This is one in a series of posts reviewing and looking at how some of the SEO companies which use bulk emails/spam with ‘we can help your terrible site’ type emails really can (and actually mostly can’t!) help your site.
This time things are a little different to the normal SEO spam in that they wanted to offer SEO ‘offshore’ services for my whole business.This email came from a Jerome using an @aol.com email, although a reply came from Rohit via an @sales.starkedge.com email.
Would you be interested in outsource your digital marketing (SEO, PPC, SMM) offshore? While we’ll manage everything at our end, you can sit back and enjoy the extra profits!
Here are the highlights of Services:
• Free 15 Days trial on any of your SEO projects.
• Free Site Audit Reports and SEO Proposals.
• 100% White Labeled Reports with your brand name and logo.
• Handy Project Management through Basecamp.
• Creation of a rich backlink profile with backlinks coming from sites with DA, TF>15.
We also offer SMO, PPC, Content marketing, Face book Marketing, LinkedIn Marketing, Brand Reputation Management and App/Website Development.
If you are interested, then I can send you our past work details, company information and an affordable quotation with the best offer.
If there’s something else you’re challenged with, drop your Skype id or Phone No. and I’ll get back to you instantly.
Marketing Executive .
I replied and got a reply from Rohit which is below. So let’s see what services they want to offer me and my clients…
Their Report & Recommendations
The report/plan I received from them was in the form of another email but also had two [very large and optimised] PDFs attached to it. One PDF about the company and one about how their SEO services work. I’ll go into detail about their offerings beneath the email.
Thank you so much for the reply 🙂
Rohit business manager here, Ashley shared your conversation with me
StarkEdge is one of the biggest outsourcing company in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Australia and India. Having 80+ full-time employees, Our services are 100% white label backed by a non-disclosure agreement, with the delivery center in India we are able to offer services at about 50% lesser cost than our local competitors.
We have checked your website jpc-design.com. We were thinking of giving you analysis report for [one of my clients which I won’t name…]
Please confirm that if thats fine to start with.
Here is our website: https://www.starkedge.com/
Also, I have attached a document in which we have explained everything about our work, process, client testimonials, results for more clarification.
Our Whitehat SEO process is free from any kind of Google penalty whether it be Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird or more subtle ones like Google slaps.
A few key benefits of working with us:
We can take care of 100s of projects, all white-labeled under your brand.
We use tools like Trello , Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, Moz, Semrush, Serpbook, etc
We provide 1st-month money-back guarantee.
We are always available on Skype 24X7
All our work is manual, no automated software.
We are penalty-free for our SEO process of building backlinks is 100% organic and manual.
We understand the importance of on-site SEO and keyword research and make sure to always get our suggestions approved by you before implementing it on the website.
Here are some current live rankings for our clients:
(These are live rankings in Google.com that means, it shows the current position of the website we are working on for the keywords selected by respective client):
[There was then a list of some of their client which I won’t reproduce for privacy reasons.]
We work with more than 20 different SEO agencies, 300+ clients based out of USA, Canada, Aus, and the UK.
P.S. Off-page SEO is a thorough process where we build backlinks to your website on a daily basis. It takes 5-6 months to build the domain authority using off-page to rank you in the top 10.
Anyone who says that can rank you in less time is practicing black hat SEO.
Well regarding the pricing we have different packages depending on keywords number and the time frame.
[There was then a big pricing table which won’t convert to the web nicely – but their packages ranged from $200 to $350 a month.]
Kindly review and do let us know in case you need anything else from our side.
We can also connect through Skype.
Our Skype “stark.edge”
Thanks and Regards,
Rohit Gupta | Business Development Manager | Stark Edge
www.starkedge.com | Toll Free Number : +1-833-887-5004
Global Offices: San Francisco | Los Angeles | Australia | Indiat
Looking at Their Site
With SEO spammers, I also like to look at their sites, to see if they practice what they preach (I mean would you trust a plumber who had leaking and rusty pipes all over their own house?!); and also to compare their site with a site they say they can help…
Their site is: https://www.starkedge.com
It has a VERY large number of HTML and accessibility issues – that’s not exactly encouraging from a company who want you to trust them with your clients…
On Google Pagespeed their site gets:
Mobile: 15/100 (Neither of which are very good at all.)
My client’s site that they suggested starting on working gets:
Mobile: 96/100 – so both considerably better using Google’s own speed testing tool!
On GTMetrix their site gets:
(E (52%) / E (53%)
On GTMetrix my client’s site gets:
A (90%) / B (84%) – so again my client’s site is much better!
Looking at the code of their home page, it’s missing some of the most basic HTML features that any website should have (and tell browsers what type of HTML the site uses). They also link to the same ‘style sheet’ file multiple times, that’s something you should never do.
