SHORT VERSION: SEOP, INC. states in their contract that "IF CLIENT DOES NOT REACH FIVE KEYWORD PHRASES IN THE TOP TEN OF ONE OF THE TOP THREE SEARCH ENGINE WITH SIX MONTHS, THEN SEOP WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AT NO CHARGE UNTIL DESIRED RESULTS ARE ACHIEVED.".
-This is a broken promise. We paid for six months of services and their own reports show that we never did get 5 key terms in any 1 of the top 3 search engines.
LONG VERSION:I had originally contact Michael Tesauro with SEOP.com in early October of 2006. SEOP, Inc. is a company that programs web site search engine optimization (SEO). This allows web surfers to find you when performing a search on search engines.
We had discussed services in length. Michael had provided me with a proposal (DOCUMENT M), time line (DOCUMENT O) and contract for services (DOCUMENT L). There was a load of information forwarded to me, much of which was in terminology that only people in the industry would understand. Therefore, understanding the service was overwhelming at times. However, Michael was very responsive to questions and left me feeling comfortable in contracting their services.
October 28th, 2006 was the start date of our agreement.
In the first couple months of service, we did see minor immediate results with the search engines.
In early December 2006, our company was making major changes that would be implemented in the New Year. I had contacted Michael to let him know that it was very likely we would not have the funds to continue with service, as it was costing $1500/month. Michael and I had come to an agreement that SEOP, Inc. would continue services with the knowledge that we may become past due. The agreement also stipulated that if we were to become 60days past due, all work to our site would cease until our account was caught up in full and we agreed to move on with services. Simply said, we had made a verbal agreement to go to a month to month agreement. This is documented in e-mail exchanges dated 12/13/06 and 12/21/06. (DOCUMENT A)
On January 25th, 2006, documented in an e-mail to Dava Voss at SEOP, Inc., I had requested a freeze put on our account until we were caught up. This freeze never occurred. SEOP continued to bill me for billing periods of 01/28/07-02/27/07 and 2/28/07-3/27/07. (DOCUMENT B)
When I continued to receive invoices, I again e-mailed a request to Dava & Michael to freeze our account until further notice. This request is documented in an e-mail sent on 03/07/07. (DOCUMENT C)
On April 25th, 2007, Dava Voss sent an e-mail demanding payment or they would remove the work they had performed to the site. At this time, I had informed her that I would take over the payable and get the account caught up. I also cancelled services and stated that no further work should be done until the account is caught up in full and we request further services. This cancellation is documented in an e-mail dated 04/25/07. (DOCUMENT D)
NONE OF MY REQUESTS TO STOP SERVICES WERE EVER HONORED. THEY IGNORED THE REQUESTS AND KEPT BILLING. MIND YOU, NO WORK WAS BEING PERFORMED.
In May our office had noticed that our site was starting to lose ranking. In particular, we were concerned about the massage therapists" pages. On 07/03/07 I had contacted Michael to ask why this would happen. He looked through the site and informed me that my "sitemap" was missing and furthermore that massage therapists pages were loaded with double "meta" content. These items combined would make the therapists web pages to drop in ranking. When I asked how a sitemap would disappear, Michael suggested that maybe my web programmer might have removed the file. I immediately called my web programmer and he assured me he did not do so, nor has ever even been in the ftp access anywhere near this info. In addition, my programmer stated that he saves all old work. Being that I have never had a problem with my web programmer and have worked with him for the past 4 years, I was quite sure that he did not do such a thing. I also asked my web programmer why all of a sudden we were getting double "meta" info loaded onto therapists web pages. He did look into this and informed me that SEOP had written code in the viewtherapist.asp file in the ftp files under the app manager directory to include addition "meta" info on each therapist web page. (DOCUMENT E)Naturally, having doubts, I started going through each individual therapist page and noticed that the duplicated content was the same for every single therapist. In addition to this, the "meta" info that was being loaded were the key terms that I was paying SEOP, Inc. to get me ranking results with. (DOCUMENT P) It is my belief that SEOP, 1 removed the sitemap due to a past due bill. And 2 lost us ranking with search engines due to the programming they wrote into my therapists" web pages, thus duplicating meta tags and resulting in search engines penalizing us by dropping rank. This has resulted in a financial loss to our company and furthermore completely works against what SEOP, Inc. was hired to do.
