Episode 4 – Digital Marketing Scams to be Aware Of


I might have a warped perspective of the way things should be but if I pay for something, I expect to get something in return. In this episode we explore some of the more insidious digital marketing scams that are designed by unscrupulous operators who give you nothing in return.


Thank you for joining me for another episode of Let’s Engage as podcast, where we talk about all things digital marketing, the good, the bad and of course, the very ugly as far as digital marketing goes.

Well, it’s a miserable day here in Melbourne at the moment. It’s pouring outside. The topic today is, well, I guess equally as miserable, because there’s a lot of scammers out there that try to take your hard-earned money for very little to no return. And I’m going to spend a little bit of time talking about some of the digital marketing scams that a lot of businesses get into. And these ones are done by phone. So in other words, a lot of agencies, whether they’re good, bad or ugly, use telemarketers. But the dodgy ones use their own telemarketers from wherever it is that they’re calling you from. And they try to sell you a lot of these services and a lot of these services that they try to sell you are nothing but scams. In other words, they don’t work. And all they are designed to do is take your money. And that’s it as a general rule.

Personally, I never buy anything when somebody rings me on the phone when they’re trying to sell me something. And I think that is a good rule of thumb to actually follow because, number one, you don’t know who these people really are. Number two, you don’t know where they are. They might claim to be in whatever country that you are living in. But it could be anywhere in the world, you just don’t know. And number three, there is no way for you to be able to check them out to see what they’re telling you is actually true or a lie as far as what their capabilities are, what their track record is.

So one of the biggest scams out there is what has been labelled as the ‘double sell digital marketing scam’. This is a very, very common online scam. So what happens is for example, you have already got a digital marketing agency that you use, you are quite happy with them, you have SEO with them as far as your website goes, obviously, and you’re also doing local meaning that you can optimise your local presence as well. And you could be doing what they call PPC, which is pay per click advertising, through things like YouTube, Google AdWords, Facebook ads, just all that type of thing. So, somebody within your business gets a phone call and the person on the other end is trying to sell you SEM, which stands for search engine marketing. Most people don’t know or don’t realise that PPC and SEM are basically the same thing. Search engine marketing is advertising on other platforms once again, like Google AdWords, Facebook, YouTube, whatever it might be. So they are essentially selling you the same service. And if you don’t know that those two things are exactly the same, you are doubling up, so what happens is they try to sell you the service for a much, much higher price than what you’re already paying. And they don’t get you to pay per click. They get you to pay on a monthly basis. Thousand dollars a month. And for that, you get X amount of advertising dollars. They have a small service fee, obviously, which is what they tell you. But in a lot of cases, what happens is that the service fee is more than 60 to 70 percent of that fee you pay. So, if you’ve paid a thousand dollars, they get six to seven hundred dollars of that for their pockets. And then whatever’s left is what they spend on your Google ads or whatever it might be. That’s if they do that at all mind you.

They also talk about things like conversion software marketing, automation for social, but these are nothing. There is no way that they can actually prove to you that what they do actually works, and you cannot be sure who you’re dealing with calls like that. So, like I said before, the best thing to do is not to accept any form of services that are being offered over the telephone. And I think that would apply for most things in life.

You hear stories a lot about all the people getting scammed and being sold all these useless goods and services that they will never need, or because the people on the phone are very, very good at their jobs in talking people into handing over their credit card information. So once again. Rule of thumb don’t accept or engage in any form of activities as far as digital marketing goes from anyone offering it to you over the phone. Please don’t get sucked in by this one, because this is one of the most prevalent ones out there at the moment.

This next one is one that you might not hear about a lot, but many, many years ago, we had a client that was recommended to us or referred to us by another client. And his issue was that he had a ‘cloned’ website. So, the story goes that he got a call from one of these online directory places that was offering, you know, SEO and local SEO and that sort of stuff. And because he didn’t know much about it, he actually fell for it. And what they told him was that they need to build another website and optimise that because his website was absolute rubbish, so they said. So, they built the website and they supposedly optimised the website and instead of building a brand-new web site, totally new, they copied his own website. So, they just grabbed what is called the source code and pasted it into their own system and bang, you had a duplicate website and that’s what he paid for. And so, he found that his rankings were actually dropping. Not that they were great before, but he didn’t get many calls. But now, he’s not getting any calls.

So anyway, we came along and what we had to do is we had to argue so hard with this online directory to delete that thing that we actually were going to get legal. We were going to take it up with the ACCC people and do something about it, because what they did was just totally illegal. They just copied his website and made a clone of his website. And so, we were able to get that site deleted. And we’ve been working with this client ever since, and that was way back in 2013. So, we’ve had this client for nearly eight years because of what we were able to achieve for him. And of course, he’s getting good rankings now and he’s very, very happy.

