Local SEO Scam Of The Month: Craigslist SEO

Most SEO consultants I have met are pretty decent, hard-working folks. But there are plenty of SEO con artists out there, and it kills me every time I see a small business (or a big business) get taken. Recently, I had the privilege to witness a true Picasso of SEO con artists. I am sharing this with you, dear reader, so that the next time you are jonesing for that cheap, quick SEO fix, you might calm yourself down and add some great content to your site instead.

I was consulting for an agency that builds websites for local businesses. One of their clients had lost patience waiting for the SEO magic to kick in and decided to hire their own SEO. The agency called me up to say this new SEO was only one day in and already killing it. I logged into GA and was quite impressed by the Organic Search graph that greeted me:

I asked the agency who was this SEO miracle worker who can take a newly launched domain with few backlinks, messed up NAP, and generally bad juju and crank up the organic traffic as if by command?

His response: “I don’t know. They found him on Craigslist.”

I once hired a guy to build a sandbox for me on Craigslist.

I once bought some used furniture on Craiglist.

I once may have tried to find the love of my life on Craigslist.

I went back to GA, created a custom segment for Non-US traffic (orange) and compared it to organic search visits (blue) and guess what?

The Location report in GA confirmed my suspicions — 90% of the new traffic was coming from China, Philippines, Brazil and India.

I dug a bit deeper and found that the majority of this new traffic was hitting the home page, staying for less than a second, and bouncing out. Although I didn’t have a lot of keyword data — scammers like searching securely, after all — I strongly suspected that these new visits came from people searching the business’ name in Google and then clicking to the site from the results.

By this point, you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Craigslist SEO Co. was basically paying people to find the site and click on it. I’ll give him credit — he sure did know how to crank up the organic traffic fast.

Here’s what Craigslist says about avoiding scams on Craiglist:

You can avoid would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules:

DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON — follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.

(Hint: Craigslist wouldn’t have a page about avoiding scams if Craigslist wasn’t an assisted living facility for scammers.)

Now, I am sure there are plenty of legit SEOs on Craigslist; but, if you are going to hire one, maybe at least talk to some references or meet them in person?

I know some SEOs will spank me on Twitter because posts like these tend to tar the SEO industry with the scammer brush. Like I said, I have rarely met an SEO consultant who didn’t try to do his or her best for their clients. But businesses that seek quick fixes and fall for these Craigslist scheisters need some cold water in the face more than we as an industry need cheerleading.

So, next time you find yourself looking for a SEO consultant on Craigslist, perhaps try looking for that person you had a split-second of eye contact with at 24 Hour Fitness instead. You might have a better chance of having a happy ending.