When you’re a business owner, it can feel like you have a target on your back. Everyone wants and knows how to grow your business, and they’re all offering to make it happen—for a cost. While some of the marketing promises might sound, well, promising, a bit of caution is wise when sifting through the offers for a variety of reasons. Shady marketing firms can take your money and not deliver, or, worse, use shady marketing tactics that lead to penalties and a marketing mess that can take a LONG time to recover from.
Most of these firms aren’t walking around with signs that say, “I’m as shady as the day is long!” so it’s up to you look through the sales pitch and look for whiffs that they might not deliver. Here are a few shady marketing practices that you should look for, and avoid (as the old adage goes) “like the plague.”
Buying email followers
This is one of those situations where if the promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Marketing firms promise to beef up your email list quickly because sending an email to more recipients would (in theory) increase your chance of sales conversions. Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, if you throw more darts at a dart board, inevitably several are going to hit the target. While the claim seems to make sense, an email list that delivers long-term (note, not short-term) results is built over time via in-person contacts, social media, online offers, and advertising (a full list of ideas for building an email list here). If you want to reap those long-term results, contact companies that give you advice on a comprehensive marketing plan that builds a legitimate email list to recipients who want to receive your emails.
Backlinks are important to the SEO of your site, but paid links can do just the opposite. Google has made it very clear that if they find paid links, they penalize the sites responsible. If your marketing firm mentions buying backlinks (links back to your blog) or using any dishonest means to ‘get’ backlinks to your blog or website, walk away from their deal.
Instead, look for firms that can deliver the ‘real’ deal: marketing firms that can give you testimonials from clients who have gotten long-term SEO results (local results if you have a local clientele to reach). They don’t have to deliver their trade secrets, but a good SEO firm should be able to give you information about their service so you know you’re not using black hat SEO that could get you penalized.
Buying social media followers
We are still shocked at the amount of money this multi-million dollar industry generates, and we can certainly understand why people buy into it. The rationalization is simple: having thousands and thousands of followers gives you a lot of street credibility. Plus, it’s sure to make other people follow you, and accomplish all those goals you set for social media marketing.
The truth is more disappointing: while buying social media followers may make you look good, it doesn’t give you any more than numbers. Fake social media followers aren’t an engaged audience that connects with you and drives sales. Remember, no matter what those Twitter account with the strange font tell you, purchasing followers is not going to get you long-term results.
Very few content marketing firms would walk up to you and blatantly say (and certainly not any reputable marketing firms), “we’re going to steal content from another site and paste it into your blog.” But you should be concerned if your content creator doesn’t seem to want any input at all for content topics, now or in the future. To be clear, not every content marketing company is full of plagiarists, and it’s normal to re-purpose old content into a new, in-depth piece. However, you should be wary of automatic “content generators” that may be “reusing content” from other sites. It won’t help the SEO of your website, and you’ll be responsible for stolen content.