TOPSEOs Continues Deceptive Practices
TOPSEOs was built on deception, article scraping, and bait-and-switch practices. The industry cried foul, Jeev Trika blew it off as motivated by ulterior motives, I called him out, and 3 days later they issued an official apology, vowing to change. Fast foward a full month, and they continue their ways, laughing in the face of reality, and I say BULLSHIT…
INDUSTRY OUTRAGE LEADS TO OFFICIAL APOLOGY
Outrage over TOPSEOs deceptive business practices has been brewing for a couple years, and came to a head over the past couple months. As a result of the SEO industry’s coming together with one voice in opposition to Jeev Trika’s deceptive game playing and the seriously mounting complaints from both industry professionals and business owners who had been deceived, I reached out to Jeev in an attempt to get his side of the story and wrote about it on April 26th. Three days later, TOPSEOs issued an official apology press release, vowing to change.
TOPSEOs ANNOUNCES THEY’VE CHANGED THEIR WAYS – BUT HAVE THEY?
That was more than a full month ago, so a review of their claimed pennance and changes is due. Especially since they issued a subsequent press release claiming they’ve changed their ways. Let’s look at the facts and then you can decide for yourselves whether TOPSEOs is a reformed criminal, or Jeev Trika was full of shit.
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS, MAYBE
One of the biggest complaints that came out of this was how TOPSEOs listed countless companies in their database that were not paying for leads, and when someone would click on a link to contact that company, it would actually be redirected to paying members without the knowledge of the innocent site visitor.
In their “we’ve changed” press release, they state
Some of the changes implemented include of: (i) enabling the contact request for all companies across the five regional sites without the agency being required to sign up for the leads service, (ii) contact requests within articles, case studies, research materials, and jobs have been disabled, (iii) the links within the articles sections have been enabled, and (iv) the website response times have been further optimized.
At the time this article is being written, I can confirm that contact requests within articles, case studies and research materials have, in fact been removed.
As far as contact requests being redirected or not, I’m still testing this and will need to report on my findings only after I have done enough testing to truly confirm this, a daunting task given how vast their database of listings is.
LOOK AT US – WE’RE BETTER NOW
IF my ongoing study of the bait and switch issue proves them truthful in this aspect, I highly encourage Jeev Trika to tout that fact prominently on the TOPSEOs web site.
Except it might have to read:
Since 2002, one of our primary business models has been based on bait and switch tactics. But we heard the outcry, and we no longer pull that bullshit on unsuspecting business owners! Sure, we still deceive you in countless other ways, but hey, at least now we’re no longer performing the most egregious of criminal activity, so please – cut us some slack!
NEXT – THE BAD BAD BAD
Exhibit #1 TOPSEOS THEFT OF ARTICLES
An article by Marty Weintraub originally posted at SearchEngineWatch on February 22nd, 2008 continues to live on in its entirety at TOPSEOs, with no original article attribution, and presented to TOPSEOs readers as if it’s an article originally posted TO TOPSEOs by Marty.
An article by Jill Whalen originally posted at HighRankings.com (Jill’s site), on May 30th, 2004, continues to live on in its entirety at TOPSEOs, with no indication that this is a stolen article or that it was originally posted at Jill’s site.
UPDATE – Jill just notified me that in that article, they are, in fact, properly attributing the article to her, and linking back to her site. As such, she would not call that infringing. So we can give TOPSEOs a break on that one article.
Yet that leaves all these other articles, and God knows how many more I haven’t uncovered…
Articles by Loren Baker, posted to SearchEngineJournal.com, continue to live on at TOPSEOs, direct theft of SearchEngineJournal.com content. And THAT pisses me off, in a more personal way because I am an author at SEJ, and SEJ article scrapers disgust me.
Articles by Ann Smarty, also posted to SearchEngineJournal.com, live on, in their scraped content entirety at TOPSEOs. Hey Jeev Trika, didn’t you get it just now when I expressed how much you piss me off? Well, now you’re just aching for me to digitally bitch slap you aren’t you?
Other articles originally posted elsewhere by industry professionals continue to reside on the TOPSEOs site and presented as original to TOPSEOs which is both deceptive and in violation of copyright law, such as this article by Chris Boggs, still on the TOPSEOs site.
Do I go on? We’re talking about articles by Matt McGee, Joanna Lord, Andy Beard, the list goes on and on and on…
So clearly, TOPSEOs continues their deceptive practices.
ARTICLE REMOVAL COUNTER ARGUMENT
Some people believe it should be the responsibility of the author of an article to contact TOPSEOs and have their scraped content removed.
To be fair to Jeev, they have set up an article removal request site, where writers can submit a request to have their scraped content removed from TOPSEOs system. While I applaud them for doing so, nowhere on their actual site do they provide this link that I can find. Nowhere on their site do they communicate in any easy to find manner, that removal of unintentionally scraped content is even possible. No, the only reason I know about this method is because I saw that one-time press release.
