11 Pranks Digital Marketing Agencies Pull On Their Clients

In the world of digital marketing, there is an absurdly vast amount of misinformation out there. Since it’s April Fool’s day, we’ve decided to put together a list of some of the more common things it seems other agencies are telling our clients. Here are some of the phrases and promises you need to watch out for, if you want to avoid being an internet marketing fool…

1) “We’ll use a microsite and paid ads to drive traffic and all you have to pay for is qualified leads!”


If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. How could this one possibly backfire, though? If it’s a free service and all you have to pay for are direct leads, what could go wrong?

How about the simple fact that you’ll be paying them for leads you could have generated for free? We see it all too often… companies offer a deal like this, then they will toss up a one or two page micro-site with some generic copy and a tracking number, drive traffic to it instead of your real site, and take credit for all the leads.

Not only are you paying for leads you could’ve picked up for free… you’re also spreading misinformation about your business. That tracking number they put on their website is liable to be scraped by citation sites, spreading an incorrect phone number far and wide. A phone number you’re going to have to pay for, if it generates leads. Plus, if you ever cancel service with them, who knows what happens to that number?!

2) “SEO is Dead”

What a blunt phrase. It’s funny that it seems to surge in popularity in the wake of almost every algorithm update Google makes. I guess you could make an argument for “SEO as we know it is dead,” but that’s still a gross misrepresentation of the truth. The fact of the matter is SEO evolves. So yeah, traditional tactics may change or become obsolete, but SEO is far from dead. Anyone who claims so is simply failing to adapt.


3) “We can’t give you access to your Google Analytics account, it contains proprietary information that…”

Some of our clients are surprised when we give them log in information with full permissions to their own analytics profiles. We don’t really understand why… it’s their own analytics information!

Imagine you’re at a mechanic to have some work done on your car. Someone tells you: “Well, I’m not going to actually tell you what is wrong with your vehicle, and I’m not going to explain why, but it’s going to cost an arm and a leg if you want it fixed.”

Sound sketchy? It should. You have the right to know what is going on with your own website and why your marketing agency is making the suggestions they are.

4) “All you need is ‘X'”

Bad Advice Duck

This is a flat-out lie. Sure, some methods may work better for some companies than others. But if you ever find yourself thinking you can take care of all your marketing needs with “just social media” or “just a website,” you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

5) “You no longer need links to rank”


After Panda, many SEOs were thrown into a state of panic. Link building has always been a pillar of SEO, and believe it or not, it still is! SEOs just need to be a bit smarter about what links they build.

Here’s Matt Cutts from February 2014 discussing Google’s attempt to remove links from the algorithm

6) “First Page Results Guaranteed”

The age-old SEO promise. As has always been the case, though, SEO isn’t a guarantee. Anyone who tells you they know a sure-fire way to get to the top is probably flirting with some questionable tactics. What use is a great ranking if it only lasts two weeks?


Watch out for guarantees. If your SEO refuses to tell you just what they’re planning, run for the hills.

7) “We’ll just auto-generate your SEO pages!”

Yes, let’s put all the power in the hands of the robots, what could possibly go wrong?!

All kidding aside, though, so many of these offers end up running your business through a template, replacing a handful of locations and keywords, and republishing the same content they did for the last hundred suckers.

Duplicate content is bad. Unless you’re in the market for a duplicate content penalty from Google, stay away from this strategy!

8) “We’ll build you a mobile site for almost nothing…”

Mobile traffic is increasing at a rapid pace. It’s going to be an important part of almost every business’ overall digital strategy. Going for the cheap option simply to have something in place has a number of possible issues:

  • Google has stated that they prefer responsive design as opposed to standalone mobile sites.
  • Whenever you update your website you must now also contact your mobile company to update the content there as well.
  • What happens if your mobile website provider increases their fees dramatically during your next contract cycle or simply goes out of business?
  • Will your new mobile site be compatible with emerging technologies such as Google Glass, smart watches, etc.?

Given how inexpensive your website was how much support will you receive if it doesn’t work or goes down?

9) “We have a place downtown that’s perfect to claim for your business”

Getting your Google Plus page for your business claimed is important, for sure. You know what else is important? Not lying to your customers!

Not to mention it leaves you open to all sorts of trickery down the line. Say you use a FedEx store to get your postcard. If that’s the address you’re using, there is nothing stopping a competitor from claiming your business and deleting the listing.

10) “Google hasn’t figured out this trick and it works!”

Remember what your Grandpa told you about something that seems too good to be true? Black hat SEO might work… for a month. Then you can expect manual penalties that send your site into the depths of the search results, never to be found again.


11) “You need to buy your domain name in China and every country before they’re gone”

Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s employed far too often in the process of selling businesses on certain digital marketing ideas. For example, why would a local business with an established website need to purchase every possible domain extension with regard to its brand? Usually the fear-based campaign to get you to purchase these extensions goes something like this:

  • IDEA: What if some nefarious person overseas buys a domain with your brand’s name, but a different extension then builds a porn site on it? The next thing you know your customers will be Googling you and finding a porn site!!!!!1!!
  • DEBUNKED: In our experience of building 100+ websites and handling ongoing marketing for many others we have NEVER seen this occur. I’m not saying it COULDN’T happen, but it is best to focus on likely issues and not far-fetched scenarios.
  • IDEA: All the big brands are doing it. Ex. Coke, Nike, etc.
  • DEBUNKED: Big brands are likely targets of domain name squatting and tend to be bullish when it comes to buying domain names. The pain of a lawsuit or negotiation simply isn’t worth their time. Your brand likely doesn’t have the global recognition of these heavyweights and while the time may come where this strategy makes sense it probably isn’t in your immediate future.
  • IDEA: You can buy all of these domains and point them back to your main website with major SEO benefits.
  • DEBUNKED: There was a time when buying up many domains and creating small sites that all pointed back to your main website was a valid strategy. Unfortunately, that was a long time ago and this approach no longer works. It’s better to focus your efforts on generating great content on your site rather than creating a network of interconnected websites trying to eke out some minor SEO value from these links.
  • IDEA: The opportunity to create 10-15 different websites with slightly different messages to appeal to different age ranges, nationalities, etc. with unique content on each one.
  • DEBUNKED: It is a challenge to create one great website that ranks well, converts at a high rate, and looks fantastic. Why would you want to multiply that challenge by a factor of 10-15? I’m not opposed to having 1-2 additional websites with slightly different messaging to speak to different audiences under the right circumstances. Typically, I would still recommend to most companies to focus on having one great website and leave the extensions be unless you have a compelling reason to snatch one up.

Any we missed?

There is a lot more out there you need to be wary of, for sure.  There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy for businesses today.  Lucky for you, COCG is here to learn your business from the ground up and recommend the solution that’s right for you.