SEO Email: Zthinkers

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 one is a little bit different to usual because, as you’ll read, I actually had a half decent conversation with the spammer and I hope they might even change their ways…

This time the email came in from ‘Mary’ who was using a Gmail address which had her name in (spelt incorrectly) and the word ‘zthinkers’… The spam came in via the contact form on my Christmas site – which is rather unusual! The subject on the form was “Best SEO services” and Mary said she was in Canada (although as we’ll see she will contradict that later on…). The email which came into my contact form (on the 11th December 2020) went:

Hi

I am Mary Jonshon ;

I was on your website. I am a marketing executive of an SEO, Web Design & Development Company. We have been offering SEO, Web Design, Web Development, PPC, Mail Marketing, Graphics Design, and complete Link Building Services for the last 9 years.

We will be happy to help to execute SEO & Web Design and Development projects at a much lower cost than what you have in-house. No compromise on quality!

We have just gone through your website and found some issues, that are as follows –

Your Website Title tag is not properly optimized.
The description tag is not properly optimized.
Google’s publisher is missing.
Canonical Tag Missing.
Robots File is not optimized properly.
Heading Tags Distribution is not proper (h1 to h6).
Some Image Alt Tags are missing.
Webpage content is not properly optimized.
Web page keywords density is low.
Keyword distribution is not proper throughout the webpage.
Social Media presence is low.
The website position in Google SERP is not so good.
The website is not ranked on the Majestic top million.
The website Alexa Rank is not good.
Website page speed is slow.

We would be happy to solve all this issue on behalf of you to bring the website in good SERP position.

Do let me know if you are interested then I will be happy to share our Methodologies and work details.

I am looking forward to your mail.

Kind Regards,

Mary Jonshon

Disclaimer: This is an advertisement and a promotional mail strictly on the guidelines of CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. We have mentioned the source mail-id of this mail and the subject lines and they are in no way misleading in any form. We have found your mail address through our efforts on the web search and not through any illegal way. If you find this mail unsolicited, please reply with “unsubscribe” in the subject line and we will take care that you do not receive any further promotional mail.

This is clearly and cut and paste job from their normal spam template. It’s a shame that Mary doesn’t seem to know how to spell her own last name correctly… And as for that spam disclaimer at the end of the email. Well, the email spam she sent is breaking several things within ‘CAN-SPAM’, so that’s a load of rubbish then…

Anyway, I replied with the following:

Hi Mary,
Wow that’s all very interesting!  Please tell me more about what you think is wrong with the site and your company!
Thanks,
James

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d hear back as I nothing in reply for days and then weeks. And then SEVEN WEEKS LATER I got a reply!!!

Hello,

Thanks for getting back to me and your interest. Please check our working process attached below including price breakdown.

I am working for Zthinkers.com an India based company serving worldwide clients. We provide various services that you can find visiting our website.

Visit us: zthinkers.com
Official Mail Id: [removed for privacy]

If you like to attain a face to face meeting, please connect with us any of the following platforms.

We are always Available on –
Skype: [removed for privacy]
Phone: + 91 [removed for privacy]
Telegram: + 91 [removed for privacy]
We are 24X7 available for the conversation.

If you need further information, please feel free to contact us.

Please find the attachment.

Thanks & Regards
Mary Johnson

Ah, now Mary’s got the spelling correct of her name! And she’s also now based in India not Canada! (+91 is the international dialing code for India.)

But as I’d still not heard more about what’s wrong with my site, I asked again:

Hi Mary,

Thanks for the reply and information about your company. 

However, you haven’t answered my question “Please tell me more about what you think is wrong with the site?”

Please can you answer that?

Thanks,
James

This time I got a reply within hours!

Hello James,

Of course I can answer all your questions. I was waiting for your response. However, please check the below details where I have mentioned all the relevant SEO issues according to my initial survey on the website. If you want to discuss further, please connect with me over Skype or WhatsApp.

Please check the details below

Website URL: https://www.whychristmas.com/

SEO Score of your Website: B­-

Your SEO could be better

Your page has some level of optimization but could be improved further. SEO optimization is important to ensure you can maximize ranking potential and drive traffic to your website from search engines. You should ensure your page fulfils common recommended improvements outlined here before moving onto more advanced SEO strategies

Relevant SEO Issues:

You have a title tag, but ideally it should be shortened to between 10 and 70 characters (including spaces).

Christmas Traditions, Christmas Around the World, The Christmas Story, Christmas Fun! – whychristmas?com

Length : 104

Your page has a low volume of text content which search engines can interpret as ‘thin content’. It has been well researched that higher text content volumes are related to better ranking ability in general.

