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 is the second time that we’ve dealt with spam from iMark Infotech. Last time (back in November 2019), they wanted to help out this site – and let’s say I wasn’t impressed…
This time the initial spam came from a Christy was using a @gmail.com email, although a subsequent replies came from Shivani from using an @imarkinfotech.com email address.
Christy’s spam email had the subject “Digital Marketing & COVID 19 – We Are Here To Help” so these spammers are deliberately targeting people using the current global health crisis. I find this particularly yucky. And it continued in the email…
Please stay at home, Please be safe, Don’t try to be a super hero, No-one is immune of this disease, Your health and your family’s health is more important
Now, We are digital marketing firm fully operational with 150+ professional working from our remote locations and we are here to help you if you need support in your link building campaigns and overall SEO/PPC/SMM campaigns.
Here is why you should consider us:
Our process involves: Brand Research, Competition Research, Gap Analysis, Fixing Onsite Issues, High Quality Link building, Weekly Reports, Custom Dashboard For Monthly Performance Report.
We are working on 500+ campaigns with a team of 150+ professionals. So we know how to rank sites and get results.
We have paid access to all top tools of industry i.e Moz, SEMRUSH, Ahrefs, Buzz Sumo, Kwfinder and about 40 more tools.
We help you signup more clients by providing you with website audits and case studies.
If you are looking for a valuable partnership where you can focus on growing your business and you want a dependable backend team, we are the right opportunity.
Reply to this email to get in touch.
P.S. We apologies for intruding in your inbox but this have been an effective way for us to reach out to agencies who need our help. Inconvenience regretted. We have not mentioned our official address for obvious reasons; please get in touch if you are interested in our services.
Business Development Manager
hmmm, yet another SEO spammer who haven’t mentioned their ‘official address for obvious reasons’ – what like they’re spamming?!
Anyway, I replied to Christy and got the following response from Shivani:
Thank you so much for the reply 🙂
I am Shivani M[removed for privacy] head of the department at iMarkinfotech. Christy just asked me to get in touch with you to discuss your requirements.
What would be the best time to hop on a call? My Skype: live:[removed for privacy]
SEO Pricing: [link to an image on Dropbox – prices start at $200 a month]
Here is the brief explanation of our work and organization:
iMark Infotech Pvt Ltd. is one of the biggest white labelled outsourcing agency in India having 200+ full-time employees.
Our services are 100% white label backed by a non-disclosure agreement, with the delivery centre in India we are able to offer services at about 50% less cost than our local competitors.
Website Link: https://www.imarkinfotech.com/
[Then a A LOT of links basically saying how wonderful they are]
A few key benefits of working with us:
We can take care of 100s of projects, all white labelled under your brand.
We use tools like Basecamp, 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.
We work with more than 70 different SEO agencies, 300+ clients based out of USA, Canada, AUS, and the UK.
[Then three more links to PDFs on Google drive explaining their amazing SEO-ness. They’re all a right mess with images all the wrong size and fuzzy, fonts all over the place, just generally a mess.]
P.S. Off-page SEO is a thorough process where we build backlinks to your website on daily basis. It takes 5-6 months to build the domain authority using off-page to rank you in top 10.
[Shouldn’t a ps go at the bottom of a letter/email, not in the middle of one?!]
Anyone who says that can rank you in less time is practicing black hat SEO.
Looking forward to the positive response 🙂
Talk soon 🙂
iMark Infotech Pvt. Ltd.
Shivani M[removed for privacy]
But I wanted to see what they thought of a site that’s VERY popular, so I asked them to take a look at my big Christmas site.
During each December my Christmas site gets millions and millions of visits and is #1 on the whole of Google for a huge number of Christmas searches – so any SEO advice about the site is always ‘interesting’…
Thanks for all that. As I said in my email to Christy, I can’t do a phone or skype I’m afraid.
Please can you tell me how your SEO could affect a particular site of mine – www.whychristmas.com? What’s wrong with it now SEO wise that you’d need to fix to make it better?!
And this is the reply from Shivani:
I have analyzed the site and attached the report for the same.
I have also attached the keywords which I think will be beneficial to work on. If you have any competitor website on which I can work then let me know.
Also, please find the attached task list which we will be doing on your website.
Let me know your thoughts on the same.
Their Report & Recommendations
Attached to Shivani’s email were three PDFs (an ‘SEO Report’, a ‘Complimentary SEO Analysis and Proposal’ and a ‘Task List’) and an excel file (a ‘Keyword Analysis’).
