Every time you receive an unsolicited email sent by a self-described SEO expert from a faraway land promising to unlock the secrets of search engine optimisation – beware. Odds are the helpful sounding new service is email spam and an SEO scam.

OK, it’s not exactly like the Nigerian prince who emails you in broken English to explain that you can get rich quick by helping him transfer millions of dollars out of his war-torn home country.

Instead, the all-too-familiar SEO scam goes something like this:

An “SEO expert” or “online strategist” emails you with news that he or she has analysed your website and noticed that it is underperforming. They often mention unspecified “problems” or “errors” that are causing your website to underperform – but don’t worry, there’s good news.
They say they can easily rocket you to the top of Google search results for your most important keywords.

You’re told you’ll gain more traffic and more online customers if you just reply to the person. The problem is, the vast majority of these unsolicited emails are about as legitimate as the Nigerian Prince and his royal fortune.

So how did the SEO spammer find me?

If you’ve received one, or more likely many, of these emails recently, chances are excellent that it was not a personal note to you but rather a piece of spam generated in bulk by a software program.

The messages may range from grammatically ridiculous to personalised and legitimate sounding pitches. In reality, it is almost certain that no one has spent any time analysing your website.

The usual strategy is that if you contact the sender to discuss web services or search engine optimisation, they will run a quick analysis of your site and then try to sell you a contract for SEO that builds zero long-term value.

Though you may have received a personalised email with your name and website address, the message(s) most likely arrived at your inbox through the magic of automation.

The software systems behind the scam are capable of using publicly available data to generate lists of websites, website owners and contact emails; then add the boilerplate text and send out the mass mailings. Alternatively, your contact info may have been on a list purchased by the spammer. With this minimal labour scenario, even a negligible conversion rate can yield viable leads.

But the SEO spam email seems tailored to me?

The email sender may greet you by your first name and might even identify your website by name. However, you’ll notice that most of the rest of the message is generic. And though it is common for prospects to be told that their site is failing to rank for important keywords, the keywords are never usually identified.

It also may seem tailored to you because, as a smart online businessperson, you are acutely aware of the importance of search engine optimisation and very interested in using SEO strategies to boost your web traffic and then turn those visitors into leads and customers.

It may also seem tailored to you because, who wouldn’t want to have their website pop up on page one when people search for their products or services on Google.

The easiest emails to identify as fake are the poorly written ones or those that sprinkle in lots of extra hyphens where hyphens don’t normally appear. However, others are actually well written and may even make reference to actual ranking factors.

It is very common for the spammers to conclude their spam pitches with the line, “PS: I am not spamming.” Three of the most obvious red flags are:

The correspondence is unsolicited.
The company is not named.
You receive an identical pitch from multiple senders.

Humorous evidence of the generic nature of these spam emails comes from Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s web spam team, who posted a message received by a colleague at Google, offering to make “a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO-wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results.” If this email came from an actual human being, he or she must be a very stupid one (“Duh, Dear Google – If you pay us, we’ll help Google rank higher on Google”).

Here at Acceler8 Media, we get these pitches all the time even though we publicly identify ourselves as offering a range of SEO services. As such, any SEO consultant who made a quick visit to our website would realise that emailing us was a waste of time.

Our clients regularly get these emails too, and sometimes ask us if they are worth looking into.

Should I consider SEO services from an unsolicited email?

No. No. No. Just ignore, delete and report it as spam.

Not only are such offers not worth investigating, they actually serve to undermine the credibility of legitimate SEO service providers. The black hat SEO spammers want to scare you into paying for a service they invariably never deliver.

Far better to stay focused on sensible, measurable SEO goals by working with a legitimate provider.

One reason these scams are still operating is that SEO strategy is complex and, done right, quite time-consuming as well. Due to the power of wishful thinking, it’s not surprising that some of us may be tempted to respond to such an email. But there are no easy fixes or short cuts when it comes to ranking well on Google.

If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself the following question: Do I really think that hiring someone I don’t know, who reached me through an unsolicited spam email, is a wise investment in SEO strategy?

Real SEO – part art, part science – is a painstaking process that takes time and cannot be automated. Contact us today if you’d like to talk more about the crucial role of search engine optimisation in a successful digital marketing program.

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