Scammers, Spammers and Snake-Oil Salesmen
Posted on June 13th, 2010 in internet marketing
Scammers, spammers, snake-oil salesmen. The Internet is full of them. But up until last week, I hadn’t seen much existence of them in real life.
Last week I attended Search Engine Strategies in Toronto. It was my first time actually attending an SES show, and they graciously invited me to speak (or, well.. do a site clinic). Overall, the conference was done quite well. Great bunch of speakers, awesome networking events, and a nice location.
But… (you knew there was going to be a but). I question the decision to include some of the exhibitors. Or, just one of them, really. TOPSEOs had a booth set up, front and centre as you walked through the doors of the expo hall. This wasn’t their first time exhibiting at a Canadian search conference, as I’d also spotted them at SMX Toronto back in March.
If you haven’t heard, TOPSEOs is a scam rating service, meant to elicit money from search firms wishing to be included in their listings. Among things like stealing copyrighted material, they claim to be the “independent authority” on rating search and internet marketing firms. The search industry is pretty much up in arms about this practice. For a review of the goings on, Edward Lewis has tracked all the articles and complaints about TOPSEOs going back to 2007.
So why is this an issue? Most intelligent search marketers should know to stay the hell away at this point, right? Right. But the crappy ones, the snake-oil salesmen our industry has become known for, they might just jump on the chance to be seen as a reputable organization. And what about the innocent business person, new to internet marketing, looking to hire a decent search agency? They aren’t likely going to know the difference. They know they need help, and here is a company claiming to represent the search industry.
By having them front and centre in the expo hall – and even encouraging attendees to visit the booth, through the “Booth Bingo” game – SES is essentially duping newbies into falling for TOPSEOs crap.
Now, I’ll admit, I don’t know the inner workings of running a conference. Are exhibitors screened? Is SES really promoting the so-called service that TOPSEOs provides? I don’t know. Likely, they were in need of companies to exhibit in order to cover the cost of putting the conference on. But there is the perception that SES is promoting the services of the vendors in the expo hall.
On a funnier note, I did have the wonderful experience of meeting a couple of snake-oil salesmen in person. At one of the networking events, they tried to claim to me and several others (including Canadian search industry veterans), that they were able to out-rank Canada’s 3 major telecoms for “extremely competitive” (read: long-tail) keyphrases, using their network of link farms. It was all I could do to contain my laughter, but others were visibly amused.