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How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con-artist? Too often, we trust our guts and go with the gregarious person, but too much is on the line to keep doing that with your business.

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In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

  • Who influences you professionally?
  • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
  • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
  • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
  • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
  • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
  • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
  • May we audit your process before buying your services?
  • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
  • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
  • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
  • Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
  • How many clients have you had in the past?
  • How many clients do you have currently?
  • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
  • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
  • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
  • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
  • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
  • Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

    It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

    And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

    You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

    Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

    No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

    How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
    • Can you see a list of their past clients?
    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)

    You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

    Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

    Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

    This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

    You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

    They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

    If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…

    What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

    Final thoughts:

    “But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

    The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.

    The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

    I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

    I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

    Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

Jay Matthew is the Founder of Business Rehab LLC., in Austin Texas. He has spent the last 11 years helping hundreds of businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals to identify the issues keeping them from being successful... and then helping to surmount those issues.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist - techinsiderinfo

  2. Pingback: How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider a con-artist – The American GeniusDave Hendricks Blog | Dave Hendricks Blog

  3. Lori Appleman

    May 10, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Nice article Jay. I agree people should do some research before hiring someone for these services. So many providers are mediocre at best.

    However, I’m confused or would like clarification of a few of your points.

    What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know? Should a firm be judged because they don’t like Expert A’s approach? What about the business owner who doesn’t understand the differences between Neal Patel, Marie Haynes or Brian Dean? What if you’re like us and, while you do use everything you’ve learned from both key influencers and experience, your techniques and applications of that learned from others are pretty darn unique?

    The CV’s of my team? Our owner CVS are visible on LinkedIn or upon request. Our team? That borders on confidential info though I have no problem with a customer asking to verify Google or other certifications. Ultimately they are under our supervision.

    Why does it matter if someone has ever been part of an MLM? I sold Tupperware (well) in the 80’s, how does that impact my current business? Seems like an odd question.

    and more –
    Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does? How does what services I sell to others impact my clients? In other words, how is this question relevant?

    I really like the question about how many of my competitors do you actively work with? Past experience in a market is helpful. Current competitors under contract creates a conflict of interest.

    May we audit your process before buying your services? Define audit. I am happy to discuss strategies and our processes but I am not letting you see customer data. I will offer up customers and past customers as references?

    May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality? Maybe. There are several reputable competitors I trust with that info, but in general? Probably not. I’m not interested in giving away our key differentiators.

    Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals? How do I know their credentials to make this assessment?

    Measure my website’s SEO and PPC? We actually do pretty well on SEO for our site but as a small company, our customer work takes precedence over our own website. I admit I personally won’t hire a web developer with an awful site, but this isn’t necessarily the best judge of skill for a smaller firm, unless the site is really bad. Plus I find that the overwhelming majority of store owners have no clue how to interpret those tools.

    I have heard so many horror stories, and have been personally burned (before starting the company) by people selling these services to me that did not even come close to delivering promised results. I agree people need to know what questions to ask to make a good pre-purchase assessment of any professional they hire for their business.

    I also agree that this area has no shortage of weak consultants and for SEO, completely dishonest ones, that caution is merited.

    Perhaps your questions are good but I’d love to know how you chose this list, and for clarification on some points above.

  4. Peter Christie

    May 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Hello Jay, I think these questions are empowering for the buyer. Even if they don’t understand all the answers, anyone going through this list will at least have learned a few things. A competent service provider has probably already answered these questions enough to have some scripts in their imagination, if not ready to go.

    The Questions:

    Who influences you professionally?
    For SEO Matt Cutts. For AdWords Pat East. For Conversion it’s got to be Brian Massey.

    Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
    My space doesn’t attract many coaches. Kim Tidwell is my co-conspirator.

    What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
    Lean and Agile. Lean because it helps me learn what’s working, it helps me find risky assumptions and test them. Agile because not everything is ready to go all the time and it helps me prioritize what the client wants.

    Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
    People don’t seem to have any problems with being paid to edit Wikipedia entries. I think editing Wikipedia for money goes beyond what makes the platform special and leads to less consistent content.

