Deceptive SEO Tactics – The Case of the $798 SEO Guru

It’s been 11 days since I wrote my article on Deceptive SEO tactics and how to uncover them (The Deceptive Case of the Coolest Guy On The Internet).  Since then I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback (YAY ME!) and one “Watch your back now” warning comment. Now THAT’s an interesting result!  (See below for details).  So of course I had to go snooping to find out if I should hide under the covers, and found more deceptive SEO…

BACKGROUND

Before I wrote the last article, I hadn’t ever gotten more than 30 or 40 views a day for any of my previous articles. Yeah, I know – lame huh?  Well before now I hadn’t really done anything to focus on becoming widely read within our industry.   Both because I don’t write a new blog article every day like many of my peers, and also because the primary audience for my articles has, at least until now, been my already existing clients and prospective clients who have already contacted me. (How odd – to actually want to offer knowledge and insights to my own client base – such a unique concept yeah?)

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EXPONENTIAL JUMP IN VIEWERS

With the posting of this latest article, I saw a huge shift in my readership.  Every day since the article was posted, I’ve had an average of 300 viewers, with a peak of over 500 a couple days after it went up. Okay, so that’s still a sliver of a fraction of a tiny portion of the traffic that SEO stars get.  Yet it’s a ten-fold daily vierwship increase, all as a result of one article.On a realy major topic that I don’t think gets enough attention.

Now, I don’t expect that I’ll have that many people read every article I post, and it may even be a one-time fluke.  Yet I’ve also doubled my subscribers and greatly appreciate that fact.

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GREAT FEEDBACK AND A “DUCK AND COVER” COMMENT

Since I posted the article, a number of people have contacted me by email, direct Tweets through my new Twitter account, and in person. 

People have been telling me that they really appreciate my investigative skills related to SEO.  Honestly people – any truly seasoned SEO consultant can and probably does, do this kind of digging. And now that I’m showing you the steps I take, you can too.  So no big deal okay?

Others have made note of the humorous way in which I wrote the article, (apparently I’m a barrel of laughs sometimes) and that it’s great to know that many of us in the SEO arena are willing to work on policing our own industry.

Every one have been positive, until the latest comment which was both complimentary and a warning to watch my back. Say what? Here’s the comment:

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THE COMPLIMENTARY WARNING NOTICE

Hey Alan,

This is good stuff!

Good find and good call out.  But be careful – this is the stompernet guy.  He’s pretty popular and may not be too happy about this.

One last consideration – there is a chance that he is being linked to in this way without his knowledge but understanding the circumstances, this is pretty unlikely at this point.

Gennady Lager, Director of SEO
SendTraffic, a division of Atrinsic

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Well Gennady, thanks for that feedback.  And point taken regarding the “chance” that he is being linked to without his knowledge.  If it turns out that Brad is just a poor victim of some other 3rd party conspiracy to bury hidden links back to little .ico files on his server and that’s the cause of all this mess, then heck, I’ll be happy to retract.  Except…

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THE COURT OF ALAN IS NOW IN SESSION

Until proven otherwise, Brad is presumed guilty until proven innocent. (hey, I’m not the US court system here people okay? I rely heavily on my intuitive take and since this is my blog, that’s how I play it until shown otherwise.)

Now – about the warning – I had, in my original review and investigation, come across references to Stompernet.  Yet I hadn’t looked farther into that angle until now.  My initial research led me to see how Brad is, in fact, connected to Stompernet.  Yet I’d never heard of them before.  (Hey, there’s a million people and thousands of companies out there promoting SEO solutions and I’m generally too busy to bother checking them all out ya know?)

But when I got this comment today, I figured I’d better follow up – to see what all the concern was. Like – will a million raging stompernet fans suddenly try and swamp my server out of anger? Come beating down my door, pitch-forks in hand?  Who are these loyal protectors of all that is right and grand about stompernet that I need to be afraid of?

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THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS

When I did my initial search at Google for the all  powerful stompernet, the first two paid ads mentioned “Stompernet Scam”  in their title.

Stompernet Scam?

So why would any legitimate Internet Marketing offer have any paid ads that associate the offer with a scam?

I mean, I’ve never seen that come up for just about any white-hat, or truly free-from-controversy Internet Marketing business.  At least not until today.

Okay – so maybe it’s not Stompernet’s fault.  Maybe the ones running those controversial paid ads are the scum of the earth, and they’re just using really low-life advertising methods to steal prospective customers away from Stompernet.  Could very well be.

Or they’re doing it to give Stompernet a bad rep.

I won’t know because I won’t click on paid ads just because they’re up on top.  I’d rather do my own legwork.  It is more fair to do so yes?