The PDF SEO Report was an automatically generated report using a free tool (‘SEO Site Checkup’ – a few of other SEO spammers have also sent me reports using this tool). They used this for the useless report on this site when they first spammed me as well.
At the top of the report were several ‘scores’.
There’s an SEO Score (my site got 89/100 – pretty good!) and then scores for various ‘SEO Checks’ that have been run.
My site passed 43/48 of the checks, had 5 ‘failed’ checks and 0 warnings. So let’s look some more at the failed checks from this automated check.
In fact, this is pretty much exactly the same ‘SEO Report’ that the SEO Spammers Spider Infoserve sent me – as they used exactly the same tool!
So let’s look at these ‘failed’ things and see what the true picture really is…
SEO Friendly URL Test – Your webpage contains URLs that are not SEO friendly!
Yes, there are some underscores in some of the URLs on my site. It’s now thought that hyphens in URLs are better. But when I created the site back in 2000, the reverse was thought to be the correct thing to do! And anyway many of the pages with underscores in them are #1 on Google for their respective results out of several million results (or in the case of ‘the christmas story’ a couple of billion) so they can’t be hurting the SEO much… So I’ll say this is ‘Not Applicable’.
Google Analytics Test – A Google Analytics script is not detected on this page. While there are several tools available to monitor your site’s visitors and traffic sources, Google Analytics is a free, commonly recommended program to help diagnose potential SEO issues.
Yes, I don’t have Google Analytics on my site. I used to, but now I use a different, server based, analytics tools. There are a couple of reasons for this. The UK Government has updated its advice about how tracking cookies can be used on sites and this affect things like Google Analytics. I don’t want visitors to my site to have an annoying pop-up and I like privacy, so I’m happy to now use a non tracking system… And not having Google Analytics installed will not directly affect SEO on a site. So basically this is WRONG to be a ‘failed’ test.
Page Objects Test – Your page uses more than 20 http requests, which can slow down page loading and negatively impact user experience.
Again that’s a true statement. But again, it’s very misleading simply to say having more than 20 HTTP requests is a ‘failure’. My site has 37 requests but it also loads VERY VERY quickly. (And if we look at their own site it has 154 requests, more on this below…) So again we’ll say this is ‘Not Applicable’.
Page Cache Test (Server Side Caching) – It does not appear that you are caching your pages. Cached pages serve up static html and avoid potentially time consuming queries to your database. It also helps lower server load by up to 80%.
The rather odd thing about this (wrong) error is that my site IS static HTML! It’s also got TWO caching levels on it – one on the server and then I’m also using a service called ‘CloudFlare’ to help the site load faster and this also does extra caching! The automated test clearly can’t see this… (The auto PDF also suggests three caching plugins for WordPress, only my site isn’t using WordPress! More on this below as well.) So this is simply WRONG.
Structured Data Test – Your webpage doesn’t take the advantages of HTML Microdata specifications in order to markup structured data.
Structured/Micro Data can be really useful, in certain cases (like for contact details or an upcoming event, etc.). But my site simply doesn’t need any Structured Data. So we’ll say this is ‘Not Applicable’.
So out of the five ‘failed’ auto checks, two are ‘wrong’ and the other three are ‘not applicable’! So I’m guessing my site should really get a 100/100 SEO Score!!!
The ‘Complimentary SEO Analysis and Proposal’ PDF was 18 pages long and contained lots of charts, graphs and other impressive information. But we’ll take a quick look through it and see if it’s actually of any use…
It starts with an introduction (which seems reasonable!) which lists two things, the ‘Current performance of the website’ and ‘We suggest’ which both have some bullets, let look at them…
Current performance of the website:
The link building strategy is not effective to achieve SERP (Ranking) changes in a reasonable duration.
Hmmm. They know NOTHING about my current link building strategy as they’ve never asked me about it! And later in the report it lists my ‘organic’ listing for several top search keywords (like ‘christmas’ and ‘christmas history’) which are all in the top 10 on Google. So this sentence is meaningless at best and a load of rubbish in reality!
Anchor text variation is not proper in the backlink profile. As a result, the website is not performing well in search engines.
As we’ve seen above the site DOES rank VERY well. Again this is completely meaningless & rubbish.
A quality link profile is comprised of links from forums, directories, social sites and others.
So now they’re saying that it’s a got a ‘quality’ link profile. But I thought they just said it didn’t have a proper backlink profile – so which is it?!
