Digital Marketing Scams – 5 Ways Small Businesses Get Scammed

Read over five ways digital marketing companies scam small businesses before it happens.

Scam #1. Scammy or ineffective SEO services

Digital marketing scams

I was talking to someone recently because I’m kind of getting into SEO services. SEO is something I know quite a bit about, but it’s not something I’ve been offering as a service. It’s just by demand.

A friend of mine came to me and said, “Hey, I’m doing SEO with this company.”, and they were charging him several thousand dollars a month for their services. And he was like, “I don’t think I’m getting much out of it. Would you mind taking a look?”

They had been working with this company for three months and spending several thousand dollars a month. The title tag and meta description for the homepage of the site, they were not optimized for any keyword. I couldn’t see any on page optimization done and there were no links built. Effectively nothing was done on the site. And he was like, “Man, I felt like I just lost $9,000 kind of doing nothing.”

The problem with SEO in general, is it’s basically just like voodoo. SEO service is the easiest one to get scammed in.

Digital Marketing Scams

But the main idea is, what are they ranking for? Look at their site. There’s a tool called you could put their site in that website. It will tell you their domain authority, what they’re ranking for, who’s linking to them etc. And then, who are their clients, what keywords are their clients ranking for because if they’re not ranking for anything or if their clients aren’t ranking for anything, just don’t use them. It’s that simple.

If you ever get a cold email from someone telling you they offer SEO services, run and hide. Because if they knew SEO services, they wouldn’t be out doing cold email outreach, would they?

No, they wouldn’t.

Scam #2. Selling you a template instead of a custom website

Digital marketing scams

Basically a website can cost anything from free to $20 for like a template to a couple of hundred dollars to $20,000 or $30,000 for a custom site.

What’s the difference? Why is there such a big difference?

Well, the main idea is a custom WordPress site or any custom website, it’s fully custom. They’re designing something new and original that hasn’t been seen anywhere else on the web. They’re creating it in Photoshop, they’re coding it as an actual website. They’re creating a backend interface for you to make it easy to edit and update on your own. Hopefully they’re tagging it for SEO and not screwing up your old web, but they’re doing a lot of things.

And a template is just basically something that’s already been done which can be fine. It can be an okay looking site, but it’s slightly generic. It has to be because it has to work with a lot of different businesses, and it’s just framework. It’s like buying Ikea furniture. It’s pre-made and there’s really not a lot of flexibility to it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a template website as long as it’s completely transparent as to that’s what’s going on and the pricing is according to that.

I did a proposal once for a client and I didn’t work out and it was a $25,000 website and so I remember checking in on the site six months later. The new site was up and I looked at it, I was like, “This is a template website”. So I checked it out. You can view the source code and sure enough, it was a template website and they spent like 25,000 on that site. I emailed the person, and she was like horrified to find that out.

Digital Marketing Scams

But you know those things happen sometimes. So don’t buy a template website. If you don’t know how, here’s a video on how to spot a template.

Scam #3. Locking you into contracts

Digital marketing scams

This can either be an SEO contract or even worse, a website contract, but basically, they’re not letting you go. You have to pay to play. They also kind of threaten you so that if you leave at any point, they’re going to take away your backlinks, which theoretically they can do. If they set it up in a certain way, they can take away all of your backlinks on SEO ranking or if they own the website, they can take that away.

So, before you get into anything, look at the paperwork, make sure that you have full ownership of the website. If you’re doing SEO services, make sure that those links don’t go away, if you stop working with them. So, pay your due diligence here and really pay attention to that contract.

Otherwise, you could, end up screwed there.

Scam #4. Not giving you full ownership of your website

Digital marketing scams

Depending on how you go, they might have their own proprietary CMS or even use a WordPress website, but then control it in such a way that you don’t have full access or ownership to it. So really make sure that the site you’re getting is your website, that you own the codebase, you own the design, you own the rights to it and that you’re not locked into any kind of plan where you have to keep paying money to have ownership for your website because that’s a common practice. If there’s a contract, you have to look it over and ask them, “When this project is over do I own the website?” and make sure they say yes before you go forward working with them.

Scam #5. Overcharging for basic services

Digital marketing scams

Another client I worked with had been approached by an SEO firm, and they were talking about $500 or $600 a month but it was super basic stuff. They will install Google analytics, get the pages marked up properly, install Google search console. Everything I just mentioned can be done in 10 minutes and it never have to be done again. And somehow they feel like they have to charge ongoing fees for it. Setting up a report in Google analytics that gets emailed to you once a month, takes about 10 minutes to set up and you never have to do anything again. Probably not worth $600 a month to have that service.

You don’t have to get a license to become a website designer or an SEO service. And most people don’t even know what it is. That’s the problem. And so, people can get away with charging wild fees for not so impressive services.


Hopefully this guide will keep you aware of potential digital marketing scams. If you’re buying a website, do you like their portfolio? If you don’t love their portfolio, then don’t choose to work with them because they’re not going to be good.

If they’re selling SEO services, who are the clients that rank with them? Can you call them up and verify that that was them? If they sell SEO services, and they don’t rank for anything, run for the door because that’s the bottom line. You want to work with someone who can get the results that they offer.

Just keep in mind to always do your research before you sign the dotted line.

Have you ever been scammed before? Is there something that you’ve had a bad experience? Leave a comment below and let us know of any scams you have encountered.

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