So, if you get a phone call, somebody saying to you, “having one website’s great, imagine having many websites”? Don’t fall for it, you don’t need many websites, you only need one website. If you’ve got a lot of services that you do, all you do is for every service, create a separate page for it and if you want to focus on one area of your business, one service, then get your marketing agency to optimise that particular page and push that page in the results as well. So, the more websites better marketing scam, don’t fall for it please. It is just ridiculous. It is such a waste of time; a waste of money and you’re not going to get better results. In fact, you could get worse results because you’ve got a duplicate website just like this client did way back then.

Another one that’s fairly prevalent is called the churn and burn scam. Obviously, this one is nothing new. This goes into virtually any industry. But the way this one works is a company brings you up and they say they’ll build a website for you and do PPC and advertising, all that sort of stuff for a fee, so say between two and five thousand dollars. You get all excited about it because these people are very highly trained and they’re very, very good at turning phone calls into clients. And so, they promise you that there are no contracts. You’re free to leave any time you want. You pay your money upfront or you pay by the month and you will never, ever, ever talk to that salesperson again. Churn and burn. If you last a month, that’s terrific. They’ve got two thousand dollars out of you. If you last three months and you’re patient because tell you that it can take sometimes three or four months before you see any good results. You’re patient. You’ve handed over thousands and thousands of dollars in in a few months. Then you get very upset, but you won’t be able to talk to that salesperson ever again. So what do you do? You leave. You’ve wasted a few thousand dollars. They have gained a few thousand dollars. And this is a rinse and repeat cycle. Churn and burn. They turn you over to their side and they’ll burn you once there. Don’t buy anything over the phone, particularly when we’re talking about digital marketing type services.

There are too many scammers out there and far too many innocent businesses fall for this stuff because they get excited about it. They get excited about the promises that are being made. They are desperate to get some decent results because they haven’t had any with a marketing agency. Or they think, ok, well, my marketing agency is terrific. They’re doing ok. But just to boost things along a little bit, I’ll go with this mob here just to give myself a bit more of a boost. But that doesn’t work. A lot of times that doesn’t work. If you get calls like this promising you stuff, talk to your digital marketing agency first. Tell them what the offer is and let them handle it. Most of the time they will tell you, yes, we offer those services or if you really want this, we recommend this person here because we work with them very closely. We know that they’ll do a good job.

This next one I find to be one of the most insidious scams out there. You have people ringing. They pretend to be from Google, and when you answer the call and I’ve actually gotten one of these a few years ago and I was quite intrigued by it. What happened was the message tells you that your Google listing is at risk, meaning your local listing has expired, whatever that means. And it says to press one to fix this problem before your listing disappears forever. People panic and think, oh, my God, my Google listing is going to disappear. I better fix this because it’s call from Google.  I press one. Then I get through to a Google representative. And what they tell you is that because you’ve let it expire, it’s going to cost you X amount of dollars for them to reinstate it. Then they keep pressing you for your credit card number. So when I got this call, I actually spoke to someone, obviously, and I said to them, look, I’ve already got someone who does my SEO and my local listing. And he asked me how much they charge.I just made up a figure. And then, of course, it went into this down selling spiral and he offered to fix the problem for half price. I said to him, OK, that’s great. I appreciate that. But how do I know you’re actually from Google? Can I have your contact number? And I’ll call you back, because if you answer the phone, then I know you’re from Google. And of course, you can guess what happened. He hung up. So, in case you don’t already know, Google will never, ever, ever call you.

It’s very difficult when you put in a request for support from Google. It is very difficult to even get an email back from them and if you do in maybe a week or two later. So if anybody rings you saying they are from Google, tell them to go and you know what, because they’re not. They’re just there to try and rip you off. But in principle, they are all the same. Before you sign up for anything over the telephone, ask for this person’s contact number, ask for their website address, ask for their name. Then if they happen to give you all that information, check them out, do your due diligence. Check out their reputation and who they are, where they’re from, all that sort of stuff. Talk to your digital marketing company if you have one and tell them what you have been offered. And so that way they can advise you, but if not, don’t fall for this stuff because generally speaking, you will be scammed.

But that is, of course, not to say that there are not legitimate companies who do telemarketing. But that’s why I’m saying before you sign up for anything over the phone, check them out first. So then that way at least you can be assured that they’re legitimate or if they were an absolute scam.

So I hope this information was useful and I hope you haven’t fallen for any of these things in the past. So thank you once again for joining me here today. It’s actually stopped raining outside. The sun’s out a little bit, which is nice. So I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but thanks for joining me again. And I’ll look forward to the next time we can get together and learn more about digital marketing, the good, the bad and, of course, the ugly.

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