Why these SEO Emails should go straight to spam- Part 1 – the pitch

seo pitch email spam

If you have an email account, chances are you’ve gotten your fair share of spam mail. It’s also not surprising that in this day and age, having multiple email accounts is normal (I think I manage 10 accounts), so you can just imagine how much spam we have to sift through each day.

Not another SEO Email spam!

There’s personal email spam, and then there is business email spam. For the rest of us who own websites, we have it much worse. We get tonnes of random emails from people selling their services. Unsolicited email spam comes in the form of random people pitching SEO services, web design/development services, and recently, even mobile app development.

Never hire a SEO company via unsolicited emails.

This holds true 99% of the time. This is why such SEO Emails should always go straight to spam.

Here is an example of a typical SEO pitch email that you should always ignore.

The following was sent to me about a month ago, and has not been altered in any shape of form, whether it’s the grammar, spelling, or even format.

seo pitch email spam
The email that was sent to me.

I left the name there because I’m not even sure that is a real person. In fact, I’ve received another 3 EXACT emails, with 3 other different Gmail addresses, with different names.

Hi

There

I am Rekha Singh,Marketing Manager….

SEO Special Discount Offer Get Google Top Ranking!

We have a SEO discount offer going for the following package –

Off-Page work activities “Monthly Task and responsibilities”.

(Higher Traffic = Higher Sales)

1. 150 Directory submissions

2. 60 Social Book marking Submissions

3. 20 Article Submissions (1 article x 20 article websites)

4. 10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)

5. 10 Blog Comments

6. 1 unique, 400 word article written

7. 1 unique, 400 word press releases

8. 10 Search Engine Submissions

9. 20+ One Way Directory Link On-Page work activities “Follow only first month”

10. Meta tags/Title tag changes
11. Keyword research/Analysis

12. Competitor Analysis

13. Heading tag changes

14. Alt tag changes

15. Interlinking wherever required.

16. Keyword density in site content.

17. HTML Site Map

18. XML site map and Submission in webmaster tool

19. Ror.XML File creation

20. Robots.Txt File creation Extra work activities

21. Google Webmaster tool

22. Google Analytics

Please let us know in case you are interested.

Thanks’ Regards,
Rekha Singh

Online marketing executive

PS: This email is not spam, it was manually sent by us, our sole purpose being to introduce ourselves to you with no obligation on your part. Your email address was found to be publicly available on your website and it has not been added to any list. We consider this to be a polite way to contact you and apologize sincerely if you have been inconvenienced in any way. We are obliged to offer you an ‘OPT-OUT’ from future mailings from us; should you wish to exercise this right, please reply with” OPT-OUT” in the subject field.

First signs of trouble

1. If the mailer was serious about pitching to me, she would have found my name on the About Us page. Either she’s lazy, unprofessional, or a robot – all of which are reasons I would not consider replying.

2. Look at the English!

Hi

There

I am Rekha Singh,Marketing Manager….

Please do not tell me they expect me to take them seriously if this is how they start the pitch.  It even sounds like a cyborg!

Please let us know in case you are interested.

Thanks’ Regards,
Rekha Singh

No. Just no.

3. They contacted me with a Gmail account, and no mention of the company name anywhere. There is just no way I will trust these guys!

You run the risk of being penalized by these outdated link building tactics.

It is no surprise that a company that would use Email spamming to get leads, would also use spammy link building methods. A disclaimer: these methods by themselves aren’t actually black hat, or spammy. It’s just the way a company attempts to excessively rely on these methods, that they become link schemes.

150 Directory submissions

60 Social Book marking Submissions

20 Article Submissions (1 article x 20 article websites)

10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)

10 Blog Comments

Here are some evidence direct from the mouth of Matt Cutts  (Head of Google web spam team) implicating these potentially harmful methods.

On directory submissions. 

As far back as 2011, Matt had stated that directories have to be subjected to ‘substantial editorial discretion’ in order for links to be qualified as a non-spammy. Do not expect any ‘editorial discretions’ when it comes to those 150 directory submissions. Only submit your website to the highest authority and relevant directories.

On social bookmarkings.

Quite similar to directory submission, once you overdo these, it becomes what Google describes as “unnatural links that may violate their guidelines“.

