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I love those ads in in-flight magazines purportedly ranking the top steakhouses, seafood, Italian, or brewpub eateries in the US. The concept behind these ads is simple: get 10 restaurants to pay you to rank them in the top ten, then pay about 50% of what they pay you to the airlines – you make money, the airlines make money, and the restaurants get people coming through the doors. So what if the ad obscures the fact that this isn’t an actual ranking of quality, but rather a ranking of who pays the most to get in the ad, right?

This “fake ranking” concept has now come to the SEM/SEO space. A company called “Top SEOs” is advertising on SearchEngineLand encouraging users to visit the site and see their rankings of the top SEOs, SEMs, local search, social media, and other experts. Of course, as the founder of an SEM agency, I was curious to see if somehow Top SEOs had included me in their rankings, but alas I wasn’t there.
Moreover, the rankings start to smell suspicious immediately. Many of the top pay per click management companies were totally new to me, and the data being reported was outright strange. For example, coming in at #17 was Efficient Frontier, with revenue of between $3-$5M a year and over 100 employees. I think that might be their monthly revenue (oh, and they listed the CEO from two years ago).
I then went to the advertising information page and found the answer I thought I would find: to be ranked, you need to buy a “membership” with Top SEOs – the minimum cost for a ranking for a year is $30,000! That’s a lot of payola, but I guess if hapless potential clients don’t know this is a paid ranking, it might also end up being a good investment.
It’s always difficult to choose service providers and companies like Yelp and ChoiceVendor – both of whom rely on unsolicited reviews from actual consumers and businesses – are a good albeit still imperfect way to discern differences. TopSEOs, on the other hand, is no different than the flogs promoting Acai berry diets, or any fake news show/infomercial you see on late night television. The objective is not to be objective, and that’s something that the SEM industry should object to!