This is one in a series of posts reviewing and looking at how some of the SEO companies which use bulk emails/spam with ‘we can help your terrible site’ type emails really can (and actually mostly can’t!) help your site.
This time the email came in from a ‘Jasmine’ who was using a Gmail address that included her name and some numbers in it.
The subject of the spam was just “whychristmas.com” and went:
Hello whychristmas.com ,
I am Jasmine [name removed for privacy] .
I visited your website and found that your website has been diagnosed with many coding issues, which affects your ranking.
Promote your website online and increase sales by putting your website top in all search engines.
As per the trends in your industry – over 80% of people search for your products/services online and buy the same. These rankings also influence other channels of sales as well.
It is simple math—the more people who come to your website, the more potential customers you attract. Don’t wait another moment to drive more traffic, increase sales, and improve your visual appearance.
We have all the best expertise to take the risk and give you what we commit.
If you are willing to have more business online and more Return on Investment (ROI) we are just an Email /Phone away.
We can increase the number of visitors to your website, and get you on the top searches of all the search engines.
Affordable way to market website and get online business.
I also prepared a “Website Audit Report” for your website. If you are “Interested” i can show you the report.
I’d be happy to send you our package, pricing and past work details, if you’d like to assess our work.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jasmine [name removed for privacy]
So I replied…
It sounds like you think you can do a lot for my site. I would be interested to see what your report says!
Also, please can you tell me more about your company? Where are you located?
The next day I got this reply, this time from an @digitalsugarcandy.com email address.
Hope you are doing well. Thanks for writing back to me.
Please find the common errors attached in this email which are present on your website and need to be fixed as soon as possible.
Do you have Skype? If yes, let me know, so we can proceed with our discussion.
We offer a one-time error fixing plan, if interested let me know. So, that I can send you the details in my next email.
Please let me know if you have any further queries. I would be happy to assist you.
Thanks and Regards,
The email was a mess, with odd indents and line breaks. Attached was a PDF report (more on this below…).
Jasmine asked if I had any queries. Well I did…
I do have some queries…
Please can you tell me why you think it’s ok to spam people to get business?
You sent me an unsolicited email from a Gmail account with NO information about your company. That breaks multiple international anti-spam laws, such as CAN-SPAM in the USA and PECR in the UK (there are similar laws in other countries including Canada, Australia and Singapore).
Also, please can you tell me why ALL of the ‘not good’ items on your report are either untrue or irrelevant to SEO?
Please DO NOT spam me again. And please educate yourself on international spam laws.
My email got me this response.
Hope you are doing well. Thanks for writing back to me.
As u have some misunderstood about the company we are not spamming people for business we are giving service to the peoples for their website enhancement, and we are working on the website development in google search page so its a allegation on us that we are spamming.
Please kindly visit to our website to find the clients we work with we are not making here any kind of business strategy by making spam to peoples. Here is our website address :
Do you have Skype? If yes, let me know,if you are agree with the plan and report then please write us back so we can proceed with our discussion,([email protected]).
Thanks and Regards,
Hmmm, so they’re not spamming people? Well, I think they are – as do several international laws. So I tried to explain it in more detail…
No, I think you’ve misunderstood how email marketing rules work…
I live in the UK. We have a law covering marketing emails called PECR https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/electronic-and-telephone-marketing/electronic-mail-marketing/.
Under PECR, you ARE NOT allowed to send unsolicited marketing emails to individuals and sole traders. I am a sole trader. Thus your email is in breach of this legislation.
If you are based in the USA, where your site says you are based, your company comes under the CAN-SPAM Act (https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business). Under that you have to ‘Tell recipients where you’re located’ and ‘Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you’. Your emails have done neither of these and so is also is in breach of this legislation.
There are similar laws around the world, including CASL in Canada and the Spam Act in Australia.
If emails are in breach of anti-spam legislation, they are SPAM. It’s that simple. Thus YOU ARE SPAMMERS.
Your report was also full or basic errors.
I DO NOT want to work with you. Your own site is full of basic HTML, SEO and accessibility errors. Why should I (or anyone) trust or use a web company who can’t even set-up their own site correctly?
I’ve not heard back after that one…
Their Report & Recommendations
As I said above, there was a PDF file attached to one of the emails from Jasmine. It was broken down into four sections: On Site Factors, On Page Factors, Off Page Factors and Social Media.
Normally I just give the ‘errors’ or ‘not goods’. But with this one I’ve going to cover every row, as with even on the ‘good’ ones, there’s often something wrong with the information! So here we go…!
