning”)
- Redirecting users to an unexpected page to get traffic
- Hiding links, buying links, or other link schemes
- Negative SEO attacks on competitors (also, falsely reporting competitors is a black-hat tactic!)
Here’s the thing: legal Internet marketing can be very lucrative. It’s a high-quality service that demands attention to detail, serious research, serious innovation, and serious experience. But many knock-off marketers take your money and skate by with tactics that wouldn’t pass in a reputable marketing firm. There’s a saying going around the Internet that “Anyone can call himself an SEO expert.” True enough. Most attorneys are so focused on performing their own jobs well that they wouldn’t know how to tell a true SEO expert from a marketing company that just wants money and delivers shallow results through questionable practices. (Let’s call them “gray-hat” tactics.)
But at SLS Consulting, Inc., we know SEO marketing inside and out; not only because it’s our business—because it’s our passion. We have always promoted white-hat SEO for all of our clients, and worked alongside them to reach their ideal clients. In fact, one of our clients, after working with us, dropped in pageviews per month. (We trimmed a ton of excess webpages from his site that weren’t providing quality content to users.) But his conversions skyrocketed, because what was left spoke to the people he wanted to speak to!
So remember, when someone calls your firm with official-sounding credentials and tries to get you to buy what he’s selling with scare tactics, say “No thanks.”
After all, just because we’re all afraid of the IRS doesn’t mean we should pay attention to those spam calls…
To talk to a reputable SEO marketing firm about your website and the best strategies for your online marketing, feel free to reach out to SLS Consulting at (323) 254-1510. Good luck out there in the Wild West of the Internet!