Be Wary of SEO Companies that Contact You First | Search Engine Journal

Apr 26 2011

Be Wary of SEO Companies that Contact You First

Google says it flat out in their SEO Webmaster Guidelines, “Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.” There are plenty of disreputable and black hat SEO practitioners that are scrounging for clients. They’ll say anything they want to get you to hand over your carefully allocated SEO funds. Some of them may actually do a small amount work, however shoddy or black hat it may be. Oftentimes you’ll find you end up hiring another SEO firm to clean up the mess of the first one. The really bad ones will just take your money and run without even faking an attempt at doing SEO for your company, disappearing into the void of online anonymity.

One of the biggest giveaways that someone is trying to scam you is when they contact you out of the blue. Hopefully, most people know by now that the Nigerian government isn’t looking to deposit $100,000 into their bank account and recognize those emails for what they are – a con. Unsolicited email isn’t considered a viable marketing tactic, so most reputable companies don’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Opt-in email marketing, like when you give your favorite store your email address so they can send your special offers, is a much more successful and respected approach. Just like you don’t trust random e-mails selling miracle weight loss pills, don’t trust an unsolicited e-mail from an SEO services provider.

Many of these less-than-scrupulous SEO providers (or SEO con men) find companies that already have a contract with a white hat SEO company. Their biggest selling point is trying to convince you that you are vastly overpaying for your SEO services. They’ll say,

“We can do the same things as your current SEO provider for less than half what you are paying now! And we don’t get paid until you are ranking first for all of your keywords! And we guarantee our results! And we’ll handle your social media! And…”

Like a smooth talking used-car salesman trying to pass a lemon off for a Ferrari, SEO con men will do whatever it takes to convince you to leave your current SEO provider for them.

The simple truth is that good, white hat SEO providers don’t need to go begging for business like that. Their business is built on a solid reputation, the satisfaction of clients and referrals brought in from happy customers. They don’t have to resort to unsolicited e-mails and underhanded tactics to win business.

Think about it this way. How often does your company randomly contact potential clients? Not those that current clients have recommended you reach out to, not people you met at conferences or tradeshows, not people who connect with you on social networking site. How often does your company reach out to companies or individuals that have no idea who you are or why you would be e-mailing them? Probably not very frequently, right? Being known as a “spammer” when it comes to getting clients severely damages your reputation and devalues your brand. You don’t want to annoy or anger potential clients, especially ones you have no business contacting. Why would good SEO companies and consultants behave any differently?

The bottom line is that you should treat any SEO provider that contacts you first –unprompted and uninvited – with some serious reservations. Google, the behemoth of search engines and the main reason SEO exists, even admits that they get spam messages saying “Dear,

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…” Clearly spammers don’t discriminate when they’re trying to get business.

If you’re looking to hire an SEO provider, you have to do your research. Talk to other businesses you work with and see who they use for their SEO services and why. SEO often has a bad reputation because SEO con men are waiting to take advantage of uninformed business owners. Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines about SEO. Those are the hard and fast rules of SEO and a reputable SEO provider should know that. Good SEO companies should be able to provide you with client referrals and recommendations. Do you own research on a potential SEO provider. See what kind of information pops up about them when you start digging around online. If you start to notice red flags, time to walk away and make sure you’re not missing your wallet.

Written By:


Nick Stamoulis | Search Engine Optimization Journal | @NickStamoulis

Nick Stamoulis, a search engine marketing industry veteran, is the President of search engine marketing company, Brick Marketing. Nick Stamoulis also writes daily in his SEO blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal and publishes one of the largest SEO newsletters with over 125,000 opt-in subscribers.

More Posts By Nick Stamoulis

  • Nice Topic Nick… the title remember of my agency days where i see lot of emails on our clients email addresses that says ‘We see that you are not on top 10 rankings with your desired keywords and we can do something that will take you to higher rankings and blah blah blah… GUARANTEED’ 🙂

    I think by now most of the companies (at least ethical) companies understand that there email are not going to do wonders with your website but it is very much possible that they hurt your rankings and can kick you our of the search engines…

    I think by now Spammers should realized that this bullshit is not going to work any more…

    I really enjoyed reading this one! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post! I have a particular spot in my heart for those who send you SEO spam email from a Gmail account. If you can’t at least go to the bother of registering a domain name, then I’m really not even going to think about it any longer than it takes my hand to hit the delete button!