Word Count: 167

Some of your link URLs do not appear friendly to humans or search engines. We would recommend making links as readable as possible by reducing length, file names, code strings and special characters.

Examples:

[There was then a list of some of the pages on my site]

We could not detect an analytics tool installed on your page.

Website analytics tools like Google Analytics assist you in measuring, analyzing and ultimately improving traffic to your page.

We have not detected any usage of Schema.org on your page.

Schema.org is a structured data markup for webpages which helps Search Engines understand your site better and provide rich snippets directly in their search results.

There is some text on your page that is small and may not be legible enough for particular users. We recommend reviewing all text on your page in different devices to ensure that it is of appropriate size.

Your page appears to be using inline styles. Inline styles are an older coding practice and discouraged in favor of using CSS style sheets, due to their ability to degrade page load performance and unnecessarily complicate HTML Code.

We have not detected a Facebook Pixel on your page.
Facebook’s Pixel is a piece of analytics code that allows you to track users and retarget them with Facebook Ads in future.

We have not detected Twitter Cards on your page.

Twitter Cards are a type of structured data that can be placed on your page to control what content is shown when a page is shared on Twitter.

No associated Instagram profile found linked on your page.

No associated LinkedIn profile found linked on your page.

Thanks and Regards
Mary Johnson

Aha, some more information. But as we’ll see below, Mary did about the absolute minimum possible to get this and it’s just a copy and paste job.

I replied to Mary pointing out all the errors in the points their emails (you can see all of these below in the ‘Their Report & Recommendations’ section). This is normally the point where I hear no more – but this time I got a reply!

Hi James,

I am really impressed with your reply. It’s clear to me that you are a well technical person and appreciate what you mentioned in the email.

Thank you.
Mary Johnson

So I replied and asked some more questions…

Hi Mary,

Yes I am a technical person. So I can understand and tell when I see rubbish like your spam.

Please can you answer some other questions for me?

Why do you send out spam which you know contains false information?

Mary Johnson isn’t your real name is it?  Why do you use fake names?  
And why did you put you’re in Canada into my form when you later said you’re in India?

James

And this was the reply I got.

Hi,

Thank you for your reply.

How are you doing today and throughout the Pandemic situation? Are you doing a job or your business going fine! All we are technically strong professionals in our field but we are not in stable condition. I hope you understand the pain of job loss, the hangry face of family members.

We are trying to survive anyway in this situation. If you have any suggestions for us in this situation, I will greatly appreciate it.

As you are a technical persona, I hope you will realize the situation and may help us based on our skill to survive.

Thanking you in advance.

Kind regards
Mary

To which I replied asking for some more clarification:

Hi Mary,

I’m doing ok thanks. Please can you answer the simple questions I’ve asked you? Here they are again:

Why do you send out spam which you know contains false information?

Mary Johnson isn’t your real name is it? 

Why do you use fake names?  

And why did you put you’re in Canada into my form when you later said you’re in India?

James

And I got some rather unexpected answers!

Why do you send out spam which you know contains false information? – This is a general format we observed for maximum websites. We are unable to check every website before sending an email. Where I know that most of them will not reply to me back.

Mary Johnson isn’t your real name is it? – Yes.

Why do you use fake names? – Initial impression.

And why did you put you’re in Canada into my form when you later said you’re in India? – Initial impression.

I have to admit I was very surprised with the honesty and I replied back…

Hi ‘Mary’,

WOW! So you are happy to admit that you knowingly send out spam that that you know contains untrue information.

You also admit that you use fake names and pretend to be from different countries as it might help (let’s be honest ‘trick’) people into replying to you.

If you are willing to lie so blatantly the first time you contact anyone (and also contact them illegally…), why should anyone trust you or anything else you tell them?

I’m sorry you’re having a tough time with the pandemic and things, but lying to people really isn’t the best way of getting business!

James

To which ‘Mary’ replied:

Thank you once again. I will definitely follow your advice and apply with a new approach with all real information. I don’t know if that will work or not but I will be satisfied.

To which I replied, hopefully with some helpful advice…

That’s a great first step!  I hope that it works for you.

However, you should also be aware that many countries around the world have strict anti-spam laws. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_spam_legislation_by_country

Your initial email to me also broke several of those laws including PECR from the UK, where I live (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/electronic-and-telephone-marketing/electronic-mail-marketing/)
It would be worth you making sure that you’re complying with those laws!

I’d also check your own site. There are several big issues with it!
https://www.seoptimer.com/www.zthinkers.com
https://gtmetrix.com/reports/www.zthinkers.com/BKi17EJT/
https://wave.webaim.org/report#/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zthinkers.com%2F

You haven’t even bothered to sort out the links in footer or half the content of the site!

