Anatomy of an SEO Ripoff

Ok this post will sound angry because I am angry!

We have a client who is VERY web savvy & runs an awesome business. They are not a mom and pop, these people are very smart Internet marketers.

They recently got a proposal from a company who was offering VIDEO SEO. Luckily because we have built trust with our client, they often run these new proposals by us for a review before they spend money. (trust is the key to building a low stress agency)

In looking at the proposal I am ashamed that people like this exist in our space. Lets get to the nitty gritty

1 – Within the second line of the proposal they tout their “proprietary video SEO platform”. Bleh! Then they say that this tool consistently outperforms traditional SEO companies. (Seriously you are calling out traditional SEO in your proposal)? I'd love to see them quantify this statement, but they don't. We'll get to that later.

Moral of the story Don't fall for “proprietary”, few company's proprietary tools mean anything for you.

Content Creation - how much?

It appears that this company will create the videos, OK cool, I like this! Companies often don't have time to produce the videos themselves, this is valuable. After video production they will upload the videos to the major search engines, and develop titles and descriptions for every video (although they never tell you how many videos they are going to create). For the cost, I just can't imagine that they are going to create a TON of high quality videos for less than 5k.

Uploading the videos is a task and one that they should be paid for, however we all have heard of tubemogul right? If you go there you can upload videos to most of the major platforms, how much more value does their “proprietary upload tool” add? This is a legit question that should be asked and answered.

The monthly fee

They are charging between 3-4k per month for optimization of the video. This entails monitoring where the videos rank on video search engines and regular search engines. They don't list out which search engines…so while it might be great to report on rankings in AOL Video, or MySpace Video, Veoh, Viddler, etc the only one that is going to really matter is really YouTube right?

The monthly "work"

They plan on adjusting titles and descriptions monthly, ok, that's good but after 4-5 months, how many more title and description tweaks can one person make? They plan on “maintaining optimization rules and parameters to adjust for real time changes in market state.” HUH?

Can someone tell me what this means and how it relates to me paying 3,000-4,000/month?


Like any good SEO firm they should provide reporting. They do. They report on keyword rank, monthly. Keyword rank, is fine but this client needs account signups – how about you track down to something beyond rankings, this client will not do well if they get rankings that don't lead to real value.

How about you track down to: account signups video engagement embeds comments subscribers to a channel YouTube lets you analyze when people typically lose interest in a video, how about analyzing that to help make better videos and understand how people interact?!

The fact that they rank #5 in YouTube for some keyword means NOTHING unless that ranking does something for their business.

Ok, so then I looked at the proposed keywords, ohh here we go again, target the long tail only to create easy successes! 1 word phrases – 0 2 word phrases – 4 3 word phrases – 22 4 word phrases – 34 5 word phrases – 17 6 word phrases – 12 7 word phrases – 3

Now without divulging too much info – this clients two biggest terms get searched for 400k and about 200k times per month respectively, that is just for 2 two-word phrases – they already have page 1 natural rankings for both (by the time I wrote this the slipped back to page 2, time to get back to work).

With the video SEO company, not 1 of their 80+ targeted keywords according to Google Keyword Tool was searched for more than 2,000 times last month.

Now if this client was a B2B client who made $1,500 or $15,000 per sale then long tail would make more sense, but they are nowhere NEAR that, so they need a combo of tail + volume. So in conclusion – here's the big takeaways I've been preaching FOREVER about how to NOT get ripped off.

1 – Their proposal starts off with proprietary – just don't fall for this 2 – The company doesn't rank well for video seo, or video search engine optimization (yet they say they in their proposal that they “are the world's leader in video search optimization” it was the FIRST line in their proposal). If you are going to make that claim you should be able to back it up with a ranking on the first 3 pages at least 3 - I typed in their company name and video SEO into a Google search – no video of theirs showed up in universal search (which they say is the big value they bring) 4 – I type in their company name into YouTube and didn't find a channel, and found only one video they authored under their name it had 21 views, no ratings. Fishy. 5 – The keywords picked out were horrible, low hanging fruit keywords which they knew they could get rankings for with little work. 6 – They are not offering to proactively analyze anything other than rankings.

Luckily we saved this client from making a 40,000 mistake! not to say that video SEO is not valuable, but the way this company pitched the service, it wasn't.

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President