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Step 1 – Review the main site offerings

On first view, the Stompernet site offers a 22 minute video from Andy Jenkins, Brad’s partner and co-founder of Stompernet.  My initial impression is that Andy’s an honest, friendly kind of a guy.  Well damn.  If Brad’s using methods that I think at the very least, give a black eye to his otherwise legitimate SEO face, then what’s Andy doing in business with him?  Could Andy have been fooled all these years?

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SO FAR, SO LEGIT

Andy presents the strategy he says doubled his visitor traffic through organic methods.

Oh fun – I feel a fork in the road ahead!

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So I watched the video.  And to Andy’s credit, he did lay out pretty standard legitimate optimization methods and tactics in a really clear, concise and well presented video.  That gave me pause, simply because it means that Stompernet isn’t necessarily a scam at all.  It now appears they are a legitimate Internet Marketing company offering real white-hat SEO solutions to their viewers and followers.

RED HERRING OR RED FLAG?

Andy mentions in the video that what he’s about to show is different than anything Stompernet has ever communicated previously. So what’s up with that?  (see below for more on that one).

STEP 2 THE BACK-LINK CHECK

More than 2200 back-links.  Many in fact, related to the site he’s discussing in the video.  That’s good legitimate SEO. So on that note, I applaud Andy for using white-hat methods.

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But with over 2200 links, I figured I better look at several of those.  Well, it appears that a great deal of the links come from link exchanges with other, similar sites.  That’s important because sites with related content that exchange links provide more value than sites linking that have no related content.

Again, that APPEARS to be good SEO.

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STRIKE ONE AGAINST ANDY

Then, as I continue to scan links, I start seeing what are considered truly butt-ugly links.  I’m talking about links coming from sites that have the sole purpose to leech off the legitimate web.  Scum suckers.

EXAMPLE 1 GAMBLING ON LINKS FROM CASINO RELATED SITES

Some of those links come from Red Flag sites, or at the very least, sites I consider questionable as to reputation, and linking methods.   One for example, is a site called “Casino Review Pages” ( a site that sets my McAfee SiteAdvisor plug-in ablaze in warnings).

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STRIKE TWO AGAINST ANDY

Another, turns out to be a shell site that apparently Andy himself (or maybe it was Brad?) set up a few years ago called the “Yahoo Store Builder”, a site that will show you “How To Create A Profitable e-Commerce Store”.  Seems legit yes?

HA! Gotcha!

The page that links back to Andy’s prized possession eComerce site?   It’s a not even a main page on the site, or even an old-school “Links” page. but instead, it’s a Disclaimer page.

At first I couldn’t find the link.  So I went into View Source mode, and searched for A2Armory, the site Andy is pushing as having obtained high ranking through White-Hat methods in his latest video.  Here’s what I found:

See how there are a slew of 1 pixel high links on the page?  Going to both a2Armory and other sites owned by Andy. Or Brad.  Or both…

So Okay – these are not hidden – but why didn’t I see them on the disclaimer page?  Because they’re so tiny, and the color is designed to not catch your attention, that’s why.

At the extreme bottom of the “Legal Disclaimer” page, there are several 1 pixel high links that are “almost” invisible, but not quite.


So you tell me – is this legitimate link building?  If so, why are those links buried in almost invisible size and color, and on the bottom of a LEGAL DISCLAIMER page?

Do I really have to tell you?  Okay fine.  Because this is one of the sneakiest and most underhanded without being completely black-hat methods that exist on earth.  DUH.

  • How many people read a disclaimer page on a site that screams – MAKE MONEY THE EASY WAY?
  • How many people who read really long disclaimer pages will even bother to notice, let alone, care about, tiny 1 pixel almost hidden links that are buried below a Copyright line?
  • It’s one thing to put a lighter shade link on the bottom of pages for aesthetic reasons. It’s another to do so at this extreme level and only on an otherwise ignored page.  How many other sites do you do that on Andy?

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ANDY, YOU DISAPPOINT ME

Like I said from the beginning of my evaluation, Andy offers some truly legitimate SEO tactics.  Ones that I recommend to my clients all the time.  But then, just like Brad, he went and polluted all that good stuff with this nonsense.  What a shame.

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Now – back to this whole “Stompernet Scam issue.  If Stompernet is a scam, is it because other people have uncovered the shady gray hat methods that Andy uses or the black hat methods Brad does?  Or is it something else?

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BACK TO GOOGLE AND STRIKE THREE

[thank God I have ADHD - all this bouncing back and forth really would annoy most people, and that's why I think people like Brad and Andy get away with it and never change their ways, even when doing so would only improve their reputation]

Back to Google to see what that’s all about…

In that search for Stompernet, I read through many of the reviews, discussions and comments made by people where the words Stompernet and Scam appear on the same page.  They go back a few years.  Something about a loss-leader “Try it for just $1″ offer to recieve “the instant you’re going to be rich overnight thanks to our secret sauce” kind of bullshit that so many hacks offer out there you’d want to puke from all the smell of bullshit…

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SPEND A DOLLAR, LOOSE $798

It turns out that there was a problem for some people who ran out of that first 30 day trial period before they could fully evaluate the claims made, and who subsequently got slammed for $$$. I found more than one that claimed when that 30 day trial ended, they got hit with a $798 charge to their credit card and that would be the fee they’d be automatically billed every month they remained in the program.

