Two Top SEM Firms Featured As Offering Poor SEM Results By WSJ

May 8, 2014 • 8:20 am | comments (57) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

WSJ LogoIt is not every day you see SEM companies featured in Wall Street Journal articles but a few weeks ago, they ran a story named Small Businesses Search in Vain for Web-Ad Help.

It isn't good.

It calls out two very large SEM companies named ReachLocal and Yodle as not delivering on their promises to their customers.

Here is a quote:

The Federal Trade Commission has received about 60 complaints involving ReachLocal since 2009 - roughly half of them filed within the past two years - and more than 180 complaints about Yodle over the same period, including more than 100 filed since 2012, according to data reviewed by the Journal following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The complaints, which were mostly from small-business owners, ranged from unfulfilled promises of new clients and better search-engine results to unwanted sales calls, exaggerated online traffic reports and overbilling. Some owners say the firms posted errors on their business websites - including faulty contact information - while others complained that the companies' newly refurbished sites promoted services they didn't provide. An FTC spokesman says the agency doesn't comment on specific cases. ReachLocal and Yodle declined to comment on specific complaints.

Of course, since these are big players, they make the whole industry just look that much worse.

I am sure they do provide good results for many of their clients but there are many who are not happy.

It is a pretty revealing article about the risks and rewards of running an SEM shop. I am sure many of you can relate on a smaller scale.

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.

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Yo Mamma

05/08/2014 01:01 pm appears to be huge into Google PPC, same with according to So Google is helping these companies with their advertising and reaping of more profits with little returns to their customers. Wonder how many complains the Federal Trade Commission has received about Google and their deceptive and fraudulent PPC advertising techniques which also take money for results people DO NOT want.


05/08/2014 01:25 pm

Not a day goes by without you promoting the spammy or your client site Annoying to say the least.


05/08/2014 01:34 pm

I have not worked with an honest SEO or SEM worth their salt. Spent hundreds of thousands on the so called market leaders too. Always full of disclaimers to justify why their results are so shite. The industry is jam packed full of charlatans.


05/08/2014 01:55 pm

Spam comment. There is no comment about those companies on Even if there was, it's hardly an authority site.


05/08/2014 02:09 pm

Barry you gotta take this Yo mamma down, he is nuisance who has no knowledge whatsoever. Another spammer trying to live off your blog.

Barry Schwartz

05/08/2014 02:12 pm


Yo Mamma

05/08/2014 02:23 pm

"promoting the spammy or your client site" lol, no but because you are knowledgeable and psychic, please provide an alternative site that shows how much a domain is paying in Google Adwords. If you like, I will mention that instead. I honestly had no idea you disliked


05/08/2014 02:42 pm

That site is giving terribly inaccurate adspend dollars. Terrible site.

AJ Ghergich

05/08/2014 02:45 pm

If the strategy was not to produce and promote really kick ass probably spend a lot of money on hot air.


05/08/2014 02:54 pm

You lot would not know what kick ass content was if it jumped up in your face and slapped you with a wet cod. Your industry is full to the brim of snake oil sellers.

AJ Ghergich

05/08/2014 02:59 pm

Oh thx Ill tell my outreach team who has been on Upworthy, NBC Entrepreneur Mag, Hubspot and about 5 other top media sites (This Week) They are all fired lol... I am sorry you had a bad experience there are a lot of bad apples but I promise you there are people in our industry that do know what they are doing.

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 03:01 pm

They (we) aren't ALL bad - but I do agree that several of the "market leaders" are really no better than their $100 india-spam counterparts. On the other hand, once you have tried a bunch of craphat bogus SEOs, a good search marketer will definitely want to have a bunch of disclaimers. For example, an SEO can usually get a brand new site to rank well within a few months. Give that SEO the same site after a few months of link spam and crap content, and it will often take at least twice as long to get anywhere - even if there are no obvious penalties. (edited to placate an irrational ranter)

Yo Mamma

05/08/2014 03:02 pm

For anyone still confused about what SPAM looks like, look at the comments of 'emma852' - Classic SPAM. No doubt anyone wanting to fight this on the internets gets brownie points

Yo Mamma

05/08/2014 03:04 pm

I would not hire you Ker - You promote 2 items in general. Yourself and Google. This last comment was the former.

F1 Steve

05/08/2014 03:13 pm

Shes hot, makes me want to get a part time job at!! Her aunty grace is a biatch though....

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 03:14 pm

That's OK. I wouldn't have you. I have a "no clients who rant and rave irrationally as a hobby" policy. Nothing is self-promotional about what I said. Just trying to point out that non-spam marketing works, while bad marketing will sandbag future efforts. Would it make you feel better if I changed "I" to the more generic "an SEO"?

