If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve likely gotten emails from web designers and SEO experts you’ve never heard of. These emails are full of promises about getting your website hundreds of visits or getting you to the top of search rankings.
I get them, too. These emails must be automated because I get them every 4 weeks like clockwork. So do my clients. In fact, one client gets them every two weeks. All from the same guy.
So how do you know if they are legitimate?
How do you screen people to avoid getting scammed?
Here are some things to look at which should raise some red flags.
Look at their email address
I encourage everyone out there to have a free email account with someone like gmail or yahoo. This gives you an emergency email system in case your business email system goes down. That being said, you should be using your own domain name for your company email. If a web designer is using hotmail, aol, or yahoo for their email service, they go straight into the bozo bin.
What you are really looking for is an email address that has the web designer’s URL (website address) in it. Like pintsizedsites.com.
Why do I insist that web professionals have their own domain name in their email addresses?
Because they are web professionals. This internet stuff is what they do for a living. I hold them to a higher standard than I do my bookkeeper. She knows Quickbooks and can do journal entries in her sleep. She doesn’t need to know this internet stuff cold to do her job. A web professional needs to know how to setup their own freaking email address.
Scammers and fly-by-night companies often don’t bother setting up domain names or their own addresses. As soon as one email address or domain gets flagged as spam, they move on to another. So, they tend to use gmail. They can quickly create a new gmail account for free and your email program won’t immediately flag it as spam because it’s from Google. Make sure you thoroughly check out a web designer who is using an email address that isn’t associated with their domain name before you decide to do business with them.
Do they have a website?
If that web designer doesn’t have a website, he’s not really a web designer. Scammers and fly-by-night companies often don’t bother with a website. They aren’t really interested in creating your business website. They just want to take your money.
What does their website look like?
Is his website a hot mess? Does it look like it hasn’t been updated in years? Is it ugly? Like, really ugly with mismatched fonts, text aligned in weird places or things cut off or broken?
Is the content all generic sounding? Are all the blog posts just reposting of stuff off of Huffington Post and other blogs? That’s called ‘scraping’. Yes, curating content is good for blog readers, but if your site reads like it was generated by a machine, it could be the case.
Who is this person?
The guy in that email? No website. I’ve googled him. Multiple times. I’ve checked on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Other than these emails, he doesn’t exist (although spam tracking sites do have mentions of him), so he (or a group of people posing as Jason) is pretty busy.
Is there a real person behind the ABOUT page? With a name and a photo? Google that person. Look for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles. If you can’t find that person anywhere on the internet, it could be a fake identity. If you do find them, look at those profiles. Are they complete? How long have they been there? Are they linked to other people? Does it look like there is a real person behind that name?
What else do they do?
This falls into my ‘is this person a scam artist’ category. It’s not unusual for a web designer to have a couple of other skills. Many of us come into this profession having designed websites for other businesses and realizing that it’s a lot of fun.
But, if your web designer is also “CPA, professional musician, mother to a toddler, going to law school, running 3 spas and about to open a fourth, plus authoring books on marketing”, you might be dealing with someone who is just trying to part you from your money. This isn’t some fictional example, this person fleeced a lot of people out of a lot of money and was finally arrested while trying to flee the country. There are plenty of red flags here, so I would encourage you to always do some research on any business before giving them your credit card number.
Let the Buyer Beware
If you’ve been approached by someone who meets some of these criteria, you should do some more research on them. They may be a legitimate business, which your research will turn up. Ask for references, if you’re not sure. Just make sure you do your homework so you aren’t losing your hard earned money.
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker