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The world has over 3.58 billion internet users now which makes the penetration rate stand at nearly 50%. That is, approximately half of the earth’s entire population has access to the internet and are known to be active users. Digital Marketing is nothing but advertising a product/service where people are spending most of their time and brands agree that over the next few years, nearly 75% of their net marketing budget will solely be set aside for the digital world.

And as evident to any growing industry, all the money and fame also brings along fraudulence and deception – digital marketing scams as we popularly call it. Small business owners on a tight budget, people starting their careers in digital marketing and even enterprises trying to save that extra buck are most susceptible to getting caught in such scams.

The offers are indeed alluring and who doesn’t want fast results? You get what you asked for until it all explodes. Every tactic that frauds employ ultimately cannibalizes the whole purpose digital marketing and at the end of the day, you end up losing a lot of money.
To prevent you from stepping into these, this post lists 7 most popular digital marketing scams that are doing rounds in the industry and are set to cannibalize, not only the market but also your venture.

Take note and stay away.

And let us start with the most common one:

#1: Fake Likes, Comments, and Followers

Before I call it “fake”, you must know the kind of offers you will get:

• 10K Instagram followers for this much amount of money
• 1000 Facebook Likes for this much dollars
• 20 comments on this many blogs for this amount
• “Original” Facebook or Instagram “Likes” and “Followers” at cheap rates

And so on. I have seen such posts on groups and I have received numerous emails from various services. What you must do to stay away from these is what I do with them – select all without opening the emails and permanently delete.

Now, why are they fake? None of the likes/followers/comments that you get are organic, that is from people who are really interested in your product/service. Most of them are from automated fake accounts with zero activity. What good will 10K Instagram followers do for your business if none of your posts have proper engagement?

And with the recent Facebook news feed update, this particular scam has become a joke. As I have analyzed in my blog post about Facebook’s update and how can we defend ourselves against it, 1000 likes on your Facebook page will not matter at all. Posts from brands and businesses will now be shown less in the news feed as users will find updates from their friends and family more.

Now, it’s better to use the money you would have spent for automated likes on Facebook Ads instead. This is a way more sensible investment.

#2: Digital Marketing Agencies Buying Awards or Inflating their Client list

Even big enterprises are susceptible to this digital marketing scam. As you are well aware, everything can be fabricated in 2018 to look like something they are not. Awards and client list do not portray an agency’s expertise in the field.

To give you an example, my agency has received two such award offers from a US magazine in the past year which I had sincerely declined. I could have easily accepted their offer and claimed to be an award-winning agency. I am stating this not to show you my humility but to tell you that this happens in reality.

The same thing applies when it comes to a client list. An agency may have worked for a subsidiary project for a big company and can claim them to be a major client. Many brands even fabricate testimonials from people working in non-existent firms. The best way to detect such digital marketing scams is to ask questions to the agency experts or request a strategy report. Authentic ones won’t fumble with their answers and asking for your money will be their least priority.

#3: Promise to Rank 1 in Google in a Span of 1-3 Months

This is the most hilarious of the lot! While scammers claim it is possible, a real SEO will tell you otherwise. Your website can rank 1 in Google in just 1 month only for the most absurd keywords out there that no one searches for. And even if you give your website 3 months and manage to rank for some decent phrases, the fall in rank right after will happen even faster.

You can bypass such online marketing scams by understanding how SEO really works and how it helps your business . Josh Steimle, in his article about how much time does SEO take on Forbes, explained that it takes a minimum of 6 months just to show results. He continues to say that it is better not to invest in SEO at all rather than carry it out for just 2-3 months and then quit. SEO is a process and its application does take time.

#4: Digital Marketing Institutes offering Certification Courses in every nook and corner

Not every institute that you will come across is fraudulent, but there are people who take advantage of an in-demand market. Stuffing you with theory, covering topics for the sake of completing it and claims to make you an expert in every area of digital marketing are clear signs of an institute where you will learn nothing. Again, as with any quality service, authentic training does not come cheap and generally range around $900-$1,000 for a six-month course.

Test their expertise and evaluate the amount of time they are willing to spend on a particular topic. The best way to judge an institute, in my opinion, is to see how they are marketing their own brand in the digital space. If they are following the right methods, you will probably be taught the right things as well.

#5:  Almost all Digital Marketers claiming to have a Google Certificate

I really have no doubts about the certification courses that Google provide, but it is about the people who take it. Now, Google’s assessments or more specifically the exams that you are required to pass are definitely online where only a timer ticks throughout the process. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Google has no system to monitor who actually is taking the assessment and someone can easily hire an expert to pass the process.

The fraud gets the certificate and you end up hiring him/her based on it.This may not always be the case, but there’s really no way to find out and save yourself from such digital marketing scams. Again, a true expert will never discourage you from asking questions and this is indeed the best way to judge a person’s knowledge. Do not invest until the marketer can convince you about his/her expertise and let them decide how they want to do it.

#6: Agencies providing no-value Internships as a Cost-cutting Technique

HR of a Company – “Why should we invest so much time in training our employees? What if they learn everything from us and leave?”
CEO of the Company – “What if we don’t train them and they decide to stay?”

Agencies that hire interns for the sole purpose of shooting emails not only cannibalize their own firm but the industry as a whole. Interns do not look for money. What they want is to learn and get some hands-on experience. Hiring an intern as a cost-cutting technique is not a digital marketing fraud but not providing him/her with value in return for their time definitely is.

While judging agency’s portfolio, look in which area of online marketing they majorly work, decide where you want to gain your expertise and apply cautiously. There’s really no hurry to associate yourself with a firm. While you are on the lookout, learn about digital marketing from resources like HubSpot or Kissmetrics. The internet really does not lack articles.

#7: Service Pricing surprising lower than the Market Rates

You get what you pay for! A replica Rolex will not cost as much as the real Rolex. While you can expect them to function in the same manner, in reality, they don’t. Drawing example from SEO services, an $80-per-month package will tick all the right boxes to rank your website but only mechanically. They generally have a fixed number of parameters that they apply to all websites and show you an end-result that will make you happy. Only after a few months will you start realizing your mistake when your rank either falls or you attract a penalty.

A $260-per-month package, on the other hand, customizes SEO according to your website’s needs. These services build your site to rank and stay at the top for a solid span of time. No spammy methods, all areas covered. Even if your site’s rank starts to fall, authentic services will check the decent by all means necessary. And this concept is applicable to all fields of Digital Marketing. Do not expect a high return on your content, social media ads or even a PPC campaign if you have paid a meager amount for the service.

Use your Intuition to Stay Away.

As with any scam, you really need to use your own judgment to avoid stepping into traps. Digital Marketing is the next big thing and it is already here. If you have identified this and decided to follow it as a career or your marketing strategy, set your budget right and take time to select an authentic agency. Digital marketing scams are everywhere and it is ultimately up to you on how you opt to stay away.

Do you know of any other scams that can fit into this list? Looking forward to continuing the conversation below.

(The above article is a Guest post written by Tanmoy Sen of ClimbSERP – The SEO Blog and Consultancy)

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