Are all companies that sell search engine optimization services swindlers and crooks, as I've heard? Surely not, but my own experiences with an SEO firm called eBoost Media quickly turned surreal, so I'd like to share the saga here — and in return invite your wisdom.
Let me cut right to the heart (and the height) of the bizarre goings-on: on Friday evening, I received an anonymous, sneering, jeering voice-mail from an eBoost Media customer service rep. She called me a "faggot" and a "queer." I shit you not. This was her apparent retaliation for my demanding a refund due to the fact that the company had, for multiple weeks, not delivered one iota of what they said they would. I got tired of the excuses and wanted out, and they were giving me the runaround, so I laid it out simply enough by phone and e-mail: either you give me my money back or you'll be looking at a police complaint and a possible fraud investigation.
Here's the message I received in return. Actually, there are two. The first one (relatively polite, though the strained friendliness is pretty evident) is from an eBoost Media customer service manager called Denette. The second message, left just minutes later, is the fascinating one in which I'm addressed as, let us say, a flamboyant friend of Dorothy's. Is it the same woman on the recording, times two? Sounds like it to my (musically well-trained) ears.
In case you can't get the recording to play (I've embedded it above but it doesn't seem to work on all PC/Mac/browser configurations; you can also download the small WMA file by clicking here, or the MP3 by clicking here), this is the verbatim text:
"Hey Roger van Fucko, you are a faggot! So listen to this, queer!" [unintelligible background noise and talking, then the name 'Roger' again, then she hangs up]
When I called him yesterday, eBoost's acting CEO Michael Luvano agreed to listen to the recording. He then acknowledged that the second call had come from someone at eBoost Media, but curiously enough, he denied it was Denette. The mystery culprit, he said hours after hearing the messages, had already been "dealt with" — she'd been "severely reprimanded." When, puzzled, I suggested we ought to let other people listen to the messages on the Internet and solicit their opinions on whether or not it's the same voice, he got huffy and accused me of being out to badmouth his company.
Nonetheless, Luvano offered to have the CEO, Kevin Johnson (who he said was on vacation) write me a personal apology. He also said the company would finally refund the dough, which I appreciate.
Let's see if the money arrives. And Johnson's note, too.
Anyway, help me out here: Isn't the woman on the two voicemails one and the same? I'm curious what you think. (Remember, Luvano has already admitted it's someone who works for him at eBoost Media, and that that person has been disciplined, but that was all he would say on the matter.) Does anybody else suspect, as I do, that he's just blowing smoke by denying that the deranged individual who left message number two is the very same woman as the caller who left the first message?
Listen carefully and take the poll!
P.S.: During the initial sales call, the eBoost Media sales rep made much of eBoost's purported "special relationship" with Google, and talked about what terrific partners the two companies are.
Turns out that's a lie, at least according to someone who ought to know — Kasia Chmielinski of Google Corporate Communications. I received this kind e-mail from Kasia today.
Thanks for getting in touch with us.
As a matter of policy, Google does not provide assistance to, preference for or recommend any particular SEO company. You can read our thoughts about employing an SEO firm here, in our help center. A few paragraphs in particular I'd like to point out:
"Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a 'special relationship' with Google, or advertise a 'priority submit' to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever."
"While Google doesn't comment on specific companies, we've encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful."
In addition, I did a quick search on them [eBoost Media] and found they have been cited for their scams.
If you have any additional questions, please let me know.
So, is eBoost Media a swindle? A fraud? Affirmative, says Google, but perhaps others can shed additional light on the subject. Feel free to post about your experiences with eBoost Media — at least if your IP address does not match any of eBoost's corporate computers...
P.P.S.: Others are shedding additional light, courtesy of Boing Boing, the most popular blog in the world. Overall, the picture emerging is, um, no great credit to eBoost Media. Looky here. Pay special attention to moderator Teresa Nielsen Hayden's mini-investigation, comment #52.