Please may I suggest that you get your own site working as best it can before telling others how to make their sites better!!!

I really hope that ‘Mary’ and the team at Zthinkers will change their ways and try and get business through non spamming means.


Their Report & Recommendations

Although I had a good conversation with ‘Mary’, I think it’s still fair to look at all the claims in the emails as you might get similar things from other spammers!

In the initial spam template which came in via the contact form, there was a long list of ‘issues’ which Mary wanted to let me know about. But let’s see if they’re really true:

Your Website Title tag is not properly optimized.
This is WRONG. The title tags on all the pages on the site are optimized.

The description tag is not properly optimized.
This is WRONG. The description tags on all the pages on the site are optimized.

Google’s publisher is missing.
There’s a good reason that it’s missing. I DON’T NEED IT. This tag is for when you have Google ads on a site, which I don’t! So this is IRRELEVANT.

Canonical Tag Missing.
This is WRONG. All the pages on the site have canonical tags (which helps tell search engines which version of a page they should use if there are multiples).

Robots File is not optimized properly.
This is WRONG. It is!

Heading Tags Distribution is not proper (h1 to h6).
This is WRONG. Heading tags are used throughout the site as appropriate.

Some Image Alt Tags are missing.
This is WRONG. All images have appropriate alt tags.

Webpage content is not properly optimized.
This is WRONG. They are!.

Web page keywords density is low.
This is WRONG. The pages have keyword density as appropriate.

Keyword distribution is not proper throughout the webpage.
This is WRONG. There are LOTS of keywords throughout the site!

Social Media presence is low.
This is WRONG. There are links to the site’s social media accounts in the footer on the site.

The website position in Google SERP is not so good.
This is WRONG. The site ranks VERY highly on Google (SERP stands for ‘search engine results page’). It’s on the first page of Google for just ‘Christmas’!!!

The website is not ranked on the Majestic top million.
This is WRONG. The ‘Majestic top million’ is a list of the supposed most important million sites on the web. But it’s really only a guess… As I type whychristmas.com is number 40,951 – which is really pretty impressive! (However, their site isn’t in the top million!)

The website Alexa Rank is not good.
This is WRONG. Alexa is another list a bit like the ‘million’ one. Currently whychristmas.com is #55,839 on Alexa. (zthinkers.com is #2,960,983…!)

Website page speed is slow.
This is WRONG. My site loads VERY quickly.

So out of those 15 things, 14 are wrong and the other is irrelevant! As I said above. These are simply on a copy and paste template they will send on spam to *any* site to try and scare people into using their services. Sadly many spammers use this sort of template.

For the other items, on her other email, ‘Mary’ put whychristmas.com into a free and automatic SEO site checker at https://www.seoptimer.com/! And then copied and pasted much of it from the web page as many of the fonts and styles also came into the email.

Let’s look at those items…

You have a title tag, but ideally it should be shortened to between 10 and 70 characters (including spaces).
Yes the home page’s meta title is a bit long at 104 characters. However, the word Christmas is in the first 60 characters three times! The length is primarily what’s shown on search results, so ideally you want all of that to ‘show’, but being a bit long doesn’t really ‘hurt’ you as such.

Your page has a low volume of text content which search engines can interpret as ‘thin content’. It has been well researched that higher text content volumes are related to better ranking ability in general.
The home page of the site is actually one of the least entered pages via search engines (even though it’s normally one the first two pages of Google for just ‘Christmas’!). The site has LOTS of pages about Christmas, and that’s how most the vast majority of people actually enter the site using search engines. So this is not actually applicable in my case.

Some of your link URLs do not appear friendly to humans or search engines. We would recommend making links as readable as possible by reducing length, file names, code strings and special characters.
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 so they can’t be hurting the SEO much… So I’ll say this is ‘Not Applicable’.

Website analytics tools like Google Analytics assist you in measuring, analyzing and ultimately improving traffic to your page.
This is WRONG. I use an analytics tool on the site. But it’s one that the auto scanner didn’t detect! (The analytics I use are also privacy friendly.)

Schema.org is a structured data markup for webpages which helps Search Engines understand your site better and provide rich snippets directly in their search results.
There’s a good a reason there’s no ‘schema’ on the site – it doesn’t need it! If it did, it would be on the site. So it’s ‘Not Applicable’.

There is some text on your page that is small and may not be legible enough for particular users. We recommend reviewing all text on your page in different devices to ensure that it is of appropriate size.
The text in the footer is on the small size. But it’s also user scalable. Having this sort of things detected by auto scanners can be helpful, but it doesn’t mean there’s a ‘problem’. Again, this is ‘Not Applicable’.

Your page appears to be using inline styles. Inline styles are an older coding practice and discouraged in favor of using CSS style sheets, due to their ability to degrade page load performance and unnecessarily complicate HTML Code.
There is one *tiny* bit of inline code. It’s for an additional para about things being about Christmas is *normally* celebrated, not how things are at the moment with COVID-19… So normally there is no inline code (and actually using some inline code can make your site faster sometimes!).

We have not detected a Facebook Pixel on your page. Facebook’s Pixel is a piece of analytics code that allows you to track users and retarget them with Facebook Ads in future.
I DO NOT WANT Facebook tracking my users! Thus I don’t have a pixel installed on the site! Again, this is ‘Not Applicable’.

We have not detected Twitter Cards on your page. Twitter Cards are a type of structured data that can be placed on your page to control what content is shown when a page is shared on Twitter.
I don’t specially use ‘Twitter Cards’. However, I do have full ‘Open Graph’ code on the site, which also controls how things are displayed when shared, so it’s fine!

No associated Instagram profile found linked on your page.
Instagram is inappropriate for my site’s content, thus I don’t have an Instagram account! Again, this is ‘Not Applicable’.

No associated LinkedIn profile found linked on your page.
LinkedIn is inappropriate for my site’s content, thus I don’t have an LinkedIn account! Again, this is ‘Not Applicable’.

So as we can see, using an auto SEO scanner, like SEOptimer, *can* help and tell you things about a site, but it’s by no means the only thing you can do as it can have ‘issues’ that simply aren’t there in reality!

If you’re interested, you can see my site’s full ‘review’ on SEOptimer here, and the Zthinkers’ site on SEOptimer here!


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…

There site is https://www.zthinkers.com/

For HTML Validation, my site has no errors. Their site has 2 errors and 49 warnings (this is very good and due to them using a very good off the shelf theme and doing basically nothing to it!). My Christmas site has no errors or warnings.

Using the ‘WAVE’ Accessibility Testing Tool, their site has 20 errors and 74 contrast errors (this is not so good and partly due to the theme and partly due to the content they’re using). My site has no errors of either kind!

Using the GTMetrix speed test tool their site gets:

Overall Grade: F
Performance 25%
Structure 74%

Oh dear – not so good!

My site gets:

Overall Grade: A
Performance 100%
Structure 100%

So my site is perfect!!

There’s no privacy policy on the site. That’s really not good.

There’s a Google+ icon with the other social media icons in their site’s footer. However, Google+ closed nearly two years ago! But as none of the social icons are linked to any actual accounts, hmmmm!!!

On their about page it says they’ve had 32,548 clients! That looks very impressive. Their domain was registered in September 2015, when Mary’s first email came into me, it’s been 1,908 days since was registered. That means, that as a company, they’ve dealt with over 17 clients a day, every day, since their domain was registered. That’s either an amazing record or it’s a lie. I’m going to say that it’s a lie considering that right next to it, it says that they’ve done 4,295 ‘works’. So they’ve had 7.5 clients for every bit of work done. THAT DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL.

There’s also the fact that they use an off the shelf theme and these numbers are EXACTLY THE SAME on the theme’s demo…

Also the same as the theme’s demo are the names (and cartoon images) of all the ‘staff’ on the ‘About’ page, the company’s ‘vision’ statement (which is a load of gibberish in both the demo and on their site), and also all the logos of ‘big companies’ which are in the site’s footer.

So basically, Zthinkers are currently using an off the shelf theme, don’t seem to have set it up properly and haven’t changed most of the default settings.

Looking at their ‘case studies’ (there’s also a Portfolio link, but that’s not linked to anything!), things get even more ‘interesting’. Four of the sites they list are for ‘online drugs’ stores selling things like steroids and drugs which help certain male problems… (Most of these stores are legally sketchy at best as they tend not to be properly regulated.)

Another two sites are for online shops selling a kind of drug, which although legal in some countries, is still illegal in a huge number of others (including the UK)…

There’s also a couple of very iffy looking sites offering online Visa and Passport services. Normally you go through the site of a country’s government to get these sort of things, not third party sellers…

So let’s say I’m not exactly impressed with the type of client’s Zthinkers have been working with so far!


Conclusion

I REALLY hope that Zthinkers will stop spamming, get their site going properly and start getting clients in a ‘better’ way and can do good work for those clients.

The fact that ‘Mary’ was honest in our email exchanges gives me some hope.

However, if they continue to send out spam it would be a real shame…

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