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I’m often asked by clients and friends to comment on the validity of a service provider, usually because they’ve received an e-mail from a complete stranger making promises to deliver high quality services and results. Unfortunately, my knowledge, while relatively robust, covers only a small percentage of the many, many companies out there related to computers, websites, social media, SEO and other related online services.   If I have direct knowledge of them, I will give my best and most objective opinion, or make an alternate recommendation to use someone I feel comfortable recommending. If it’s a service we provide, I’ll share more on that.

I too receive these types of promotional e-mails, and I can tell you there are a few smell tests I apply, when deciding whether to read on.

Some bad signs…

  • The sending party does not seem to have a last name. This makes me question, why is this person unwilling to tell me who they are?
  • Why doesn’t the sending party have an e-mail address based on their company name — as in, vs. an address like x743zy2 ending in or  If the latter, I might reasonably question whether this is a legitimate business inquiry or an individual winging it in hopes of making a quick buck.
  • The e-mail message contains promises of getting my website top Search Engine Rankings within a very short time for a small amount of $$$. Also a bad sign, since it is an unreasonable promise.

Considering the reverse of everything above is true, add in these “Good Signs” and there may be something worthwhile to consider:

  • The e-mail contains links to example work I’m able to click and view.
  • The e-mail contains a link to the company’s website.
  • The e-mail contains the full name and phone number of the sending party.

No matter what service you’re considering, I encourage you to seek past and current customer references. Also consider resources close to home, which may come through references from trusted associates, and carry the ever weighty and meaningful customer references.