A larger pool of sources from where the links are being derived, especially press releases and getting high quality guest blog posts on sites like techcrunch.com and mashable.com which are high authority sites.
Getting a diverse list of backlinks is indeed a good thing. But I thought above they said I already had that?!
There should be proper ratio of branded keywords, LSI keywords, variations and generic keywords so that the backlink profile looks more natural and make it more visible into the eyes of the search engines.
This is more of the above basically… LSI keywords are ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’ (not that they explain that anywhere) and these are keywords which relate to other keywords on a page. So if we have ‘Christmas Traditions’ as a main keyword, LSI keywords might be ‘decorations’, ‘trees’, ‘food’, that sort of thing. My site already does this in its content…
You need to get timely PR and Social Media buzz to make the link building more natural, versatile and high quality. This report offers a detailed explanation of how we came to this conclusion.
Hmmm, I wouldn’t call using press releases (the PR bit – again not explained anywhere) and social media buzz as ‘natural’ link building as you’re using some form of marketing to get the links! I’d consider natural links to be ones that come from having really good content that people want to ‘naturally’ link to! (And Christy’s email said that “We are penalty free for our SEO process of building backlinks is 100% organic and manual.” but using Press Releases and Social Media campaigns isn’t exactly ‘natural’ is it?)
Next up is a section on ‘Website Performance Analysis’.
It starts with a chart showing the organic traffic during April 2020. There are lots of numbers and things on this chart. However, again, there are NO explanations of anything; so unless you’re used to ‘reading’ such charts, it would be completely useless to the vast majority of website owners.
Then there’s an ‘Advertising Overview’. This consists of two sentences:
The website is not ranking for any keywords in google.com paid search results presently.
[This is true as I don’t use paid keywords and nor do I want to!]
Indexed Pages: There are only 302 results shown in the Google search results.
[This is also true, because there are about that many pages on the site. The word ‘only’ is meaningless…]
Finally in the section is a list/chart of ‘Organic Keywords’ along with some numbers like it’s existing Google position and the ‘CPC’ (cost per click) of paying for an ad using that keyword. But YET AGAIN there is NO EXPLANATION as to what any of this means – so YET AGAIN it’s basically meaningless to most people!
The next section is for ‘Onsite SEO’ and it starts with ‘Domain Statistics’. This gives the IP of the site and says that site’s Domain Authority is 65 and Page Authority is 53. There is some brief explanation about what these are (how well the domain and page are likely to rank) but it DOES NOT say what the number is out of (it’s 100) and whether a high or low number is what you want (higher is better)!
Then there’s some ‘Onsite Factors’. Firstly there’s a screenshot showing how fast the page/site loads (VERY quickly in my site’s case!). My site loads in 322ms. Using the same tool, their site loads in 2.8 seconds. So my site loads about 8.5 times faster than their site…!
It then lists some common ‘on site’ SEO factors, like meta tags, etc. The ‘errors’ they say my site has are:
Meta Title is not fine. The current Meta Title length is 104 characters (with spaces). Ideally it should be up to 60 characters (with spaces) and should be keyword optimized.
This is true! However, having a ‘long’ title is better than having a ‘short’ one. And my ‘key’ keywords (Christmas Traditions, Christmas Around the World) are in the first 60…
Your page doesn’t contain H2 Heading.
This is also true – but it’s because IT DOESN’T NEED ONE! I use headings throughout my site where appropriate! But at least my site only has one H1 Heading. Thweir site has two – that is not good.
The rest of the errors are all repeated from the main SEO Report: ‘Your webpage contains URLs that are not SEO friendly’, ‘It does not appear that you are caching your pages’, ‘Your webpage doesn’t take the advantages of HTML Microdata specifications in order to markup structured data’ and ‘Your page has more than 20 http requests, which can slow down page loading’. As we’ve seen above, for my site these actually are either incorrect or not relevant…
Next up are some ‘Link Metrics’. This has a couple of charts about backlinks. Again there no explanations as to what these actually tell you…
They mention ‘Google Panda’ in regard to ‘link velocity’. But they don’t explain what Google Panda is! Google Panda is part of the Google algorithm that helps detect whether content and links to it are ‘quality’.
This section also includes a list of the text used in backlinks. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of Christmas type words in these!
They also have some ‘Suggestions’…
Increase the use of sponsored ads.
But I don’t want to use ads…!
Site-wide links should be acquired from the relevant niche and should be used in limited number.
They already are…
Keyword variation should be used to avoid Google Penguin updates. Use keyword variations like LSI keywords, generic variations, on page variations etc.
