10 Digital Marketing Scams to Avoid

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mobile protection against scams

There’s no denying that digital marketing is a robust industry that can significantly affect your business. This includes strategies such as pay-per-click marketing (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), banner advertising, content marketing, and other advertising methods that are deliverable online.

Unfortunately, there are several cases in which a so-called “marketing agency” will prey on unsuspecting or uninformed business owners and managers. These hoax companies make false promises and take advantage of people trying to grow their businesses. Although you may be marketing savvy and aware of the typical schemes, here are some ways to spot a marketing scam and why they should avoid them.

What are digital marketing scams?

Many digital marketing agencies do incredible work and genuinely have the best intentions for their client and their client’s business. Unfortunately, some online marketing agencies are much less reputable and looking to take your money in return for little to no work. Even worse, fake marketing companies can completely scam a business owner out of their marketing budget with nothing to show for it after. 

These fake marketing companies have been around for a while and have since developed various strategies to trick well-intentioned business owners. If you are in the market for digital marketing services, be wary and take your time when vetting digital marketing agencies. Most importantly, read through these common scams from fake marketing companies to ensure you don’t fall for similar ones.

What are 10 digital scams examples?

1. Directory Listing Promises

Online directories provide value and increased visibility if they are trusted, high-quality lists. However, plenty of directories out there will never yield results or give you potential leads. Some directories that customers typically trust include HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Houzz, and even Yelp. For attorneys, in particular, Avvo, Justia, and lawyers.com are the ones that matter. Depending on your industry, online directories will help your business model connect with customers and generate conversions.

Unfortunately, some scam marketers promise unsuspecting clients to submit their company information to directories, along with a hefty price tag. Some of these “professional” agencies will then send your company’s details to hundreds of useless directories that won’t make any difference to your bottom line. It can also be harmful to your brand to have your company listed on these low-quality sites. If your marketing agency brings up submissions to directories, make sure you know which lists they are referring to and exactly how being included in these directories will deliver value.

2. Calls from Digital Marketers Claiming Your Website is Broken

While your website is probably not perfect and may have some technical issues, business owners should always be wary when receiving a direct call from a digital marketer claiming they can fix specific issues. There are churn-and-burn digital agencies that search for websites that show signs of needing “fixes” without really understanding why certain things on the backend of a website are set up the way they are. Some technical changes that are not considered “conventional” are done intentionally by trained website developers.

If you get a call from a so-called professional digital marketer who starts listing the issues on your website, don’t jump on board immediately. Speak directly with your web developers about any concerns to better understand why your website is set up the way it is. They should be able to fix your technical problems if you have any. You can also contact a proven digital marketing agency and ask for a free consultation before committing to spending money.

3. Fake Client Portfolios

If you are actively looking for a digital agency to help you with your marketing efforts, one thing to consider is the company’s work portfolio. You want to see which companies the agency has worked with and the specific results they were able to accomplish through their efforts. After all, you want to ensure you’re hiring an experienced agency with proven success.

Unfortunately, some agencies are not completely honest regarding this aspect of their business. Scam agencies may even fabricate entire marketing campaigns to draw you in when they have no professional experience at all. This is why it’s essential to do your due diligence when vetting digital marketers by looking carefully at their work, reading client testimonials, and reviewing online ratings and reviews on third-party platforms. You don’t want to get stuck paying an amateur company that cannot deliver what it promised.

4. Unrealistic Google Ranking Guarantees

Any time you hear that something is guaranteed in the digital marketing arena, there should be some cause for concern. While professional digital marketers can do their best to strategize, implement, and garner results, there is no way to guarantee an outcome, particularly in the digital industry. Google is continuously updating its algorithms, and what worked one day may not be the case the next day.

An experienced digital agency should be able to explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how it should impact your Google rankings for specific keywords. They should also boast about their flexibility and the ability to think on their toes when a new Google algorithm update is released that may affect your business. These are more realistic promises versus a blind guarantee of rankings.

