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 an ‘Richa’ who was using an @outlook.com email address which contained the word ‘proposal’ but gave no indication of what business they were from.
The subject of the spam was “Create Application Ideas” and went:
I’m a professional Front-End Developer and Graphic Designer. I will create an amazing, beautiful and unique website for you.
If you are looking for a website for your business, I can design and develop a fully responsive and interactive WordPress site for you, using the best technologies Available for fast, Google-friendly, and SEO-optimized websites.
My Basic and Standard Packages include:-
Custom and unique website
Extremely fast website
Fully responsive, with a mobile-first approach
SEO and Google indexing optimization
Score over 90 in Google Performance Tests
Social Media integration
Front-End development best practices
If interested let me know your requirement so that we can send you more information.
Thanks & Regards
Richa [name removed for privacy],
Web Development Manager
So, I replied – as I do…
Please tell me more. What company do you work for?
The original spam from Richa had come into me on the 29th of August. On the 11th October (so six weeks later) I had the email below come in from ‘Sunny’ who was using an @eightshades.com with the subject ‘JPC Design Long Term Partnership’.
Dear James Cooper,
Thank you for inquiring about our services. We’d be delighted to help you achieve your goals with professional web design services.
In response to the question you asked when you contacted us, here’s what you should know about us:
We are a web design and development agency that has worked with hundreds of businesses in different countries for the past 15 years.
We have helped businesses improve research on their competitors, their customer’s journey, boost customer service, and establish growth strategies that help them plan ahead.
Some of our services include custom Branding, Web Design, WordPress Development, Shopify/Shopify Plus, Monthly Maintenance, and Hosting.
Our web design and development portfolio are located here https://www.eightshades.com/our-work/.
More to see below.
[List of sites they say they’ve made removed for privacy]
We work with a limited number of clients at a time. This is to enable us to give each client full attention. Right now, we’re accepting new clients because we have a few open slots in our schedule.
And we have reserved a spot for you in our schedule.
To get started, we’d love to have a zoom conversation with you. That way, we’ll be able to understand your company, your mission, and the scope of your project. We’ll also answer any questions you may have.
Please reply and tell me when you’ll be available to schedule a zoom call.
Feel free to include any questions you may have about us, our services, or how we work.
Sunny [name removed for privacy]
Director of Business Development of Eight Shades Media Pty Ltd
[Contacts removed for privacy]
Well, I reply to A LOT of SEO spammers, so as this gave me no idication as to what spam had prompted this reply, I asked!
I’ve never contacted you before. When do you think I contacted you or inquired about your services?
And that got my this reply:
Thanks for your email. One of our associates, Richa, contacted you on August 29th, 2022, and my email was in response to your reply to her.
Aha! Now I know what spam they used 🙂
I thought it was time to ask them some more questions about their business practices…
Ah, ok thanks. So six weeks after you spammed me from a random account, you’re now following up…
I’ve been a web designer and developer for 20 over years. I like to reply to SEO spammers to see what ‘services’ they offer and the things they say and use to get clients.
I have some questions.
Please can you tell me why your company thinks it’s ok to spam people, from random email accounts, to get business?
is your company happy breaching multiple international laws?
Your initial email was IN BREACH OF ALL the pieces of anti-spam legislation listed below (and many others from around the world).
For the UK (where I live) you are not allowed to sent marketing emails to an individual without their permission – you did this: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/electronic-and-telephone-marketing/electronic-mail-marketing/ (Under UK law, I am an ‘individual’ as I’m a Sole Trader, not a Ltd Company.)
For the USA (where your site says you’ve got an office), you are breaking several aspects of CAN-SPAM compliance: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
For CASL in Canada (where your site says you’ve got an office), you need consent to send electronic marketing – which you did not have: https://fightspam-combattrelepourriel.ised-isde.canada.ca/site/canada-anti-spam-legislation/en/getting-consent-send-email (You also need other business identifiers in the emails, which your emails do not have.)
The Anti Spam Act in Australia (where your site says you’ve got an office) has similar conditions for consent and identity, which your emails also do not meet: https://www.acma.gov.au/avoid-sending-spam
In the UAE (where your site says you’ve got an office), the Unsolicited Electronic Communications Regulation says you need consent to send out marketing emails – which you did not have.
In South Africa there is the Protection of Personal Information Act, which says you have to have consent to send people marketing emails, which you did not have: https://ispa.org.za/spam/
In France the Trust in the Digital Economy Act says that you have to have consent to send marketing emails, which you did not have: https://www.culture.gouv.fr/en/Thematiques/Industries-culturelles-et-creatives/Dossiers-thematiques/Le-spam/Le-cadre-juridique-La-legislation-francaise-en-matiere-de-spam
For The Netherlands, the Dutch Telecommunications Act says that you need consent to send people marketing emails, which you did not have. It also says that the true identity of the party should be disclosed up front, which you did not do. https://sherloc.unodc.org/cld/document/nld/1988/telecommunications_act_of_the_netherlands.html?
And there are many more…
I look forward to getting your answers to my questions.
It’s been over two weeks now I’ve not heard back from them (I normally give spammers a week, but I thought I’d give them two as they took six weeks to follow up their initial spam!). I’ll post an update if I ever do get a reply (I doubt one will ever arrive).
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…
Although they use two different domains for their emails/spam, they’ve got one site for their business.
Their site is at: eightshades.com and it was registered in May 2014.
For HTML Validation, their site has 57 errors. That’s not very good.
Using the ‘WAVE’ Accessibility Testing Tool, their site has 2 errors and 5 contrast errors. That’s actually good for SEO spammers. But as we’ll see below, their home page is somewhat limited and far from the end of the issues with their site…
Using the Google Lighthouse speed test tool their site gets:
Best Practices: 92
Remember on their initial spam they said they make you an “Extremely fast website”. Well, shame they’ve not bothered to do that on their own site. A 37 performance score is not good…!