This is rubbish. Having a broad range of keywords certainly help, but the Google Penguin update started in 2010/2011 and was about stopping bulk backlink spam to help to promote bad content.
Find industry specific websites and offer to write for them. Guest posting for reputable publication is an effective technique to achieve better SERP results.
It is indeed, which is why I do it.
Diversification in the backlink profile is essential to rank better in the search engines. The links should be derived from good quality sources like authority sites, government sites and educational sites. Using variable sources when acquiring backlinks makes them appear more natural.
Again, doing it! (and do we want backlinks to ‘appear’ more natural or do we actually want them to actually be natural!?)
Participate in online forums. Find niche specific forums, ask and reply to the queries of others users. Some online forums supports do follow links; these links will help to improve your SERP results.
We recommend at least 2-3 press releases every month to acquire better quality links in PR buzz so that link building looks more natural. This type of backlink also increases trust and improves citation flow to the website.
Yes, Press Release *can* help. However, many ‘press release’ sites which SEO companies use are total junk can do more harm than good – with that Penguin! (And again do they want properly natural link building or just linking building that ‘looks natural’…?)
Next up is is a section titled ‘Competitors Analysis’ where they show how much site ‘needs help’ compared to another site.
Only there’s one huge problem with this – the site you’ve put as a competitor to my site is https://www.learnreligions.com/ – this IS NOT a site in the same area as mine!
My site is all about Christmas and unsurprisingly, ‘Learn Religions’ has information on a whole range of global religions. This is a small amount of overlap (as the site does cover Christmas) but really they aren’t ‘competitors’ to my site at all.
In the section they have some of the same charts and graphs for this site (site speed, number of backlinks, etc.) and again most of these are meaningless…
They also list the ‘on site’ things which Learn Religion are ‘doing better’:
URL is properly canonicalized.
This is WRONG. My site is also properly canonicalized – their auto generated SEO Report PDF says so!!! (Again they don’t actually say what that is – basically it means that the www and non www version of pages both point to the same page properly.)
Less number of outbound links.
This is UTTER RUBBISH. The number of outbound links on a site has NO EFFECT on your SEO.
On page content is keyword optimized.
This is WRONG. My site is VERY keyword optimized.
Proper use of content and images on the website.
This is WRONG. I have great content and images on my site!
The website has proper Meta title, description and keywords defined.
Again WRONG – so does my site!
Also Learn Religions is part of a large group of sites under the parent publishing brand ‘DotDash’. In one of the ‘competitors’ graphs they show that my backlinks growth is terrible compared to Learn Religions. But this is like comparing apples with oranges. Dotdash has a HUGE network of sites it can use to promote its other sites. I’m a single site (like pretty much any site which iMark are spamming), so of course I won’t have the backlink leverage…
In the automated SEO Report it actually lists some more accurate competitors, so why didn’t they use one of those?! I do wonder if they use a site under a large parent publishing group as a competitor because of course comparing to a site in a large group will make your own numbers look worse and so ‘in need of help’…
So the whole of the ‘Competitors Analysis’ is either meaningless, misleading, wrong or a load of rubbish.
The other PDF is a ‘task list’ of what they’d do should you use iMark’s services (I won’t be!). They all look like good things to do, but pretty much all of them are already in place on my site – and would be on the vast majority of sites…
The last attachment was an excel/spreadsheet on potential keywords which iMark recommend I should target/work on (get ads for? It’s not clear!) as well as ones which I could also think about (what looking at, getting ads for? Again they’re not clear!).
I’ll just look at the 18 search terms they ‘recommend’… So here they are, along with where my site already ranks for those terms with organic search results.
facts about christmas in mexico
Currently #1 in the organic results (in the ‘featured snippet’)
how do they celebrate christmas in switzerland
Currently #1 in the organic results (in the ‘featured snippet’)
christmas in usa facts
Currently #1 in the organic results
australian christmas beach
Currently #1 in the organic results
christmas full story
Currently #1 in the organic results
what date does russia celebrate christmas
Currently #1 in the organic results
christmas around the world greece
Currently #1 in the organic results (in the ‘featured snippet’)
an australian christmas
Currently #2 in the organic results
christmas around the world theme
Currently #5 in the organic results (although the word ‘theme’ is a bit odd…)
traditional christmas activities
Currently #16 and #17 in the organic results (although I don’t really offer specific ‘activities’ on my site, so I’m not worried about ranking for the word ‘activities’!)