On the opening page there are these two paras:
This comprehensive technical site audit digs deep into whychristmas.com; analyzing the on-page optimization, URL conversion, information architecture, robots control protocols, technical issues, link-worthiness, and other factors.
We hope that you learn as much from reading through our recommendations as we have learned while writing them. whychristmas.com is an excellent web property to start with and has exciting opportunities for improvement.
Well, as you’ll see, if we ‘learn as much from reading through our recommendations as we have learned while writing them’, then we’d be in for some trouble!
Each row has five columns: SEO Factors / Significance / Results / Rating / Recommendation. Onto the contents of the report…
On Site Factors
Domain Age / The longer the domain existence , the better will be the ranking in Search Engines. / OK / NOT GOOD / Try to register your domain for maximum possible year.
Right. We’re not off to a good start. My domain has been registered for over 20 years and it’s currently registered until 2026. The ‘results’ column is ‘OK’ but somehow the ‘rating’ one is ‘not good’ and under ‘recommendation’ I need to ‘register your domain for maximum possible year’.
That manages to be (sort of) correct, (mostly) WRONG and self contradictory all in one row – that’s quite an achievement!!! (And as we’ll see, it’s not the last time they do this.)
(Their domain has been registered since May 2021 – so just over four months at the time of writing – and was only registered for one year. So they’re hardly practising what they preach…)
Reverse IP / Search Engines like clean and static IPS / OK / NOT GOOD / Please try to host your website in a dedicated server or assign a static IP to your domain
This is an SEO myth and total rubbish – and has been so for YEARS (https://www.seoblog.com/2017/09/dedicated-address-improve-rankings/). And it’s also something that seems to be in every ‘report’ you get from Qtonix and was only on the one from SEOHOC, hmmmm!
And again, this is both ‘OK’ and ‘not good’ at the same time again…
Canonicalization / Canonicalization is the process of picking the best URL, when there are several choices and it usually refers to home page. / There is no issue. / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK…!
YAY! They’ve got something right and correct…
Search Engine Visibility / Website Present in major Search Engine boost your traffic / Found in major search engines like Bing / GOOD / Need to do SEO for more search engine visibility.
YAY (again). Interesting that they mention Bing and not Google though!
Page Indexed by Google / Higher the number of pages indexed by Google, better the ranking in search engine. / 6,40,000 / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK….!
Basically this is ‘fine’ but they way they’ve done it is WRONG! There was a screenshot below this row showing that they’d simply done a search on Google for ‘whychristmas.com’
Only that’s NOT how to search to see how many pages/items are indexed by a search engine. They they’ve done it shows the results for any site which happens to have ‘whychristmas’ (and probably ‘why christmas’ in it).
What you should do is to search for site:whychristmas.com Doing that you only find the results with the domain ‘whychristmas.com’ which is what you actually want!
Doing this gives a much lower number – 472 which goes down to 218 when you go through the pages. This makes much more sense as that’s about the number of pages on my site!
For an SEO company not to know how a basic site: search works is, erm, worrying…
(You’ll also notice that they list is as 6,40,000 not 640,000. The Indian numbering system handles millions and hundreds of thousands differently.)
Page Indexed by Bing / Higher the number of pages indexed by Yahoo, better the ranking in search engine. / 13,000 / GOOD /Please add more quality pages on regular basis.
Again, ‘fine’ but ‘wrong’. First off, are we looking at Bing or Yahoo?! Again there was a screenshot of the search and again they didn’t use the proper site: type of search – giving a sillily high number…
Page Indexed by SEO site check up / You should include this tag in order to provide a brief description of your page which can be used by search engines.. / 92 OUT OF 100 / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK…!
YAY (for me at least!). SEO Site Checkup is a free online SEO tool, and a favourite of SEO spammers. My site scores very well (the reason it’s only a 92/100 is because there’s not very much text on its home page). At least they said it was good. Some SEO spammers have said this was a ‘bad’ score! (Oh and if you’re interested, their site scores 66/100…)
But the main question from this row is – WHAT TAG? I’m guessing they mean the meta description and that the text is left over from another report. But it’s hardly professional is it?!
HTML Validation / Validating Web documents is an important step which can help in improving and ensuring the quality of your site / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Try to fix all these errors to maintain the quality of the website.
WRONG WRONG WRONG. My site’s home page has NO HTML errors. Although their site has many…
Page Rank / Higher the PR, more the trust of visitors / 6 Out Of 10 / GOOD / Need external relevant links pointing to your website.
OK, well to start with, Page Rank hasn’t been an ‘official’ Google factor for YEARS. Page Rank *used* to be a number which Google *used* to publicly give an idea of how important it thought a page was. However, it’s not been used publicly by Google for at least the last five years. A ‘page rank’ type number can be got from some SEO sites but they are only guesses of how well they think a page would rank.