In the later half of June 2007, Dava Voss had continued to supply me with an incorrect account balance. I had requested on several occasions (as documented by e-mails) that we discuss the invoices and see why there was a discrepancy our records vs. SEOP records. Dava was non-responsive each time and was not reachable by telephone. (DOCUMENT F)
Two months later, in an e-mail dated 8/21/07, as documented, I had asked again that we get this discrepancy resolved once and for all. At this point, no one was able to supply whether any work was performed during the month of service in question, therefore Michael had agreed to "make the invoice go away". (DOCUMENT G)
Once this was resolved, I had caught our account up on the past due balance and had not heard from SEOP at all. They had not sent any further invoicing, nor had they requested a "cancellation of service".
At this time, I had also started having major doubts about SEOP, Inc. and the services they had provided. I had decided to review the work they had done. This lead me back to the proposal, contract and time line that Michael had originally supplied me with. Once I had reviewed these documents, I had noted many services I had never received and that I had been over billed two of the six months I paid for monthly services. I also discovered that my contract stated that SEOP, Inc. would optimize additional pages at no charge, yet I was charged $100 for 17 additional pages I had submitted to them. In addition to this, the proposal stated that with my "gold package", 136 man hours would be done on my site per month. I have never received a report of how these hours were being spent, nor what work was being done to my site on a monthly basis. This information was to be sent to me on the 28th of each month according to the time line provided.
10/04/07, I had e-mailed Michael Tesauro (as documented) a long list of questions regarding the proposal, time line and contract we had (DOCUMENT H). We had made a telephone appointment for 10/12/07 of which Michael cancelled due to an emergency.
10/15/07, I had left a message and e-mailed Michael asking when he was intending to reschedule our appointment to discuss our e-mail.
10/15/07, Michael had gotten back to me and we went over the e-mail point by point. (DOCUMENT H) I have attached his responses to each item. Many of these items he was to e-mail to me. To date, I have not received these items.
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2007 10:56 PM
Subject: Questions regarding agreement and work performed - PLEASE CONFIRM RECIEPT
I have some items regarding our contract I would like to go over.
#1 - our original contract included the first 3 months at $1000/month, plus a $500 start up fee. However, Dava billed us $1500 per month for the first 3 months. Therefore, I will need a $1000 refund please. -said he would look at it. Dava later issued credit on final invoice in question.
#2 - You had originally sent me an itemization of everything the gold package included. There are a few items I would like to clear up.
H1 & H2 tags - what is the purpose and where is this located? - in the source code for individual pages, acts as a header tag for search engines. Helps bring attention to those group of words.
SEO Hazard Analysis - what is this? I have not received it. - an analysis of the website to be sure no unethical techniques are being used to make you get banned from the site. None of these were found with our site.
Additional 1 way links over 6 months ??? -coming from other websites.
Creation of themed linked pages - was this the pages that you had broken down by state? How does this work? - This is pages that have links on them according to themes or related industries. -directory source or reciprocal links pages. We did not receive this. Their focus is on incoming links. NEVER RECEIVED.
Manual Link requests to Related Websites (750)- our links do not seem to be related to our industry. How many people actually are linked to us? -SEOP sends these link requests to the sites. When they are incoming links, they do not need to be service relative. According to today's algorithms, we would want them to be related industries today. 10/15/07 SPOKE TO SEVERAL OTHER SEOP COMPANIES. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FALSE AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN RELATED LINKS ALL ALONG. FURTHERMORE, OTHER PROFESSIONALS SAID THAT OUR CURRENT INCOMING LINKS, IF ANYTHING, WILL HURT US. THIS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE TOTALLY UNRELATED INDUSTRIES AND LOOK LIKE LINK FARMS. (DOCUMENT N)
#3 - There are some items that I am not sure if were ever completed that were listed in the Time Line you had sent.
3rd week - Submissions to Search Engines & Directories - I did not get report with which Search Engines & Directories these included or the date(s) submitted. - I asked Michael to send me this.
4th week - Creation of Themed Link Pages - was this themed by state? How does this work? -addressed above. -Michael said they did not do this. NEVER RECEIVED
4th week - Report of one-way links Directory Structure - I did not receive the directory structure - Directory structure from where reciprocal links are being tied into. We didn't do this. Michael said that nobody wanted to provide reciprocal links. NEVER RECEIVED
5th week - Reciprocal Link Development including collecting related links,loading the links on he site and sending link requests -see note above. NEVER RECEIVED
6th week - W3c Validation of Homepage (HTML Code) - I asked Michael to send it to me. Received 10/16/07.
