Why Most Internet Marketing Services are Fraudulent
For purposes of this article the term “Internet marketing service” refers to both (1) traditional Internet marketing services, and (2) search engine optimization (SEO) services.
Our Definition of Fraud: Gross Misrepresentation
To say a service is fraudulent is not to mean or imply there is necessarily an intent to deceive or misrepresent, although that might be the case in any given scenario. The misrepresentation may be entirely unintentional due to incompetence. However for you, the client seeking professional assistance, it does not matter; you aren’t getting what you were led to believe you would get.
Internet marketing is a classification of marketing efforts that take place entirely online, leveraging various technologies, platforms, services and techniques for the purpose of driving website traffic to a targeted website. As with any marketing effort, the intent is ultimately to increase sales.
The central target of Internet marketing activities is usually a company website. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are applied to the website, and powerful online ad networks are frequently engaged to place ads around the Internet and in apps running on mobile devices. The ads link to various landing pages on the target company website.
Platforms and Ad Networks
There are a number of sophisticated technical platforms and ad networks on the Internet. HubSpot, Google AdSense and Google AdWords are just a few examples of extremely powerful platforms. The major social media platforms each have their own powerful advertising services targeting users within their respective reach.
Complexity and Constant Evolution
Every major Internet advertising service is tremendously sophisticated. Learning how to properly leverage these services is a very time-consuming undertaking. Many of the platforms and services offer professional certification to provide some external validation of one’s competence with the service.
And every major Internet advertising service is constantly evolving; becoming more sophisticated and more complicated every year. To keep up with the change requires an enormous investment in continuing education on the part of true professionals.
Because of the tremendous amount of sophistication, complexity and constant evolution of the Internet’s most powerful marketing platforms, it is rare to find an Internet marketing professional or company that has taken the time to become initially well-qualified to offer effective Internet marketing services. Even if well-qualified at some point in time, it is rare to find a professional or company that has sufficiently invested in the continuing education required in order to remain well-qualified and informed on the latest developments in this highly competitive, highly complex and constantly evolving landscape.
The deception at the root of most Internet Marketing offerings starts with a simple premise that is magnified by the wishful thinking of small business owners. The simple premise is the fact that, “There are billions of eyeballs on the Internet and if we can get even some tiny percentage to become customers, we’ll get a large increase in business.”
While this is a perfectly logical observation, the reality is often far less than desired. But it is this perfectly logical observation that forms the basis of the wishful thinking on the part of business owners.
The Internet marketing service offerings directly leverage that “perfectly logical” expectation to form the basis of their specifically worded promise, which is to get more traffic to your website. However, they describe the offering, it is all about more traffic to your website. Some even guarantee more traffic. And they usually deliver on that promise, guaranteed or not.
What’s the problem? Where is the deception? The deception lies in the assumption on the part of the business owner, and on the implication of Internet marketing offerings, that the additional website traffic will be from people who are in the target market and region of the business (i.e., relevant traffic). But that is frequently not the result.
The increased traffic can (and frequently is) from people who are somehow not in the targeted market. Even if they are otherwise qualified, it could be they are out of the geographical region and therefore cannot become a customer even if they want to. When the traffic is not relevant, the incrase in website hits/visits is not useful to the business.
Negative Consequences for Small Businesses
The big problem with substantial increases in traffic for which most of the traffic is irrellevant is lost time and money pursuing the fruitless Internet marketing endeavor.
In some extreme cases, the irrelevant traffic can even hurt the company. For example, we have a website customer who engaged a big “reputable” Internet marketing firm. That firm promised increased traffic, and they delivered on that promise. Not only did the website visits increase substantially, but our customer immediately started receiving a lot of phone calls on a phone number dedicated to the ads published by the Internet marketing firm. Unfortunately, none of the additional phone calls number were from qualified sales prospects. In fact, most of the phone calls were from people outside of the relevant geographical area. And they were frequently calling to inquire about OTHER competing service providers in the same industry. Our customer, in effect, became the information booth for their industry.
After giving this scenario a few weeks to improve, our customer approached the big “reputable” Internet marketing firm and asked them to discontinue the service. They denied his request, saying they were fulfilling their contractual obligation to deliver increased traffic. They even produced charts and graphs unambiguously showing the increased traffic to both the website and dedicated telephone number as proof their service was delivering as promised.
Of course, the Internet marketing firm was right; they delivered exactly what was promised; increased traffic. They never promised relevant traffic. The lesson? Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.
A Useful Test
If you are considering engaging an Internet marketing consultant, firm or other service, you can expect they will promise increased traffic. So, rather than inquiring about increased traffic and how wonderful those numbers might be, you would do better to inquire specifically about relevant and qualified traffic. You could, for example, ask if they can guarantee a decrease in bounce rate for website traffic. In our experience no Internet marketing professional or service has claimed to be able to reduce bounce rate. In fact, when we have directly inquired about their ability to lower bounce rate, the question has made them visibly uncomfortable, and they then talked about how there are no guarantees, or otherwise attacked the question – somehow implying it is not a valid question. Think about that.