On their Link Schemes page, comes this paragraph:

“Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines:

  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links”

On Article Submissions.

Matt personally recommended not to upload to article directories. Over the years, article directories have become websites with spammy, low quality content. He also mentioned that in recent Google algorithms, links from article directories will be ‘less successful’ than before.

On Press Release submissions.

Press releases are actually still relevant in getting high quality editorial links, provided you have really newsworthy releases that industry sites want to report. As you might have guessed, not every business has that kind of newsworthy story. It is also very costly to write and release high quality press releases to major media outlets (think hundreds to thousands of dollars).

What SEO companies like our friend over here do is they write a low quality press release, and submit them to press release submission sites. These sites have very little link value. according to a comment made on a Google Webmaster thread.

matt cutts commnt on press release
His response to “Can Press Releases count as spam links?”

 

On blog comments

Matt Cutts: “if your primary link building strategy is to leave comments all over the web, to the degree that you’ve got a huge fraction of your link portfolio in comments,  and no real people linking to you, at some point, that can be considered a link scheme.”

 I also have a minor problem with these.

8. 10 Search Engine Submissions

Google dominates the search in Singapore, with over 80% market share. There really isn’t an incentive to submit to other search engines. Anyway,  Google will automatically crawl your site and index it as long as it’s been live for about a week. No one should charge you for submitting to search engines if search engines do it themselves automatically.

9. 20+ One Way Directory Link On-Page work activities “Follow only first month”

Frankly, I have no idea what that means. I hope I’m not missing out on any cutting edge SEO techniques.

21. Google Webmaster tool

22. Google Analytics

Again, I hope these guys aren’t charging a whole lot to set up a Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools account for you. I wouldn’t argue against the usefulness of these tools. However, it’s absolutely free to sign up for these 2 accounts, and setting up is relatively easy!

Now you know.

These are just some reasons why you should ignore 99% of SEO pitches through email. Such companies usually use SEO strategies that *might* work for a few websites in the short term, but will do major damage in the long run. Their low cost just isn’t worth the price.

Great SEO companies need not rely on Email spamming to get their leads. They either do well on search engines themselves, or they have people singing their praises and giving them leads through word of mouth.

For Part 2, I will expose the 2nd kind of SEO related emails that you should avoid. Stay tuned!

4 Black Hat Techniques I learned from Local SEOs

black hat guy

It has been a while since I last did a blog post. I had been working on a few client’s sites as an independent SEO consultant, and was seriously bogged down by them. It was fun though, but now at least I have some time to reflect on things I’ve seen the past few days.

The search industry is evolving very quickly. Methods of doing link building that were once thought to be effective were suddenly becoming less so. This made me wonder whether any of the top ranked local SEOs were using dubious optimization techniques.

Grey/Black Hat

Grey or Black hat SEO techniques are methods in which a website might try to trick Google’s algorithm into giving them a higher rank than they deserve. These grey/black hat techniques violate Google’s Quality Guidelines, and so are frowned upon >:(

I did a very simple research. I searched for 2 extremely competitive, 2-word, SEO-related terms that people will search for when looking for SEO agencies in Singapore (I’d rather not reveal). Both yielded different results, but many of the sites that appeared were similar, only in different positions. I added “&pws=0” into the search result’s URL so as to remove any chances of my personalized search settings affecting with the results.

Disclaimer alert!

1. I will not disclose the names of the companies that I will researching on. I do not wish to publicly harm the reputation of any other companies, and I am afraid of hired SEO ninja assassins.

2. This research is to look into some techniques that I personally deem grey/black. They are NOT illegal, and thus these companies are not breaking any laws.

3. The methods they used for themselves might not reflect the actual methods they employ for their own clients. (though I’m sure what works for them would be used for their clients as well)

4. I am seriously afraid of SEO ninjas so I hope this article does not stir up too much animosity.[hr]

Tools That I used:

Open Site Explorer (OSE)

One of my favourite free SEO tools out there, it enables you to look at the links that point to a site. Getting the paid version will give you more detailed data, but for a simple check, the free version more than does the job. With this, we can look at the backlink profile of most websites.

