SEO Email: When an Email Marketing Advertiser Doesn’t Think They’re Actually Marketing…

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.

Read some simple explanations of some of the SEO terms used on this post…


This post is very different to most of the other SEO spam I’ve posted about. This time the spam came a company offering wanting to put a guest post/article with a commercial link in it on my site.

Posting on other sites and blogs can be a good way of raising the profile of a site. However, only if it’s done right. This company doesn’t seem to think that by emailing me they were actually ‘marketing’ anything.

Below is a series of emails between me and ‘Georgi’ with my comments about them as we go along… The email came into my Christmas site, which just has Christmas information and doesn’t sell anything (and makes it very clear on the site that it doesn’t carry ads or guest posts).

The Emails

Hello,

My name is Georgi and I am managing the marketing campaigns of a few gift related websites.

We’re interested in sponsoring an article on whychristmas.com.
Do you accept pre-written content and how much does it cost?

The requirements we have for the article are:
1. to have a dofollow link
2. not to be tagged as sponsored
3. The article to be permanently placed.

If you’d like to write it yourself – that is fine as well.

Otherwise – send me a price and topics you’d like our writers to cover.

Thank you in advance!

Best Regards,
Georgi

This offer is actually pretty dodgy from the outset. If you’re getting paid to have a link on your site, Google really likes you to state that it’s a paid for/sponsored ads AND for the link to be specified as ‘nofollow’ and/or ‘sponsored’ (so it knows you’re getting paid to have the link).

But Georgi is asking for me to specifically NOT have either ‘sponsored’ or ‘nofollow’ on the link. Hmmmm. Not a good start (and it only gets worse…)

I sent Georgi a fairly standard reply saying I’m not interested…

Hi,
As it clearly states on the site, I DO NOT have ads or guest posts/articles on my site.

I first made the site for some teachers who came to me complaining that they couldn’t find a site that was child friendly and “wasn’t trying to sell the kids something”!

Happy Christmas!

James

Most of the time that’s it and I don’t hear from the guest post spammer again. But I got a short reply from Georgi:

Sorry about that.
It’s an automated system and you should not receive any more emails with inquiries from us.

Hmmm, an automated system. I live in the UK and you’re not allowed to sent me emails like that – which I pointed out and I also mentioned that I found it worrying that his company’s site was lacking some very basic web things… (Oh and looking at the email he sent, I can see that the ‘automated system’ he used is one specifically designed for sending ‘marketing emails’!)

Thanks Georgi,

However, you might want to be more careful about how you use your ‘automated system’…

I live in the UK and there are some very strict laws about who and how you’re allowed to email people with unsolicited marketing emails.

I am a ‘sole trader’ (so not a big company), and this means that your initial email is technically in breach of a UK law called ‘PECR’. As we have no prior connection and I have not given you permission to contact me, you ARE NOT allowed to email me like you did under UK law! [https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/electronic-and-telephone-marketing/electronic-mail-marketing/]

Also the fact that your site neither uses HTTPS/SSL or has ANY form of privacy policy (which is itself in breach of GDPR for if any European citizens visit the site and the new CCPA for if any Californian citizens visit your site) really does not/will not inspire any confidence in potential clients!

James

Georgi really didn’t seem to like my reply…

1. We’re not advertising, but making inquiries with these emails. About working together – so, no law is broken. That’s like you calling a plumbing company with a question if they’d fix your sink and they tell you that it’s a breach of the law because they did not give you consent to contact them with questions…

2. Since your contact information is available for anyone to see and contact you with questions that is not in breach of the law.

3. Lastly, the website is not using cookies nor is it collecting any kind of data for the visitors – no GDPR/CCPA rules have been breached.

Oh dear. Georgi doesn’t seem to understand some of the basics of web privacy legislation. So I replied with some clarifications:

1. You are engaging in ‘electronic marketing’ thus you ARE needing to take laws like PECR into consideration.

PECR is VERY CLEAR on this. At the very start of the link (please read it…) I sent you about PECR it states:

The rules on electronic mail marketing are in regulation 22. In short, you must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals, unless:

they have specifically consented to electronic mail from you; or
they are an existing customer who bought (or negotiated to buy) a similar product or service from you in the past, and you gave them a simple way to opt out both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent.

