As a business owner, you’re probably used to receiving calls from numerous companies out there offering to improve rankings, increase client reviews, or even “verify” your Google listing*. These companies play on a business owner’s lack of internet marketing knowledge to deceive, take advantage of, and essentially rip off anyone they can. While we instruct our clients to forward calls and emails like that along to us, not all businesses have a marketing company in their back pocket to keep a watchful eye over illegitimate online marketing practices.
Up until recently, there seemed to be little that could be done to hold companies like this accountable. If you were naive enough to sign up for an offer that seemed too good to be true, then you had to simply cut your losses and hope your next marketing company could fix the mess that the fraudulent company created. However, one such black hat fraudster bit off a little more than he could chew when he deceived and extorted Generational Equity (GE), a Dallas merger and acquisitions company (NOT multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE), in case you’re wondering).
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, and as reported by Search Engine Land, an SEO by the name of William Stanley has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for extortion. Stanley had been hired by GE for SEO and reputation management services, but acted outside of his contractual duties, which prompted GE to terminate its agreement with him. Stanley then used his black hat prowess to build websites meant to damage GE’s reputation, and proceeded to extort the company in order for the damaging websites to be removed. In addition to prison time, Stanley was also ordered to pay $174,888 in restitution to GE and other companies identified as victims in similar schemes he perpetrated.
So what does all of this mean for businesses looking to hire Internet marketing companies to help with their website and online presence? Simple – do your homework before entering into a business agreement with a marketing company. While every industry has its bad apples (or in this case, black hat apples), the majority of companies do things by the book. The best way to gauge how well a company is going to work with you is based on past client experiences, so be sure to check out that company’s online reviews, or even get reputable referrals from the company itself. Remember, if an SEO company isn’t willing to stand by its work and refer you to either past or current clients so you can get a better idea about what the company is like working with, it might be best to avoid doing business with that company.
At SLS Consulting, we’ve been offering SEO and online marketing services for the past 17 years. We design our websites with your preferences in mind, and build them in complete accordance with Google guidelines and best practices. For more information about how SLS Consulting can help your company expand its online presence, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (323) 254-1510.
*NOTE: RIGHT AFTER we wrote that line, one of our employees received a “Google verification” call for his (non-existent) business…companies like that are relentless!