Are free, unsolicited SEO audits of your website real?
We provide SEO services to many clients in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, and Orange counties, including clients in industries such as emergency medicine, dentistry and orthodontics, auto repair, senior care, plumbing, industrial supplies, industrial design, acupuncture and functional medicine, legal, financial, apparel, interior design, other professional services, and many more. Having such a diverse client base gives us firsthand experience in an eclectic mix of industries, and one thing they all have in common is that each business receives (some more than others) regular unsolicited “Appreciate your reply” types of emails from people claiming to have identified numerous ways in which you can improve your website.
The signs of a fake SEO analysis
Sometimes the messages are in fluent English, sometimes not, and generally they come from a person who doesn’t identify themselves as representing any particular company, no links to their website, no local phone number, maybe an oddball Skype ID, but basically nothing which lets you know who you’re dealing with or why you should trust them. They sometimes say the will provide you with things like this once you reply, but why? You’re most likely a business owner yourself, and you’re smart. If something doesn’t really add up when you look at it closely, it’s very unlikely to be legitimate. It’s hard to know who to trust, but there are honest SEO and digital marketing companies, and if their intentions are completely honest, they will clearly explain who their company is, where they’re based, and why they’ve decided to contact you. The fact is there are a lot of businesses who could really use help with their website, and SEO is a major factor in that, but solicitations like the message below are dishonest from the start because the claim to have found “issues” when in fact they haven’t. Read more to see exactly how to know if what they’re saying is accurate.
One customer recently forwarded us a message that said the following (their message is in blue - our comments are in black):
Dear [insert domain name] Team,
First, it’s an obvious form letter. If you were addressing a company wouldn’t you use their business’ name rather than their exact website address.
Hope you are doing well.
My name is [insert name here], SEO expert of a Leading SEO service provider company.
Excessive vagueness is a red flag. If your own company is soliciting business you would have your salespeople properly introduce your company.
As per my analysis, your website is not performing well in the Google organic search as well as your traffic / visitor is poor from the last couple of months due to some of the reasons.
Sorry, what?! How do you know what my website traffic is like . . . and why would you claim to be tracking it “from the last couple of months”? The fact of the matter is the only person who would know what kind of traffic your website receives is the website owner, because only they would have access to reporting tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, or stats programs built into the website’s content management system. There are shaky programs which claim to “estimate” a website’s traffic using a number of factors, but it’s basically just a calculated guess. But this message isn’t saying they’ve estimated poor traffic, they’re definitively stating it. So it’s neither accurate nor honest. This is a shame because whether you’re buying SEO services from a person or buying new tires for your car, establishing trust is the foundation of any good working relationship.
You might know about the frequent Google updates and as per the latest update, Google has completely dropped all authorship functionality from the search results and webmaster tools. So be careful with it and take the help of an SEO company to fix it.
So, Authorship was dropped years ago - why mention it now? And what is there to be careful with? It’s a non issue really. Google dropped it, everyone else moved on, and this client never had it before so it couldn’t be less relevant to them. Make sure you have all your data backed up for the upcoming Y2K switch over while you’re at it. This is frustrating because they’re just trying to scare and overwhelm people.
Some of the aspects are given below:
- Your back links are not good enough, which affects link popularity.
You don’t have the tools available to even know what links point toward my site.
- Some of the competitive Keywords are not on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing, which affects visibility.
“The competitive keywords”. How do you even know what keywords I am targeting and competing for? I noticed you haven’t mentioned one specific thing about my business so far, do you even know what I do? Since your analysis hasn’t been right about anything so far, am I supposed to assume you know exactly what searches I want to rank for and took the time to check my placement in a bunch of search engines?
- Errors and issues found in your website.
Again, generic and extremely vague references. This one is actually a “they’re-not-even-trying-anymore” moment. At least make something up that sounds complicated. What would you say if your mechanic said “Hi Bill, I found some errors and issues under the hood. Will that be cash or credit?”
- Good Blogs, Articles and Press Release are not found for your website.
The client literally has over 100 blogs in an area clearly labeled “BLOGS” accessible directly from the home page. We had just published 3 blogs a few days before they received this message!
- Your website overall SEO score affected due to no online promotion.
Honestly, this a case of take a few buzzwords, mix and match them, and see what sticks to the wall.
- Your website generates less traffic as compare to your competitor.
Grammar issues aside, so now you presume to know who my competitors are and traffic reporting for them as well as my website? You’ve come a long way since the first paragraph.
Area of Improvement:
- We will give you 1st page ranking on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Based purely off of the severe inaccuracies of your initial analysis, there is no reason to expect that you can do this.
- Improve your sales and brand value.