SEOquake Chrome Extension

Also another free tool (beginning to see the cheapo pattern here?). This is an extension I use for Google’s Chrome browser. I use it to look at some background information regarding the website. With that, I can find out a site’s Google PageRank, site age, use of meta tags and a whole wealth of info.

Before I start, I want to be share an interesting observation. My first page of results showed 10 sites. 5 of them had “#1 SEO” in their title or description. Who to trust?

Grey/Black Hat Technique #1

Blog Comment Spamming

This one is especially hard for me to take. I can safely say that this was the most frequently committed sin. Using Open Site Explorer (OSE), I was able to take a look at the external links that were pointing back at each of the sites. The number of external links ranged from the hundreds to the tens of thousands.

What surprised me was the number of links that came from blog comments. Now, blog commenting isn’t a grey hat technique per se. However, many of them spammed comments on pages from highly irrelevant, heavily spammed and low quality sites. With an automated software, generic comments are left on blogs; a link and an anchor text that points back to the company’s site.

Here is an extreme example.

porn site blog comment spam

 

This comment was posted on an adult site no less. The URL of the site is www… you seriously thought I was going to post it? The other comments on the thread are hilarious considering the “content”.

Obviously, the content on the site has nothing to with Search Engine Optimization. Second, the site had 12,000 spam comments with links pointing out. Such a blog comment link gives extremely little value to your site’s ranking – but when multiplied by thousands of such low value links, it will generate *some* use.

I sure hope the company that employs this method does not use it for their clients.

Grey/Black Hat Technique #2

 Using Microsites/ Blog Networks

This one I found out after looking at one company’s backlink.  This company rose very quickly up the ranks, and it caught my attention. I used OSE to look at the top backlinking domains, and I found something very suspicious when I delved deeper.

microsite black hat

 

When you first look at these domains, they seem fine because they are high authority domains. Not much so for the pages that are actually linking back to the company site. When I opened the pages in the weebly.com domain, and some other domains further down the list, I found examples of microsites.

A microsite is a site that has very little pages, and are mainly focused on one keyword. Many free web builders like Weebly allow microsites to be built in a matter of minutes. In the example, the microsite had only one page, with about 500 words. It had one outbound link, which you guessed it, pointed back at the company site.

This is my theory of how such a method works. A microsite has been abandoned for years, and its age tricks Google into thinking it has some authority. A company takes over the site at a very low cost, adds some text to the single page, and links back to the company’s site with an anchor text. The company then does aggressive link building for the microsite, and because of its age, it can be made to look like a popular page.

Main company site benefits because Google now thinks an authority site is linking back to it. Illegal? No. But it’s definitely screaming all 50 shades of grey because of how it is trying to trick the search engines.

Grey/Black Hat Technique #3

Article Spinning

This one is also common. It’s a pretty known fact that submitting articles to high quality article directories can help get good backlinks. You can write high quality articles related to your niche, and this information can be very useful to people who are looking for relevant info. It is a great way to brand yourself as a subject matter expert too.

A good thing can become horribly wrong when taken a step in a direction too far. There are agencies that absolutely spammed the hell out of article directories. One way to have enough content to submit to hundreds of different directories is to use an automated article spinner.

Such programs “digest” a text document, jumbles, rephrase and paraphrase the text. The program is able to churn out plenty of offsprings that look like the original, but are poorly phrased with grammatical errors.

The following excerpt was taken from an article posted on a low quality, low PageRank article directory.

black hat method article spinning

 

You can tell just by reading. The article was made to be filled with some keywords, and the actual flow of the text is secondary. Such articles are not meant for human consumption, and I don’t mean this as an insult. It literally was meant for crawlers only, so as to fool the bots into thinking it is an actual informative piece. How will this help anyone, or improve your branding?

Grey/Black Hat Technique #4

Mass Directory Submission

A web directory is an online directory where businesses and websites get listed and reviewed. Directories provide a way for websites of similar natures to be categorized together, and allow visitors to find such sites easily.

Directory submissions have generally gotten a bad rep, mostly because a lot of angencies claim they help increase your search rank significantly, so you  need to submit to hundreds of directories.