Yo Mamma

05/08/2014 03:24 pm

Liar liar pants on fire: "Nothing is self-promotional about what I said." Really "I can usually get a brand new site to rank well within a few months" Really


05/08/2014 03:33 pm

Historically all forms of IM got shafted by Google. Caffeine/Mayday updates killed everyone's long tail traffic. Instant "normalized" search queries to autocomplete options driving up CPCs and further reducing long tail traffic... This black hat vs white hat is BS... Google wants us all equally dead.


05/08/2014 03:35 pm

I know what my next YouTube video is going to be!!!


05/08/2014 03:39 pm

The one time in my SEO career I did not deliver substantial gains for the client was when the client insisted we do something other than the recommendations. When I encounter opinions like your I wonder if you got a bad consultant and you are blaming all consultants or if you some how sabotaged the effort?


05/08/2014 03:57 pm

Ah...thee old... "But someone else worked on the site before blag". Well Sherlock.. ain´t that a bitch. I suggest you don´t take those sites on then rather than rip off your clients with your half baked disclaimers about why you failed to live up to the promises you made prior to taking the coin. THIS IS HOW THE BLAG WORKS... 1. Pay snake oil sales person $3K plus for an audit you don´t need because your site is already not ranking and you know damn well you have Penguin and Panda on your case. 2. Snake oil salesman runs a script over your site and then adds their logo to the out putted report that was generated in all of 8 seconds. 3. Snake oil seller then tut tuts like a builder or plumber looking at your emergency repair requirement. You can see the dollar signs going uo and down in the con mans eyes. 4. Snake oil seller tells you the color of his hat. His hat is ALWAYS white no matter what. 5. You pay coin for months and see no improvement at all. You will likely go backwards. 6. Snake oil seller pulls out all his big bag of excuses and blames everyone including you for his incompetence. Anyone recognize this modus operandi? Anyone see themselves here?

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 04:02 pm

I guess you missed the part where I asked if it would make you feel better if I changed "I" to something else. I'll change it now and you will have to find something else to cry about. It isn't as if I said "come to ispionage and find out more" or something like that.

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 04:05 pm

Does kind of sound like one of those people who wants it all today, fails to inform you that they have 23 mirror sites, joined all the blog networks, continues to comment spam - and then expects you to stick to a guarantee that you never made.

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 04:21 pm

Sorry if you don't like it, but the truth is if someone breaks something before you touch it, it is still broken. No promise should be made without the SEO thoroughly checking into the history of the site - even if the client doesn't disclose everything that was done. If they still think they can help, they should make it absolutely clear what the expectations should be. Now, if you know you have a penalty or some other problem, and this new snake oiler has promised you something without knowing that, or the promise has not changed after the problem is discovered - why would you hire them? Did you just want to believe they could deliver the moon and stars or were they just so smooth that you could not resist? Your rundown of how the "blag" works sounds like you got hosed, alright. Should have bailed out after #1 since you clearly know more than they do and don't need any help at all, or #2 since the audit came back in minutes so you know they didn't really analyze anything. #3 is not a valid complaint though. If a plumber comes to your house and finds that you had a small leak, but you used some crazy fix to stop it that damaged the pipes and made it worse - they will have to replace pipes. That costs more than patching the leak.

Jim Christian

05/08/2014 04:22 pm

I've known Emma852 for years guys... She's pretty real :) I WISH that someone could find these guys and have a sit down interview. First Question: Do you really think this stuff works? Really?!?!?!


05/08/2014 05:12 pm

The rundown is tongue in cheek :) It´s a caricature of a snake oil seller. Minutes to run and get the results...delivered in days so as not to arouse suspicion. I now how you blaggers work because I have seen your type in action. You all make it sound so convincing. How you are going to make it all better. BUT::: Please sign this DISCLAIMER of any responsibility for selling you what I say I sold you. I bet you have a nice one of these DISCLAIMERS Nick. Heaven forbid you would want to get caught out by some unexplained catastrophe that you could never of seen coming ever (because of incompetence???) .... So, if you guys are all so honest and all stand behind your expertise, what could possibly go wrong if you have done your homework and you actually know what you are taking on? The only thing that I can think of where a real expert could be excused of their failed promises is if Google closed down. All the other clauses should be non existent if you really do think you are worth your salt. The real issue here is that there is not 1 SEO that can make any real promise of anything because the reality is that they actually don´t know the answers!

