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SEMCompare LogoThere’s a new site allowing public reviews of SEM companies and you just know that means trouble. The site is called SEMCompare and is brought to us by the same people who launched the Search Marketing Standard magazine. As Kalena noted, they already have a few negative reviews for known companies in the SEO/SEM industry. Here are a few of the best (or should I say worse?) reviews on the site so far:

The only thing they were good at was stealing my money. The scammed me with a guarantee, took my money and only achieved minor results in Yahoo and MSN, never even got any of the 60 keywords within the first 100 pages of Google! I think they even got me banned from Google for three months for using black hat techniques.

The results were poor and the pricing is high. I would recommend them only to the largest search spenders.

In summary, [Company] misrepresented their expertise, their technology, and showed no integrity as they breached their contract, refunding nothing to us. I strongly warn anyone and everyone to avoid spending any resources with this organization. Take your money and burn it. You’ll get more satisfaction from that experience than with working with [Company].

Part of me applauds this effort. Everybody knows there are companies who fail to deliver for clients. If this site can stop businesses falling into this trap it could raise the standard and public perception of the entire industry.

Blind Corner AheadHowever there are some problems with the model.. First users are allowed to comment anonymously. This could lead to malicious attacks by competitors. Second, it seems unfair not to offer companies a way of replying to the critics. Without this feature, they can’t counter any bad publicy or address the issues presented by the reviewer. In fairness to SEMCompare though, their representative, Boris Mordkovich has publicly agreed to address these issues.

My final gripe though, is the way the pages have been optimised. SEMCompare has placed the company name in the title, meta description and the leading H1 tag on each page. It’s hard not to see these review pages ranking for companies who have been slack in protecting their company SERPs. If that sounds like you, I’d start building those company web profiles fast.

As for us, we only have a few select clients, and the ones we have would hopefully be more sensible than to identify themselves in public. In this age of negative SEO, it isn’t clever to attract the scrutiny of competitors or certain search engine employees. This site isn’t exactly going to help keep you under the radar. If you’re about to publish your URL as a site actively optimising, you better be very sure you don’t have any skeletons or say…paid links in your closet.

If SEMCompare decide to publish reviewer details I anticipate a sharp slow down in posts. Another factor maybe the company’s current relationship with that vendor. If they refuse, they will face lawsuits from angry SEM agencies, determined prove the claims are false. You have to hope they are making money from such a hot potato.

Although this story has been published in various industry haunts, we’ll only see the true reaction when these reviews appear in the SERPs. If I were Andy Beal, I’d be jumping on the opportunity by offering all companies reviewed a free copy of his Trackur software. After all, if Danny Sullivan’s Sphinn introduced most of the industry to social media, SEMCompare may be able to pull the same trick with reputation management.

NB: The more observant among you will notice that I’ve chosen not to link to the new review site. First I want to see what direction they take the site in and if the points above are addressed.

** Danger Will Robinson, Danger! by debaird, one of many artists who make their work under a Creative Commons license at Flickr – thank you!
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Lead SEO, Group Optimisation at Vodafone. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy group helping enterprises and start-ups. Digital strategist and veteran SEO/SEM. Views are my own and not representative of my employer (more).

9 Responses to Reputation Management Explosion in 3…2…1…

  1. Hi Nick,

    Boris from SEMCompare here. Just wanted to mention that I appreciate your feedback and your suggestions.

    Regarding the first two comments, we are already working on them:

    1) The future reviews will soon no longer be anonymous.

    2) SEM Firms will be able to respond to the reviews. We’ll even take it a step further and will create an admin from them, so they could get email notifications whenever a new review is posted about their company.

    We’re in this for the long-term and want to create a fair site that allows both sides to present their sides.

    In terms of optimizing the website, I’d have to disagree with you on this element, however. Since our goal is to provide people with information when they are researching a potential SEM firm, we can’t do it if our site is nowhere to be found. We don’t expect everybody out there to know what SEMCompare is, so website optimization is an important element of driving traffic to the site.