Directories do help, but only if they are authoritative, and have other authoritative businesses listed on them (DMOZ). These web directories need to be human run, and the directory owners have to vet each and every site that gets submitted to make sure they pass quality guidelines.

black hat directory submission example

 

In the above example, one of the companies had submitted to a very low quality directory. A simple search would go on to show that the directory itself had been penalized by Google. The directory was filled will low quality sites, and that SEO listing was surrounded by non-SEO related websites.

Miscellaneous Greys

There are in fact a few more problems I found, but they are comparatively minor.

  • Over optimized, keyword stuffed Title Tags
  • Meta Keyword Tags still in use
  • Exact match, keyword anchor texts
  • False “Guarantee” claims

Last Words

This might actually be my last words if I face any backlash, though outing those companies was not my main intention. I had just become rather disappointed at the state of the search industry in Singapore. I am still relatively new in this business, and I have been hopeful for a mentor, or an example that I can follow.

One thing to consider is that the companies above might have hired an external search “expert” to optimize their website. They may not even know of the mistakes their websites are committing. There is even a chance they are under negative SEO attacks.

A few lessons that we can take away from this is :

  1. Top ranked sites in Google does not mean quality sites
  2. If you hire an external SEO consultant, make sure you demand to know every step of the optimization process
  3. You need to know about Grey/Black Hat methods in order to avoid making those mistakes
  4. It is a very thin line between optimization, and OVER optimization

Was this an eye opener for you? What other suspicious activities have I missed? Share your thoughts below. 

SEO EPIC FAILS ~ My Experiences With Them

seo epic fail facepalm

These SEO methods should stay in 2012.

Epic FAIL. My first reaction when I encountered them. Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m an SEO guru by any measure, but I do know what a serious SEO “offence” is when I see one. I’ve seen these negative examples when I look at other people’s blogs, but sometimes, I can personally experience them myself.

Kids, do not try these at home! (Or anywhere else actually)

Link Exchange

This used to be popular in the past because it was a quick and easy way to get links from others. You just had to ask a stranger on the net to place your link somewhere in their site, and you will reciprocate by placing their link on yours. Chances of success were extremely low, so webmasters relied heavily on spamming others.

And this happened to me.

negative seo link exchange example
Sorry Amy but I’m attached.

 

Dear Amy, at least you had the decency to link me to (somewhat) SEO related websites. However, I did a little research and I noticed your sites were full of links to other spammy sites, and your reputation on the net is less than pleasant. Epic Fail!

Link building is about forming relationships online, and building trust is a big factor. If I were to link out to websites that I personally do not endorse, it will reflect badly on my own reputation. The link in this case isn’t useful to my readers, and does not relate well to the content in my site.

Proper method: 
One is better off spending the time building real relations with authority figures in your niche, and getting a one way link – which is a much better endorsement. If a link exchange HAS to be made, make sure the other site is reputable and has content that can actually benefit your visitors.

Mass Link Building Proposals

The following company offering link building services might not necessarily be bad, but there is nothing in the email that explains how they will accomplish their link building. So in my opinion, Nope!

negative link building proposal example
Sorry John – not my style!

 

At first glance, it doesn’t look THAT bad. I can’t really say that it is an epic fail unless I know how they will do their link building.

Based on experience, such link building services rely heavily on blog commenting and forum posting. To churn out such a high number of links, they tend to rely on spamming blogs and forums. Notice that they did not specify whether they will link to relevant sites, or whether the links are NoFollow or Dofollow?

Furthermore, such link building campaigns that focus on a large number of links might not be good for everybody. Suddenly getting a huge number of links is just too unnatural, especially for a new site. Google has been known to catch on to such schemes and taking action.

Proper Method:
There are plenty of methods to build links. Check out this awesome article from SEOMOZ about the many ways to build links.

Blog Comment Spamming

Speaking of blog comment spamming, I never thought I would be a victim of them within days of publishing my first few contents.

blog comment spam example
Sorry but I have no need for Viagra 😉

 

Surprisingly, automated blog comment spamming still works for some lucky people out there. They are lucky because

  1. Google hasn’t sifted them out and punished them yet.
  2. The webmaster did not check all their comments for spam – to remove them like I did.
  3. Companies are still providing this spamming service despite it becoming less useful and majorly frowned upon.

