SEO Spam

A few weeks after launching a client website, I opened up my mailbox to find a message warning me that it had not yet been registered with the search engine.  It came to me, rather than the company that owned the website because I’d registered the client’s domain in my own name, and I’m so glad that I did.  Here is a redacted version of the text:

Hi there ----------,

Domain Name: ----------.com  (Account #--------)

This email is being sent out to you because search registration for ---------.com is pending.

Please register these domains to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo ASAP to avoid late fees.

Registering for search engines would help you show up in search results and increase your online presence.

You can register your domain at link given below :

http://--------------

We sincerely appreciate your business! If you require anything, we are at your service.

Remember… If you do not register your domain with the search engines, it may not appear in the search engine listing when people are looking for you. Failure to complete your domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may make it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web. Complete your search engine registration today at: www.----------

Sincerely,

Did you know that you don’t have to register anything with search engines in order to be listed?   True, it’s worth giving them a heads-up that your website exists so that they know where to start looking, but they do not charge for this because you are not their customer.  Their business is to provide a directory for the billions of people who use the web daily to find information.  If your website has information that people want to read, and they don’t have you listed, then the search results they offer will be inferior to those of a search engine that does know about you.

I was more than a little annoyed at that mail.  I’m used to reading false information on the internet about how to gain more traffic for your website, but this somehow seemed more cynical and dishonest to me than usual.  They are trawling through domain registries and sending out bulk mails to all domain owners they can find, and charging to perform a service that happens automatically for free – guaranteed.

SEO services

Rather more common, though, are mails I receive regularly for my established websites.  They greet me by name and congratulate me on my well-designed website, before listing a number of bad choices I’ve made which can impact my search rankings.  They will tell me that I haven’t optimized for the right keywords, that my website doesn’t use HTML5  and doesn’t support Responsive Design.  The list will go on for a while, and be followed with a bunch of sympathetic explanations for why this really isn’t good and an explanation of how they can help.  Finally, they will assure me that their message isn’t spam (Pro tip:  any email claiming not be spam, is.) because they’ve already conducted a detailed analysis of my website at no cost, and they just want to help.  All the while, not realizing that they’re talking about the wrong website.

Now to a regular website owner, this all seems very reasonable.  They don’t know what all those technical terms mean, or how to fix them, which is why they paid somebody like me to set it all up in the first place.  There’s nothing illegal about this – salespeople have been doing this for centuries to nab each other’s clients – but it’ not exactly honest, either.  After all, half the technical points they mention are not important (using specific technologies might gain some benefits, but search engine rankings are absolute not one of them!), while the rest are flat-out false.  They clearly did not analyse anything.

I should mention, though, that not all people selling SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services are dishonest.  Many of them even know what they are doing, which is why I always read these mails through before binning them – I want my own websites to do well, and I’d like to learn from them so I can do the same for my own customers.  But when I see a con artist trying to muscle in and muddy the waters for the rest of us… well just remember that they’re out there.

We at Constellation Media don’t sell SEO as a service, reasoning that it’s better to bake good principles in to a new website from the very beginning, and leave the precision work to specialists.  In-depth SEO is hard, after all, and the field evolves fast.  So if you’ve been mailed by one of these guys and want to know if they’re legit, feel free to ask us and we’ll give you our skeptical opinion.  Just remember, there are no magic bullets in this business!