Cache / Google Crawl date is the last time the Google robots visited your pages. / 8 Sep 2021 22:11:09 GMT. / NOT GOOD / Page is not crawled on latest date.
Hmmmm… When they checked the site, this was true. It was also happened within the last 24 hours of Google doing any index, so it’s exactly what you’d expect. To say it’s ‘not good’ is simply WRONG (and looks scary…). When I test it, I get a cache result within the last 24 hours. That’s all that really matters.
Title Relevancy / Brief and relevant title is highly considered by Search Engine and Visitors Like. Needs to be unique for all pages of website. / OK / NOT GOOD / Title relevancy to page content is not so good. Need to be unique for all the pages of website.
WRONG! My site is about Christmas. The word ‘Christmas’ is in the title four times. (This is another of the ‘OK’ yet ‘not good’ at the same time rows…)
Keyword / Needs to target keywords according to page content, i.e. page wise / OK / NOT GOOD / Need to add more keyword relevant page content.
WRONG (and yet another OK/not good row). The text on the page is all about Christmas – as you’d expect!
Duplicate Content / The search engine doesn’t like duplicate content. / FOUND / NOT GOOD / Need to improve your site content as per SEO guideline.
Hmmmm and WRONG. There are some of the same words/phrases across a few pages, where it’s giving similar information. But this is true on many good and popular sites (like large news sites). In January 2021, one of the top people at Google clarified that this kind of content is just fine and WILL NOT get you penalised by Google!
Image Alt Tags / ALT tags are the text which is associated with respective images. / 22(Alt tags missing: 3) / NOT GOOD / Try to assign alternative text to every image.
WRONG. There are 16 images on my site’s home page. They ALL have appropriate alt tags. This is unlike their site where there are many alts missing!
Broken Links / A broken link refers to pages that are not found available when requested by visitors. / ERROR / NOT GOOD / Please try to remove all broken links from your website
I have quite a few links out from my site to other sites (about Christmas things). I check these a few times each year, and especially in the run up to Christmas. Sadly, sometimes links on other sites and moved/broken/go missing on these sites. I fix them as and when I can.
These could be annoying to site visitors, but won’t effect SEO. What could effect SEO are internal broken links (so ones inside your own site). I don’t have any of these. So for SEO purposes, this is WRONG.
Browser Compatibility / Different Visitors Use Different Browsers. / FOUND / GOOD / Your webpage is compatible to major browsers but not responsive for mobile and tablet.
YAY! (and they also got it right – so YAY for them too…)
HTML Sitemap / Sitemap contains links to every page of your site, which helps Search Engine & Visitors for easy navigation. / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Please create a visitor site map for better indexing.
WRONG. There’s an HTML/sitemap page linked within the footer ON EVERY PAGE OF THE SITE!
XML Sitemap / A search engine sitemap is a way to submit your entire website’s URLs to the search engine’s index. / FOUND / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK..!
Breadcrumb / Purpose to give users a way to keep track of their location within the site. / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Try to specify the path for better user experience.
Breadcrumbs can help SEO and usability in some circumstances. However, there are many other ways of helping people navigate through a site. To simply state it’s a ‘must’ for SEO is WRONG. (This is another favourite on Qtonix reports.)
Customized 404 error / A specifically designed webpage displayed if your original page has been moved. Retains the user. / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Create a specifically designed webpage to minimize the bounce rate.
WRONG. It’s here: https://www.whychristmas.com/404.shtml This is VERY easy to test/find. So not to have done so correctly is just, well, yeah…
Black Hat Technique / Search Engine may penalize your site if you adopt any kind of black hat techniques. / NOT FOUND / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK…!
YAY! (The only hats on my Christmas site are Santa hats!!!)
Page load Time / less page download time makes the user comfortable with the site. / 2.72 second(s) (65.87 Kb/s) / NOT GOOD / Try to optimize the code for minimizing the page load time.
Hmmmm, I wonder what/how they used for the test? When I run the site on webpagetest.org (about the best timed/speed testing site) I get just under 1 second (and their site gets just under 7 seconds). Also using Google’s Lightspeed tool, my site gets 99/100, their site gets 17/100…!
Link Popularity/ Back link / Backlinks are links that point to your website from other websites. Links boost your site’s ranking. / Google(7,73,000) Bing(2,25,000) / GOOD / Need more quality back link to get popularity in Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Another ‘fine’ but ‘wrong’ one. My site does have lots of backlinks. But, again, they way the searched for them was wrong! There was a screenshot for this as well. They searched for whychristmas.com:link BUT it should be link:whychristmas.com
Close, but it makes a BIG difference!!! (Also why list MSN when they checked backlinks from Bing?!?!?)