    If you are looking at an SEO company, I think it’s always a good idea to see where they rank in Google as well as their clients!


  • Anonymous


    I don’t directly market my business, I don’t have sales people and I don’t care about my site’s search rankings. And guess what- we’re busy!

    That said, unfortunately, SEO email spammers are often successful. But any company who falls for that kind of BS probably isn’t one I’d like to work w/ anyway.

  • Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

    “Unsolicited [contact] isn’t considered a viable marketing tactic, so most reputable companies don’t touch it with a ten foot pole.”

    Says who? I receive unsolicited messages from charities, banks and companies I trust – whether via email, telephone or post. Direct marketing like this isn’t a signifier of poor quality, any more than owning a Twitter account makes you an online marketing expert. I’ve worked for companies who use unsolicited email. Hell, I’ve spent months working on marketing campaigns for companies who know not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and they’ve all been reputable.

    “Hopefully, most people know by now that the Nigerian government isn’t looking to deposit $100,000 into their bank account and recognize those emails for what they are – a con.”

    Reductio ad absurdum. If I’d written a blog post about the time I spoke on the phone to someone dodgy and as such would advise clients to avoid anyone insisting on a telephone conversation, I’d be laughed out of town. The medium ISN’T important. The service is.

    “How often does your company randomly contact potential clients?”

    Every day, if you’re good at what you do. Passive marketing DOESN’T WORK. It’s not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” Because they won’t come. So you need to reach out to clients. Through marketing. When you place an advert in a newspaper, run a TV or radio ad, pay for AdWords, call someone, email someone or write a letter to someone, you’re contacting potential clients.

    And how come that’s randomly contacting someone? You’ve just said all these sinister companies target existing SEO clients. That’s not random. That’s targeted.

    “Good, white hat SEO providers don’t need to go begging for business like that. Their business is built on a solid reputation, the satisfaction of clients and referrals brought in from happy customers.”

    That’s the sort of circle-jerk thinking that only an SEO can come out with.

    I’ve got friends in dozens of industries – from plumbers to lawyers. They don’t know what SEO is. And people in their industry aren’t passing on referrals. How often do you tell your competition how to drum up business?

    SEO isn’t in the public consciousness. Yet. So until it is, you need to aggressively sell your product. The same way every product in every other established industry has done.

    Or, Nick, do you honestly advise clients to sit back and hope that people will start actively searching for their products – when people don’t know that those products exist?

  • You’ve made more sense in that comment than the entire original post managed.

    If someone’s emailing you from gmail, they’re dodgy. If they’ve got a company email address leading to a reputable, well established website, they’re probably OK.

  • Adam Maywald

    This is a completely BS post Nick.

    So, what you’re saying is, just because we want to “grow” our business, we can’t do outbound calling, email marketing or any other form of “outbound prospecting” as that makes us look like a “used car salesmen”.

    Billion dollar companies were built on their call centers. Does that make their product bad?

    Cold-calling, email marketing or any other form of outbound prospecting has nothing to do with the QUALITY of the companies work. It has EVERYTHING to do with growing the business.

    Referrals are nice, but their gravy. We provide a great service AND we do outbound calling – that doesn’t make us snake-oil-salesmen. If I wanted to stay a one-man shop (so to speak), then just working referrals would be all I’d need. But I don’t, but that doesn’t mean the quality of my work fails.

    Having said that, and as you did state, you should always vet any SEO company you work with, regardless if they’ve contacted you or if they’ve been referred to you.

  • Some good points in this article. Regardless of how the person gets in touch with you, if they start spewing too-good-to-be-true promises at you, that’s when you know to walk away. Most times those promises are in the e-mail itself, so that can save you some time…

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