The vast majority of article writers would most likely NOT have seen that one-time release. And hell – they don’t even list their apology or “we’ve changed” releases on their own site. Go figure.
WHY SCRAPED CONTENT REMOVAL IS TOPSEOs RESPONSIBILITY
As far as I am concerned, I call BULLSHIT on Jeev Trika, because they know damned well that they scrape content. It would NOT take a rocket scientist to know which articles have been posted directly to their site and which ones they stole. And since they continue to leverage their ability to deceive unsuspecting business owners, I say the onus should be on TOPSEOs, not article authors. Especially since they stated, on the record,
This content was identified, and is in the process of being removed.
So yes, as far as I am concerned, either they lied when they say they identified the content, or they’re incompetent fools who have no right to exist. Take your pick.
Exhibit #2 TOPSEOS BULLSHIT REMOVAL EFFORTS
Conducting a search for “Jill Whalen” at TOPSEOs reveals several “press release” and several “article” titles and snippets under both the High Rankings banner and Jill Whalen as author. When clicking on the link on these to “View Article”, you are redirected to the TOPSEOs home page now. So at least they’ve removed at least some of the full articles. But by listing these articles in the search results it means they continue to leach off of the hard work of true industry professionals.
Similar entries continue to exist for other industry professionals, including Matt Cutts, Loren Baker, Matt McGee, and who knows how many others…
Exhibit #3 TOPSEOs CONTINUES TO LEACH OFF HIGH PROFILE INDUSTRY LISTINGS
A search at TOPSEOs for “High Rankings” lists several companies, including Jill Whalen’s company, High Rankings. Clicking on the link in the bottom right to “View Company” causes a “302 Found” redirect to the TOPSEOs home page. So they no longer have a page on Jill’s company on their site, but they still list it in the search results, and redirect that sucker to their home page.
Exhibit #4 TOPSEOs FALSE CLAIMS
The Independent Authority Lie
Even after Jeev Trika vowed to change their ways, they continue to display a claim that they’re an “Independent authority”. In fact, they mostly claim they are “THE” independent authority.
Again, I call bullshit. If the vast majority of companies you rank actually pay you insane fees for the right to be ranked, you are NOT an independent authority. You have a VESTED INTEREST in ranking those companies. You are NOT providing a fair, unbiased and impartial opinion. This is classic BULLSHIT.
The 4000 Firms Analyzed Lie
To this day, TOPSEOs maintains a claim on their home page where Entrepreneur magazine quoted them saying that they have analyzed over 4,000 firms. Where do I begin with this one?
First of all, they use the Entrepreneur logo as some sort of “proof of truth” banner. Kind of like their own “Best in the industry” badges. In fact, this is no proof of truth or trustworthiness at all, it’s purely a marketing ploy to deceive site visitors who don’t know better.
Then there’s the minor detail they fail to disclose in any real way, that many companies they claimed to have reviewed, turned out to NOT have been reviewed. Like Vertical Measures, as well as numerous other companies who’s representatives spoke up in the various Sphinn threads and on their own articles across the web over the past couple months.
Jeev Trika never disputed these claims. Not in his interview with me, or in their official apology press release.
So I call BULLSHIT on the 4000 firms claim.
Highly Questionable Rankings
To this day, many of the companies that have been well documented as to be highly questionable, and where actual clients have accounted where they posted complaints directly on the TOPSEOs web site, only to have those complaints mysteriously disappear without resolution, remain highly “ranked”. Some companies that have been ranked, are, upon a simple lifting of the hood, companies that use black hat techniques to achieve whatever results they achieve.
No, we don’t believe that TOPSEOs has actually done proper, reasonable, or respectable “independent authority” due diligence in their “ranking” process at all. Not in the least.
So I call BULLSHIT on the claim of ranking companies as “BEST” anything.
Exhibit #5 BULLSHIT DAMAGE CONTROL
Let’s face it. When a murderous criminal is caught with blood splattered all over their body, gun shot residue spread across their hand, and the crime scene isn’t properly scrubbed of all DNA trace evidence, it’s pretty damned hard for that criminal to erase all traces of their criminal activity, let alone perform damage control.
I do, however, give Jeev Trika credit for trying to pretend like they’re covering their asses in a sufficient enough manner.
Take, for example, the now visible “FULL DISCLOSURE” button that appears at the bottom of every page.
Of course, when I zoom in on that little area of the site all the way at the bottom of pages, that green button jumps out at you doesn’t it?
But when you actually go to their site, and you’re looking at the page like most humans do, and your eyes are bleeding from absorbing all the primary content, that green button becomes a blur among a flurry of bottom feeder links and buttons.
