Dear Sir/Madam… Is Your Site Optimized?

SpamWe’re all inundated with wonderful and often colourful spam. So I decided to take a closer look to see if any mileage could be gained by giving a random search engine optimization spam email a chance. It hit my inbox yesterday.

Initially I was asked, “Does your site rank low? Is it optimized?” And of course, “Are you aware that we have a 98.95% success rate in achieving top page rankings?” Answers:No”, “No” and “No”. So let’s get cracking…

With no company name anywhere in the email, and a salutation that just said “Dear Sir/Madam”, the only reference I had to anything resembling a company was the return path which pointed to an internet data centre in India. I responded highlighting my interest and asking for additional information.

Within 10 minutes I had my response, details of the company and a name of the person who contacted me. Not bad.

SpamThen came what I’ll call THE FLOOD.

I was bombarded with facts, figures and hooks to try to capture my attention. I was told they were a company of significant reputation, 75 staff and a successful track record of providing up to 5,000 natural links every month. Top 10 rankings would be achieved in the first 6 months and best of all, my traffic was going to grow by 120% in 26 weeks! Supporting this was the fact they had over 240 clients in the USA and UK. Brilliant. The email directed me to their website which presented 65 task options for SEO (all practical and required for rankings). Sadly, to the uninitiated, this could look impressive, and the prices, amazing!

Too good to be true! Where do I sign?

Not just yet… I asked for proof of rankings and some client examples and I was returned a spreadsheet showing terms, rankings and clients’ websites.

Not surprisingly, these websites were obscure and in one case redirected from an international top level domain to an Indian domain name of a completely different company. Despite the spreadsheet rankings being accurate, the terms in many cases had limited or no search volume. Few sites had any contact information so I had no way to check if these companies even used the one in question. The one with contact information I tried to call but couldn’t be connected.

Ignoring these obvious warning signs, I emailed back and asked how long my NEW site would take to rank for the terms ‘camera’ and ‘digital camera’. These are searched for 368,000 and 450,000 times a month respectively in the UK. To their credit they came back and said “these could take some time to rank.” Some time? Correct! Probably an infinite amount of time!

The lesson here is to be careful that you check how long your own competitive terms will take to rank, rather than simply absorbing at face value a term that you are provided. These terms could be branded, non-competitive or have no search volume. Rankings can look impressive but they will do little for your ROI.

Now the implosion:

It is always a good test of quality to assess the search engine optimization of an SEO agency – ie the company’s own website. If they can rank and perform well themselves, the likelihood is that they can do it for you. Our critique on the site in question found that not one of their own terms ranked in the Top 100 of Google in the UK, USA or India, and the site failed miserably across every search engine optimization check and lacked the most basic on & off-site elements for any site. They also had no Page Rank.

Page RankGoogle’s Page Rank is the premise for Google rankings. Page Rank is a measure of strength, authority and relevancy and is scored between 0 to 10.  A new site or site that can’t be indexed is often referred to as un-ranked. To check a site’s Page Rank yourself, download the Google Toolbar and hover over this symbol.

Now don’t forget those links; they promised me 5000 natural links a month, but like the other checks we performed we found that their own site had under 20 links! These had no anchor text, their primary source quality was horrendous, and many were simply broken. Would I want them link building for me? No way! If they can’t do it for themselves the likelihood of them doing it for you is slim at best.

As for their 75 staff, their Facebook page had a grand total of 1 employee!

So all in all my response has to be: “Dear Sir/Madam… your email has been deleted.”

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