Digital Marketing Scams: 5 Tips for Keeping Your Business Safe

Having an online presence and promoting your business via the Internet is crucial for any company. If you’re a business owner or executive looking for digital marketing services, it’s critical that you educate yourself on the many types of digital marketing scams, which are even more prevalent as the need for digital marketing services continues to rise. The harsh reality is, anyone with a computer and some knowledge of the internet can claim to be a “digital marketing expert.” And if you’re not careful, you might fall victim to one of these scam artists, losing you money and wasting your time, all while your competition passes you by.

Now don’t get us wrong: There are still some very worthwhile services to invest in for marketing your business online! In this article, we’ll guide you through the different types of offers you might see and help you make better decisions when it comes to your digital marketing purchases.

Red Flag #1: Google Page Rank Promises

Promises to get your company on the first page of Google for certain search terms is the most commonly misrepresented digital marketing service. Here’s what to watch out for: any SEO company that claims they’ll get your website ranked #1 in Google in 30 days or less. Now to be clear, it is not impossible to achieve a #1 ranking in Google in 30 days, but for any type of non-branded competitive keyword search term, it is extremely unlikely.

Let’s dive in a little deeper. The first thing these companies will try to do is select obscure, unrelated keyword phrases that have little or no value to your business. It’s going to be a thousand times easier to get your website to get ranked for the term “Mike’s Plumbing Supply Company in Phoenix, Arizona” than it is for “plumbing supplies.” Which search term do you think generates the higher amount of monthly traffic? Which term do you think would be more valuable to your plumbing supply business?

Someone searching for your specific business name has most likely already worked with you before or was personally referred, so it’s probable they would have found you regardless of your ranking in Google for your branded search term (a branded search term is one that includes your brand name).

Another way that some digital marketing companies mislead their customers is in the methods they use to achieve search results. They incorporate “black-hat” techniques that can give you faster and stronger results that look anything but natural. The problem is that, over the years, Google has become better and better at sniffing out websites that are using black-hat or grey-hat methods for artificially inflating their rankings. While you might see positive short-term results, in one or two months, you will have dropped lower than you were ranked before you purchased the services—and you might even be getting penalized by Google.

There is only one proven method for achieving consistently high Google rankings and maintaining them over time: consistent effort! Publishing fresh, unique and valuable content and generating high-quality backlinks to your site is the key to great search results. Monthly efforts should look natural and increase slowly over time. Too much, too fast is a sure-fire road to failure. What you’re looking for in terms of an SEO agency is one that provides proven results without incredible promises and unrealistic timelines. You also want to select a firm that utilizes a healthy mix of content publishing, link building and anchor-text variations spread over multiple URLs within your site.

Red Flag # 2: Social Media Likes & Followers

You’ve probably seen services advertised that allow you to buy social media followers. Some of these services are outright scams, while others will give you the followers you pay for, but the problem comes down to the quality of these followers. While getting new fans and followers is great for engagement, some companies acquire fake followers, sometimes referred to as zombie accounts. There are no real people behind them, and they offer no real value. They definitely won’t be engaging in your brand and usually end up being a complete waste of your money.

The second problem with buying social media followers is the negative appearance it will have on your brand, putting your reputation into question. Many people will view you trying to appear more popular than you are by purchasing fake followers as misleading. Not to mention that once you get your junk followers and realize the mistake you made, you now have a huge mess on your hands. Cleaning up your social media account and removing all of those fake followers will take a bunch of time that could have been spent creating real social engagement.

Red Flag # 3: Set It and Forget It Content

If you plan on driving true ROI via digital marketing for your business in 2019, you MUST add relevant and authentic content into the mix. That means that either you or someone from your company needs to be creating photos, videos, blogs, articles and other informative communication pieces that tell the story of your brand. Be wary of agencies and services that promise to “curate” content for your company so that you don’t have to worry about creating original content. While curated content is ok on occasion, it won’t do much to drive results. Depending on your industry, you should plan to have a mix of 70% original content and 30% curated content to maximize results.

Unique pieces of content that are 100% authentic are what consumers want to see, and, are what tend to convert the best. More importantly original content is what the search engines want to see. Based on the new algorithm updates from Google, original pieces of online content that are at least 1500 words are what is driving the most SEO value.

If you get a proposal from a digital marketing vendor that only offers to curate content and repost it, you’ll be wasting your hard earned marketing dollars in our opinion.

Red Flag # 4: Paid Website Traffic Services

Maybe you have a new website or maybe you just haven’t been able to generate organic traffic via search engines and content marketing. You see ads promising guaranteed traffic to your website for super low prices. Just like the other scams we’ve covered in this article, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Remember, there is no magic bullet when you’re trying to drive visits and leads via your online marketing channels.

When it comes to these website traffic packages, even at very low prices per visitor, these users coming to your website are a combination of people who were never interested in your brand or offer, or more likely, they were misled into clicking through to your website. This is the best-case scenario. Automated traffic bots instead of real human users generate the worst of this traffic. Most website owners don’t know that the traffic they purchased is mostly from bot fraud. Many of these bots are from malware installed on real users’ computers.

Your best bet is to avoid traffic-for-sale offers entirely and instead, invest your time and money on publishing website content that will resonate with your target customer base. Then promote that content through content-marketing channels, which will pick up real, organic traffic and the occasional backlink.

Red Flag #5: Fake Marketing Awards

The infamous “marketing awards!” You may have been the lucky recipient of one of these so-called awards as the top service provider in your city or state. How exciting, right? You’ve finally been recognized for your hard work! And as you continue to read your award notice, you learn that only a small percentage of people in your industry were selected for this award.

As a result, your company will be published in a recognized source, typically a local business magazine. And best of all, it’s free. But as you continue to read, you are presented with a selection of marketing “upsells” that try to get you to purchase print advertising of your award, and some even want to sell you an engraved plaque.

The downside is that nearly all of these awards are a simple marketing ploy to get you to buy overpriced award products. The publication where they list your award gets very little—and in most cases no—circulation. There were no real qualifications necessary to receive the award. As a business owner or executive, you need to watch out for scams like this that produce very little, if any, return on your investment of time and money. You also need to be aware of how many of these fake awards exist, especially in the digital marketing world. And you need to be able to do your due diligence when hiring a marketing company to provide services for your business that claims to have received awards in digital marketing. It will only take a few minutes of research, but it could save you thousands in lost marketing dollars and time you can never get back.

Marketing Scams Summary

The first thing we recommend is finding an experienced consultant who can help guide you through the landscape of what is legitimate and what are scams in the digital marketing world. Phishing scams have become extremely advanced in their methods for avoiding detection. Any time you receive an email about renewing your domain, updating your domain contact information or adding an SSL certificate to your website, make sure you read the fine print and confirm the identity of the sender. Many times, these scams make you pay 10 to 20 times the normal rate. Many of these scams prey on your fear and try to get you to make a fast, emotional decision to purchase their product or risk losing something. Remember to be patient and always do your research. It will always pay off in the end.