FINALLY – THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY
So okay, we already know it’s a BULLSHIT ASSHAT way to skirt the disclosure requirement that was called for in our outcry. Personally, I called for an obvious and easy to find disclosure throughout and across the site. This isn’t even CLOSE to obvious or easy to find when you’re overwhelmed with trying to focus on primary content areas. It’s not in any of the top navigation links, there’s no icons or text directly inside the content areas. It’s buried at the very bottom in a blur.
But let’s at least look at it to see what they’ve come up with, shall we?
There’s a lot of marketing bullshit about how they do their rankings and this little gem:
The rankings are strictly our opinions based on our research process.
Okay – so we should believe their ability to be trustworthy why?
Oh yeah – they’re the Independent Authority! (BULLSHIT)
THE “WE DON’T NEED TO BE HONEST” LOOPHOLE
The rankings are usually measured on a series of scores that we assign on five factors within each category. The scores for each factor are assigned based on our analysis. Only the top scoring agencies make a given list.
Wait – USUALLY? What the fuck does THAT mean?
It means they have the right to list any fucking douchebag asshat scumbag company they damned well please. Without otherwise TELLING you that’s what they did. Because they tell you right there on that disclosure page. So FUCK YOU if you were hoping for fairness and independent trustworthy rankings.
AT LEAST THEY GET A LITTLE HONEST
They go on to say in the disclosure page
We charge a standard fee from agencies and tool developers for our time to evaluate.
So there you have it – an actual truthful statement that they get paid to rank sites. Isn’t that nice of Jeev Trika for actually being honest about how rankings are bought and paid for?
LETS GET REAL – ITS A BULLSHIT PLOY
AFTER they close out the “disclosure” page content, below the “Summary” and the “Sincerely” bullshit closing, they go on to provide a p.s.!
P.S.: Our lawyers advised us that we should say a few more things…
Users are recommended to do their own research and investigation before engaging services with any company. User agrees to not hold topseos.com and/or e-ventures, LLC and/or any members and/or any managers and/or any of our partners and/or suppliers liable from any decisions they take. Furthermore, e-ventures, LLC is not liable for any statements, representations, descriptions, comments, or opinions posted on the Site. e-ventures, LLC cannot guarantee the accuracy, integrity, or quality of Rankings. Under no circumstances will e-ventures, LLC or any third-party providers of the Rankings be liable in any way for any Ranking, including, but not limited to, any errors or omissions in any Ranking/s, or any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the Ranking/s.
(bolding by me for emphasis)
Do you grasp what that paragraph means?
It means they have the right to lie, deceive and otherwise spit out the most insanely nonsensical, totally non-independent, non authoritative, non-trustworthy “rankings” they want to, for whatever reason they see fit, and if you don’t like it, FUCK YOU.
I especially like the GO FUCK YOURSELVES IF YOU EXPECT QUALITY RANKINGS line:
e-ventures, LLC cannot guarantee the accuracy, integrity, or quality of Rankings.
Isn’t that just fucking special?
DRIVING THE FUCK YOU ATTITUDE HOME
As good as all the above facts are, this line from the disclosure page really drives it home:
By developing and posting such rankings, topseos.com makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or factual basis of the rankings
Translated, this line says “we make no claim that any claim we make about rankings is even fucking real or factual.
See? Their lawyers insisted that they admit somewhere on their site that they really don’t have any need to honor their bullshit.
LOOKING FOR OPINIONS BY “AWARD” WINNERS
I’ve made several attempts to reach business owners whose companies have actually placed “BEST IN…” badges on their sites or in their marketing materials.
The one question I ask each time is why they choose to display their badges and fail to disclose along side them that they’re just bought and paid for, not truly independent awards (as in J.D. Power or Consumer Reports type ratings).
It’s a simple, fair and reasonable question given how some of these badge holders are very high profile companies, like Bruce Clay, Inc., for example – a company that touts quite proudly, their own SEO Code of Ethics. RIGHT BELOW THEIR TOPSEOS Badge.
So they’re either also bullshitting the public, and that means they’re in collusion with TOPSEOs, or they’ve been duped by Jeev Trika.
As of the time of the writing of this article, only one company has had the balls to step up to the plate and discuss the whole TOPSEOs “ranking” bullshit. They no longer display any of their “awards” based on a position they’re taking that TOPSEOs is in violation of FTC regulations regarding endorsements.
Sadly, not one other company has had the balls or guts to step forward to defend their asshat bullshit badges. I can only assume the reason for this is that they don’t want to get their business dragged into the public maelstrom or the vortex that this has become.
Except by the mere fact that they have chosen to ignore my inquiries, and they continue to display their bullshit phony badges, they’re complicit in the TOPSEOs deceptive practices we’re talking about. Especially given that they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars paying for the ongoing right to display that crap.
And I highly encourage anyone who ever comes across a company displaying or promoting their TOPSEOs badge to run. Away. As fast as possible. And not look back…