Spam comments add zero value to the content; they serve just to obtain a backlink. Many comment spam come in the form of “nice post!”, though you can easily tell that they are spam because they have lousy grammar and contain a spammy looking link.

This is an Epic Fail because seriously, comment spamming is so out of fashion. The comments end up in low authority, low PageRank, and non-relevant sites that add close to zero value to your Search Engine Optimization efforts. Worse, if most of your links come from comment spam, Google can devalue your site!

Proper Method:
Blog Comments and Forum Postings should be used wisely. If you have to leave a comment with a link back to your website, make sure the comment is constructive and adds value to the post. You can contribute additional points, or give a view from another perspective. The link also has to point to something that relates to the article, or further adds to the topic.

More Fails?

As long as there are people who are not up to date about the latest changes in the Search industry, we can witness more errors made. Unfortunately, many of the fails are actually committed by ill-informed and outdated SEOs. Do yourself a favour and ask your outsourced SEOs what are their strategies for you, and what they implemented.

Still hungry for more fails? I will leave that for another article. I have come across more examples, but they relate more to my clients. Example: One of my clients previously hired an SEO that did link building for them; only to create backlinks from adult sites.

Juicy story? Till the next time!

Have a good Fail story to share? What other SEO errors have you seen? Share them in the comments below!

5 Reasons Your MLM Site is Bound to Fail

reasons why people fail in MLM

… If You Make SEO Mistakes.

Let’s get this straight.

  1.  SeoGoodGuys will not sell you any products or try to recruit anyone into an MLM business.
  2.  I’m not here to debate the MLM system, or the ethical issues behind it.
  3.  I am not saying that MLM cannot work, but I am not here to endorse it either.
  4.  I will not say that ALL MLM sites will fail. I am here to explain the technical side of why most MLM sites do not succeed.

About MLM Websites

MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing a.k.a Network Marketing. It is a controversial business model that while endorsed by several well-known business celebrities (like Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki), is also at the same time reviled by pretty much everyone else. To learn more about it, click here.

robert kiyosaki and donald trump recommends MLM

 

Since the early 2000s and the widespread embrace of the Internet, traditional MLM businesses have turned to the Internet to market their products and to recruit new agents. It evolved into some new terms, like Internet Network Marketing, Online MLM or Affiliate Network Marketing.

How these online MLM businesses function:

1. The main company (which carries the brand) has a main website where customers can directly purchase products and people who want to earn money can join as a member.

 2. The member becomes a Distributor, which gives them the opportunity to earn commissions when they recommend others to buy the product. They are also able to recruit similar Distributors as their “downlines”.

 3. These Distributors will open an account on the main website, so that sales registered on that account will be attributed to that Distributor. The distributor will then used any method to get customers to buy products through this account. Any sales done by their downlines will also be registered into that particular Distributor’s account. Sales will be tracked, and commission paid accordingly. (This is the old school way)

 4. In recent years, online MLMs have begun to give distributors their own Business Development Kit, which is basically a simple blog builder software, and some training and marketing materials. The Distributor is able to set up a simple blog/website to market the products. Sales and recruitment will be tracked through that personal blog, and the commission will be paid accordingly. (The new school way)

5. MLM has always been a numbers game, and network marketing emerged online to tap into the huge internet market. MLM sites need a lot of traffic for sales, leads, and recruitment – and without a doubt, search traffic accounts for a large percentage of site visits. Smart network marketers will optimize their site to capture search traffic. This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.

5 Reasons Why Most MLM Sites Do Not Work

 #1 Traditional MLM methods do not work for internet marketing

Most MLM distributors are great at what they do – traditional MLM. However, the same success does not easily translate into success for internet marketing. These people are just not trained in online marketing, and the knowledge needed to excel in this field is quite specialized.

There are far more technical knowledge that you need to know in order to make your website successful. You cannot rely on your interpersonal charm or your verbal charisma.

Suddenly you need to learn about Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Landing Page Optimizing etc.. Sure, there are SEO blogs that can teach you, but it can get pretty daunting for the internet unsavvy.

reasons why people fail in MLM
This month eat grass liao.

 

The dynamics of the business also changes with the shift online.

