Unethical Digital Marketing Consultancies and How to Avoid Them

The meteoric rise in the effectiveness of digital marketing has led many companies to hire digital marketing consultants to promote their business and increase customer database. Through a mix of different strategies such as PPC campaigns, SEO campaigns, and social media marketing, marketing consultants and agencies can achieve all their client’s goals which help them achieve profitability.

However, like in the case of most industries, more and more full-service digital marketing agencies are beginning to crop up, each claiming to be the best at what they do. However, there are a lot of fraudulent organizations carrying out unethical practices such as black-hat techniques, and making false promises to their clients. While some of them may seem convincing, trusting a fraudulent organization can be disastrous for an organization’s digital marketing efforts. There have been cases in the past where websites found guilty of employing unethical practices have been fined heavily, even resulting in a ban from search engines. Thus, working with fraudulent organizations can be disastrous for a company’s reputation and profitability.

The following points highlight the tell-tale signs of an unethical digital marketing consultancy, which should be avoided at all costs.

1. Guaranteed Number One Search Engine Rankings: A lot of digital marketing consultants promise their clients that they can get the client’s website at the very top or within the top 5 search engine rankings within a short period of time.  However, Search rankings through organic methods are time-consuming procedures requiring significant labor and skill. Always remember that,

  • No agency can ever guarantee a number one ranking on any search engine platform. This is because of the way SEO campaigns work, as any change in a competitor’s website ranking automatically reflects their client’s as well.
  • As mentioned above, SEO is a combination of skill, expertise, and tactics and do not achieve instantaneous results.
  • Google and all other search engines regularly modify and update their search algorithms based on progressive tactics.  Hence, no rank can be retained automatically.

2. Smoke screening monthly and weekly Reports: A digital marketing consultancy has to agree with a pre-defined set of goals to be achieved either monthly or weekly, depending on the client’s requirements.  These goals are perfectly aligned with the organization’s overall commercial goals. A typical marketing report from a consultant contains valuable data such as an executive summary containing figures relating to % growth in reach, % growth of website visitors, % increase of known leads, % growth of sales opportunities, Number, value or % growth in sales and other data having business implications. They also include details regarding the tools and tactics used and the time and labor took to achieve those results. However, in the case of fraudulent agencies, these reports contain fluff or incorrectly presented data. Agencies use “smokescreen” tactics to amplify ordinary promotional efforts with a list of unwanted activities. This can mislead their clients into thinking that they will achieve their goals when in reality it is unsuccessful.

3. Other Black-Hat techniques: Competent digital marketing agencies never employ unethical or black-hat techniques to achieve their client’s goals.  They know that digital marketing and promotional efforts require a lot of dedicated resources and time to organically achieve results.  However, unethical or fraudulent digital marketing agencies resort to several unethical tactics to fulfill the false promises they made.  Tactics such as purchasing email contacts in bulk for lead generation, buying followers on social media or using backlinks which are up for purchase in several online markets are quite common and can have dire consequences.  Google and other search engines can penalize organizations and can even ban them, resulting in significant damage to the company’s brand image.

Digital marketing can be the greatest weapon in the current marketing landscape, provided it is conducted in a responsible and ethical way. A certain amount of trust is required between the two parties for the success of a particular campaign. Thus fraudulent organizations should be avoided at all costs, and a company should sever all ties with the consultancy if any one of the above factors comes into play.

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