5. Asking for Money to Buy Social Media Followers

Buying social media followers has been a common practice with companies trying to exaggerate their social reach and influence. However, social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, have made substantial efforts to crack down on fake profiles. When buying followers or likes on social media, most of them are fake profiles that don’t add legitimacy or value to your account. It can hurt you by making your profile appear forced and spammy. Ultimately, it’s money down the drain.

team working on a marketing strategy

6. Long-Term Contract Scams

One surefire way to determine whether or not the marketing agency you are thinking of hiring is worth the time (and money) will be to determine how their contract looks. Digital marketing agencies can scam you out of your entire marketing budget and even insist on a 12-month contract for their services. 

These fake marketing agencies will take your money and show you real results for the first month. You will most likely see that in the second month of this contract, the scamming marketing agency will stop putting in the effort, wasting your marketing budget. Of course, when it comes to renewing your contract, they will ramp up their marketing efforts to show enough improvement to hopefully trick you into another long-term contract. 

Be wary and skeptical when looking at the contracts of digital marketing agencies. Most of the best digital marketing agencies will not lock you into a long contract and will work continuously to improve your marketing reach.

7. Creating Secondary or Additional Websites

Another common fake marketing scam that often tricks large or small business owners is, believe it or not, creating a whole new website for the same business that they already have. In general, if you have one business or practice with one solid website attached, there is never a time when you will need a secondary website. 

Scammers will often try to explain to business owners that having a second website will create twice the traffic or lead generation for their business. In reality, Google may lower its visibility to potential customers when another website is created. Only if you legitimately own another practice or a separate business,  an additional website is OK.

8. Expired Google Listing Phone Call

This type of marketing ploy is an absolute red flag for marketing scams, and, sadly, many have fallen for fake phone calls from scammers posing as Google employees

In this scenario, a scammer will call you, often from a local phone number, and inform you that your Google listing is expired or in danger of expiration. When you contact an actual person rather than a recording, the caller will claim to be a Google employee and try to get you to pay to fix your non-existing Google listing problem. Never give out your credit card information to a stranger over the phone for an ambiguous product or service. 

The most important information to learn from this scenario is that Google or any employee of Google will never call you directly. The only time you will be on the phone with Google or an employee of Google will be when you call an official number directly.

9. Promised Marketing Territory Scam

Some digital marketing companies will claim unrealistic results and expectations. One of the most prolific promises made by a dishonest digital marketing agency will be the promise of exclusive marketing ownership of your local area or a particular territory. Not only is this marketing campaign strategy a complete falsification, but it also perpetuates the incorrect notion that there are ways to dominate an entire marketing territory. 

If a digital marketing agency approaches your business with promises of exclusive marketing territory, you will most definitely be losing money from your marketing budget.

10. Unnecessary Add-On Marketing Services

An upstanding digital marketing agency with the best intention for its clients will be transparent about what kind of marketing services they offer. Most importantly, digital marketing agencies with the best business practices will never upsell or double-sell their clients products or services they do not need. For this reason, it is important to be wary about what other online marketing agencies offer. 

For example, say you are paying for SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click) marketing services. An online marketing agency that intends to scam you will try to upsell you on SEM (search engine marketing) services. Generally speaking, any SEM services they are trying to sell you are most likely already active services you are receiving. Agencies not looking out for their client’s best intentions will rebrand the same packages you are already receiving and try to sell them to you at a higher price.

If building your social presence is a priority for you and your company, the best digital marketing agencies will have solid strategies to grow your social media following organically. These strategies usually include sharing high-quality content, engaging with your audience regularly, and strategically posting during times of high activity. Always ask your agency to share their experience and goals regarding social media marketing before committing to a vague proposal. You can also look up companies on the Better Business Bureau for more information.

Local, Trusted Professionals

If you need professional digital marketing services but aren’t sure where to start, you can always contact a few companies and ask for proposals and recommendations based on what you’re trying to achieve. Levy Online can complete website audits and assessments to evaluate whether or not we are the best agency for you. 

Contact our team today to learn more about our services and how we can help you with your digital marketing efforts. We look forward to partnering with you.

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