TopSEOs.com - A Review of the Top SEOs Paid Rating Service

Mar 30th

Who is going to pay to tell people that they are good enough and their lives are fine as they are? A fundamental truth of advertising is that advertising the truth usually isn't very profitable - which is why there is lead generation, affiliate programs, public relations, negative billing options, small print, bogus medical research, and so on... ;)

Ever wonder how an SEO professional can charge first world rates to do third rate, third world work and still get a top rating from a heavily advertised SEO rating website? Edward Lewis has the lowdown on Top SEOs, including TopSEOs complaints.

[edit: above links removed, as Edward sold his site at some point & then the person who bought it later sold it to TopSEOs, so the above links would have led to lead generation forms for some unsavory SEO folks.]

A big part of the problem with the affiliate business model is when people offer fake rankings / ratings and only promote whoever pays them the most. The person/company which can afford to pay the most for leads often can only afford to because there is hidden risk or hidden cost in the service, or because they don't deliver on their promises. An analogy here is those AAA rated mortgage backed securities where an S&P employee explained, "We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it."

The biggest brands don't pay as much per lead because they don't have to. They invest in brand and quality of customer service. The best service-based companies don't need to pay cut-rate ad prices to advertise. The best SEO companies have far more demand for their time than time to pay to hunt for customers.

I remember back in 2006 when one of the currently "top rated SEOs" did work for my wife's website (before she met me). That SEO firm did nothing but outsource overseas irrelevant reciprocal link exchanges and her website *would not rank* for any semi-competitive keywords until *after* the reciprocal links page was removed from her site. After we took down those reciprocal links and built some quality links the site started to rank. We changed the FTP details as well because that guy's services were not only not worth paying for...the reciprocal links were proved to be damaging, and we didn't want him to put them back up. And in spite of not doing any services for months (and certainly no services worth paying for), this person wanted to ensure they got paid for 12 months of "service." And they didn't want to let the contract end when it was supposed to either. They were all sales, all the time. It didn't matter that they were selling ineffective garbage.

What eventually stopped the credit card charges was when I wrote him via email "If her credit card is charged again we will be doing a reverse charge and a full writeup on the service."

He responded to that with the following:

I would watch your comments and threats my friend as you have no idea of what I am capable of or who I am - this is a small industry and if you are trying to be a an up an coming player in it this is not the way to do it by bashing your competition. A simple email professionally stating that you were unhappy with the service would have sufficed and I would have looked into to make sure Giovanna got what she paid for.

I have run 2 optimization companies and have been in this business for 12 years now. With my contacts at Google and the other main engines I can get your ebook website banned within 1-2 days if this is how you do business - with threats and slander - keep it up.

The funny thing is all I said was that if he tried charging again (past the contract) that we would reverse charges. And yet the sleazeball told me to "watch your comments and threats" and that he could use "contacts at Google and other main engines" to get my website banned.

What a jerk.

I have always had contempt for blowhards, and for pure hard-sales salesmen who put sales first and are willfully ignorant of their trade and/or who are willing to sell garbage product without any concern for the customer's welfare.

I am grateful that the above mentioned person sucked at what they did & ripped people off back then. If they were not out scamming people and actually provided a useful service then my wife wouldn't have had a reason to contact me and meet me and marry me. ;)

I let it go for over 3 years, but if they are still scamming people then that needs to stop. I figure its only right that I write this post as a fair warning. All good things must come to an end. And so should bad things. Hopefully these clowns quite scamming people. Enough is enough.

Update: 3 years later the fake ratings continue. BigMouthMedia was rated a top SEO agency by Top SEOs, even when it no longer existed as a distinct company after a merger years earlier. Top SEOs is so bogus with their ratings that they even put out a press release announcing the above rating of the above non-company!

Published: March 30, 2010

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

March 30, 2010 - 2:40pm

...who else REALLY wants to know who made that comment?

March 30, 2010 - 3:05pm

Over the past 2 months I have been looking at that site and using it to measure SEO companies. I better be a little more careful, thanks for the article!