Wouldn’t you need to know my current sales figures in order to promise to increase them in the future? What would the people on shark tank say to a proposal like this?
- We will recover from the recent Panda 4.2 Google updates.
I’m sure you will, but this client was never affected by Panda.
- We will provide you high quality Blogs, Articles and Press Release for your website.
Considering you can’t compose a high quality email in fluent English, there's no reason to think you could create high quality blogs, articles, or press releases. Trusting a company like this to create content is actually a huge gamble, because they could just steal content, publish it to your website, and you could actually receive a web spam penalty from Google.
- Increase your traffic flow.
In other words, “We have no idea what you’re current site traffic is like, but whatever it is we’ll increase it”.
- Target your local as well as global market to increase business.
This client’s ability to conduct business is absolutely limited to what can take place within the four walls of their physical location. Global market? If you took the time as you claimed to investigate this business you wouldn’t make statements like this.
Think about if their observations seem to apply to your website
We get it. They’ve written an extremely vague “analysis” which could appear to apply to a lot of situations. But when you think about what they’re saying for a minute, there is no merit to anything they’re saying. A few giveaways:
- There is no way for them to know how much traffic there is to your website. While it’s true many websites don’t have a lot of traffic for a variety of reasons, they really don’t have any idea what the traffic of your website is. There are some gimmicky tools that “estimate” the traffic to a website. That is no more accurate than you estimating how many patients your dentist probably sees a month based off of . . . um, how you would you estimate that? Their location? Age? Only your website manager knows your traffic levels. If a company really was trying to help they would request “read only” access to your Google Analytics. It’s easier than writing bad emails and actually gives you the information you need to know.
- When they say things that are painfully the opposite of the truth like “You have no blogs” when you have a blog area with 143 blogs including 3 you published 2 days prior, it’s a good indicator they didn't even look at your website.
- They don't even list their company or where they're contacting you from, and they always say the line at the bottom "This is our marketing strategy”. Your marketing strategy is to pretend you’re someone you’re not. What are they hiding?
- Generic claims of "issues" with no details.
- Sites being affected by Google updates, this is another thing nobody but the website owner could know anyway. They are assuming that nobody will know what these updates are anyway. It sounds technical and is designed to overwhelm you so that you panic and hire them.
- They have no way of knowing what sites are linked to your website. In 2007, it was a major breakthrough when Google themselves managed to create a tool which showed the site owner the links to their own website. There is no legitimate tool available which gives you this ability. If Google wanted you to have this because it would help you make a better website and get better search engine results, they would build it and give it to you for free. SEO isn’t about geeking out on somebody else’s backlinks. It’s about creating a high quality website which gives people the information they’re looking for. Everything else is gimmicks and scams by people who just don’t want to do the hard work of creating the information and organizing well for Google.
- Vague references to "google updates" (that Authorship thing was from years ago anyway!). There are periodic Google updates which can affect your site and the way it’s ranked. Google is your friend, not the enemy. If your website has been affected by an update in a negative way, you’ll be notified through Webmaster Tools. This takes us back to the issue of people making claims about info only the website owner could know.
What would a real SEO expert think about this email?
To us, this is just sort of a collection of buzzwords, and as actual SEO experts, this doesn't appear to be written by somebody who appears to fully understand the things they are talking about. They've written a very generic and vague message which could appear to apply to anything since it's not specific (like fortune telling), and then they blast it out to as many sites as possible and gamble that eventually they'll get a response, while understanding anybody who it doesn't apply to will discard it as spam, which it is. Whether or not they may possibly be able to provide SEO to your website, the premise of their initial contact with you is a lie. This should be the beginning and the end of your dealings with this person. The first communication is dishonest, you should go no further with them and mark their message as spam.
Low quality SEO solicitations hurt everyone
We don’t like companies like this, and we don’t like messages like this. Not because we think they take SEO clients away from us - we know these companies offer nothing of value and don’t consider them legitimate competitors. But these messages are usually seen by people for the baseless spammy / scammy schemes which they are. This makes our job a lot more difficult that it needs to be because a lot of effort, explanation, and proof is required to demonstrate to clients that we are everything these other “companies” are not.
Tell us about the SEO emails you’ve received
If you’ve received messages or calls like this, please Contact Us and tell us about it, or even just forward the email to us. Even if you’re not looking to buy SEO services immediately, we invite you to contact us if you have questions about how to weed out bad solicitations for SEO. We’ve seen firsthand how our SEO service has literally transformed, help build, or resurrect businesses. It’s the most valuable marketing tool available for a huge number of businesses, and dishonest SEO companies don’t just hurt people trying to sell their SEO skills, they actually hurt small businesses because they scare them off of ever trying SEO.