DMOZ Listing / DMOZ is the comprehensive human- edited Web directory. This in turn can increase your Google PR as well as traffic. / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Please list your website in the DMOZ to increase your PR
DMOZ was a web directory. However, it closed in March 2017 (so nearly four and a half years ago). That makes it rather tricky to be listed on now…
Yahoo Directory Listing / Yahoo listing brings traffic, page rank and authority to the domain. / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Please list your business in Yahoo directory.
The Yahoo Directory closed in December 2014 (so over six and a half years ago).
I’d really love to know how they’d expect my site to be listed on either DMOZ or the Yahoo directory. So these two are VERY WRONG. (They’re also things that you get in Qtonix reports…)
Yahoo Local Business / Local Business directory for cities complete with ratings and reviews, maps, and events for your Business. / NOT LISTED / NOT GOOD / Please list your business in Yahoo local business.
WRONG. My site isn’t a business, it’s an information site. So there’s no reason whatsoever for it to be listed in it.
Google Places / List your business on Google to get appear with maps and other business contact when looking for local information / LISTED / VERY GOOD / GREAT WORK..!
VERY WRONG. 1. My site IS NOT listed in Google Places. 2. It’s actually called ‘Google My Business’ as has been for years. 3. See above.
Facebook Listing / Get direct traffic with adding your business on Face book. / FOUND / GOOD / We found your face book fan page, but not updated in a regular basis
YAY! But… my site is about Christmas. It gets updated A LOT around Christmas.
Twitter Listing / Twitter helps your company and your brand to build up more prominent links on major Search Engines. / FOUND
GOOD / We found your twitter profile page, but not updated in a regular basis
Google + Listing / Get targeted traffic with Linked In listing / NOT FOUND / NOT GOOD / Sorry we are unable to find G+ page of your business, if you have then please link that to your homepage.
WRONG. Just like DMOZ and the Yahoo Directly, Google+ no longer exists. It closed in April 2019 – so well over 2 years ago. Again, I’d love to know how my site is meant to be on there!
About Us Listing / Provides good authority and builds traffic to your domain. / FOUND / GOOD / GREAT WORK…!
I take it they mean that my site has an ‘About’ page?! But that’s NOTHING to do with any form of social media whatsoever.
So as you can see, that report wasn’t worth the PDF it arrived on.
Most of the rows/times were wrong, misleading and/or self-contradictory – often all at once! (And three were actually impossible as the services haven’t existed for years…)
Looking at Their Site
With SEO spammers, I also like to look at their sites, to see if they practice what they preach (I mean would you trust a plumber who had leaking and rusty pipes all over their own house?!); and also to compare their site with a site they say they can help…
Their site is https://digitalsugarcandy.com It was registered in May 2021 (just about four months ago at the time of writing this).
For HTML Validation, my site has no errors. Their site has 13 errors and 60 warnings, not very good!
Using the ‘WAVE’ Accessibility Testing Tool, their site has 40 errors and 31 contrast errors, that’s really not good. My site has no errors of either kind!
Using the Google Lighthouse speed test tool their site gets:
Best Practices: 73
My site gets:
Best Practices: 100
So my site is better across the board, and especially in ‘Performance’. But there’s are several other issues with the Digital Sugar Candy site…
The site does use SSL (having a padlock). However, it doesn’t auto redirect from the non SSL version. That’s not good and can lead to issues with SEO…
There are two Heading 1s on the home page. You should only have one.
There’s no meta description on the home page – you know, one of the most important aspects of SEO. It seems that a lot of spammy SEO companies somehow forget to have a meta description on their own sites…
On the home page there’s a section with some numbers. Digital Sugar Candy claim to have over 200 ‘active clients’, have completed over 570 projects and won over 50 awards. Not bad considering that their domain was registered JUST OVER FOUR MONTHS AGO. Shall we say, I’m not sure those numbers are accurate…
Also on the home page there’s a section titled ‘AWARDED AS BEST SEO AND WEB DESIGN FIRM BY’ and then has 10 logos of sites/organisations. I’d love to know how they’ve become the best web and SEO firm in the world, considering their site was created just over four months ago!!!
Some of the badges have dates on them from 2019 and 2020 – so BEFORE the site was registered. There’s also a different company name on some of the badges (and also in the file name of some of the images) – Exaalgia.
Looking at the site for Exaalgia, the content is VERY VERY similar. As in great chunks of text are the same, only with the company names changed. (You find a para on the Digital Sugar Candy site and it’s seemingly very likely to have come from the Exaalgia site!)
