Common digital marketing scams and how to avoid them

Digital marketing has become a multi-billion dollar industry that spreads to local businesses and major corporations across the globe. As such, it is a highly competitive market, with an endless number of individuals and agencies looking to find their place among the competitors. Unfortunately, the overall competitiveness of this niche has created a number of so-called “expert digital marketers” who use fraudulent activities to profit from the companies that make the mistake of hiring them. To help raise awareness of this issue, Digital Dot offers you its take on recognizing and avoiding the most common digital marketing scams out there.

Image of a businessman offering a handshake.
Avoid common digital marketing scams by learning about the most popular ones.

According to reports, digital advertising accounted for roughly half of the global ad market, with over 330 billion dollars worth of investments. And this is a number that is expected to grow as high as 400 billion by the end of 2020. The fact is that digital ad spending on a global scale is continuously growing, slowly leaving traditional marketing strategies in the dust. And marketers all over the world are more and more aware of that, leading them to adapt their offer to a more digitally-oriented audience.

How big of a threat are fraudulent digital marketing agencies?

As the annual volume of investments in digital marketing efforts grows, so do the expanses related to fraudulent activities in this niche. In fact, statistical data predicts an exponential growth of costs incurred due to digital ad fraud. And given how different digital marketing strategies continue to evolve on a regular basis, it is becoming increasingly difficult to instantly detect the fraudulent ones from the legitimate ones.

Scam detection processes are constantly being developed and improved, but are still far from perfect. And so, the next best option is to gather as much knowledge on pre-existing cases of common digital marketing scams and to simply steer your business away from them.

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Established digital marketing agencies are just as frustrated with frauds as business owners are.

In 2019, over a quarter of marketers across the globe expressed their concerns regarding digital advertising fraud, while another two quarters are aware of the issue. And this issue is not only problematic for businesses that hire digital marketing agencies. It also hurts the overall credibility of reputable marketers, making it harder for them to establish long-term bonds with potential clients from the start. And that is another reason why most will warn against the popular black hat tactics that less knowledgeable marketing agencies are willing to use.

5 common digital marketing scams that you should look out for

Most agencies have a well-established system of action plans in terms of digital ad strategies they use. Whether it comes down to SEO development, PPC management, creation of responsive web design, social media marketing, or any other approach – there are core methods that are known and deliverable online.

The fraudulent freelancers or agencies we speak of here use the afore-mentioned strategies to trick clients into signing contracts with them under the premise of helping them grow their businesses online. False promises, complex terminology, well-developed schemes to cover any potential concerns people have – these are all tools that such companies use. And even if you are not marketing savvy or familiar with how digital marketing tactics work, you need to be able to spot such scams before it’s too late.

1. Promises of major directory listings

For most industries today, online directories are a source of visibility and value for businesses. However, companies can only gain value and boost their brand awareness by creating accounts on directory listings relevant to their niche. There are well-established directories that cover multiple industries such as Yelp, the BBB, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, etc. And then, you have those listings which are more industry-oriented.

  • For example, moving and storage companies will often focus on sites such as Verified Movers, Move With Movers, Public Movers, movingcompany.com, etc.

On the other hand, you have online directories that are not only irrelevant to your industry but are also low-quality and offer no value or potential leads for your business. And one of the common digital marketing scams you will come across is marketers promising to create “top-quality listings” for companies. They tie it all up with an expensive pricing rate, having companies pay for listings on hundreds of useless directories. In the end, your business not only ends up paying large amounts of money for listings that yield no results. You also run the risk of damaging your brand by having profiles on low-quality listings.

How can you avoid this scenario?

Have the digital marketing agency submit monthly reports of all the directories they created a listing for your business on. Ask for links as well as the reasoning behind how these listings bring value to your business.

2. Brokering deals by using your website performance issues against you

If you look hard enough, you can find an issue with any given website in most cases. And this is a popular tactic among digital marketers. Professional web development efforts can provide real-time value, boosting your online presence in the process. So, most companies want a high-performing website that generates leads and has high volumes of traffic. Sometimes, optimizing a website requires unconventional and modern solutions which can be misrepresented as issues.

