Avoid Online Marketing Scams

How Digital Marketing Companies are Robbing Small Businesses


In today's blog, I'm covering a topic that hit a friend of mine pretty hard, like thousands of dollars.

I decided to write this blog post to educate you on how some corrupt digital marketing companies are robbing small businesses.

As I was saying, my friend's small business became a victim of this scam. It cost him thousands of dollars over just a few months.

He was pretty bummed once he realized he'd been had.

It made me realize; there are probably many small businesses that are victimized by companies like this every year.

If you're looking to grow your small business with online marketing, this blog post may save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation.

Maybe your company's already working with one of these corrupt online marketing firms.

If so, I'll show you what to look for to determine if your marketing company's legit.

How Did This Happen?

My friend has a small accounting business, and he wanted to grow by connecting with new customers.

He's an accountant, not a marketing professional.

He understands that marketing is vital to creating awareness for his business, and it's how he'll acquire new customers.

But he doesn't understand the internet, digital marketing, ad networks, or social media. None of it.

He found an online marketing firm that would build his website, create all his ads, and run his ads.

It seemed like an easy all-in-one solution, so he signed a one-year contract.

Warning Signs of Online Marketing Scam Companies

I want to teach you some ways to avoid getting into a contract with one of these scam companies.

What are the warning signs or red flags?

How can you verify the ad networks they're using?

If you're already involved with a company you suspect could be a scam, what can you look for in their reports to determine if your suspicions are correct?

Here are some things to look out for when you're selecting an online marketing company.

Integrated Marketing Solution:

By integrated, they mean your website, ads, ad network, listing services, everything, is owned and managed by the same company.

Company Owns its Ad Network:

If the company owns its ad network, this is a big red flag.

Ideally, your ads would be served via Google's Ad Exchange, Facebook's Audience Network, or if you have an Amazon store using Amazon's Publisher Service.

Many other top tier ad networks have a broad reach to ensure your ads will be viewed by quality traffic.

While these crooked companies may place an ad on Facebook for you, they'll make sure most of your marketing spend stays within their network and, therefore, their pockets.

Long Term Contracts:

Avoid long term contracts. With an internet marketing company, you should expect to retain them for several months at a minimum.

If you are looking at a long term contract, for example, one year, make sure there is an easy out. Less than 60 days is ideal.

Template Built Websites:

Cookie-cutter template-driven websites are not the worst thing in the world. So long as they look great and function properly on mobile devices.

Let's talk about my friend's website.

Please help my business!

Let us drive more traffic for you.

We will never spam you.

Deeper Review of the Template-Built Website

The template-driven website they created for his company was adequate.

It was mobile friendly but scored low for mobile performance in Google's Lighthouse tool.

Bad template website design. Avoid online marketing scams. Bad template website design. Avoid marketing scam.

The website severely lacked content.

Every page was identical except for a title change.

There was very little text, which made it keyword light.

Alright, let's take a look at the ads they created.

Review of the Template-Built Ad Creative

These ads were built using a template system and were not designed for my friend's business.

The ads lack a clear call to action. The main text is small and difficult to read.

How to spot bad online marketing ad Avoid bad ad creative. Scam ads with bad CTA

The real tell will be the performance. Let's check out the reports.

Banner Click Activity

The data shows a majority of his ads were served on mobile devices.

Report showing most of the clicks came via mobile devices.

Mobile ads can target specific types of applications or websites where accidental clicks are the majority of the interactions.

Directing ads to high click mediums is a common practice that evil marketing companies use to burn through your advertising budget.

Another alarming fact about this report is that Google does not appear.

The one Yahoo click he received cost him $25.67.

Notice there is only one click.

The marketing company doesn't get that money as it's not running on their network. Same with Facebook clicks.

It's in their best interest to serve most of the marketing budget to their internal ad networks and keep most of your money for themselves.

We should look at the website traffic they're reporting.

Web Traffic Report

It's frustrating that they're not using Google Analytics.

Most of his website traffic is coming from the direct channel. This means someone typed his URL into their browser.

The source column tells us which interactions were "Display" or "Organic."

"Organic" is a free, no-cost channel. "Display" is a paid channel that originated from an ad network.

Report showing most of the visitation was direct.

The only Google traffic he got was "organic." or someone searching for his business in Google.

Not running any ads on Google is a huge red flag.

So, where did his ads "actually" run?

We see a few "Display" clicks from Facebook.

But the rest are from searchalgo.com, mosthappy.com, and the list goes on with these bogus websites owned and operated by the marketing company he hired.

The numbers don't tie together with the other report.

In Conclusion

My friend trusted this agency to grow his business, and they failed.

Their entire business model is designed to take advantage of small business owners.

By avoiding Google and spending very little on Facebook or other reputable networks, they funneled all his ad spend into their network.

He told me he called them and asked, "What is going on? Why am I not seeing any traffic?"

They assured him that the marketing performance they see in these reports is excellent.

They made him feel like it's something he's doing wrong on his business side, and they kept directing him to the click report showing hundreds of clicks to his website.

Let Us Help You

If, like my friend, you've also been the victim of one of these crooked online marketing companies, know you are not alone.

If you're concerned because you think you may be working with one of these corrupt companies, and you'd like help, please contact me.

I'd be happy to talk to you about any marketing challenges you're facing and give you solid advice to grow your company using online marketing.

Let us audit your online agency for you. We'd be happy to help you.

We can determine if they are providing the services they promised or taking your business for a ride.

Contact Us

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