Search for “best sem agency,” “top sem agency,” or “best ppc agency” on Google, and the organic results will all show the same #1 listing: topseos.com (note: make sure to search in “incognito” mode so that Google doesn’t personalize your results).

Who is topseos.com? Well, if you believe the info on their site, they have a simple, and dare I say, noble mission:

“The core focus of topseos.com is to provide a quality evaluation and ranking service for customers seeking internet marketing services and products. This service offering evaluates the services provided by internet marketing companies and professionals and compares the results to the information collected from their competitors in order to create a listing of the best internet marketing service providers. Our evaluation process has refined since 2002 through research and testing to ensure that the highest integrity is maintained in our evaluation and rankings service.”

There’s an alternative perspective on TopSEOs. Rather than editorialize, I’ll give you some quotes – many from well-respected industry experts – that tell a different story:

“I’m putting a call out to the industry to request that TOPSEOs and its associated properties be shut down. Your name in itself is deceiving.”

“The only proper solution is for TOPSEOs to shut down.”

“TOPSEOs charges its members thousands of dollars PER MONTH and the per month fees directly correlate to where they’re ranked.  Those who pay more, rank higher.  Thus their ranking system is inherently flawed, intentionally misleading to consumers and not at all based on merit.  Christian or not, choosing to turn a blind eye to such an egregiously fraudulent business practice is equivalent to condoning it.”

“Yesterday I got a call from someone who was looking for some SEO services, and in the course of the conversation he thanked me for saving him from wasting huge amounts of money with a company he had found through TOPSEOs. He had assumed they were truly a highly ranked SEO company, not that they had paid for their rankings.”

“TopSEO’s is quite simply a scam.”

“Topseos would want you to believe they are an “Independent Authority on Search Vendors” when they are nothing more than a cheap thin affiliate site extorting money from SEO companies!”

“I need to vent- topseos.com is a SCAM. In order to even be on their so-called list of TOP seo firms you must pay- and pay BIG. I sent an email today and one of the owners of the company said that it would cost $1,000 per month to even be ‘considered’ and ranked on ONE list. So it would cost an additional 1k for every list you want to be on- and that’s PER MONTH. What a joke and what a scam! Nobody in their right mind should buy into this and consumers need to beware as SEO firms are simply buying their way to the top. “

“TOPSEOs is a like bidding game where the highest bidder gets the top position in their TOP SEO Companies Rating List. You do not need a great website, good client portfolio, excellent services because what matters mainly is the amount you pay.”

“Hopefully these clowns quite scamming people. Enough is enough.”

Sources for these quotes come from Sphinn, HTMLLink, SEOChat, and SEOBook. What is clear from these reviews is that TopSEOs is a “pay to play” service. If you don’t pay, your odds of showing up toward the top of the rankings (if at all) are slim to none. If you do pay, your odds of showing up highly are quite high. Whether or not a direct correlation between the amount you pay and your ranking exists is unknown.

Taking a look at the top 10 “pay per click management companies,” I have to admit that I’ve actually only heard of four of the top 10, and one of those I’ve only heard of because it’s an SEO – not SEM – firm. And well-known PPC agencies like iProspect, iCrossing, Efficient Frontier, 360i, IMPAQT, Covario, The Search Agency, RKG, and PPC Associates are nowhere to be found (actually, I’m glad not to be associated with this site). I actually ended up finding eFrontier ranked #26, with revenue of less than $5 million (off by about $60M) and run by CEO Ellen Siminoff (she left the company at least five years ago).

If you want to get an additional sense of the “quality” and “integrity” of the research done by this site, just check out their review of a little business called “Google AdWords.” Here are some of the salient facts I learned about AdWords from TopSeos:

  • Based in Washington State! (nope, Mountain View, CA)
  • Founded in 1995 (um, try 1998?)
  • Annual Revenue: $5-$10M (an hour?)
  • Languages: English  (plus 100 more)
  • Major Clients: Carolina Rustica, First Crush, GolfNow (too bad they couldn’t attract slightly bigger sites)

So . . . just to conclude: TopSEOs has been derided by industry insiders as a “pay for placement” “extortion” “scam” and has data that is so out-of-date and inaccurate that it is nothing short of laughable. And yet, do any search on Google for [positive adjective] + [SEM or PPC] + [Agency] and this is the number one organic result. If the Google organic algorithm isn’t already dead, it’s definitely on life support.

David Rodnitzky, CEO

4 Comments

  1. Jon Lisbin February 13th, 2012

    Totally agree this is a scam and should be addressed by Google. I also recently spoke to an "advertiser" who was clearly not happy with the results (something which was not addressed in this blog).

  2. David Rodnitzky February 14th, 2012

    That's good additional feedback. I sort of assumed that the advertisers did well with novice clients who didn't know any better!

  3. Ivica Janice Dular Golobic February 15th, 2012

    Wow is all I can say! I’ve had nothing but difficulty in getting Google Adsense ads onto my GOOGLE blog…could these be any way related?

  4. Andrew Lolk October 9th, 2012

    Great that you put attention to the site! When I originally entered the US market after solely focusing on Scandinavia I was baffled by the TopSeos.com list.

    I once enquired about getting White Shark Media included on the list in PPC, and it was met by the famous $2000 payment per month demand. That’s outrageous – Especially for a site that boasts about being an ‘independent authority’.

    I hope the quotes from CNN, Entrepreneur and SmartMoney on their front page are fake (I can’t find the quotes on their websites).

    I’m to this day surprised to see agencies using their top ranking on TopSEO.com as a benefit (see http://jumpfly.com/ as an example).

    Best regards,
    Andrew Lolk
    WhiteSharkMedia.com

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.