Fraudulent marketers will often look to take advantage of these so-called “technical issues” to justify their expertise in offering you quick fixes and solutions. And all this at a relatively high cost, of course. Companies that sign a contract with them often end up with individuals or teams with no backend development experience. This can inevitably lead to hiring third-party freelancers that can end up messing up the entire setup of your website, causing long-term harm.

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Don’t let others persuade you in flaws that are irrelevant or non-existent.

How can you avoid this scenario?

Instead of jumping aboard the potentially problematic train of promises of the perfect website, take a step back and consult with others. You can start by consulting with your web developers about the concerns that the marketer raised. That should help you better understand why your website is coded the way it is. And if there really are potential issues, they should be more than capable of resolving them.

3. Falsified portfolios of past clients

When you wish to invest resources in digital marketing, you want to find and hire a digital marketing agency with a long track record. And this is a well-known and commonly exploited fact among marketers operating under false pretenses. So, what they do is resolve to the fabrication of marketing campaigns in an attempt to demonstrate their past work and instill a sense of experience on their end. Some will simply twerk analytics from past clients to showcase a higher performance rate and claim it as their own success.

How can you avoid this scenario?

Whether you are hiring a digital marketing agency or an in-house marketing team, take the time to properly vet them and their past work:

  • Go through their past campaigns and clients.
  • Read up on the testimonials (on their website and other websites)
  • Review their online ratings and accreditations on third-party platforms, etc.

After all, even if we’re not talking about a scam here, you still don’t want to hire an amateur agency with no past experience.

4. “Bigger than life” promises of Google rankings

Unless a digital marketing agency manages to break through Google’s algorithms, they can’t guarantee any results from their activities. And since no marketing agency has managed to do that so far, you will find that legitimate digital marketers will never offer guarantees. And whenever one does, it should raise a red flag for you. As Google continues to pop out regular updates of its algorithms, professional digital marketing companies are forced to always be one step behind, trying their best to keep up and adapt. They monitor SEO trends, gather data, research, and strategize new approaches, but nobody can truly guarantee results, especially in the digital industry.

Amateur or unreliable marketers will always try to exploit this with unknowing business owners. They will paint scenarios of endless leads, high conversion rates, tripled organic traffic, quadrupled ROI, and other fairy tales. Basically, they will hustle you by promising you all that you want to hear and then simply not delivering after a 6-month or 12-month contract.

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Nobody can guarantee digital success so much as predict it and maintain high performance.

How can you avoid this scenario?

For starters, remember that there are no guarantees in the digital world. The next step would be to find an agency that can explain each step of its strategy as well as offer their predictions on the impacts it could make. Their understanding of current Google updates and the ability to quickly adapt and maintain your rankings should also be a factor. Staying realistic during the entire process is much more valuable than gathering false promises.

5. Buying social media followers

Inexperienced and/or scheming marketers will sell you tales on how the best way to extend your social media reach is through purchasing influence. And this strategy is one that used to pass for companies in the past. Buying social media followers through the creation of fake profiles or false likes. However, social media networks have seen to the elimination of this approach by basically rooting them out. Today, fake profiles are not only worthless in terms of offering value but they are also spam signals that can devalue your rankings.

Image of unhappy emoji on iPhone
Buying social media followers and likes can cause more harm than gain.

How can you avoid this scenario?

While putting down shortcuts on building a strong social media presence, platforms have also provided a plethora of valued solutions. As a result, you have plenty of social media marketing professionals that understand this particular branch of marketing. By keeping up with news and trends, these companies can implement effective tactics such as:

  • sharing top-quality content,
  • engaging with audiences through segregated campaigns,
  • strategically posting during the most effective times, etc.

Legitimate agencies are able to provide a wide variety of social media strategies for getting high-quality leads, as well as walk you through each of those tactics. They can also adapt them to the specific needs of your niche and business objectives, offering sound advice on how best to proceed.

Knowing is half the battle – secure your business from scams

The more aware you are of the common digital marketing scams going on in the modern world of business, the less likely you are to fall prey to them. So long as you verify the digital marketing services you are considering on using and consult with third parties on it, you will be able to safeguard your business from loss. Our company offers free detailed website marketing audits as well as professional consultations regarding a variety of digital marketing strategies.

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