March 30, 2010 - 3:28pm

I was wondering when you guys would get to TOPSEO's and expose them for their crap.

March 30, 2010 - 3:51pm

The whole business model is so thin it's pathetic.

It's no better than the "who's who" books - those lame ass books that exist for no reason other than to sell someone on being listed. The only people who read them are the people who take the bait. It's a play on vanity.

What's worse here is that businesses are duped into thinking the listings on these websites reflect merit.

If you witnessed the whole "Verified SEO" debacle you know this was just another half-assed attempt in the same vein.

SEMPO is the same thing - you pay money, you get a badge and a listing. Suddenly you're a reputable company.

What's the profit motivation of these organizations? Get more members. What incentive would they have to turn people away and create a truly strict acceptance policy? None.

Of course, in the long term they'll find their brands have shit the bed. And based on this blog post and word going around, I'd say the long term is coming sooner than they think.

March 30, 2010 - 4:12pm

SEMPO is the same thing - you pay money, you get a badge and a listing. Suddenly you're a reputable company.

For what it's worth, SEMPO has been pretty upfront about what it means to be a member. The following (or something like it) has been on their home page since their founding:

A Note to Site Visitors

SEMPO is an industry organization designed to promote search engine marketing in general, not an accreditation body for SEM firms. Membership in SEMPO is not a guarantee of a particular firm's capabilities, nor does it signify industry approval or disapproval of their practices.

Not that anyone pays attention to that, but at least it's there.

Before SEMPO was a public organization, it began as a Yahoo discussion group, and I wrote in asking how the organization was going to vet prospective members to make sure their business practices wouldn't make the industry and the organization look bad. The person running the discussion group sent me an email saying she'd deleted my post because she didn't want that topic to be part of the conversation as it would take us off-message.

That was the end of my participation.

March 30, 2010 - 4:18pm

"Off message" - right. Isn't it convenient when the "message" leaves no room for critical analysis?

But I'd agree that SEMPO isn't quite as bad some of the other organizations out there. It's probably unfair to lump them in.

March 30, 2010 - 10:35pm

Oddly enough (or perhaps not so), the person who I quoted above was indeed also a SEMPO member.

March 30, 2010 - 9:58pm

I have never seen this site but after looking at who the number one site is, it is completely pathetic. The number one site has no clue what they are doing, starting with their title tag. Its companies like this and other crappy companies on it that destroy this industry. Every time talking with a new client they say they can find someone to do SEO for 350 a month and its because of crap like this. Good post and I love the threats.

March 30, 2010 - 11:28pm

At Vizion, we have been complaining about these guys for a while too - http://www.vizioninteractive.com/top-seos-my-rant-continues.

Glad to see this post Aaron!

March 31, 2010 - 2:34am

The biggest brands don't pay as much per lead because they don't have to. They invest in brand and quality of customer service. The best service-based companies don't need to pay cut-rate ad prices to advertise. The best SEO companies have far more demand for their time than time to pay to hunt for customers.

Exactly. Aggressive sales for me is a sign of low quality service. Not always the case, but very often the case. High quality service sells itself.

March 31, 2010 - 5:21am

I once employed a self proclaimed "SEO Rockstar" from the West Coast. I'll never forget him telling me, "Any SEO company that cold calls is clearly not a good SEO firm."

I disagree with that 100%. I will say that MANY of the companies that cold call don't have a great product. But certainly not all.

I don't want to sound like a blowhard, but to showcase my point you have to understand that we have a rather large number of clients. 48% of them came from speaking events we did at conferences and (wait for it) the evil "cold calling."

When you do traditional sales, you find companies that weren't even THINKING about doing SEO. It typically isn't until you meet with them and wow them with the potential of internet marketing that they would even consider it.

I will always have traditional sales built into the beginning stages of my company building. But... I will never do it with an inferior product. And I will always make sure it's scalable.

For the record, any site that lists recommended companies in a "who paid the most" order is a complete scam. thomasnet.com is another that should be outed. Thanks for doing this, Aaron.

