11 lies that PR and marketing agencies put forth
This article originally appeared on PR Daily in May of 2017.
Selling to a skeptical buyer is hard, but selling to a skeptical buyer who
has been burned by deceptive marketing and PR companies is even harder.
The internet has made it easier to deceive buyers about expected results
from marketing and PR campaigns.
No matter what a salesperson tells you, there is no guarantee of overnight
success. Effective marketing and PR merely help you achieve business and
sales goals. Credible marketing and PR pros will set the right client
expectations from the outset and will follow through with hard work and a
clear strategy over time.
[RELATED: Get the skills you need to become a trusted advisor to leaders.]
Here are 11 common lies and half-truths that circulate in the marketing and
1. We’ll guarantee to get you on the first page of Google. This is a
ridiculous claim we hear routinely from marketers. Nobody can guarantee top
placement on Google, because that’s in the hands of the search engine
Google has dealt with this claim in no uncertain terms: Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special
relationship” with Google or advertise a “priority submit” to Google.
“There are no priority submits for Google,” it states.
2. We will send you only high-quality leads. As with pledges of getting you
on the first page of Google, this assertion is almost impossible to
quantify. There is no independent definition of what constitutes a
high-quality lead. Clients should outline those parameters. Once they do,
most marketing companies will back down on the promises. When they tell you
to describe the desired quality of the lead, ask good questions and point
to examples of past clients and the method used, so everyone is on the same
3. We will offer you a free trial of our SEO or PR services. SEO and PR are
involved processes that require long hours of work. Very few companies will
be serious about offering you this at no cost. Typically, they will want
your website’s username and password to do any work and will ask for access
to your hosting account, and, after some pushy sales tactics, you will end
up paying for their services.
4. You don’t have to do anything; we’ll do it all. This is meant to appeal
to busy small-business owners who wish to ignore their online efforts. Never cede control of your business to someone else. You’ll lose
track of what you’re being charged for and, worse, forfeit direction of
your web presence, which is the equivalent of your shop window a generation
ago. Retain control; do not let a marketing or PR firm hijack your
5. You will be privy to secret and undisclosed strategies. Internet
marketers like to tout a mystery ingredient or proprietary tool, as though
they have a team of SEO whiz kids at a virtual Hogwarts just over the
mountain. More likely they have a high school dropout leafing through the Idiot’s Guide to SEO in his mother’s basement. Any legitimate SEO
company should be able to explain exactly what they will do with and for
your site, as well as detailing their link-building strategy. A firm that
talks of “secrets” might be planning to use
black hat SEO techniques that could damage your site’s performance.
6. This is an amazing deal for you, and I don’t mind that it puts me in a
tough place. Call it the martyr strategy. Ask yourself, though, why any
marketer would put him- or herself in a tough place for you, and you will
see that it’s just a ploy to make you think they are bending over backward.
You need a win/win solution, so you don’t become the despised client.
7. This is a limited time offer; you have to act now. The limited-time
offer is intended to pressure you to make a decision before you can give it
much thought. Marketing deals aren’t like the last bottles of water before
a hurricane. If you approached the same firm later, a “deal” would almost
certainly still be available.
8. We work with someone at Google; we partner with Google.
With Google accounting for about 68 percent of search engine marketshare, it’s easy to see why marketers would want to claim affiliation. However,
Google has no partnerships in the SEO world, and Google employee would not
jeopardize their jobs by illegally associating with any such firms. If a
firm tells you it is partnered with Google, what else will it try to sell
you? Drop it.
9. We have a successful track record. Many marketing companies make this
claim, but what does it mean? Ask for the names of businesses that the
marketer has helped; then contact those businesses to get their feedback.
“Success” means different things for different business owners. Your job is
to find out what that would mean for you.
10. We’ll get you off the ground with minimal investment. Beware of
companies that offer freebies up front but take your credit card details.
Always read the fine print; there’s probably a catch down the line.
11. You don’t have to worry; we’ll take ownership of your content. Don’t
sign any agreement that would give ownership to the SEO agency you work
with. If things go badly, the company can hold you hostage or the content
could even be sold to a competitor. Read over your contract before you sign
anything, to ensure you’ll own all content created by your marketing
Victor Clarke is the owner of
Clarke Inc. A version of this article previously appeared on the
Media Moguls PR blog.