Watch Out for Predatory Marketing Companies
September 22, 2022
Unfortunately the marketing industry is overloaded with businesses that thrive on using fear and misleading tactics to get the attention of small business owners with the sole intention of selling their services. Painting contractors are definitely one of the businesses they target.
We hear from clients all the time about an inquiry or warning they got from somebody making a claim that scared them into action. Here’s what to look out for and how you can investigate the claim yourself.
“You need to renew your domain immediately!”
Companies doing this are one of the worst offenders. They try to scare you into thinking your website will be going down very soon if you don’t pay them to renew your domain.
Yes, domain renewal is important. If you don’t keep your domain actively renewed your website will go down and you could even lose your domain quickly in an auction. But, in almost all cases the companies that are sending you these notices don’t hold your domain. They may be able to renew it for you, but they are going to charge you a significant premium to do that.
What to do
Check with your current website provider about the status of your domain. If they don’t manage it for you they should still be able to tell you who does the hosting and help you check on it.
If you manage your own website, you want to be sure that you keep track of who you originally selected as domain host and have login information available. If it’s too late for that, reach out to the platform you are using for your website to see if they can help you identify who you have registered your domain with.
You can also go to https://lookup.icann.org/en/lookup. Under Domain Information and then Dates, you should be able to see when your domain registration expires. You may also be able to get the contact information for the hosting company there.
Once you’ve got this information be sure to store it somewhere you will remember so that going forward you’ll know exactly where you stand.
“I found errors on your website!”
As a company that builds and manages websites for painting contractors, this is one of the most irritating tactics. Very rarely are there actually “errors.” When I think of “errors” I think of misspellings, incorrect information, maybe bad links, those types of things.
The follow up to these red flags usually takes one of two approaches neither of which are actually highlighting “errors”:
1. They highlight a bunch of things that are truly not affecting the website’s ability to search well and draw in customers
2. They hold your website to a standard that can only be met by the biggest brands.
Before mentioning the specific issues with both of these approaches, it’s important to note that what matters most is results. For almost all small businesses, the main job of your website is to get you found when somebody searches for the services you provide in your area. There are other things that are important like branding/reputation and conversions, but ultimately you want your website to show up toward the top of the organic search results.
If your website is showing up toward the top of the search results for the services you provide in your area, then there are no significant SEO or content issues or errors on your website. Case closed.
It’s important to note that there are very few “perfect” websites. It’s really easy for a marketing agency to nitpick and point out things that are wrong. And the worst of them will do that without any regard for the search results the website is producing.
Let’s dig a little bit further into the two approaches that I mentioned that are usually taken in these misleading efforts.
The deceiver will highlight a bunch of things that are truly not affecting the website’s ability to search well and draw in customers.
Some of the favorite focus areas here are load speed, citations or listings, and AMP.
Is load speed important? Yes, it is a known factor that Google uses in the search algorithm. Some predatory marketing or SEO agencies would have you believe that load speed is the number one factor in search. That is absolutely not proving to be true.
As far as citations, otherwise known as listings, there are really only a handful of these that are relevant anymore and you are probably already focused on them. They are Google, Facebook, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo. Why would Google care what City Search says about your business? Google owns search. Nobody has used City Search to find a local business in at least 10 years.
AMP is just not relevant to painting contractors.
What to do
First, check your search results. If you are showing up on the first page of the search results for the keywords related to your most important services, then disregard any of these claims.
If you are not seeing the search results you would like to see, load speed could be an issue. Reach out to your website provider to ask them to take a look at your search results and ask if load speed could be affecting them negatively.
When it comes to citations/listings, make sure your business information is accurate on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo. You should also check industry sources that you currently have profiles on (HomeAdvisor, Houzz etc.). Don’t be concerned about the rest.
Predatory marketing companies will hold your website to a standard that can only be met by the biggest brands.
Usually the biggest “errors” they highlight here are backlinks (links from other websites going to your website) and social media.
We recently looked at a report that was sent to one of our clients that gave them an F for Links and an F for Social Media. The F for links highlighted that they had 365 external backlinks. For a localized painting contractor, that’s pretty good! It is just plain deceptive to give them an F for that and shows no recognition of the true competition for the business.
The F for Social Media was given because they only had a Facebook page and didn’t have Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn profiles, or a YouTube channel. If you are a painting contractor who can consistently use those social media channels then that is great. If you don’t have the time, you are far better off putting the time you do have into one channel and not spreading yourself too thin by trying to use multiples. As for social media’s impact on SEO, it’s believed by experts to be minimal at best.
“Nobody can find your business on the web!”
The technique the evil companies trying to exploit you using this lie typically fall back on is to say that they didn’t find you in the Local Pack. The Local Pack is the box listing 3-4 businesses that shows up high on Google’s search engine results page right next to the map. There are several things that are deceptive about this approach:
1. The Local Pack results are significantly impacted by location. Most of the people perpetrating this lie just search for something like “painting contractor Milwaukee” from wherever they sit and then use those results to scare you. These are not the same results that somebody who was actually in Milwaukee searching for a painting contractor would see.
2. Somebody looking for a painting contractor is likely to click on the “More businesses” button at the bottom of the Local Pack to see the full list of options. Google’s treatment of service area businesses is notoriously fickle so you can get a better read on your results by looking at it that way.
3. Probably most important – more searchers click on the organic search results that show up below the Local Pack than do on the Local Pack results. If your website is showing up in the organic search results, that is what is most important.
What to do
Check for yourself. Search for “painting contractor” when you are in your number one targeted town or city. Are you showing up in the Local Pack? When you click on “More businesses” do you show up in the top 10? Is your website showing up in the organic search results?
If you don’t see your business anywhere, reach out to your website provider and ask them to take a look at how you are doing in local and organic search. If you manage your own website, ask somebody you trust in your network that knows a thing or two about websites if they can find your website and what they might suggest to help you search well if they can’t.
The Good News
I promise you, not all marketing firms are manipulative, self-interested jerks that only care about taking your money. I’ve seen a number of quality providers at PCA events and heard them on PCA podcasts and APC’s Paint Radio podcast.
If you have questions about anything I covered here, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-600-5166. I love to help small businesses and I hate to see business owners get taken advantage of by deceptive practices.