    Best regards,
    Boris Mordkovich
    – SEMCompare
    p.s. I haven’t included the link to our site in this comment either.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion Nick. I’ll keep an eye on the companies that get negative reviews. ;-)

  3. @Andy

    I’d start with Performics, looks like they are having a pretty bad day overall. :)


    Thanks for commenting. I do admire the way you have dealt with the feedback over this project. I suspect you’re going to have more work to do once these reviews start appearing in the SERPs.

    I think the moves on anonymous reviews and company feedback are excellent. Thanks.

    I do still have reservations about positioning yourself on company SERPs as a way of promoting yourself. I used to run a directory on e3internet and I was very surprised how easily it was to rank on company names, even SEO companies who should know better.

    I can see that being a problem for some companies – and in turn it will no doubt cause you a headache. As I wrote though – I’m sure this will push companies to learn about reputation management!

    I’m glad you’re in this for the long term though, it gives me a bit more faith in your project.

  4. @Boris – Will you be keeping the existing anonymous reviews live on the site?

    I’ve not looked through the reviews in any detail, but one I saw appeared to be a glowing testimonial from another SEO company rather than a customer. I suppose they might have used their services, but it seems a little unusual. Are you monitoring reviews?

  5. Hi Gavin,

    Yes, we certainly do monitor the reviews. In fact, they are all manually approved before we go live and require to meet a few guidelines, such as:

    1) Must have a non-free email address
    2) Must have a legitimate website;
    3) If anyone attempts to submit multiple reviews, all of the reviews get automatically flagged and are investigated further by our team.

    We have not made a decision yet regarding the existing reviews. Keep in mind that we have collected all of the information for them, so they are as legitimate as the future reviews will be. I’ll keep you posted when we reach a decision regarding that.

    p.s. I’m not 100% sure which review you have been referring to, but it is quite common for SEM firms to outsource part of their work to others – depending on their specialization. It would be more of a concern if this was a negative review, in which case, I certainly see conflict of interest.

  6. @Boris

    It might also be useful to get an idea of the length of contract. If you look at the review on Vested Ventures;

    While the overall result was not positive, it was our first exposure to the world of PPC marketing, the problem there was not enough value found in the completed work

    The problem here is that we don’t know if they only carried out PPC for 2 weeks or 2 months? If the campaign time was too short, the company in question wouldn’t have had time to optimise the campaign before the client pulled out. Again though, this is why allowing companys to respond is so important.

    I was also found this comment by ewhisper interesting. Allowing the reviewers to be searched could provide useful information for the SEM companies. Maybe another reason for them not to place reviews, but could bring more companies onboard with the idea.

  7. 1. if they SEO their site better than SEO firms then more power to them.

    2. i believe anonymous reviews are good. naturally, with anything thats anonymous, idiots will have a minor impact. but the overall impact will be beneficial. the opposite method hinders reviews, a lesson i learned personally two years ago

    3. if any firm has a problem with a review, it is merely removed with one click. litigation is highly unlikely

    4. i would have started this site if they didnt, check out my latest idea which is similar, but targets a different group. click my name

    5. the current sites which rate seo firms have massive flaws and hindrances to usability

    excellent work boris and andy

  8. @Marc

    1. I actually launched a directory a couple of years ago. Nothing special, just a WordPress blog where I could put links to companies or services that I approved of.

    I was very surprised to find it ranking 3-5 place on company names. It was built on top of a good domain but only PR5.

    More vocal/famous SEM companies in the space like SEOMoz, WeBuildPages and TopRank have very well populated company SERPs. I don’t see SEMCompare appearing anywhere there – but many other SEMs have very open results. One big benefit of participating in social media is the way it protects your company profile.

    We’ll see what happens in a few weeks though.

    2. I agree that naming reviewers will hinder reviews, for the reasons I covered in my post. It may stop some grief for Boris though.

    3. Not sure Boris has said this? I would thought this was the case but again, it may make life more difficult for SEMCompare. If word gets round that reviews are easily removed with legal threats, I’m sure companies will line up to file. Reputation is everything in this business.

    4. Thanks for the linkdrop ;)

    5. Agree – the site is actually very well built and easy to navigate. I can’t fault them on that!

  9. I can see the lawsuits and problems already. ripoffreport’s comes to mind.

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