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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nefarious Black Hat Con Men (Continued, Ad Infinitum)

This is a must-read column by Danny Sullivan chronicling his exchange with a morally-challenged "Idiot Link Broker". The relentlessness of the sales pitch aside, you also have to ask - insofar as the sales rep began referring to Danny in the first person - did this idiot not even know who Danny Sullivan is? You're flogging a link scheme and explaining (and distorting) Google's guidelines to Danny like he is a three-year old. Will wonders never cease!?

One part of the story that really stands out for me is the issue of apparent credentials. This lying, cheating "company" is (like thousands by now) "Google AdWords Qualified." This relatively meaningless designation means that someone managed to study for and pass a test. It says zero about true marketing acumen, background, talent, track record, or depth.

The worst companies, from what I've seen, load up on thin credentials. If you're researching a digital marketing company's reputation, see if you can drill down to their *real* reputation. What are the people's names? What have they done? Have they spoken at trade events? Do real clients go to bat for them? How about a photo and evidence of blogging coherently, or some other evidence of depth? Have they been quoted in the press extensively? Do they belong to, or have solid ties with, an established, professional, national level trade association of one form or another (I don't count SEMPO)? Have they been written about? Do they write about others? Would they be willing to talk about a variety of industry trends and strategies with you, without constantly circling back to a high pressure sales pitch for a narrowly-conceived product?

And though I am loath to invoke it: are they the kind of person you'd care to sit down and have a beverage with?

All we can do is keep publishing warnings like Danny's column. That won't stop determined scammers from pursuing their tedious career paths.

P.S.: To Danny: if you send money, I will leave the above link live. For an extra fee, I will change the anchor text.

P.P.S.: To Matt Cutts: you get that I'm kidding right?

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