A new “service” marketed as Verified SEO has been making waves throughout the SEO/SEM industry today. Though I doubt they are the waves its founder, Charles Preston – a self-described “SEO Expert” – had been hoping for. Claiming to have been a search marketing professional since 1999, Mr. Preston has found his reputation and previous anonymity in industry circles coming under fire from search marketing veterans and douchebaggary outers far & wide. Why, you might ask, would the industry be so quick to damn someone whose intentions might seem benevolent and in the best interest of consumers? There are a lot of reasons…
Verified SEO Is Scamtastic
On its face, Verified SEO is an absolutely meaningless display badge provided to those willing to pay $99 a month for the privilege of being endorsed by Mr. Preston and his supposed team of “industry veterans”. Displaying such a badge on their website would merely be an attempt to convince unsuspecting consumers that a particular SEO or SEO company is considered more legitimate than another. In doing so such an SEO would give the illusion of professionalism or effectiveness to consumers who are utterly ignorant of the insubstantial nature of Verified SEO itself.
Verified SEO’s Lack of Transparency
The shenanigans were outed by an actual industry veteran, Edward Lewis, on Sphinn – after first personally reaching out to Mr. Preston to give him the chance to address concerns about who the “industry veterans” behind the Verified SEO brand were. Charles Preston attempted to defend the intent of the service in an incredibly long comment. And for those of you who know me at all, you know how long a comment must be for ME to point out its length!
Despite Mr. Preston’s efforts to defend the premise behind Verified SEO, we still have no idea who these “industry veterans” set to review the work of SEOs truly are. The marketing-ease of the service may as well be, “WE will give you our stamp of approval for the bargain basement price of just $99 per month. And no, it obviously doesn’t matter who ‘WE’ are…”
Unbridled Hubris, Thy Name Is Charles Preston
SEOs are fine with being judged and evaluated by their clients. We expect that. We welcome that. We encourage that. We don’t, however, accept the audacity of a self-described “SEO Expert” believing he has the authority to judge, evaluate and deem us worthy…and spending $99 a month for the privilege. Even those who might have otherwise supported and encouraged the premise behind some kind of certification process suddenly find themselves saying, “So, who is this Preston guy? Has anyone ever heard of him?” The rest jump straight to, “Who the hell do you think you are, Charles Preston?”
No self-respecting search marketing professional would EVER, under any circumstances, hand their client’s sensitive information over to some schmoe no one in the industry has ever heard of – or to anyone, for that matter. Would you, Charles Preston? I’d venture to say you wouldn’t. And if you would, we have even more reason to question your professionalism. More importantly, so do your clients.
Nothing Says, “Caught Red-Handed” Like Quitting
Look, I’m all for holding SEOs accountable and protecting consumers from scams. Hell, it’s the very reason I started the SEOAly blog to begin with. What I’m NOT all for is some dude no one has ever heard of offering a bullshit paid stamp of approval that will lead consumers to believe being a “Verified SEO” actually means something. It means nothing. And the fact that it’s a service that was started by someone no one in the industry has ever heard of and that there are supposed “industry veterans” involved that still remain nameless just smacks of douchebaggary and shenanigans.
After today’s hail storm of criticism surrounding Verified SEO, it seems Mr. Preston has decided his ill-conceived venture is more a liability than a cash cow. After first trying to spin the entire scenario to cast it in the light of a premature April Fool’s joke or massive industry Rickroll, Mr. Preston has now taken the site down completely, as well as having shut down the @VerfiedSEO Twitter account. Rishi from SEO Bullshit, issued “An Open Challenge” to Verified SEO to prove that the site and service was being offered by industry veterans. Since the site no longer exists, I’d think Rishil can probably pick that gauntlet back up. Way to prove you were right and had the best of intentions there, Charles.
An Unnecessary, Self-Induced ORM Nightmare
The unmitigated disaster that is Verified SEO is indisputable at this point. It was the story of the day among many of the loudest and most outspoken voices in the search marketing industry. Thanks to well-known curmudgeons like Edward Lewis and Alan Bleiweiss (you both know I <3 you and that’s a term of endearment) to snarktastic souls like Aaron Chronister (a.k.a “TheMadHat”) and Tim Nash (a.k.a. “I know who you are and I saw what you did…”), Verified SEO has become a verifiable nightmare for Charles Preston. His poor decision to launch such a venture has come back to bite him in the ass.
A search for “Charles Preston SEO” in Google now brings up his site…and several results eluding to the scamtasticness of Verified SEO and questioning his intent/intelligence/competence. This, ladies & gentlemen, is a perfect case study in what NOT to do. Whether Charles Preston intended it or not, he has opened up a huge can of worms that may tarnish the reputation he’s supposedly been building since 1999.
If Charles Preston were the industry veteran he claims, he’d have foreseen this backlash. He’d have prepared for the character assassination that would result. Regardless of his true motivation, he’d have known exactly how the true veterans and loudest voices in the search marketing industry would react in the face of such arrogance. He didn’t. And that pretty much says it all about his experience in this industry…