June 7, 2010 - 11:16pm

I am the owner of an ethical SEO company that advertises on TOP SEOS. First let me state, my clients love us, they get results, they get service and most of our competitive wins are for real keywords and get real traffic. All of our clients are in the top 3 spots for their keywords. If you called any of my clients and asked them how they felt about us, they would tell you we do our job right and we communicate our progress effectively.

Another thing is I am the ONLY SALES person for my company and the owner, I can't compete all the time with these larger companies full of sales teams etc. I am not a sales guy, I am an SEO professional that explains what I do to help increase your web presence and generate new revenue.

My question is: Is it really a bad thing that I advertise on Top SEOs? Ironically most of the time I am getting another high rated TOP SEOs client because they can't do all the things they promised because their sales staff are full of empty promises and have no clue what quality SEO is.

June 8, 2010 - 3:09am

If you are seeing a return then for you personally is advertising with Top SEOs a bad thing? Well you are seeing a return, so clearly it is working for you.

For the broader marketplace is it bad that you are funding a shifty websites which promotes businesses that have provided traffic and exposure to some firms that take people for a ride? Yes.

If you are a marketer who is good at marketing and understand traffic acquisition, SEO, viral marketing, social media, paid search, etc etc etc ... then you shouldn't need to be too reliant on any individual 3rd party website for traffic. IMHO.

March 31, 2010 - 8:18am

"Any SEO company that cold calls is clearly not a good SEO firm."

Maybe 1% of them are decent to good. But the honest truth is that well in excess of 90% of them are not. Why should anyone jump into a new business relationship where the odds are stacked against them by at least 10 to 1?

The person/company you would find to work with if you did a bit of research will almost always provide a higher quality service than the company which relies on cold calling.

I equate cold calls with email spam. Not exactly 100% the same, but pretty darn close. How often do you find email spam worth purchasing from? I remember so far 1 time in my entire life where I purchased from email spam and thought it was a good / fair deal months later.

The marketer is *rarely* above the medium. Those who are...well they are really the exception that proves the rule, IMHO.

48% of them came from speaking events we did at conferences and (wait for it) the evil "cold calling."

I don't put conference speaking and cold calling in the same category really. I haven't seen anyone from Traffic Power speaking at SEO conferences, but they certainly have cold called hundreds of thousands of businesses.

Which brings up another point...even if 10% of the companies which cold call are legitimate, they don't call anywhere near as much as the sweatshop sales organizations do. So even if the decent / respectable companies represent 10% of the companies doing it, they likely represent less than 1% of the phone calls.

Which means the chances of a successful profitable relationship for a business receiving cold calls are not the 10 to 1 mentioned earlier, but more likely 99 to 1... a 99% chance of losing money. Brutal!

When you do traditional sales, you find companies that weren't even THINKING about doing SEO. It typically isn't until you meet with them and wow them with the potential of internet marketing that they would even consider it.

I agree that too many of us SEOs are focused on the same small market and miss huge swaths of the broader market. But I imagine that is a big area where the vertical specialization that companies like you do really adds a ton of value...you have systems in place, know the vertical, and know the market.

The thing is...few of the companies that cold call systemize the other aspects in a meaningful, useful, and value add sorta way. Most of them just pay the sales people high commissions while paying the technical practicioners crumbs to deliver poor services. This post about what Keyword Rankings / WebSourced / MarketSmart Interactive was like *from the inside* highlights how it typically goes. Unsurprisingly, they were using cold calling and email spam as core lead generation strategies. One of my old customers used to be one of their customers, and I can say without doubt or hesitation that they got ripped off / scammed.

But... I will never do it with an inferior product.

Which is where you differ from 99%+ of the cold calls. Perhaps your number should be whitelisted ;)

March 31, 2010 - 10:58am

I am grateful that the above mentioned person sucked at what they did & ripped people off back then. If they were not out scamming people and actually provided a useful service then my wife wouldn't have had a reason to contact me and meet me and marry me. ;)

Two things come out of this:

1. Whatever happens happens for good.
2. Marriages are made in heaven.

;-)

Ok. Coming back to the post.

