Have you seen an e-mail in your inbox offering a “free website audit”? Lots of small business owners are receiving these e-mails from various sources—some valid, but most not. Whenever a client calls us and says they were e-mailed about a website audit, or the “results” of an audit, we’re immediately skeptical. And it’s not because we’re worried about what the results will say. In fact, we’re confident in the quality of our work, so we know our clients’ websites will pass any legitimate audit. Rather, it’s because we don’t want our clients to fall for a scam. A free website audit typically falls into one of two categories:
- Outright scam
- Deceptive sales gimmick
We’ve seen plenty of examples of both. They’re equally worrisome. In this blog post, you’ll discover the telltale signs that a “free website audit” is actually a scam. You’ll also learn how to spot misleading sales tricks so you don’t get duped. So, ready to protect yourself? Let’s get started!
How to Know When a Free Website Audit Is a Scam
The good news is outright scams are fairly easy to detect. Here are a few dead giveaways that you should delete the e-mail right away:
- The e-mail will be mostly text and poorly written.
- The e-mail will likely address you as “the owner of [your website domain]”—or won’t address you at all.
- The sender’s e-mail address will not have a business domain (like prospectgenius.com). Instead, it will have a generic domain like gmail.com, yahoo.com, verizon.net, etc.
- The e-mail will have virtually no identifying information about the sender’s business: no website link, no phone number, no street address, no professional logo.
- The sender makes vague references to SEO buzzwords without demonstrating any understanding of what they mean.
- The sender guarantees he/she will fix your website and get it “#1 ranking.”
But the biggest giveaway of all? The pretense that someone actually took several hours to do strategic keyword planning, audience research, location targeting, and so on—the elements of a genuine audit—for free. No one is doing that kind of work for free, especially when the website owner has never shown any interest in their services. In short, the entire premise of this kind of solicitation e-mail is bogus.
How to Know When an Audit Report Is a Deceptive Sales Trick
As you know, there’s a difference between a downright scam and a misleading sales tactic. It’s a fine line, certainly, but it’s an important distinction. Many well-known digital marketing companies engage in tactics that we can only describe as deceptive. They’re clearly not scams because they’re real companies providing real services. However, they often leverage fear and a lack of SEO knowledge to trick unsuspecting business owners into signing up for services they don’t need. Take Yext for example. They send out an official-looking “diagnostics report” that supposedly shows you how your business appears on several popular websites and directories. Here’s an example that came directly from one of our clients*:
*Business name redacted for privacy.
This report has lots of scary alerts and intimidating red text to trigger a fear response. Of course, this tactic is manipulative, but that’s not even what troubles us about this report. What bothers us most about this report is that it’s completely false. Within seconds, you can debunk this report. As we mentioned earlier, we’re confident that we do good work for our clients. As soon as our client sent this report to us, we knew it was fake because we knew for certain that we did, in fact, optimize a Google listing for this business. However, since many small business owners aren’t performing their own SEO or digital marketing, they can’t be as certain. As a result, they’re more easily convinced by such a report. That’s why we put together this quick video to show you how to fact-check these reports for your own business. Like we said, it’s insanely easy to prove them wrong. To do this, we submitted a scan of Prospect Genius via our Yahoo listing (Yext and Yahoo are partners). Yext then sent us a report of our very own, which claims, among other things, that our Google listing is missing. Watch what happens below: In the video, you see us:
- Highlight where the report says our Google listing does not exist.
- Navigate straight to our Google listing, which obviously does exist.
- Do the same thing again with our Whitepages listing.
(We could’ve easily gone into every single listing, but we wanted to keep this video short and sweet.) To run this check for your own business:
- Choose any of the websites where Yext claims you aren’t listed.
- Go directly to these websites.
- Search for your business name or phone number.
And, to be clear, Yext isn’t the only company that sends out these kinds of free website reports. However, you can use the easy steps above to fact-check virtually any report you receive.
Always Be a Skeptic
Sadly, scams are everywhere. Small business owners in particular are bombarded with sketchy e-mails and solicitations every day. If you take away anything from this blog post today, it should be to remain skeptical at all times. If you receive an e-mail offering you anything for free, it’s most likely a scam. And if you aren’t quite sure about its validity, just do a couple minutes of due diligence. Take a second to double-check it yourself. Don’t automatically take their word for it. And whatever you do, never give your log-in information to unknown parties. Armed with all the information above, you should be in great shape to protect yourself from any free website audit scam that comes your way. Good luck, and stay safe!