The Exaalgia domain was registered in 2011 and their Facebook page was created in 2012, so they’ve been around for a while.
Looking at some of the companies/site where the badges came from – Exaalgia is listed on them. But I can’t find Digital Sugar Candy on ANY of them!
There’s also the Exaalgia phone number of the home page of the Digital Sugar Candy sites…
[Googling Exaalgia’s number, it also shows up on a site for ‘Your Design Guys’. In the footer of that site it says “Your Design Guys an Exaalgia Venture”. OK, companies have different trading names. However, the Exaalgia site says they’re in Arizona (which they do seem to have a strong connection to) but the Your Design Guys site says they’re in Utah!
Exaalgia have also got an office in India (as that shows up if just Google ‘Exaalgia’). Also there are testimonials on the Your Design Guys site with photos – only there’s all stock photos…
Also, in the Exaalgia footer they’ve a list of places where their customers are. There’s a UK section and it has: Newcastle, London, Magaluf, Swindon. The last time I checked, Magaluf was in Spain not the UK – even though lots of brits like to go on holiday there!)
I have emailed Exaalgia asking if they know about Digital Sugar Candy. I’ve not heard back anything from them nearly a week later…]
On the Digital Sugar Candy site, all the testimonials are the same dummy one – using the same dummy content and name that comes with several themes which are designed for SEO companies. (Googling that dummy names/text, it shows up A LOT of iffy looking SEO sites – including some I’ve met before!)
There’s some logos on the home page, which I think you’re meant to replace with actual companies that you’ve worked with. However, all the ones of the Digital Sugar Candy site are the dummy ones which come with a theme. (One logo is for a company called ‘Finance’ who’s tagline/slogan is ‘slogan goes here’!)
So when Jasmine, told me to look at their site to see the companies they’ve worked with, it’s kind of hard to do when the ones listed on the site don’t exist (there’s also no portfolio or clients page).
In the footer of the Digital Sugar Candy site, there’s some social media icons – only none of them are linked to anything. One of these is for Google+ and we know from our ‘report’ that it hasn’t been around for several years. (Remember this site was created about four months ago.)
There are also links in the footer to ‘Terms’ and ‘Privacy’ pages. But of course they don’t go anywhere and the pages don’t actually exist… (Not having any privacy info is now in breach of several international laws like GDPR.)
There’s also an address in Las Vegas. But if we Google that address, it’s one that’s used as a ‘virtual office’ – so they’re not really located there then.
On the contact page there are three more addresses/phone numbers, for New York, Berlin and China (yes all of it!). However, amazingly all of those locations manage to have the same address, phone number and email (which is [email protected])! So I don’t think those addresses are real… (The address in all three is supposedly in New York – and if you Google that address, it too appears on lots of iffy looking SEO sites using the same theme, who also haven’t bothered to change some of the dummy content!!!)
On the final page of the PDF report, it says that they’re ‘California-based’, which matches NONE of the contacts on their site.
The only real looking contact on the site is an Indian phone number, which is in the header and footer. The Digital Sugar Candy site uses nameservers with a .in domain (although the IP is in the USA as the company they use in a large multi-national hosts that doesn’t have the greatest of reputations…) and the time that Jasmine sent her emails would have been mid to late afternoon in India but the very early hours of the morning in California, so it seems like a fair guess that they’re somewhere in India…!
I Googled the Indian phone number and it appears on another SEO company as well! The company is/was TechZat. I say was as the site isn’t live at the moment.
The last Google cache of it was from 19th August 2021, and it looks to (to have been) very similar to the Digital Sugar Candy site.
The Wayback Machine’s latest copy is from February 2020 and that looks to have been different. That site has an address in San Jose (in California) and some US phone numbers. The address is in a small strip mall.
Googling that address in San Jose shows that it’s used on a couple of other SEO companies, including one called Biznexweb. Now interestingly Biznexweb also registered the TechZat domain – and did so in India. (The Biznexweb site is also ‘interesting’. Their testimonials have photos next to them – only they’re stock images.)
So I really don’t know what’s going on with all of these companies, and whether any or all of them are formally connected or if information has been ‘borrowed’ between them. But I am pretty sure that Digital Sugar Candy are probably NOT in the USA!
I do know that Digital Sugar Candy are happy to spam from Gmail accounts and I also know that Digital Sugar Candy don’t seem to know what spam actually is…
From their report and their own site, it also seems that Digital Sugar Candy don’t know much about SEO either!
So if Digital Sugar Candy say they can help with your site, the delete button might be a good option.
But, as ever, the choice is yours…