I HAVE NOT consented to receive your email and I AM NOT an existing customer. Thus YOU ARE in breach of PECR – it’s very simple!

If a plumber sent out blanket emails via an ‘automated system’, to people who have not consented or were not existing customers, they too would be in breach of PECR!

2. The fact that you can find my information has NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on whether you can legally contact me or not!

3. Incorrect. The fact that you do not use cookies is not the only factor you need to take into consideration.

You DO collect information from people who contact you through the site, thus you come under GDPR, etc. If you hold ANY DATA about people who contact you (which you ask people to do through your site) then under GDPR you have to tell people how they can access that information and how long you hold that information, etc.

My Christmas site doesn’t use any ‘tracking’ cookies. However, I still have a full privacy policy on my site, which tells people about why and how it collects any data.

I thought that was pretty clear and spelt out the basics of PECR and GDPR. However Georgi still doesn’t think he needs to come under either of them…

In the case you’re the ‘plumber’ and I’m the client asking for a quote. Not the other way around. I am looking to ‘buy’ a ‘service’ not the other way around.

Anyway, wish you best of luck and success with you business.

Have a good one.

But… he emailed me offering a service (i.e. getting paid for having a guest post), which I again tried to point out:

I’m sorry but you are wrong.

You contacted me (with an unsolicited email) offering a service which you provide.

You even said

“My name is Georgi and I am managing the marketing campaigns of a few gift related websites.

We’re interested in sponsoring an article on whychristmas.com.”

You are clearly ‘marketing’ your services of arranging sponsored posts. You did this by electronic means. Thus you very clearly fall under PECR.

Simples!

And indeed I think that’s pretty simple. But no, Georgi still doesn’t think he’s involved in marketing…

interested in sponsoring an article i.e. – WE want to PAY YOU to provide a service. Which part is not clear?

The email is simple enough and it should be clear that I’m not looking for clients but a service.

It’s sad that you’re the only native speaker which can’t read with understanding…

No Georgi, what’s sad is that a ‘Marketing Manager’ doesn’t seem to understand what marketing actually means… So I tried to help him by explaining what the dictionary says about marketing:

Let’s look at ‘Marketing’ in the dictionary:

“The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/marketing

You were clearly ‘promoting’ your ‘service’ of arranging sponsored posts. Thus you were ‘marketing’. (And if I did work with you, I would be a ‘client’ of your service so your point about not looking for clients is also wrong…)

Under PECR you are NOT ALLOWED to market to me (i.e. send me an email like you did) without my consent or without having me as an existing client.

Which part of that is not clear?

Who gets paid at the end is immaterial.

We’re clearly going to disagree on this; and I’m also clearly not interested in the services that you were promoting (i.e. marketing…) so I’m leaving it here.

Happy Marketing!

James

I thought this might be an end to our emails but no. Georgi wanted a final word…

I see you’re so hellbent on the argument. So be it.

I am not marketing or promoting anything. The email is making on inquiry on PURCHASING advertising space from you/ on your website.

To put it simply – the question was if YOU are providing “marketing” services.

Consult a lawyer if you will. Perhaps then you’d be convinced.


Conclusion

So there we are, we have Georgi (a self professed ”Marketing Manager’) who thinks that I (the person who received a marketing email) am the person doing the “marketing”, rather than HIM (the person who actually sent the marketing email). Totally. Bizarre.

And the fact that he also think that privacy regulations like PECR and GDPR don’t matter to him is also greatly worrying.

I haven’t named the company that Georgi emailed from. Rather than warning about a specific company, this time I wanted to generally warn about guest post marketing scammers who don’t treat web privacy with any concern or professionalism whatsoever.

So if you get contacted by anyone offering services like this and they’ve not got the basics of web privacy information on their site, I would treat them VERY CAREFULLY.

Leave a comment