Nick Ker

05/08/2014 05:44 pm

I am beginning to see why you have had trouble. You don't want to listen to anything other than what you want to hear. I actually HAVE been caught out by things that were done by the client himself - launching a big link-filled spam press release campaign along with duplicating his old content on several other sites on the day after he signed on with me. Nothing I could do to stop that or even see it coming. And I had no "if you do anything stupid, all bets are off" disclaimer. Prior to that, the only disclaimers I had were actually on my site so people could see them BEFORE they even contact me. After wasting a ton of time trying to undo that damage, I do now have a checklist of do's & don'ts for new clients before I will even accept the work. They don't even get that far if we have had the conversations about timeframes & expectations and they still think the promises made by someone else apply to my proposal. If I say "4-6 months" and they hear "next week" - nobody is going to be happy. I still get people who try to hire me for "SEO for a brand new local business site" and it turns out that it is not new, and already has manual penalties that the would be con-artist knew about but chose to lie to me. You don't see me running around saying all SEO shoppers are liars, do you? Your bad experience with shady SEOs (and there are plenty of them) is not reflective of all of us. Not all people in business (any business) are honest. Like I said before, any SEO should do his homework before taking on a client. Many don't do that, particularly those that are so thrilled to get a new client that they don't think of it. Some are just new and naive, others are flat out scammers. To me, it kind of sounds like you keep approaching the same type of low-end SEOs, keep getting the same bullshit, and keep expecting the results to be different for some reason. Good luck with that.


05/08/2014 06:15 pm

There you go, just like I said. Blame everyone around you except yourself. True to type Nick.

Dave Fogel

05/08/2014 06:29 pm

Funny, I just lost a large customer to Yodle. Maybe they will be back soon. :)


05/08/2014 07:54 pm

LOL. There is NOBODY doing a good job for small businesses on a tight budget. Your successes are admirable but what it cost chicco?


05/08/2014 08:19 pm

was your site about snake oil?


05/08/2014 08:26 pm

There YOU go, not comprehending exactly what was written. True to form and exactly as he said. If you order & pay for a hamburger, don't complain when you don't receive steak & lobster.


05/08/2014 08:28 pm

Now it comes out in the open. You want steak at hamburger prices.


05/08/2014 10:02 pm

Are you are snake oil seller Jerry? In the snake oil game are ya?


05/08/2014 10:58 pm

Lots of people do a good job on a tight budget. It is called "DOING IT YOURSELF" ... You read a few books, watch some youtube tutorials, ask questions on forums. Experiment on non-critical websites until you figure it out. Then you apply what you've learned to your money sites. Happens all the time. You might not have heard of this method before... its called "learning". If you don't want to learn then you have to pay someone to do it. Or just don't do it. Any option is fine.


05/08/2014 11:41 pm

I agree with your statement "an SEO can get a site ranking well within a few months". This is why all decent SEOs are ranking their own sites. You make far more money ranking your own site than doing it for clients. (and you don't have to deal with a clients unrealistic expectations) For example, take on a local law office as a client... or build out the site yourself and then sell legal leads. Its way more profitable to build and SEO your own site. (That is... if you are good and can really rank a site) If you don't really have the SEO skills and are faking it. Then go ahead and work for an agency or sell SEO/SEM services.


05/08/2014 11:48 pm

I would not hire any of you. 90% of the SEOs don't really have the skills to rank sites. So instead of working on their own projects, they work for agencies or sell SEO services. The 10% of SEOs that know what they are doing and want to work for an agency... trust me... they are not working on low-budget small business contracts.


05/09/2014 12:57 am

I think you are confusing domain flipping with SEO for real businesses. Businesses that can benefit from better positions in search, and see the value of that can and do pay very well. Throwing an imaginary number out like 90% doesn't mean anything, but you are right in saying those who work for agencies are not likely to be on $5 an hour campaigns. When people want to pay $500 per month or less, that is what they get. Either 2 hours of work from a pro, or 10 hours from an indiot. Neither are likely to end well though some local biz campaigns can be short & sweet. Those who are really good, consult or run a company, not work for some agency like reachlocal. I would also say that the majority of SEO writers (Not actually doing the work) are pretty clueless. They just repeat what they read somewhere, then people trying to do it themselves get wrong info and get in trouble.


05/09/2014 01:35 am

I wonder how many the FTC complaints were received over the same period for Google? Google does have a "B" rating with the Better Business Bureau, which I find quite odd since they really don't offer any type of support. Regardless, we all know Google does not want companies spending their internet marketing dollars with third parties. That cuts into Google's profits. So it only makes sense for Google to make life a living hell for those that offer SEO services. The failed promises of SEO companies leads to new Adwords users.

Jack Bauer

05/09/2014 06:27 am

hmmm service companies would pay a fortune for 1st position phone book ads. You should try the phone book again, wont be too hard to mess up. You can also call the rep a snake charmer

Roman M

05/09/2014 07:58 am

Like tons of other industries too... To answer a ad/pitch that sounds like "SEO expert agency gets you to #1 on Google in no time - buy links here!!" or one that treats SEO as a part(!) of an overall integral marketing strategy will deliver to entirely different results. BTW: My money is on AJ here...someone I actually would trust to spot good content - but that's another story.