(Just do a search for Stompernet Scam on Google and you can weed through the plethora of sites, complaints and groaning).

Others complained that the trial version didn’t give access to the full advanced info, so people couldn’t really evaluate whether this was worth the investment or just fluff…

At least some of the people who tried this offering were of the “Make Millions Online” mentality.  Well good on them for that.  But only if they intended (or still intend) to make their money through legitimate business methods not using underhanded ballot-box stuffing SEO tactics, and where they provide real above-board value to their customers.  Otherwise, I hope they get sucker-punched into reality real quick.  thank you very much.

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BUT WAIT -THERE’s MORE

Stompernet is so much more than what the “scam” claims make it out to be.  It turns out they’ve got a whole system, with offers for “Ninja Ad Words” “SMARTS” reports, “SIMPLE” (that’s the program you get for a buck folks!), the Freeline report (Hey, that’s one of Brad’s – good to know this isn’t all about Andy!) and a whole lot more.

With that $800 a month, heck, you even get access to their “Faculty”.  LOL Faculty?  { pause while I puke }

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THE GURU BANDWAGON TO MAKING GURUS WEALTHY

Look, the whole Stompernet thing can be summed up like this. If you are GULLIBLE enough to fall for this crap, sure, spend $800 a month for the rest of your life.  Spend countless hours becoming indoctrinated into the Stompernet Universe (yes that’s one of their catch-phrases offerings too), and follow their methods.

It’s really no different than Russ Whitney in the “Become a Quadrillionairre by buying Real Estate with no money” market, Laurel Langemeier in the “pay off your debt to become a Gagillionaire” arena, and countless other Gurus who want to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge so that you can walk across it.

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WAIT.

Did I just type what I think I did?

You mean, They want to sell me the rights to walk across a bridge that I can walk across for free? ?
Holy Crap!  I did!

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See, the truth is, if you follow the vast swath of SEO experts, and Affiliate Marketing experts who use WHite Hat SEO methods, and take just a bit of time to learn as you go, you can learn how to do ANYTHING these cretons teach you, without having to pay for it.  And you can do it without risking having Google slam you out of the index.  And thus you can actually have a GOOD reputation, and not be seen as others as the scum of the earth.

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EXISTING BUSINESS OWNERS NEED NOT APPLY

If you are a business owner who wants to get high rankings on the search engines without having to do all that heavy lifting yourself, sure you’ll probably need to pay someone to do that for you.  With Brad and Andy, you get to pay them the same amount of money, or more, ongoing, forever, and they give you the privelidge to do all the lifting for yourself.  Isn’t that nice of them?

And oh yes – it means that you’ll have to give up actually running your business -sell your storefront, and become willing to sit in front of your computer being the geek you were never meant to be.  Just so Andy and Brad can continue to live the high life.

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A WORD ABOUT AMWAY

What? You didn’t really think I’d write this article, come to the conclusion that Andy and Brad are ripoff Gurus and NOT Mention Amway, did you?  HA!

Look – Amway is great if you’re willing to treat it like a real legitimate business – go around and find stores to sell your products, or open your own store.  But if you’re of the Quixtar mentality, that all you have to do is get ten friends who will themselves then get ten friends and so on, logic,  well here’s some statistics to wake your pretty little head up.

Last year, Amway started bragging in advertisements that they brought in about $3,000,000,000 in revenue in the past year.  And that they boast over one million “Independent Business Owners” (little marching ants gathering friends to gather more friends).  Well let’s do the math.  One million generate three billion.  Uh, that’s a whopping $3,000 in TOTAL SALES per business owner per year.

If you are capable of grasping what that means, God bless you.  If not, it means that as an Independent business owner, your personal income from that is about enough to pay for your weekly latte’ and a couple movies a month.

Exept not even that.  Because that’s the AVERAGE.  There are a handful of people at the top who make hundreds of thousands of dollars because they have put in a lot of years gathering worker-ants in their “down-line”.  Which means that a whole lot of people generate less than $3,000 a year in revenue for the company.  And THOSE people earn about enough to pay for one or two of the books or motivational CDs Amway sells you to motivate you into getting more worker ants…

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So now that my rant is done, I’m choosing to take the position that Andy and Brad are people you don’t want to do business with, unless you’re into thinking you too can become wealthy by doing unscrupulous things.  If that’s the case, have fun.  Enjoy.  Go in peace.  Already.

