Another day, another snake oil merchant ripping off online small business owners


Another snake oil alert – hold on to your money (Image EvanDC via Flickr)

I am angry.

A new form of SEO-style snake oil merchant seems to have emerged from the internet undergrowth this week and I want to alert all Baker Marketing clients and readers of this blog to avoid them at all costs.

One of my clients, a small business operator, got approached through a cold-call telemarketer (already I am nervous) saying she can promise them lots of new business through their website and would they like to see a FREE report as an example?

The free report came and guess what? It was a flash looking report but its content was shoddy.

All it contained was a list of how many pages Google has in its index for my client’s site and three other competitor websites.

For the record, I am NOT saying they shared false information at all. In fact, what is in the reports is correct. However, it is the interpretation of the results that I am taking issue with, in grand terms!

Stay with me on this one because learning how this ‘service’ works will help you spot others.

And, remember, if you have a WordPress website and you are following my suggestions about blogging thoughtful content attractive to your prospective customers, you do NOT need any of these ‘tricks’ at all.

Smoke, mirrors and pseudo SEO

Imagine you are a small business owner who hears that new technology that is ‘not SEO’ is available to help you get more Google search result listings, meaning more traffic to your site, meaning more sales.

Would you be curious?

Firstly, I hope you know that if it is too good to be true it usually is.

Secondly, I hope you have a trusted consultant to refer such enquiries to. Luckily, my client contacted me.

Here is an anonymised version of the report my client was sent:


serc report

All they have done here is run a simple report on Google using the ‘site’ operator to find how many unique page listings Google has in its database.

You can do this with your site at any time, FOR FREE. Visit the Google website and in the search box type site:yourdomain, all in lower case without any spaces or www. For example, to look at our website I would type into a Google search box.

What might surprise you is that many database-driven sites (most of them these days) create numerous hundreds of ‘pages’ that sit in Google.

The Baker Marketing site has 526 pages in Google but only about two dozen ‘actual’ pages.

This is because every time we create a blog category or blog tag, the WordPress database creates a direct link to that information and, in effect, a page.

Any links are good links?

I have many concerns about this system that creates 1,000 instant search result listings (not actual pages, just entries for Google that point back to your home page or a designated page). Let’s list them:

1. Comparing the page listing numbers of national sites to local sites is apples to oranges. For a site to have 36,000 references in Google just means that the site has crafted entries that have triggered those pages, as well as other items generated by the website’s database. It DOES NOT represent NUMBERS OF CUSTOMERS searching for that company. I will argue that most of these pages are likely to have low or zero traffic AND much of it will be of NO relevance to our local client at all.

A site can have millions of objects listed in Google but that does not equate to millions of search queries.

Therefore, when that FREE report says, ‘out of 100 customers searching Google you get 0.51 potential customer [sic] and you lose 99.49 to competitors’, the company is being naive at best or disingenuous at worst.

2. All the links in the world cannot help you if there is no decent content. The argument about extra search engine listings leading to extra sales only has merit if the content at the end of that link has substance. This returns us to my major theme in this blog, online marketing rewards those who are following a passion and putting in the hard yards to craft content that is helpful to their target markets.

3. It is extremely likely that Google’s ongoing updates to its search result algorithm will catch up with tricks like these soon and rip meaningless, quickly-constructed search results from their system. Having said that, there may be some clever trick that prolongs this sleight of hand, but be sure, Google is marching closer every day to wiping out these ‘get to Google top rankings quickly’ schemes.

4. The telemarketer who dealt with me after my client put her onto me, got rather wobbly yesterday when I asked her to explain the FREE report. Unlike any other telemarketer, except for scam ones from overseas masquerading as Microsoft Security Center, she interrupted her own call when I challenged the validity of the information saying, I have an important call coming through, please hold. She returned and then as I asked a question that suggested I was not a sucker and actually knew what I was talking about, she then came up with, I need to take a call to help a client in trouble, I will call you back in half an hour. Nine hours later I am drafting this with no reply.

5. The Whirlpool forum has a discussion on this company underway, including some contributions from people sounding very much like company respresentatives: SERC Technology?

6. Another forum concurs with the Whirlpool forum that despite operators talking about a $6,000 price tag, customers are apparently offered this service for $3,000. And then, as I look through the terms and conditions, I see there is a monthly maintenance fee of $49.50 per month.

7. Finally, when a company’s about page uses a picture that looks identical to that of the Sofitel Budapest boardroom on the other side of the world, we have reason to be nervous. Take a look at the images, below of the SERC boardroom picture and the Sofitel Budapest boardroom (I have alerted Sofitel to the image and have a screenshot of the current SERC page – thank you Google images for helping in the detective work).


Top, the Sofitel Budapest boardroom. Below, the SERC Technology boardbroom on their about page. NOTE: Identical centrepieces, flowers, chairs, light, doors, etc. Avid Photoshop users can even see where the SERC logo is on the light fitting even though it is many metres in front of the screen.

Final thoughts

Whenever you get contacted by any email or telemarketing-lead company promising you amazing search engine results or warning you about virus or search engine bugs, please make sure you have somebody trusted you can turn to for a second opinion.

If you are a Baker Marketing client, please email or call us. Better still, do what my wise client did and tell them that ALL such decisions are made by us on their behalf.

If you have any friends in business, please share this with them.

If you get a chance to attend any of our online marketing workshops, please do, because we often cover this information.

I’ll be alerting the ABC television program, The Checkout, to help raise awareness.

And, if all else fails, take that money you would have spent on these schemes and pay yourself for taking some time out to plan, create and publish some useful content to your WordPress website!

Bonus tip

If you run a WordPress website and want to get 1,000 search results in Google, don’t spend $3,000 on the SERC system plus $49.50 per month, just add 1,000 relevant tags to your website using keywords important to you. We could do that for you for $300, however, I would much rather you crafted solid content that will have a lifelong value to your marketing effort.



1 Comment

  1. Jo

    Insightful as always Steve. I will share on my Facebook page.


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