November 28th - I am missing Ranking, Statistic & SEO Reports. -Michael said he could not provide Statistic reports because he did not have access to log files in our hosting information, which they never asked me for. I thought this was the ftp information that I had provided. -Michael said SEO Report would not be any good after the first month of work.
December 28th - I am missing Ranking, Statistic & SEO Reports. NEVER RECEIVED
January 28th - I am missing the Statistics & SEO Reports. NEVER RECEIVED
February 28th - I am missing the Statistics & SEO Reports. NEVER RECEIVED
March 28th - I am missing the Statistics & SEO Reports. NEVER RECEIVED
April 28th - I am missing the Ranking, Statistic & SEO Reports. NEVER RECEIVED
#4 - Per section 11 of our agreement, I do not see that 5 keyword phrases of or 21 ever reached the top 10 of any 1 of the top 3 search engines. It states that you will continue working until this is achieved as the contract says they will work at no charge until desired results are achieved. How quickly do you think your team can achieve these results? -Michael replied stating they mean in combination of the top 3 search engines. NOT WHAT THE CONTRACT SAYS. (Obviously, they are not concerned with filling their promises)
#5 - Lastly, I would like some clarification regarding some things you had in our original proposal.
How would section 508 help us? -on page alt tags
Was our Externalizing scripts done? -if it is not on the page itself.
What are the top 15 search engines that you submit to? -Asked Michael to send this to me. NEVER RECEIVED
There is reference to bi-weekly ranking reports. I had never received these. -Michael responded with that they were just monthly. NEVER RECEIVED
Why is it you stated that our graphical design does not match to the type of clientele we are trying to attract? This was never addressed and I would like your input on this. -Michael stated that he doesn't remember
In our conversation of addressing the above issues, I had requested a refund for over billing. At this point, all of a sudden Michael had stated that I had not provided the 60-day cancellation as agreed by our contract. I immediately forwarded Michael and Dava the e-mail from 4/25/07 canceling services. This e-mail is attached. (DOCUMENT I)
10/16/07, I received an invoice for $2000. This was a $3000 cancellation charge, minus $1000 credit for the over billing of our second and third month of service. I immediately responded by e-mail stating this was an error (DOCUMENT J) made complaint to BBB.
10/16/07 - I sent a certified letter to SEOP requesting reimbursement for services that were not received and for over billing. I also argued that I had already sent in a cancellation by e-mail and forwarded it to Dava and Michael. (DOCUMENT K)
10/19/07, I received a call from Jeff Jackson (949-340-7738) who called to tell me he assists in some legal matters. He stated that he or their attorneys might call me later today. He also stated that the CEO, Eric Shiffer was speaking with attorneys.
10/23/07, I had not received a check or response from SEOP, Inc. I filed small claims.
(DOCUMENT L) Contractual Agreement with SEOP
(DOCUMENT M) Service Proposal by SEOP
(DOCUMENT N) List of links provided by SEOP
(DOCUMENT O) Time Line provided by SEOP
05/14/08 - So, a couple weeks ago, I presented my case in court. Unfortunately, not having court experience, I missed the target. The court wants "PROOF" that SEOP, INC. failed to provide as agreed. (Tough to do with a virtual service. So be sure to get your reports & stay on top of it. Trusting professionals to do as contracted without regularly checking their work is not wise. - lesson learned.)My focus was driven on being over billed, damages being done to my site when they implemented code to our viewtherapist.asp files and the fact that I had to pay another SEO company a start up fee to get started again. My focus should have been on paragraph 11 - The guarantee of 5 of my keywords in the top 10 of 1 of the top 3 search engines. I had the reports to prove this, but my focus was in the wrong direction.
I share this experience so that other consumers know what to focused on when SEO companies fail to deliver as promised. I also want consumers to understand that to be very aware of what you are getting for a "monthly maintenance fee". This is often a complete pile of bogus. Don't let terms such as "google changes their algorithms, so your site will require maintenance" scar you! These algorithms only change every 3-4 months AND they are very minor in 9 out of 10 instances. Furthermore, you can pay a one time fee to make changes to your site if necessary to comply with "algorithm changes".
SEOP, INC CONSUMERS BEWARE!
If you have a problem, don't hesitate to contact me. I have several other consumers who have been ripped of by this company. Through my experience, they have a better idea of how to approach the problem and a class action is brewing!
For further direction, google the case against INTERNET ADVANCEMENT, INC in Washington. This sets a good precedent and can help give you direction. Too bad I hadn't found it earlier!
Granada Hills, California