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:

SEO VIAGRA 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? INTERNATIONAL DEMAND

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.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | SEO: Local


About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • http://jameshalloran.net/ James R. Halloran

    Aw, dude! Craigslist is the worst for quality professional services.

    You’re definitely right that good SEO work takes time. It’s a shame a lot of businesses are only looking for fast, immediate results.

    The end goal should always be to have more conversions and sales, not the highest ranking on Google or an insane increase in traffic. If the traffic doesn’t convert, you just wasted your money for fabricated stats like this guy did here in your article.

    Thanks for pointing this out to people, Andrew! I’ll share this with some other skeptical clients I know.

  • http://www.davidnrothwell.com/ David Rothwell

    Thanks for sharing Andrew.

    Yet another ridiculous tactic that has no value.

    And even if these were visitors local to the business in question, did they buy anything?

    “Clicks are for Show, but Conversions are for Dough”

    You’ve got to pay for SEO somehow, so you may as well just buy clicks and totally control where and when they come from.


  • http://www.rokitseo.com/ Jon Cline

    Wow, did they say what they had payed for this Craigslist service?

  • http://www.keshkesh.com/ Takeshi Young

    I get all my SEO work done by people on Craigslist & Fiverr :)

  • Thomas

    shhhh… dont want my clients to backdoor me ;)

  • http://www.radicalmustache.com/ Mikel Zaremba

    I once sold a 10 year old, incomplete dish set with floral patterns for top dollar ($20 to be exact). So, let’s not let this CL bashing thing get outta hand, guys.

  • Ian Davis

    Egad!!! I hate SEO Scum.

  • Ian Davis

    Egad!!! I hate SEO Scum.

  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    I just can’t understand why do you call this a scam ?
    Did you see the details of the agreement between the business and SEO ?
    I suppose you didn’t, because there was no signed agreement with certain goals to archive and liabilities.

    One guy, who knows nothing about the web business, hired another guy, who knows nothing as well.
    The task was : “Do something!”
    Guy did something. How is this a scam ?
    It’s more like two not smart guys met each other. Is this bad ? I don’t think so, because this is what evolution is based on.

  • Rakesh

    Thanks for sharing …
    you said this in clients point of view just look at the SEO companies point of view 90% of the clients contact a SEO company and expects a lot for a very less amount.
    every field has con people ……. we have to be smart in selecting them.

  • Scott Davis

    Haha. HVAC services in Akron! I lived there for 2 years…. I’m pretty sure none of the homes had central heat or air conditioning (window units don’t count — those things are awful).

  • Kevin Anchi


  • Paul Dybala, PhD

    I would not call this SEO, I would call this Pay For Clicks, and that is only Clicks, not conversions.

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve

    Nothing more than a paid to click network trying to cash in on an unsuspecting business owner. This is why educating your clients is so important. All they see is the traffic number, and assume everything is fine and dandy.

  • http://www.clippingpathindia.com/clipping-path-service.html Bijutoha

    First I know about craigslist from my childhood friends who earns money by Craigslist during many years . I saw that was look like a e-mail marketing. After I found it is very essential for Local Marketing . Even I am in dark how to optimize Craigslist as a good professional. I think Andrew Shotland ! read my mind and, give me some good shares on Craigslist .

  • Darpan Ghosh

    Its a pretty unfortunate indeed Andrew! But the truth is the next time them cons will get a chance they will again get into this, with a pretty much ‘I dont care’ attitude! its the “quick SEO fix” and thats all matters! And no matter how much you, me or few others shout or point facts why adding “some great content to your site” can make the difference, things will take another lightyear to change and come in the shape that should be great for all of us.

  • http://www.gracecore.com/ Wayne

    you get exactly what you pay for…..

  • Alan

    Hey Andrew,many freelancers from all over the world, especially from Asia depends on craigslist to bid projects. They do legitimate business and provide expert services. So don’t tell that craigslist the place for Scam …I hope you will change the title for this post..Thanks


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