countries christmas traditions
Currently #2 in the organic results
traditional activities for christmas
Currently #10 (the page about Christmas in the USA) in the organic results (although I don’t really offer specific ‘activities’ on my site, so I’m not worried about ranking for the word ‘activities’!)
different christmas activities
Currently #25 in the organic results (although I don’t really offer specific ‘activities’ on my site, so I’m not worried about ranking for the word ‘activities’!)
christmas religions around the world
Currently #5 in the organic results (although it’s a bit of an odd search term…)
religious christmas trivia games
Currently #49 in the organic results for this odd search term! But if you search for ‘Christmas quiz’ (which is a much more sensible term) my site is #4!
celebrating jesus birthday activities
Currently #37 in the organic results for this rather odd search term! I’m actually surprised the site ranks this highly as I don’t really have anything like this on the site! (It’s going to the page about why Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December.)
christmas story play for kids
Currently #7 in the organic results. I don’t specifically offer a ‘play for kids’ on my site, but there are children friendly versions of the Christmas story…
activities to do for christmas
Currently #41 in the organic results (although again I don’t really target offering ‘activities’ as such…)
So out of the 18 search terms they ‘recommend’ I need to work on, I’m already #1 on ALL OF GOOGLE for 7 of them; for another 6 I’m on the first page and the other 5 aren’t really relevant to what my site is about!
The fact that I’m on the first page of Google for 13 of the 18 makes me seriously wonder if they actually bothered to check where my site organically ranks?
Why would you recommend that a company/site works on improving their ranking for terms (let alone gets ads for) where it’s ALREADY on the first page or at #1? IT MAKES NO SENSE!!!
So, like the rest of their ‘reports’, their suggested keywords are seemingly useless as well.
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…
When we first got spam from iMark and looked at their site, let’s say I wasn’t exactly impressed. Let’s see if it’s got any better…
Last time I couldn’t check whether they had valid HTML as their site uses some weird code which stops the validation site from checking it (that’s got a good sign). That code is still in place. However, I found another way to validate the HTML on their site!
And… it has 7 errors and 6 warnings. Not terrible but my site has no errors or warnings!
Last time on Google’s Pagespeed their site got:
Mobile: 17/100 (that was really not good…)
Now their site gets:
Desktop: 57/100 (oops, not very good…)
Mobile: 12/100 (that’s even worse…)
My site gets:
Mobile: 99/100 – so both considerably better using Google’s own speed testing tool!
Using the ‘WAVE’ Accessibility Testing Tool, their site had 55 errors and 133 contrast errors – which is rather unimpressive. But now it has 59 errors and 135 contrast errors – so again, it’s got worse. My site has no errors of either kind!
They still have the same next to useless privacy page and they are still using multiple tracking system which they don’t tell you about.
They still have the very misleading ‘Servicing Clients Like…’ and logos of big brands who clearly aren’t their clients.
On their home page it also says that they are “Rated 4.75/5 based on 2492 reviews” with a link to their reviews page. On that page there are several video testimonials, so they must have some happy clients. However, it also says that the 4.75/5 number are “Ratings base a claim on observations by various global IT research firms.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! There’s no way to see a breakdown of the ‘2492’ reviews (like you can on a site like Trustpilot).
As they’d used an automated SEO tool for their report, I thought I’d use the same one on their site! So let’s see what their scores were…
As a reminder, my site got 91/100 with 5 ‘failed’ checks and 0 warnings.
Their site got 69/100 with 13 ‘failed’ checks and 2 warning. Oh. Dear.
Some of their failed checks are the same as my sites had: ‘Your webpage contains URLs that are not SEO friendly’, ‘It does not appear that you are caching your pages’, ‘Your webpage doesn’t take the advantages of HTML Microdata specifications in order to markup structured data’ and ‘Your page has more than 20 http requests, which can slow down page loading’.
But they also had several much more serious ones relating to site speed, security and accessibility. It’s a shame that they’ve not bothered to fix all the ‘errors’ on their own site before wanting to take money for fixing them on other people’s sites (although this is rather common on the sites of SEO spammers…)!
So iMark Infotech are still spamming and doing so from behind random gmail/outlook accounts.
They’re still sending out useless reports (with no helpful explanations of what most of the reports mean).
Their own site is still full of basic site speed and accessibility errors (and other slightly dodgy things)
So if you get an email from iMark Infotech, I’d still hit the delete button.
But the choice, as ever, is yours.
ps, I’ll be sending them a copy of the auto PDF report about their site, just in case it’s of any help…