Brands: Beware Of Slimy SEO Middlemen Meddling Through Social Media

If it's your job to promote and protect your brand reputation, then you should beware of slimy SEO middlemen that meddle in social media and customer relationships.

Most brand managers are aware of the risks of engaging in "black hat" and "gray hat" SEO tactics. These methods attempt to attract search traffic in a deceitful manner that violates search engines' terms of service. Such tactics include keyword stuffing, hidden text and links, link farming and blog comment spam, among other. They can get you blackballed by the search engines, making you invisible to many of your potential online customers.
But there's a new threat emerging: SEO middlemen that participate in social media and blogger relations for the sole purpose of boosting search-engine traffic. Many of these efforts are backfiring. Let me share a recent personal example: 

An account executive from an established SEO agency contacted me last week on my personal blog. He indicated his agency was representing a major furniture brand, for which I'll spare public ridicule. I give this account exec credit for fully disclosing his client relationship, but the accolades end there. He did his homework on me, as indicated by his compliments and thoughtful references to my alma mater, various posts on my site, and short family videos I've published. But his intimate patronization was nothing more than fake flattery. And the hard pitch that followed made his interaction entirely unpleasant and unwelcome. 



I'll paraphrase this huckster's pitch: "I noticed one of your posts has a link to our client. In an effort to assist with our online marketing efforts, would it be possible to modify this link to a new URL that will aid our SEO optimization efforts? Please let me know if this is possible. It would be a great help to us. Thank you for considering this request and please continue to provide marketing insight on your blog, as well as comical videos and stories of you and your family's adventures!"  

This request made me uneasy because it was completely tied to a self-serving SEO agenda and nothing else. Instead of spraying untruthful admiration and greedily requesting value beyond my generous public advocacy, this agency exec should've recognized me as a brand promoter and let his client know that I'm a potential fan to start a more meaningful relationship with.

But no, the SEO middleman with the narrow agenda had to get in the way of a fruitful customer relationship and potential long-term opportunity. As a result, I probably will never advocate or do business with him or his client again. This sort of of commercial engagement is nothing more than spam. 

Brands: beware of slimy SEO middlemen that meddle in social media and customer relationships. Middlemen are not an excuse for bad deeds. Nor are they a buffer from the consequences.

9 comments about "Brands: Beware Of Slimy SEO Middlemen Meddling Through Social Media".
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  1. Laurent Pfertzel from ecairn, March 12, 2010 at 11:41 a.m.

    Right on the money.
    Social Media is first and foremost about people. People like you who spend time to share their knowledge for the good of human welfare.
    I see the kind of example you gave all over the place when people start with the old paradigm in mind and take a short cut to social media.

  2. Brad Lloyd from Media Managers Online, March 12, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.

    Your motto is,"Controversy served up daily". This person probably had a target of database contacts he or she is required to contact each day. That day, you were one of them. They were just doing there job. You are the one that needs to dig a little deeper for content for this useless column. I and all my industry contacts think people like you would do better writing gossip columns about the people you work with. Good luck finding a real job.

  3. James Montalto, March 12, 2010 at 12:24 p.m.

    Max I am not sure why his request was unethical. Was it just the way he went about asking? Side note - I went to your website looking for the comical video couldn't find it but I did sign up for Cast of Dads and listened to your last podcast - Good Stuff.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 12, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.

    It seems like that there are companies wasting a lot of money on nothing. One time I offered some free advise (they asked) to a company for which I worked. They didn't take it. Cost them $10 mil and dropped it. I could have saved them $5 right off the bat. Just pay me $5 and don't do it.;) Maybe you could do the same for the company the doofus represented.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 12, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

    oops. that was $5 mil.

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  7. Carol Tomalty from CarricDesign, March 12, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.

    What is the problem with his request? I agree with James Montalto and want to know if it was the request or the way he asked. The fact that he knew so much about you could mean that he found the link and got caught up in reading through your site to see what kind of site you had before calling (I've done it myself). If you were interested in promoting the brand, why would it be a problem to change the link to what would actually help them based on their strategy versus just doing what you wanted to do (overlooking the fact that it is your blog and you can do whatever you want anyways - I'll give you that). Maybe you just weren't able to share enough of the details to get the whole story, b/c it doesn't seem like what this guy asked for was such a big deal.

  8. Max Kalehoff from MAK, March 13, 2010 at 9:51 a.m.

    Carol Tomalty and James Montalto: I don't think anyone said what the guy did was unethical, those are your words not mine.

    However, his behavior was troubling and does not make a better world:

    1) He violated the rules of the venue, one of personal, meaningful exchange. It's a bit like going to a dinner party and pitching tupperware in the middle of a conversation.

    2) He entered the venue talking like we were intimate friends and that I should trust him, and that he was genuinely interested in being there. Which he was not.

    3) After positioning himself as an admirer and potentially meaningful acquaintance, he lobbed a self-serving pitch. Not even a pitch that would provide any value to me -- only value to him.

    I understand there are social morons out there, but this one represented an SEO agency. The fact that it was an intermediary, hired to do the dirty work was also disheartening. Assassination for hire makes two guilty parties -- the hitman AND the client.

  9. David Shor from Prove, March 13, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.

    Max, while I agree that false pretenses are unseemly to say the least, I think you your headline is great for click-thru-rates but actually betrays a potential lack of understanding about SEO link management approaches.

    Yes, it's unseemly, but at the same time, the guy actually contacting you is some low-level workerbee who just wants to hit his numbers and could care less (and, more likely, doesn't even know who you are in the industry) about an ongoing relationship.

    To expect any more from people who fill these godawful low level SEO jobs is a mistake unto itself.

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