F1 Steve

05/09/2014 07:58 am

>>fails to inform you that they have 23 mirror sites


05/09/2014 09:52 am

this is actually how 99% SEOs work.


05/09/2014 09:59 am

there is no other industry that would charge you so much for no guarantees whatsoever.

Patti Paz

05/09/2014 11:32 am

And, why is this so??? Maybe cause we fools allow it!! Until we wake up and shout from the highest building that we are mad and aren't going to take it any more, it's going to continue. After all, when a used car salesman's tactics work, he sticks to it, regardless of whether it is ethical or not . . . . .


05/09/2014 12:17 pm

Because google get all benefits now. FTC need to look into google side, not into that companies.

Yo Mamma

05/09/2014 12:24 pm

Need SEO work and have been burnt by unscrupulous shady dealers, look no further, hire the self promoting Nick Ker who claims "I can usually get a brand new site to rank well within a few months" - Pay the man and hold his feet to the fire baby! If he doesn't do what he claims he can, sue him and make sure the judge takes away those thick black rimmed glasses as part of settlement

Yo Mamma

05/09/2014 12:29 pm

LOL Ker. You have a problem if someone wants it "ALL TODAY", but noooo, for yourself, for yourself Ker according to you "I can usually get a brand new site to rank well within a few months" and thats just fine. Today is very bad, but within a few months its dandy DELUSIONAL plus sense of entitlement and grandeur Ker, you need a optician to change your rose colored glasses

Yo Mamma

05/09/2014 12:31 pm

" do agree that several of the "market leaders" are really no better than their $100 india-spam counterparts." Do you realize Ker that you are insulting most of Google's programming team when you insult an entire country? IN this case India?

Ben Guest

05/09/2014 12:54 pm

Nick, why are you wasting time with this person? By the negativity coming from their comments, no wonder they have nothing but negative happening to them. And yes, due to lack of knowledge in SEO, you can easily be scammed. What people don't realize is you need SEO, SEM and Social all working hand in hand. Maybe that's your problem. Chasing SEO thinking it's all about link building. You've already failed if you're doing that. Would you like a blog, "If Your SEO is Doing Any of These Things, Fire Them."

Nick Ker

05/09/2014 12:55 pm

Yeah, no shit. That was a hypothetical type of thing, not an actual thing that happened. But it is not unlike the kind of things people "forget" to tell you when they need that proposal right f-ing now. "We haven't done any SEO or link building at all" is probably the number one fib told by people looking for SEO. I stopped trusting people to tell me everything they should quite a while ago. I guess they think if they don't say it, it didn't happen. I stopped expecting them to know everything about their websites long before that. At the very least, I do a link profile check & copyscape a few pages before even starting to answer RFPs. Depending on the site, I will do more hunting for past mistakes. Slows things down a bit, but the impatient types are not usually a good fit anyway.

Nick Ker

05/09/2014 01:01 pm

It is a terrible habit I have. Sometimes I do it because I like to believe that by debunking nonsense, it may prevent other people from believing it.

Nick Ker

05/09/2014 01:01 pm

What the heck is your beef with me there, skippy? You need to learn what a hypothetical example is... and the difference between "months" and a "today".


05/09/2014 01:52 pm

Tell me any form of marketing that you can promise results? The answer is, you can't or do you assume that all marketing is bogus and crap as well?!! It sounds like you've been stung by a few bad companies/consultants but don't tarnish us all with the same brush! If I bought a dodgy CD, I wouldn't assume that every CD shop is dodgy, I'd simply do my homework and research the best shops. I don't think it's hard to find a good SEO company because just by talking to them and asking for examples of previous work/ testimonials you can get a good feel for their knowledge. If you jumped into it with your eyes shut then you were partially to blame. If you didn't understand SEO then there are plenty of places online (here being one!) where you can talk to experts who aren't trying to sell you anything who I'm sure (I would anyway) be happy to give advice. SEO is not a dark art and you cannot take shortcuts. Gone are the days when you can throw 1000's of links at a website and you'd miraculously be on page 1. It is simply another arm of marketing, something that should help and benefit your offline activities. Simple.

Andrew Buys

05/09/2014 02:21 pm

What about lawyers?


05/12/2014 05:11 pm

The same sort of things have been said about advertising agencies for decades. Please... there are ineffectual practitioners and crooks in most fields, the FTC was not set up to handle complaints just about SEO. The big players as a whole are head and shoulders above the big players in the financial services sector.

Gracious Store

05/17/2014 12:37 am

I wish WSJ can publish the names of hundreds of such SEM companies, there re a lot of them out them making fallse promises to small business and they charge pounds of flesh for their shabby services. It is hard to trust them. I wish the WSJ on the other hand can also publish the names of SEM companies that do create job for small businesses.

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