    How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
    Well my company does not do well with non-brand ads. But the ads I do run I prune them for negative keywords. Also my site has a complete Technical SEO setup that gives me the presence I need.

    Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
    For sure. Two of my people have been with me over a year, and the other four between 1 and 12 months.
    Instead of CV’s I offer to show their certifications.

    Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
    No, I’m not sure we ever have. Other people white label my company.

    May we audit your process before buying your services?
    My process is transparent. They are unique to the tactic, but really it starts with a good checklist to get your site to a serviceable level, then working on the items most likely to succeed.

    May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
    Fine with me!

    Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
    Fine with me!

    Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
    I can show 100 examples. I’ve been in digital for almost 20 years, and have at least 40 examples from the last year.

    Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
    I have 4. I would guess to stay up to date each year I spend 100 hours.

    How many clients have you had in the past?
    I just looked at the past 12 months 31.

    How many clients do you have currently?
    Right now I think 15 are paying for service.

    How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
    Probably 15, more than that I and I add staff.

    How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
    Your company Business Rehab. 3 or 4.

    How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
    We have a form for you so it’s as long as it takes you to complete it. 2 weeks is the goal.

    Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
    I’m going to look at your web analytics and your advertising spend. Either you are not getting accurate data or you are overspending.

    Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
    No, but I think it’s interesting.

    Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
    I sold cologne at the mall for a couple hours when I was 18.

  5. Andy

    August 14, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Insightful and candid article. Shines a light on the unscrupulous ‘thought leaders and cult gurus’ you mention, who hide behind mystical notions of the internet (that they themselves propagate) in pursuit of ill-gotten gains.

    Great read, thanks.

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Social Media

New Reddit policy on impersonation mimics other social media giants

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Reddit is the latest social media company to change their policy to protect against deepfake impersonation, because of the harm they can cause.

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impersonation with deepfakes

Reddit is the latest social media company making updates to their rules and policies ahead of the 2020 election. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and now Reddit are all trying to make the social internet a safer place to receive information.

Reddit’s new policy officially bans impersonation with the goal of handling “bad actors who are trying to manipulate Reddit, particularly are issues of great public significance, like elections.”

Deepfakes have become a key topic of conversation the last few years. In the wake of the mass spreading of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election, users have grown wearier than ever of the information they see online. Deepfakes are no longer a niche subject, but an everyday pain point that technology companies are scrambling to control.

In a statement made on r/redditsecurity, Reddit informed users of the change to website policy stating, “Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity.”

The platform isn’t trying to make a mass change to it’s often humor driven culture. Parody and satire are still allowed forms of impersonation so long as the joke is obvious. Reddit has vowed to always take context into account when looking at cases of user impersonation.

It’s a good sign for society when popular social platforms start taking their role in controlling the spread of false information seriously. Companies like Reddit are in a position to create real change in the way we spread and consume information about major global events.

What’s unclear is how much man power these companies are putting behind their policies. Reddit ends their statement by pointing users to a report form that users can submit if they or someone else is the victim of impersonation. The question users should be asking is how long would it take to get a response or see action on these reports?

Policy changes are great, but if companies are simply throwing them onto their fine print with no resources behind enforcement then it’s not social change, it’s just legal jargon to protect their ass.

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Social Media

Image size is a vital factor into usability of your brand

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Keep all of your social media profiles and products looking their best with the social media image size cheat sheet for 2020.

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image size matters

We can safely say that the one thing social media will assuredly do in 2020 is only get more powerful. As such, it’s important to keep up with the sizing information for social media images to keep all of your profiles looking fresh. Make A Website Hub has the official rundown in their annual Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet.
Twitter:
• Profile Photo: 400 x 400 pixels / Displays at 200 x 200 pixels (a maximum 100 KB file size)
• Header Photo: 1500 x 500 pixels (a maximum 10 MB file size)
• In-stream Photo: 440 x 220 pixels (a maximum 5 MB file size for photos and 3 MB file size for animated gifs)

Facebook:
• Cover Photo: 820 x 310 pixels (a preferred maximum file size of 100 KB)
• Profile Picture: 180 x 180 pixels
• Shared Image: 1200 x 630 pixels
• Shared Link: 1200 x 627
• Event Image: 1920 x 1080 px (Shows in feed: 470 × 174 pixels)
• Highlighted Image: 1200 x 717 pixels (appears on profile at 843 x 504 pixels)

Google+:
• Profile Image: 250 x 250 pixels
• Cover Picture: 1080 x 608 pixels
• Shared Image: 497 x 373 pixels

Instagram:
• Profile Picture: 110 x 110 pixels
• Photo Size: 1080 x 1080 pixels
• Video to Stories: 750 x 1334 pixels
• Photo Thumbnails: 161 x 161 pixels

Pinterest:
• Profile Picture: 165 x 165 pixels
• Board Display Image: 222 x 150 pixels
• Pin Sizes: a width of 238 pixels (with scaled height)

Tumblr:
• Profile Image: 128 x 128 pixels
• Image Posts: 500 x 750 pixels

YouTube:
• Channel Cover Picture: 2560 x 1440 pixels (for desktop), 1855 x 423 pixels (for tablets), 1546 x 423 pixels (for smartphones), and 2560 x 1440 pixels (for TV)
• Video Uploads: 1280 x 760 pixels

LinkedIn:
• Personal Page
o Personal Background image: 1584 x 396px
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400 pixels
o Profile image: 400 x 400 pixels
• Company/Brand Page
o Background image: 1536 x 768px
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400px
o Business / Career Cover Picture: 974 x 330 pixels
o Square Logo: 60 x 60px
o Business Banner Image: 646 x 220 pixels
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400px

Ello:
• Banner image: 2560 x 1440 pixels
• Profile image:360 x 360 pixels

WeChat:
• Profile Photo: 200 x 200 pixels
• Article Preview Header: 900 x 500 pixels
• Article Preview Thumbnail Image: 400 x 400 pixels (Displays at 200 x 200 pixels)
• Article Inline Image: 400 px x Any size px

Weibo:
• Cover Image: 920 x 300 px
• Profile Pictures: 200 x 200px (Displays at 100 x 100 px)
• Banner: 560 x 260 px
• Instream: 120 x 120 px
• Contest Preview: 640 x 640 px

Snapchat:
• Geofilter: 1080 x 1920

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Social Media

Facebook wants to show how “inclusive” it is with new logo

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook has a new logo, but you won’t see any change on the mobile app. The social network giant wants to expand to be more inclusive with this logo

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social network facebook typeface

Facebook has a new logo, but you won’t see any change on the mobile app. It’s easy to think of Facebook as just the social network where you avoid (or start) political debates with friends and family, but that’s just a piece of the picture. The new logo reflects Facebook’s ongoing expansion as a company beyond their original social network.

Facebook’s roots as a social networking company are undeniable. People have been using the platform to connect with family and friends across the globe since 2004. For many of us, Facebook is part of our everyday lives. It’s how we chat with friends across the globe, meet our partners, join communities, and sometimes it’s even part of our work life.

We have seen Facebook take on some big new projects this year including the announcement of Facebook Horizon, a social virtual reality world expected to launch in 2020. Facebook’s identity as a company now expands far beyond the Facebook app.

Facebook is the parent company of 74 companies including some equally popular and well-known apps such as Instagram and Whatsapp. The company operates out of 60 offices world-wide and employs over 43,000 people.

The new logo is part of an effort to create a clearer distinction between Facebook the parent company and Facebook the social network.

According to Facebook, “The new company branding is designed to help us better represent the diversity of products we build, establish a distinction from the Facebook app and communicate our purpose in the world.”

Facebook wordmark gif

The main design differences between the two logos are the font and the color. The corporate logo is designed in all caps using a font designed in-house. The type is san serif and open with consistent letter width throughout.

Unlike the true shade of blue that we all associate with the social network’s logo, the color of the new corporate logo will be fluid. The color will change depending on the environment such as the product it’s promoting. The corporate logo can be depicted as either solid colors or a gradient.
Facebook has been more than just a social network for a long time, now their logo can help them reflect that.

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