Your upline and even your downlines can become your immediate competitors. Everyone is fighting for real estate on the SERPs. A lot of the information about how to truly succeed in online MLM is vague and generalized, because no one wants to share their secrets – even to downlines.

#2 Duplication works in Traditional MLM, not for the Internet.

In traditional MLM, they tend to preach that if you follow “the system”, you can find success by walking in the path of someone who found success using a proven formula. This makes a lot of sense, and is the basis of why franchises are so successful. However, when it comes to internet marketing, nothing could be worse than duplication.

Most MLM companies will supply marketing materials and product information to their members for their use. What happens is that when you have hundreds or even thousands of websites using the same description for that business and its products, you have a serious case of duplicate content.

Google has a tough stance against duplicate content. Sites with thin or duplicate content have been penalized by Google. As a result, they have been pushed way down the ranks, or even gotten unindexed.

#3 Poor Link Profile

MLM sites usually suffer from bad link profiles. They tend to have many inbound links from similar sites with similar content, because these sites are part of a network. It is easy to get links from your downline’s websites, but these links are low in quality.

Because many sites in that network of distributors will inevitably link to each other, this creates a low quality, spammy link neighbourhood. Having plentiful of such links from spammy MLM link neighbourhoods will cause you to be penalized due to Google’s Penguin updates to weed out spam. You might even be banned. OUCH.

Furthermore, think about it. Which site will tend to get the most inbound links? Which site will get the most linking domains, with Branded Anchor Text? The MAIN company site! That site will be pushed to the top of the ranks for your important keywords because almost everyone else is linking back to it. Your clients will inevitably buy products from the main website that not only looks the most legit, but also ranks the highest.

#4 Bad User Experience

Many MLM affiliate sites suffer from this. There are many factors that contribute to a poor user experience, but it is not entirely the fault of the distributor. They are just not well educated about what it takes to do well online. Few of them know about proper on page optimization.

Thin content is one major issue. These sites mainly get their information from the Business Building Kit that is supplied to them by the company. The quality and diversity of the information is of too little value to consumers.

Bad design and poor site structure are also problems some of these sites face. Some sites look like they want to sell a product, but end up trying to capture leads. Others want to capture leads, but end up turning users off with “too much selling”.

Google’s Panda algorithm updates aims to weed out sites that provide poor user experience. Most MLM sites do not survive the cut.

 

Bad design, bad user experience, thin content, low value adding
Wrong branding, bad design, bad user experience,wrong method of marketing

 

#5 Wrong Branding

Most MLM sites approach branding wrongly. They obediently set up their site and start promoting their company and its great products. The one that stands to gain the most is the company, because it has the highest number of brand mentions, inbound links, and descriptive anchor text.

Doing MLM in real life, you are selling yourself as a salesman or a testimonial. Successful internet marketers learn to do that online. The trust factor on the internet is already way low, and it becomes even harder for your consumers to part with their money if they can’t trust you, or your website.

Visitors can very easily locate the main company and spend their money there (it is far more profitable for the company if consumers do that too actually). Window shopping online also makes it easier for your visitors to open many Tabs in the browser and find the best deal. There is only very little you can do to control whether they buy a product from your website, or a competitors. Recruitment goes the same way too.

Conclusion

Sorry MLM people, please don’t hate me!

Many of the reasons listed above are also applicable for Affiliate marketing websites. They face many of the same problems too. In fact, there are other non-SEO related reasons that add to the downfall of most MLM and affiliate websites.

I will not be touching on the topic of how to make MLM sites profitable. That isn’t the purpose of this looong article. Ironically, you can Google “Why do MLM sites fail”, and you will find a tonne of sites that teach you how to succeed.

I have clients who request my SEO service for their MLM website. I tend to turn down such requests because the competition is too high, and the time needed to create quality work will put off the clients. People in the MLM industry tend to want quick results but are unwilling to put in the time and effort needed to build their brand.

If you are planning to build your MLM business online, I hope you can avoid these pitfalls that many have fallen into. Remember, SEO is not a miracle solution, and will not be able to replace great content and awesome products.

You survived! Do you have anything to share from experience? How else do you think MLM and affiliate marketers can improve? Sound off in the comments below.