From the list it’s really hard to know which one is a good SEO company and which one is bad. Only way to figure out is to become a client for all the companies and see for yourself (which is impossible).

So what I did was visited quite a few top listed websites.

Interestingly they do have some impressive clients list to show ranging from Fortune 500 to many big companies.

Just a kinda debate – if they were all BS companies how on Earth they boast of an impressive client list?

March 31, 2010 - 11:31am

I never stated or claimed that *all* the companies on that list were scammers. But you highlighted the problem that exists...the scammers are listed near the legitimate companies, which only lends more credibility to the scammers. And that serves no legitimate purpose. It is designed to exploit consumers.

And an impressive client list might seem great, but the person who scams people for a living probably isn't afraid to list a few *fake* clients on their website too. ;)

March 31, 2010 - 12:53pm

Aaron I wanted to hear this:

but the person who scams people for a living probably isn't afraid to list a few *fake* clients on their website too.

Now how a potential SEO service buyer knows whether the testimonials used and/or the clients list used in a website are fake or real to take a business decision? (Probably the answer may require a full post, but a few pointers would be great.)

March 31, 2010 - 1:03pm

Well the easiest ways to not get scammed are to not be...

  • receptive to hard sales techniques
  • ignorant about what you are investing into

But beyond that, it is really up to the person to decide how they want to do due diligence. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

There is no universal way to ensure you don't get scammed because con men and scammers often wrap their offering in a package that looks just like the real thing. Which is proven by the TopSEOs model, where a mystery meat scammer is listed near legitimate service providers.

March 31, 2010 - 12:22pm

Aaron, thank you for spawning additional discussion on TOPSEOs! It's funny, you met your wife via an SEO Ripoff and I picked up one of my largest clients via an SEO Ripoff - Traffic-Power. ;)

I have run 2 optimization companies and have been in this business for 12 years now. With my contacts at Google and the other main engines I can get your ebook website banned within 1-2 days if this is how you do business - with threats and slander - keep it up.

I think I know who said that! We won't mention any names just yet as I'm sure it will all come out in the warsh as they say.

I've just added an updated document to the above referenced collection. I recently finished my review of the 170 SEO companies that are currently ranked by TOPSEOs. There are a total of 3,247 SEO companies listed in the directory.

Out of those 170 SEO companies, 22 are currently paying for their TOPSEOs rankings. Of those 22 companies, 6 are Ultimate Memberships, 12 are Official Memberships, and 4 are Silver Memberships. Estimated monthly membership fees collected: $55,000.00 USD

These are the 22 SEO companies currently supporting the TOPSEOs Pay to Play ranking model.

TOPSEOs Membership Statistics - 3,247 SEO Companies - 22 Paid Players

March 31, 2010 - 1:15pm

Looks like one individual is dominating the ranks around the world. Hmmm. Maybe there could be something shady going on there? Worthy of further investigation no doubt.

March 31, 2010 - 3:19pm

This is sad, but I think it happens way to often. My neighbors own a small restaurant in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs, CO and do little to no time on the Internet. In fact, their current online marketing plan consists of checking their email.

Anyhow, they got one of those emails from an SEO Company offering to submit them to the search engines and get them in the #1 position. The owners called and the guy on the other end of the phone was a real smooth, talker. The owners were putty in his hand.

Thank goodness, they came and asked me about what the guy was saying and I told them to stop... the guy was going to take over $500 to "submit" them to the search engines and a huge downpayment just to get the homepage optimized.

I called the guy and told him that they didn't need his services and he could stop bothering him (and yes, I was polite about it). He told me that it was none of my business and that he would be talking to the owners about how rude I was. And oh, did he call... he called me a B---h to MY neighbors! What the heck was he thinkin'? But I had already informed my neighbors to tell the guy one simple thing, "Why when I google your company name are the first three websites nothing but scam alerts?"

The guy stopped calling them.

