Over the last week i've happened across three different search marketing scams. Two of them are disturbingly similar - so similar in fact that one would be forgiven for thinking they were written by the same person.
Is this the start of a Search Scam Gold Rush? I think perhaps it is. As Google and others begin to reach out to agencies and the hitherto little touched areas of search results come under increasing public notice it seems that some unwholesome search marketers are looking to cash in on ignorance. Follow the title link above for the full post.
The Telesales Scams
The first such scam was a telesales firm operating out of Manchester, England. The deal was essentially this: Pay us £200 and we'll get you ranked in the top 10 on Google and Yahoo! for up to 10 search terms. The naive and clearly clueless telesales agent that called me seemed very proud and excited about the fact that her company would be using an invisible website to promote mine and that it would be cross-linked to 3000 other invisible websites.
For those reading that are unware, that's quite possibly a high risk move, especially for a small business were income almost certainly depends partly on the company website.
You can read a little bit more about this here.
That probably isnt so new though, telemarketing cold call scams have been around for a very long time after all. The really worrying developments in this trend are the companies and individuals creating software to sell online to unsuspecting, unknowing businesses.
The Quick Fix - High Risk Software Scams
These next two are truly dreadful creations, complete with truly dreadful snake oil seller websites to acompany them:
Notice the press releases both try to use the "white hat" stance on search marketing to sell their products? From scam one's press release:
After a year of development, an honest Internet Marketer Costa Dedes discovered a unique and amazingly easy new method to get his websites listed on Google in 3 short days, without trying to manipulate the search engine rules.
from scam two's press release:
Search Engine Optimization Expert Offers First “White Hat” Software Tool
Nathan Anderson is a search engine optimization expert who is a long time advocate of ethical techniques. On November 1, 2004 he introduced MetaWebs, the first major software tool specifically designed to aid in ethical SEO.
Cashing in on the White Hat Movement
That joker is a member at the ihelpyou forums, an infamous white hat website and he's currently being a hard ride by Doug Heil, the sites owner. Doug is vehemently opposed to any kind of automated software for site building, hell i think he'd probably say Dream Weaver was dirty :) - Rockynate as he's known is also getting a roasting at the HighRankings forums, another well known white hat styled forum.
There are very few search marketers out there that would agree that either of these products were ethical or "white hat" - possibly shite hat and almost certainly dangerous in the hands of business owners and search marketing newbies bt certainly no self respecting search marketer would recommend either of these shoddy looking attempts to cash in on ignorance to anyone but their worst enemy.
Im certain this is the tip of a large iceberg, much as i like to battle with the "white hats", despite finding the very notion of hat wearing more than a little silly, i really dont envy them having their cause taken up by such unscrupulous wankers.