Common marketing scams and what to do if you’re approached

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Over the years, we’ve had several clients who have come across marketing or website scams of some form or another. For some reason, the advisory marketplace appears to be targeted a little more than other sectors we work with. Thankfully, scams and other less-than-desirable approaches are fairly easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for and how to deal with them.

In light of yet another client receiving such an approach this week, it seemed sensible to use this space to summarise exactly what you might come across out there, in the marketing Wild West!

The SEO/’you’re not on Google’ approach

The approach to a client this week, by an agency of less-than-outstanding repute, focused on the fact that they were ‘not on Google’. Whilst this particular approach perhaps doesn’t quite count as a ‘scam’, that phrase alone should set the alarm bells off. Typing your firm’s name and perhaps its location into Google should give you the answer. If you are there, then the agency has already lied to you and I’d counsel hanging up the phone there and then on that basis.

If you can in fact see, or have pointed out to you, some problem with your Google listing (perhaps your logo doesn’t feature, or there’s some errant text somewhere) then I would still proceed with caution. Look at it this way: if one of your clients received a cold call offering a better deal for them if they moved their pension, you’d urge them to not follow the advice. There are plenty of good marketing firms out there without needing to follow a high-priced cold caller down the Google rabbit hole. And that’s before we’ve even started on whether a concerted SEO effort is the right marketing strategy for you and your firm!

The ‘your domain is about to expire’ approach

These were extremely common a few years ago and still pop up from time to time. You’ll receive a simple email stating that your main website domain (www.yourcompanyname.co.uk) is about to expire and that you’ll lose access to it in a certain number of days, unless you renew now for a number of pounds.

The first course of action with any approach like this is to check whether it has merit or not. Domains do expire, but your domain should be held by yourself directly – through a registration service like 123-reg.co.uk – by your web hosting provider or by your website company. In 99% of cases, whoever holds your domain will tell you you are set up to automatically renew and you need do nothing.

In the remaining number of cases, the spammer has made a lucky guess, but your existing provider will be able to renew for you (normally at a much cheaper rate), or the email will prove to have actually come from your existing provider and you can take action with them!

You should never need to just hand over the money though – in all likelihood, the spammers end goal is to trick you into switching your renewal from your existing provider to them at a much higher price and for a much worse level of service. Always consult with your existing provider, or get in touch with a trusted firm to track down your arrangement.

The ‘your competitors have given up these great domains, why don’t you buy them?’ approach

In this scenario, you’ll receive a pitch that a domain similar to your own, or related to what you do in some way, is available for purchase. Normally, mention of another local firm failing to renew, or similar, will be made. Often the domain will seem to have some search worth for you. For example, if you’re a firm based in Bolton then the spammer may pitch www.financialadviserbolton.co.uk to you.

The domain names could seem tempting but, remember, a domain name is largely useless without a website. The spammer may try to tell you that you could just point the new domain towards your existing website but this is an old SEO trick, Google are wise to it and it adds little value.

Ignoring these offerings entirely is usually your best bet.

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