March 31, 2010 - 4:16pm

If it was the same guy who scammed my wife, then perhaps the reason for the rudeness on his behalf is he probably thinks almost everyone else is a shady huckster slimy salesman just like he is.

March 31, 2010 - 5:18pm

So...I ran and seo firm with a couple guys for two years and it can actually get worse. Fortunately/unfortunately, I knew jack about SEO at the time and was mostly handling social media, business dev, and operations. It turns out, we were charging 20k+ per month for....article submissions and sponsored reviews. We would pretty much get one article written, mix it up with software, and use automated software to submit it. We didn't even do this for deep pages, just homepage links. The reason people paid? One of my EX - partners makes a living going to conferences and lying about what he does for himself and clients...naturally they wanted in on it so they came to us expecting magic with the rankings. Needless to say those were two years of absolute hell. Its just amazing what I've seen in this industry everywhere from the good people on this site all the way to the type of folks that Aaron mentions here in this post. All I can say is that I constantly applaud those people who do good seo work and stick with it. I know I've gotten to that point and SEO is so satisfying when you do good work for clients versus what I was privy to before.

March 31, 2010 - 7:59pm

It is a fundamental truth of internet marketing that there is always at least 10 salesman for every person with something worth selling, IMHO. ;)

April 1, 2010 - 6:26am

Thanks Aaron for sharing this great piece on info.

The thing that is making me confused: Google always keep talking about creating value for visitors and sites like topseos' are not offering any value to visitors. How come Google gave a PR of 5 for this site? Based on the back links I believe. So what is important value to visitors or voting ... no matter how spammy or fake your website is? Even topseos.com gets 74,466 unique visitors, as per compete ..huh!

I am also sure that the revenue mentioned at http://www.topseos.com/rankings are also fake and completely misleading.

I think Google should take a serious stand in analyzing the legitimacy of such site/firm/company and how much value those site(s) are offering in real ...and this kind of site(s) should be banned right away!

Either Google is misleading or sites like Topseos ... who is gonna decide this?

April 1, 2010 - 3:18pm

It is not hard to get a couple thousand unique visitors per day when a lot of that traffic is driven by semi-legitimate looking rating badges that go on sites with decent traffic streams.

Google doesn't usually interfere with deceptive marketing campaigns, unless they are very low level: see this.

April 1, 2010 - 1:56pm

Hey Aaron, I thought I'd come over and piss you off this morning. :) Ready for this one? Did you know that TOPSEOs have a magazine for the Internet marketing industry?

Visibility Magazine - SEO Buyers Guide from TOPSEOs

Visibility Magazine began in 2007 as a print magazine dedicated to bringing vision, clarity, and visibility to the internet marketing industry. Our content, provided by leading internet marketing firms, remains on the cutting edge.

Over 4000 agencies evaluated. Find the best internet marketing agencies that deliver consistently.

April 1, 2010 - 3:22pm

That is just another distribution channel to distribute the marketed "rankings" through. Not really surprised at all by it :D

Wonderful (and suspicious) overlap with the logos!

April 1, 2010 - 4:13pm

just another attempt at making a quick buck in a booming industry. I always find it funny when you come across seo agency sites riddled with badges and meaningless awards. Sure you might impress a client or two, but let's be honest with ourselves... the results will do the talking, not the badge that says you're the top SEO in the world.

April 1, 2010 - 7:11pm

Not so sure I agree with "the results will do the talking, not the badge"

For the type of organization that is 100% hard-close cold calling sales sweatshop, just about the end of the custom tailored client services is when the ink is still wet on the contract.

Many such firms give themselves outs on the liability to provide actual results of value "if results are not achieved we will give you another free month until they are" ... while some have in-house lawyers & deals with collection agencies set up to ensure the collection of payments for services not actually rendered.

April 4, 2010 - 8:31am

Happy Easter everyone!

Heh, I knew that Subject would grab your attention. You're probably wondering what the heck Best Attorneys Online and TOPSEOs have in common huh? I think you'll find this rather interesting...

TOPSEOs.com and BestAttorneysOnline.com - Independent Authorities?

