One More Complaint Against TOPSEOs – Are they a shakedown operation or legitimate service?

UPDATE 4/29/2010 – TOPSEOS issues Apology – But Is It Enough?

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This week’s buzz in the SEO community is all about complaints against TOPSEOs (and questions for Jeev Trika, one of their owners) – a company that sells rankings and awards within the SEO industry.  While they bill their rankings as a “competition”, people from a number of highly reputable companies in our industry  have come out essentially saying that TOPSEOs is nothing more than a shakedown for money.  And I’ve got one more company to add to the list…

IF IT FEELS LIKE A SHAKEDOWN IT MAY BE A SHAKEDOWN

Early on in my life in business, I was contacted by a company offering to list my company in an “Industry Leaders” publication.  It turned out that all one had to do to be billed as an “industry leader”, was to pay a hefty fee to be included.  This was spun by the sale person as “a great way to gain exposure for your business – a way to let prospective customers know about you and to set your company apart from the competition.”  Well, the whole premise of that nonsense stank to high heaven, and given how many complaints there are now against TOPSEOs and who the people are that are complaining,  it’s pretty clear that TOPSEO’s plays the same game.

I’d come across TOPSEOs previously, though I never much paid attention, other than to laugh at the stupid use of an “up” arrow as the company’s first letter in their logo.  This week however, Edward Lewis from SEOConsultants.com has written extensively about TOPSEOs and has a lot of questions for Jeev Trika.

JEEV TRIKA – THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

Jeev Trika is listed on their site as a “Partner” whose primary responsibilities at TOPSEOs is

carving out the strategic direction in addition to sales and account management

Most people who have been speaking up with complaints about TOPSEOs have dealt directly with Jeev Trika.  So whether he’s the right person to answer up to these allegations or not is only a guess, but it’s a good one.

WHY CAN’T PEOPLE TRUST JEEV TRIKA?

Anyone who reads Jeev Trika’s bio over at TOPSEOs, might be confused by all this talk about complaints against TOPSEOs and the notion that TOPSEOs is a shakedown operation, because his bio says

His professional services have been garnered by organizations like IBM Global Services, Siebel, Jordan Industries, Cayman Islands Government, and more

And Jeev Trika’s education is listed as

a Bachelor in Computer Science and an MBA, both from Purdue University.

Which sounds like he’s got a serious professional business background.

Except that’s what they thought about Bernie Madoff as well. And look how well that turned out.

COMPLAINTS AGAINST TOPSEOs

Most notably, Edward has documented a laundry list of quite serious complaints against TOPSEOs over at his site.  He’s also started an open dialogue about the legitimacy problems he sees with the whole TOPSEOs “Pay For Awards” scheme over at Sphinn and as of the writing of this article, that posting has received 42 sphinns.  It seems the legitimate SEO community, for the most part, finds what TOPSEOs does to be distasteful at best, a shakedown service at worst.

ADD ONE MORE COMPLAINT AGAINST TOPSEOs

When I first started looking into this to see whether TOPSEOs is a legitimate service or what, I saw some companies listed there that are rather well known in the industry.  Like Bruce Clay, Inc.  Hell – BC?  They’re about as legit as it gets.  But then I saw companies that have the “highest rating” – like “Increase Visibility, Inc.”  Which, according to many different complaints against THEM (read Edward’s article for details on the complaints against Increase Visibility, Inc.), shows that they’ve got no business being awarded any top rating award of any kind,  let alone one bought and paid for with cold hard cash.

So I put out word to people I know and asked if anyone had any more insight.

Arnie Kuenn, President of Vertical Measures, reached out to me and offered to share his experience with TOPSEOs.  He sent me an email that at first he said I could use in my article anonymously, as he preferred to avoid any potential negative light being cast on his otherwise outstanding and highly reputable Internet marketing company.  I suggested, however, that by identifying who it is saying this would carry significantly more weight than the “a highly reputable member of our community” would. Especially given how Arnie is also President over at AZIMA – the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association.

Arnie then went and spoke with his team at Vertical Measures – to get a sense from them as to whether to remain anonymous in this whole thing, or to come out and take a public stand against what Arnie (and so many others in the industry) feel is a a highly disreputable business model carried out by TOPSEOs.  The result of that discussion was that Arnie gave me his blessings to make full use of his reporting on TOPSEOs business practices.

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HERE’S WHAT ARNIE SHARED WITH ME ABOUT TOPSEOs, IN ITS ENTIRETY:

“The beginning of 2009, we were sent an email by TopSEOs telling us we were ranked as a top 10  company in one of the ranking categories on TopSEOs.  In fact it was a top 7 ranking.  Of course we were proud and posted the badge and sent out the press release as provide by and recommended by TopSEOs.

A couple months later, we dropped to #10 and noticed our score for some of the “scoring criteria” had dropped.  So I sent TopSEOs and email asking how this could be when our customer retention has been outstanding and we have never received a complaint.  Here is the exact text of my email:”

Hello,
I see we dropped from 7th to 10th.  I just don’t understand how that could happen.  We have a “zero” for dependability?  That is just not right.  Our clients love us.  Since we keep the client list confidential, how do you know who to contact to ask about us?