Their home page is basically a big carousel (don’t use those) with two buttons to the ‘Our Work’ and ‘About Us’ page.
The menu is only a ‘burger style’ one (don’t do that) and very minimal when you do use it.
Their site uses a ‘custom’ mouse cursor (don’t do that) which makes it feel quite ‘laggy’.
They have two <title> tags – you should only have one. These infer that they’re located in Sydney or Darwin in Australia.
When you view the About page, there are lots of PHP errors displayed at the top of the page – oops!
There’s a news section on the site which has four posts. They were all written in April 2017 and they all spammy type ones about ‘What to look for for web design in…’ Tampa, Orlando or Miami.
On the contact page it says they have offices in ‘Sydney/Darwin’ (those places are about 3000 km / 2000 miles apart but OK…), ‘Toronto’, ‘Dubai’ and ‘Tampa’.
And each ‘office’ has their own page. BUT, there are no addresses on these pages. There are no phone numbers on the pages (or anywhere on the site) – although there were multiple phone numbers in their email footer – more on those below. There’s just a contact form (I’d guess the same one) on each page…
However, on the ‘About’ page there are two addresses in Australia – one in Sydney and one in Darwin. Why would you put addresses on your about page but not on contact pages?!
Looking at these addresses, the one in Sydney is for a very normal looking house in the suburbs of western Sydney. The address in Darwin is a rental office complex. It also offers virtual offices (so an address but you’re not really there)…
There’s also an address on their Facebook page. It’s for a strip mall on the outskirts of Tampa. There’s a US phone number on the Facebook page, but its area code is for Fort Lauderdale (which is on the other side of Florida to Tampa).
There’s a 12mb PDF brochure you can download from their site which has what appears to be a phone number in the footer. A Google of that number shows that it’s a number for the UAE (where Dubai is) and that number shows up on a company registration for ‘Brand Inspiration In UAE’ but the Eight Shades web and email are listed in their entry. (I wonder if the company title was put in wrong and was meant to be a description!?)
Interestingly, their LinkedIn page also says that they’re based in Dubai!
Also on the brochure footer is the line “Eight Shades in a Brand of The Master SEO FZE” hmmmm.
Looking on LinkedIn, the CEO of Eight Shades is also in Dubai and is also the CEO of The Master SEO FZE! (I’ve found a company called SEO Master in Dubai but I don’t know if this the same company…)
Their LinkedIn profile lists seven employees on LinkedIn (although it says they have between 50 and 200 employees overall…) plus their CEO as above. (But it also lists their company type as ‘Self Employed’ which makes no sense!)
Of these seven, two say they’re in the UAE, two are in Australia, one is in India, one is in Miami/Fort Lauderdale and one is in Pakistan.
In many of the business profiles it lists a different name as the CEO, that person is just listed as employee on LinkedIn. Perhaps the person/employee who made some of the business listings put their name down by mistake or something?!
In the footer of Sunny’s email, it gives the company name as “Eight Shades Media Pty Ltd”. ‘Pty Ltd’ is an Australian business type. A Google of that full business name gets us an ‘info box’ with the Sydney address.
That name is also in the Australian business directory, saying it the company was formed in 2018.
The USA phone number was also in the email footer, along with a Canadian, Australian and UK numbers.
The Canadian phone number is in Toronto. It’s also on the site for a designer in Toronto AND on a site for a ‘Pandemic Safety Response System’ which enables companies to check the health of employees for things like spreading viruses! So that’s, erm, odd. The designer has a very active LinkedIn profile and there’s no mention of Eight Shades or Master SEO FZE on it.
The Australian number is the right area for Sydney. A Google search only shows it on one web directory which lists Eight Shades as being in Sydney.
The UK number is for London, but it’s one belonging to Vodaphone where you can easily get virtual numbers and it’s in a block of numbers which come up a lot on lists of spammy numbers…
So does having an employee in a country now class as having an ‘office’ there?! (Although I’m not convinced about some of these locations…)
However, it would appear that Eight Shades do have some sort of legal status in the UAE and Australia. That means they also come under the anti spam laws of those countries.
The laws in UAE are only really apply to telecom companies and what they allow their systems to be used for – rather than what individual companies/people can do.
However, the Australian Anti Spam Act is VERY strong on gaining consent before sending out marketing emails – something that Eight Shades DID NOT do… (It also covers businesses that employ others to do their marketing, so there’s no ‘get out’ clause.)
And if they also have any legal standing in Canada and the USA (or even the UK) they also have strong anti-spam laws, which Eight Shades are also very much in breach of!
And remember that Sunny said that they’ve been working with companies for over 15 years…? Well their domain was registered in May 2014. I make that 8 and a bit years – NOT 15. The Eight Shades LinkedIn profile says the company was formed in 2009. I make that 13 years – so still not 15 then. It could be that the company’s changed names and things over years, but it’s all a bit confusing…
Eight Shades Media / Brand Inspiration In UAE / The Master SEO FZE are SEO spammers.
They use generic email accounts to send out their spam, breaking multiple international anti-spam laws.
They took over six weeks to follow up on their spam (which is rather a long time…)!
When asked why they send out spam, they don’t answer. (It’s funny how spammers don’t like answering questions about why they send out spam…)
It seems they’re not actually sure where they’re main business is located. It is Australia, Dubai or somewhere else!?
They claim to have been in business for over 15 years. Yet their domain and business registrations would seem to contradict that.
So if Eight Shades send you an email out of the blue, the delete button might be a better option.
But, as ever, the choice is yours…