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And one final note about that warning from Gennady.

If, for some reason, you have the ability to prove any claims made here to be false, please provide them to me and I will gladly retract.

Should any of Andy or Brad’s minions wish to do me harm, I offer that you will not want to test my skill or tenacity at ruining any fun, pleasure or satisfaction you think you might get.

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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6 Comments

  1. Credit where credit is due: StomperNet promises to double your traffic, right? It looks like they multiplied your traffic about 16-fold overnight!

    I think that’s certainly worth you cutting a check to Andy and Brad for $1.00.

  2. The ‘Is X a scam?’ ads are paid for by affiliates of the program, I’m sure. I’ve seen that sort of thing many times before.

    Affiliates know that people will be searching for reviews and contrary opinions to help them decide whether or not to buy the product – and who more unbiased than someone writing a ‘negative’ review?

    Of course, when they click on the link, the landing page may start out asking ‘Is X a scam?’ but it will instantly respond “NO!” and eventually provide the visitor with the affiliate link.

  3. Jonathan

    Thanks for that extra insight on the “scam” paid ad. Yet one more example of how to lure unsuspecting people in with a false marketing ploy.

  4. Andy Beard says:

    I am just going to leave one comment, otherwise you might feel that I am one of Stompernet’s raving horde of fans coming to defend them.

    I arrived following links from your most recent SEJ post, and started following you on Twitter after your first one.

    The Coolest guy fun was something from 2005, Brad decided to rank for it, and then mentioned it to Mike Filsaime, who grabbed a domain name to compete about it, blasted out an email mentioning it, and it turned into a pseudo competition for years, with the only prize being bragging rights.

    I even briefly took part in 2005, though I was certainly a little wet behind the ears at the time.

    Ditto on the affiliate tactics, though Stompernet do tell affiliates not to use negative advertising that might hurt their brand.
    (I am one of their affiliates)

    The links in the current Google climate are, or should I say were a little spammy – it seems like the links are gone, and those legal papers are now linked to using javascript. Maybe Andy saw this writeup?
    I didn’t go all the way back through archive.org, but certainly in Jan 2005 the links to the legal docs were using javascript
    href=”javascript:go(‘yahoo-store-builder.com/content/legal_1.htm’)”

    Ah, but you can go delving through the SERPs and eventually find this
    http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search?p=http%3A//www.yahoo-store-builder.com/storebuilder/legal_1.htm&bwm=i&bwmo=&bwmf=u

    As your screenshot suggests that is from 2004, an old butt ugly site which probably still sold lots of ebooks, but still seems to be on Andy’s server.

    I can’t say it is best practice to still have those pages on the site, and I have never owned a Yahoo store… can you do 301 redirects?

    On a positive note, in some ways that was probably better SEO practice than all the recent advice of nofollowing “overhead” pages. Andy took an overhead page that was gaining juice that he didn’t really need, and aimed that juice (I know you avoid the word) at his money pages. Effective sacrificial linking tactics.

    I must admit the icon link in the header never even crossed my mind that it might actually pass juice.
    I am fairly sure both sites are owned by Brad (same analytics account), and he wouldn’t be the first person to develop a static site on one domain, then move it somewhere else such as use the template on a Yahoo store.
    An image link for whatever purpose would be easy to overlook.

    Or maybe it is an SEO test that has been forgotten about, or Brad might well know more than me.

    A $1 trial up to close to $800/month is a big jump, but look at it from the reverse and it is better than paying $800 for the first month sight unseen.

    Lots of memberships drip content, so you only get part of the information when you first sign up, to prevent people signing up, downloading everything and then cancelling. I seem to remember the wording on the sales letter mentioning specifically what people would have access to in the first month.

    These days they have a different approach, a $1 trial for their magazine, along with a free SEO course as a huge bribe.

    The SEO course is “polished” – I have promoted it as an affiliate

    Whether Stompernet itself is worth it really depends on your circumstances. You have clients who pay you to do a job, and wording on your SEJ article suggests your services aren’t cheap.
    It isn’t just the training materials, there are live Q&As, support forums, 4 seminars a year that members get free, one-on-one counselling of some kind, and 30+ staff to support.

    I am sure their business is profitable, but that is the point of building a scalable business.

  5. Sarah says:

    Stompernet are forum spammers and the fuckwit in england who runs it (seen a youtube video) should have another lorry driven into his face until it explodes.

  6. Sarah,

    I apologize for not approving your comment sooner (first comments need approval here due to the spam volume). It took so long because at first I felt it was too inflammatory, but then each time I read it, I liked it more and more. And my blog posts are so heavy that I really can’t say others are too heavy to be approved :-)

    Ultimately too, I agree with you about the fact that they’re just spammers and scammers.

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