They have 11 ‘Heading 1’ tags. Best practise is to have one with other sub headings being ‘Heading 2’s, etc..
Their main call to action buttons link to a pop-up/modal contact form. However, the fallback link (which people would be taken to if the code wasn’t working properly) doesn’t exist – oops!
So basically it seems like they don’t even know how to set-up their own site properly.
But sadly that’s only the start of the problems I found with Starkedge…
In his email, Rohit said “Rohit business manager here, Ashley shared your conversation with me”- but it was Jerome that initially spammed me… (So I guess they also have an ‘Ashley’ spamming people on their behalf.)
Also on his email, Rohit says “StarkEdge is one of the biggest outsourcing company in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Australia and India.” However, their website only lists an office in India, the domain was registered in India and the code on the site says the site is based in India. (Also it should be ‘companies’ rather than ‘company’)
On the ‘company’ PDF, they do list an office in San Fransisco (but none in LA or Australia…). Looking at the address, it’s for an office rental development. However, this office complex also specialises in ‘virtual offices’ – where you can get a posh looking address which is basically a glorified PO Box…
They also claim to have 80+ full-time employees. However, the ‘our team’ section on their site only lists four people… (with ) and one of those is Rohit who emailed me. If they’re such a big company, I find it surprising that the 2nd in command at such a large is contacting me!
They seem to run another template site. There’s various links to it on their site. Only they’ve got the domain wrong and their links take you to a Chinese ‘very very adult’ site!!!
They have six testimonials on their site – and three of these are repeated on the other template site.
They’ve also got a portfolio page with lots of companies listed on there (including a couple of very big tech companies) yet none of the companies who ‘gave testimonials’ are listed in the portfolio and none of the companies in the portfolio have given testimonials – which seems odd…
But most amazingly, one of their testimonials come from a ‘Jack Campbell’. However, his photo is one of the actor Gary Oldman that’s been flipped horizontally to try and make it look different (which is a trick used to try and stop reverse image tools from finding stolen and fake images…). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a spammy SEO company using an actor’s photo on one of their testimonials.
So if they’re willing to use such a bluntly obvious fake testimonial, it does make me question the validity of all their other testimonials and portfolio items…
This is somewhat confirmed in their SEO Proposal PDF. There are some testimonials within it. Several seem to be very badly done screen grabs (most of them are so bad you can hardly read the text!), and a couple have been very obviously photo-shopped to include the Starkedge name over the top of existing words!
Within their SEO Proposal PDF, one of the things they say they can do is get sites listed on blogs and forums. And yes, leaving comments on blogs can be a way of engaging with topics you’re interested in. However, now most blogs have ‘nofollow’ rules set on links in blog comments (especially links in the author’s profile) because these have been abused by spammers; so these kind of comments have basically no SEO value… In the PDF they give five example links showing the links on comments they leave. All of the links are in the author’s profile (no fairly useless SEO wise) and all their comments are very ‘generic’ and so might be considered spam (so not ‘white hat’).
Only four out of the five links actually work; and out of the four that did work, three linked to another Indian based SEO company and the fourth linked to a site telling you how to make money from blogging – also based in India…!
Also within their SEO Proposal PDF are several graphics. Some are from stock sources, but (at least) one are copyrighted images with the copyright and image credit cropped out. One, about keyword research, comes from Elliance, a very large E-marketing consulting firm.
So bringing this all together, saying that blog comment spam is a good way of gaining SEO, cropping out copyright notices on images they’re using and having a very obvious fake testimonial really does not inspire any confidence or trust I could have in Starkedge (as well as spamming in the first place and all that).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have no issues with Indian based web companies; but I do have issues with any company that flat out lies!
UPDATE! As I was writing this post, another email arrived from Rohit, with an ‘analysis report’ of my client’s site that they wanted to start working on (even though I hadn’t replied to Rohit confirming that I did want to work with him!). In his first email, Rohit said “All our work is manual, no automated software.”. However, in this report are several screenshots that clearly come from ‘automated’ SEO tools!!!
The report itself is full of jargon, which would be mostly useless to non web ‘techy’ users. The way of promoting my client’s site they suggest is posting on forums, some blog comments(!) and 2-3 press releases a month. But my client in question is a small decorating firm. All of those kind of promotions (especially the press releases) are un-suitable for my client. And most of the keywords they say it’s not ranking for are completely meaningless for my client, so that’s not exactly surprising!
So, as you might have been able to guess, I won’t be using Starkedge’s services!
I really wouldn’t like to let a company work on my client’s sites, when they can’t even set-up the basics correctly on their own site and also seem quite happy to use fake images and testimonials on their site!
So if you get an email offering offshore SEO helps, I would be very careful about what they claim they can do.
But as ever, the choice is yours…