In today’s digital age, not having an online presence to promote your business is like corporate suicide.
While old school marketing strategies still work to some degree, the reality is that everyone’s using the internet now. If you’re not down with the digital marketing program, you’re leaving yourself out of all the perks that come with it.
If you’re a business owner or marketing officer looking for a digital marketing partner that can help build your online presence, it’s crucial that you educate yourself on the types of digital marketing scams that are plaguing the industry.
Yes, there ARE scammers, even in marketing, which adds another threat vector to think about in a world already burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the many scams this crisis has spawned.
It’s almost like a cruel joke that you need to constantly check if your identity is compromised these days, but that’s neither here nor there and is another topic of discussion altogether, so we’ll leave it for another time. Going back on track, this article aims to arm you with the right tools to sniff out a digital marketing scammer a mile away.
Everybody’s Suddenly an Expert
Many legitimate digital marketing companies are offering industry-standard services that are genuine and effective. However, the harsh reality is that anybody with a computer and a little internet-savvy can claim to be an “expert” in digital marketing. These scammers are not only hurting the industry’s reputation but also the brands and businesses they’re paid to help.
If you fail to do your due diligence on these so-called “digital marketing experts,” you’re going to be wasting a considerable amount of resources for bogus services peddled by scam artists. To avoid becoming a victim of a digital marketing scam, your best defense is education. Knowing what the scams are and how they operate is the first step to protecting your business.
How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off By a Digital Marketing Scam
To avoid getting scammed by a bogus digital marketing service, watch out for these promises and guarantees.
Your website will be ranked #1 on Google in 30 days or less
It would be best if you looked out for anybody who claims they can give your website a boost to the number one spot on Google in 30 days. While not impossible per se, it is improbable to happen for non-branded competitive keyword search items.
Some scammers will use “black-hat” techniques to give your website a quick yet artificial boost that Google will most certainly penalize after, and your page ranking will be worse than when you started. Other so-called experts will use obscure keyword phrases that aren’t related to your business at all, and your listing will be number one for sure, but in Nowhere, Idaho.
Did you know that some companies even offer services like negative SEO? This is a method of taking out the competition by providing lots of spammy links and eventually getting them penalized. This sort of thing is best avoided, as it can land you in trouble and ultimately compromise the integrity of the search engines and their results.
Tip: If someone offers you this kind of service, be wary and ask them technical terms of how they’ll do it. Chances are, they’ll spew a bunch of nonsense, or they’ll say they use proprietary technology. A good SEO company should be able to show you examples of the progress they are making with other clients or even their own website.
‘As Seen In Claims’ and Fake Reviews
There are digital marketing services that have professional-looking websites complete with customer testimonials. The cherry on top, however, is the “As Seen In” part of their page, where they have been supposedly featured on CNN, Forbes, and other media companies.
For starters, testimonials and reviews can be faked or bought. It’s also easy to pay for a premium press release that’s sent out to the top news and media outlets and BAM! Their company seems like they’re a big deal in the industry when they’re not.
Tip: The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Review and Rip Off report is your friend, and all you need is to search for the company’s name there. You can also Google the company name or owner with the words “scam” or “reviews.”
Social Media Likes, Paid Traffic, and Followers For Sale
There are services out there that allow you to buy social media followers and traffic. Most of these will scam you outright, while others will deliver and give you the followers you paid for, but there’s a catch: quality. Your new “followers” are nothing more than dummy accounts with no real people behind them, which means they don’t add any value to your brand.
The downside is that when people realize you have a bunch of fake followers, you lose integrity by trying to appear more popular than you are. Paid traffic services on the cheap are just automated traffic bots that mislead people into clicking through your website.
to grow yours organically by posting regularly and engaging with everybody.Tip: Try
Automatic Curated Content
Any digital marketer worth her salt knows that you need to give your audience authentic and relevant content that provides value if you want digital marketing to drive your company’s bottom line. There are no shortcuts. Companies that offer you scheduled “curated” content so you won’t have to write another original article can end up hurting your brand.
Their writers aren’t often subject matter experts, and the content will lack the passion of someone who is part of your business. Curated content is acceptable, but should only constitute s small portion (20 – 30 percent) of your overall content.
Tip: You or someone in your company who knows everything inside-out should be creating articles, blogs, videos, infographics, and other communication media that tell your brand’s story consistently. Unique content that’s 100% original is what customers want to see and what Google’s new SEO algorithm values.
“Your Website is Broken” Scams
If someone gets in touch with you to tell you that they have spotted a weakness in your website and that they want to help you to fix it, you should have your guard up. In many instances, this is a way for people to try to make you panic, and then they will swoop in and sell you their services to try and fix the error.
Scams like this are as old as time. They are designed to make you anxious about losing the hard work you have put into your site. While security online is vital, somebody emailing you to try and make you panic about something you haven’t done should make you wonder about their motives. What do they want from you?
hard to hack. Plus, make backups of your site regularly so you can restore should anything go wrong.Tip: Make sure your website has all the necessary security and safety measures, and is
Long-Term PPC and SEO Contracts
If a company says they will only tie you into contracts that are 12, 18 or 24 months long then this could be cause for concern. PPC marketing strategies can sometimes be made to work in the short-term, to tie you into a longer-term contract.
Once you have agreed to pay every month then they will reduce their spend and the time they are working on the contract. You will have a full year or two to continue paying them and it might be hard to get out of the deal you made.
If a company is good at what they are doing, they do not need to tie you into long-term deals. Ask yourself why they might be so keen to upsell and get their claws into you. Ideally, you will be able to cancel your contract flexibly if you want to at any time.
Tip: Compare what other companies offer in terms of contract lengths. If someone refuses to take on clients on a month-to-month basis then it might be that they are trying to get your money long-term without actually having to do a lot of work. They might look like the real deal to start with, but if they know you will still be paying them in 20 months time, they might cool off on how hard they are working.
There are plenty of “experts” and bogus digital marketing companies out there that are angling to get your business. Scammers know that the battleground is fought online now, but not all organizations have the budget to pay for online marketing services, which is why they offer cheap products that are often too good to be true.
Since many marketing executives are busy and owners don’t know much about digital marketing, they jump headfirst into an agreement with a scammer who’ll offer the moon but ends up with disastrous results.
If you need to boost your online presence, hire an experienced consultant with a proven track record of success, and one that can be vetted by other business executives. A seasoned marketing consultant can guide you through the ever-changing landscape and trends of the digital marketing world, without running the risk of getting scammed.
About the Author!
David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDStrong. The passion to make cybersecurity accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.