It appears that a few lawyers are expressing concerns similar to those of the SEO Industry, they too have an Independent Authority in their midst.

In addition to the above document, I've also added a complete line by line review of the TOPSEOs Media Kit.

Consideration for Rankings - TOPSEOs Media Kit for 2010

August 10, 2010 - 11:23pm

You're correct - topseos.com is a SCAM. In order to even be on their so-called list of TOP seo firms you must pay- and pay BIG. I sent an email today and one of the owners of the company said that it would cost $1,000 per month to even be 'considered' and ranked on ONE list. So it would cost an additional 1k for every list you want to be on- and that's PER MONTH. What a joke and what a scam! Nobody in their right mind should buy into this and consumers need to beware as SEO firms are simply buying their way to the top.

I can understand a reasonable one-time fee so that they can research your company to rank it. But to ask for 1k per month is extortion!

October 7, 2010 - 8:12am

I am in favour of Google nuking scammers from their organic search results. Come on Google, if you're reading this, drop topseos! You say you want quality search results, does that consist of scam artists? It does at the moment and it's damaging to your brand!

April 24, 2011 - 6:49pm

Was looking for comparative reviews of PR services for SEO. Came across TopSEOs.com. Decided to search their name to verify that they are legit, and found this post. Thanks for saving me wasted time and annoyance!

July 28, 2011 - 2:01pm

TOPSEOs is like bidding game where the highest bidder gets the top position in their TOP SEO Companies Rating List. You do not need a great website, good client portfolio, excellent services because what matters mainly is the amount you pay.
Well, heard, seen, and tested! I am going to view the TOPSEOs ranking list from downwards now, because that way it probably will make more sense.

May 29, 2012 - 1:37pm

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for sharing your story.

Your post was interesting as we recently did a review of TopSEOs.com on our blog as well (we didn't bash them though):

mastergoogle.com/blog/finding-the-right-seo-company-reviewing-topseos-com.php

(We do not pay to be included in TopSEOs.com.)

We've had some clients who have told us about their negative experience with TopSEOs and the sites they had recommended, but when it came to the point that they demanded the cancelation of their agreements or else they would complain to TopSEOs.com, these companies were helpful. This tells me there is a legitimate concern at some level in TopSEOs.com to provide an honest evaluation.

Also, I know some of the companies listed with TopSEOs.com are actually fairly reputable in the SEO field. Of course, I haven't had any personal experience with any of them.

May 29, 2012 - 4:01pm

that is a requirement to make the pay-for-rankings approach look legitimate.

That doesn't mean every ranking is paid for & illegitimate (and maybe there is some editorial discression on the unpaid listings), but what is known is that some people who have won those "awards" recently were scammers from years gone by & most consumers won't be able to differentiate between the 2 groups until AFTER they spend their money.

June 7, 2012 - 10:14am

Hi

We are a web design and web marketing company in Tehran. Last year my company (Kaspid LTD) was chosen 17th in uk top sep and PPC companies by topseos. I met tina in london see and suggested to have these kind of rankings in Tehran as well. They started it and after couple of months they asked for 500$ per month!!! and we refused to pay these kind of money to these stealers. Now they put us 5th in iran which is not right at all and this is why we did not pay them the money. Our website is kaspid.com and we are the largest web design and web marketing company in this area. Its a shame to these guys and i am surprised that SES London let these guys to come to their exhibition...

June 22, 2012 - 7:49pm

Hi, Aaron do you think there is a seo service review site that can be trusted? I was looking at trustedseos.com and wanted to know if you have any comment on that review site..?

June 23, 2012 - 6:40am

I mean...

  • they list companies which at some point ranked for "seo companies" (but may not be currently). If one felt that approach was objective then why the need for a third party site at all? You could just plug those words into Google directly.
  • Then they have another section that they state is "from topseos" ... and if a person didn't like topseos then this would be no legitimate alternative to it.
  • And then they have another section where they highlight larger companies ... but generally speaking a person tends to get better service from smaller companies where they work direct with the proprietor.

Overall pretty bad stuff IMHO.

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.