Look at the number of 5 star reviews we have on YOUR site compared to the others ranked ahead of us.

Obviously I take great pride in this ranking.  Please tell me what we need to do to move up.

Arnie then went on to share with me what happened next, and this is what caused me to want to vomit over the TOPSEOs business practices, and what has been corroborated now by other just as reputable people in the SEO industry:

“Within 24 hours I received a response from Jeev Trika:

I will give you a call today to discuss ….

This is from memory, but Jeev did call and then explained to me that the top rankings are reserved for the “sponsors”.  That if we wanted to be ranked higher we need to agree to spend thousands of dollars per month sponsoring his site.  He would then move us up in the rankings.  Of course I became pretty upset and confronted him on how he could arbitrarily attribute some ranking criteria, specifically how our customers felt about us, when our client list is 100% confidential.  You can’t find our clients on our website anywhere.

He said they “have their ways” and they use the client testimonials on their website.  I replied telling him that 100% of our testimonials were 5 stars so how does that indicate a drop to “zero” in dependability.  He had no answer.  He just said that I would find it well worth my while to pay to be ranked as we would get tons of leads from the rankings.

I refused to pay and the next month we were GONE from the rankings all together.  I called Jeev to complain and basically his attitude was “make me an offer”.  He repeated that those that paid to be in the top were thrilled with the leads and exposure.  I asked if I “out spent” them, could I be #1 and he said no, not right away because he had to be loyal to the companies who had been paying for a significant period of time.  He had no problem telling me if you want to get ranked, you have to pay.  I refused again, and he quickly got off the call.  On to the next I presume.  BTW, it’s not that hard to correlate the sponsors listed on the home page to the rankings.  It matches up pretty well.”

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SO IS TOPSEOS A SHAKEDOWN OPERATION OR WHAT?

After hearing this from Arnie, someone I hold in very high esteem – one of the most trustworthy, respectable and downright caring business leaders in the Arizona Search Marketing market, I was sick to my stomach.  And this was only fueled further after reading similar stories from people like Jill Whalen (read her comments over at Sphinn).  Can you imagine JILL WHALEN making something up like this, let alone Arnie Kuenn? I only met Jill this year, at the Epic Dinner during SMX West, but I have to say – she absolutely deserves to be respected for her trustworthiness and integrity.  I may not agree with her on everything SEO, but damn – she’s got integrity.  A lot more than I ever had or will have…

But just in case you think – ‘Who is Arnie Kuenn, and who’s this Jill Whalen you refer to?’ (hey – you may not actually be well connected in the SEO industry so those names may not be familiar to you right?) yesterday Aaron Wall from SEOBook threw his name into the mix as someone with A Review of the Top SEOs Paid Rating Service. And trust me – Aaron wasn’t casting any favorable light on TOPSEOs.  Or the crap companies that associate with them by paying for top billing.

TOO MANY YEARS GETTING AWAY WITH THIS CRAP

After Arnie Kuenn shared his own experience with me, he then went over to Sphinn and joined the conversation, and added his voice to the now growing list of professionals in our industry calling for TOPSEOs to stop their antics.

But let’s be clear here – this is something that’s been going on for years now. And others have complained about TOPSEOs previously.  Like Mark Jackson over at Search Engine Watch back in 2008. And before that, over at Vizion Interactive the year before.   And other real business people have legitimate complaints about TOPSEOs.

So why the hell are they still in business playing the same bullshit games?

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CALL TO ACTION

Please – I beg you, if you care about the SEO industry, get involved!

Read a synopsis of all the people who have complained about TOPSEOs over on Edwards site

Get involved in the discussion about TOPSEOs at Sphinn.

Link to all the articles and the Sphinn story to help spread the word.

And just as important as these – if you personally know someone at a LEGITIMATE company who happens to participate at TOPSEOs (check out the TOPSEOs wall of shame)- ask them outright – “Why the hell are you even listed at there?”  Which will give you an opportunity to direct them to all the online complaints against that operation.  And maybe it will embarrass them into removing their listings.  Because they SHOULD be embarrassed.  Seriously.

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UPDATE 3/30/2010 9:51AM

In doing research on Jeev Trika, I found he’s got a LinkedIn profile.  So I upgraded to business account holder status at LinkedIn (the cost was worth this one email alone!) and as a result, I was able to send him an inmail (LinkedIn email) and invited him just now to join the conversation.  My email:

Mr. Trika,

I am writing to you today to invite you to read and join the dialogue on the discussion regarding your company over at Sphinn.com – there have been a growing number of complaints about TOPSEOs and some new articles have come out reporting on those complaints.

We would greatly appreciate you participating in the discussion yourself, so that you may present your side of the story and let the SEO community have a balanced understanding.

We’ll see if he responds.  Hopefully he’ll participate and we can have an intelligent discussion with him about these complaints.

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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