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Sneaky SEO Scam Targeting Bloggers

Bloggers, beware! There's a scheme aimed at you.
Tired eyes? Listen to it instead.
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One scammer recently tried to get me. What is interesting about this scheme is that they tried to make themselves look like the good guys by comparing themselves to… well… themselves.

It began with emails

I received a few similar emails several hours apart. Each one was a personalized letter with an offer to optimize my blog’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and bring more visitors to my site. Each one came from a different address.

All emails lacked the usual markers indicating a phishing attempt. They were well written, no spelling mistakes, no shady links to click, no weird email addresses or pretending to be some well-known company. They appeared to be genuine business offers. They were suspicious only because they arrived in such a close time frame from each other.

First email,

From: Dave Kingsford 
Hi, My name is Dave and I was just looking at your website cyberkitto.com and thought perhaps I would message you on your contact form to see if you need help. I really liked your website but noticed you weren't getting a lot of traffic to your site and your Alexa ranking wasn't as strong as it could be.

I can get 1,000’s of visitors looking at cyberkitto.com, ready to buy your product, service or signup for your offer. Our advertising network of over 9000 websites provides a low cost and effective online marketing solution that actually works. We can help your business get more online quality traffic by advertising your business on websites that are targeted to your market. The internet is a vast entity and kick starting your online business doesn’t have to take a ridiculous amount of cash. We’ll send real people to see your web site starting almost immediately!
In fact, I can get 10,000 highly targeted visitors to your website for as little as $39 just so you can test out our service.
Right now to make things really exciting you can get 200,000 Targeted visitors to you site in 30 days for only $299. If you'd like to talk personally please give me or Jim a call at 480-331-6775 9 to 5 MST USA.
I have a short video here that explains how everything works 
Best Regards,

And it was followed few hours later with a couple of these,

From: James Douglas 
Greetings, My name is James, I work as a Internet Business Analyst, and was doing research for another client when I came across your site cyberkitto.com. and thought I would message you on your contact form.
After doing a quick analysis of your website, I noticed a couple of issues that are most likely causing people to leave without making contact.
I really liked your website but noticed you weren't getting a lot of traffic to your site and your googla ranking wasn't as strong as it could be.
I can run a SEO audit of your site and give you a call to over the results for only $9.95.
Before you waste hundreds or even thousands of dollars on advertising give me the opportunity to show you the issues that are keeping you from getting more visitors to your site.
If you'd like to talk personally please give me a call at 480-457-0165 9 to 5 MST USA.

First of all, if the author truly believed he or she could help me sell my product or service, then obviously they didn’t even glance at this website. I’m not selling anything here. This would suggest that the messages were sent through a bot which crawled the Internet for unprotected contact forms. The emails were essentially spam.

I quickly checked the contact form I had just published on the blog and, as I feared, it lacked captcha. This was the reason why web crawling bots were able to send me those emails. The form has been fixed now. Feel free to use it. 😉

What bothered me about these emails was that their format and vocabulary were so similar that it looked as if the same person wrote them. Why risk activating my spidey sense by sending me multiple messages? Wouldn’t one message be more effective?

The scheme revealed

I finally realized that the intentions were not to flood my inbox with bait but to give me options.

If you look closer, the first offer is to test their SEO service for $39 or get a 30-day plan for $299. The second offer is a simple $9.95 service. 

While, I imagine, many bloggers would immediately dismiss anyone who wanted them to spend $300 on their blog, they might be more susceptible to a $10 offer. And that was the scammer’s intention, to create a perception of what it costs to get blog traffic. After the $300 price tag, $10 looks like a steal.

Scam or Spam?

I wondered, is this really a scam or is it a legitimate business offer in the form of spam? Legitimate companies spam people all the time after all. 

I deem this scheme a scam because of two factors:

  1. Use of web crawling bots. I refuse to work with anyone who utilizes shady methods to get my attention.
  2. The attempt to trick me. “The other guy is trying to rip you off. My service is cheaper.” That tactic is yet another shady method. Look back to point 1. to why I don’t like them.

Bloggers, beware

This can happen to you as well so be on the lookout. First of all, lock down your forms (including comments) to prevent bots from sending you messages. I use ReCaptcha. It’s easy to set up and implement.

Second of all, be aware of scam tactics out there. The traditional “Too good to be true” method of screening the chaos works well in most situations.

But most of all, don’t make rash decisions. Question everything.

What do you think about this scheme? Is it scam or spam? Did you get one like it? Let me know in the comments.

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