Top Search Banner a Scam?

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I recently received an email from a “search banner” service. Ever heard of these sites or services? Below is an example email pitch I received this week from one of these companies.

scam email

They claim to “get you to the top of Google” for specific keywords like “insurance”. They claim you are wasting money on Google pay-per-click advertising and promise a shortcut to the top. Sound too good to be true, right? Well, it is.

By the way, if you do a brand search (“XYZ Search Banner Topper”) for these companies on Google, they will likely not appear on the first page. Not because Google is afraid they will steal revenue but because they are spammers.

Search Banner… Results?

In 2012, I had a client who decided to try one of these search banner services (even after discussing this is probably a scam). As you can see by the results below, they had no impact to the site in terms of e-commerce revenue. 50,000+ sessions and 0 orders!

scam analytics

Its likely that the visitors came from bots or mechanical turks. For example, if you request a turk install a “search topper” browser plugin and have Amazon mechanical turks just search Google all day, each search will count as a “visit” when in actuality it is not a real user. The banner when it opens will trigger a “session” so that it looks like you are getting a visitor that has clicked through to your website.

Almost 50% of the “visitors” came to the site at the same time? Looks like a bot to me.

scam bot

Did the client ever get their money back? (we’re not sure) In the meantime, they could have put that money to better use in other forms of marketing and may have lost market share that could have been gained by other marketing channels.

Lessons Learned

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts to good digital marketing. Don’t waste your time or money with these services.