I often get emails from spammers (marketers) saying that they can rank my site in the top results (like I want that). I delete them or they get caught by my spam filters. But this is the first email, I remember, getting from MarketSmart Interactive, you know, aka Keywords Ranking, aka WebSourced. Here it is word for word:

Subject Good Morning:

I hope all is well.

I undestand the market today is a challenging place to complete, so wouldn’t it be great to know everything about your competition and what you need to do to compete and move ahead of them. I would love to discuss what you are doing to resolve some of your concerns, go over some of your goals, and learn more about the business model that you are using and if its focused on selling into and through resellers or one of the other avenues. Also I would love to talk about what you are doing to increasing your conversion rate, driving traffic to your website or event, or getting a higher rank in Google among your industry. Do you have any time this week or next to talk a little bit about these concerns?

MarketSmart Interactive creates synergistic interactive experiences that can effectively change your target audience’s online experience and behavior.

We’re justifiably proud of our reputation as a Publicly Traded Marketing Firm (THK)for providing breakthrough thinking, innovative solutions and solid results. It has landed us some of the world’s most admired companies such as Motorola, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Sketchers, Black and Decker, Dewalt and Citi Financial among hundreds of others.

Our core solutions include, but are not limited to:
Organic Search Engine Optimization
Media Buys and Email Marketing
Conversion Enhancement
Competitive Intelligence
Paid Search/Sponsorship Marketing
Usability/ Behavioral Targeting
Linking Strategies
Affiliate Marketing

Bill Ross
National Marketing Executive
MarketSmart Interactive, a Think Partnership Company
Direct Line: 919-433-3024
Fax: 919-433-3030

Has such a large firm, with such a huge and proud reputation, not know who I am? I would hope that those involved in search, day in and day out, would recognize my name, the company name, etc… I do write about this stuff all day at two pretty popular search blogs.

This is just sad to see from a company that I once had respect for.

Website Comments

  1. shandyking

    Was this exactly what they sent you? Just the first sentence is enough to toss this letter into the trash.

    “I undestand the market today is a challenging place to complete”

  2. Mikkel deMib Svendsen

    I generally do not care to read emails to me where the sender did not care to check my name. It’s just autogenerated crap. And, it’s illegal in most countries too.

  3. Hawaii SEO

    It must be the new guy but that’s not their only problem.

    I’m sure the guy manning the email campaign isn’t a professional search marketer. I don’t know that much about email but you would think they would be able to cross reference the send list against some sort of a Black list of domains.

    I don’t believe a random list would work for them either because most small businesses can’t afford their services.

    It’s a real challenge to do this sort of thing correctly. I manage an affiliate program and we use email to prospect for new affiliates. We created a system where we log every contact and the status. It’s a lot of work because every email is mostly personal and the contact records we keep are created by manual data entry.

    I can’t think of any other way to do this without sacrificing quality somehow. Any ideas?

  4. Sérgio Rebelo

    You ego is way too high.. The major problem you see with this email is that they don’t know your name? (pause for laughing)
    I don’t know if this is a shock to you, but you know, the world is not rotating around you, not even the SEO world is rotating about you. I think you should go out more often and also that you should browse for some more feeds to add to your aggregator.

  5. Barry Schwartz

    This has nothing to do with me. If you knew me, you would understand that.

    As Mikkel said, it is about not doing any research.

    If they wanted to get me to be a reseller or optimize my sites, they should have went through Mike or Heather.

  6. Barry Schwartz

    Here is a follow up…

    I actually work for MSI and just came across your site and thought I would send out an email.

    We have a reseller program that you might be interested to know about.

    1. Bronze Partner

    Contract Revenue = 0-$250,000.00
    10% commission on payments received

    2. Gold Partner

    Contract Revenue = $250,000.00-$500,000.00
    12.5% commission on payments received

    3. Platinum Partner

    Contract Revenue = $500,000.00 +
    15% commission on payments received

    I give all referrals to people I trust and I don’t ask for a dime.

    To me, it felt like he was just navigating the web and sending emails to sites he found (probably already ranking well). To spend a few more minutes to Google the person’s name prior to sending out an email, well, what do you think…

    Sergio, your comment makes me sad – it really does.

  7. Sérgio Rebelo

    Well, but it shouldn’t make you said, because I don’t know you (as you noted on your previous comment). So you shouldn’t bother.

    What I see now, and I don’t know if this is your case or not, is people that are experts on some areas (and the SEO industry is great on that) put themselves on top of everything, even lobbying and taking some of their ideas as universal trues. These people are the ones that usually fall from very high, specially in a so fast industry as it is the SEO industry.

    This is not personal, I just got that from your sentence “not know who I am? I would hope that those involved in search, day in and day out, would recognize my name, the company name, etc…”. I would think: “maybe my firm is not that big in this industry… I have to brand my name a little better”

  8. Barry Schwartz

    So you know, I do not offer SEO services, so that has nothing to do with this.

    I write at two blogs, Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Watch. I rarely share my personal views on what I write. I try to state the facts and that is it.

    This is my personal blog, I started it a week ago, so I can have a place to share my personal thoughts with those that care.

    How did you find this blog?

  9. Chris Love

    I know these guys, I am here in Raleigh with them. I had a client who did not believe me on what it takes to market online for natural or PPC. These guys gave them a fair quote this past spring. My client decided to give up and skip town owning me thousands.

    Sad to see them diong this type of campaign if it is really SPAM and you are not on their general marketing list.

  10. John Andrews


    I agree, Barry. It sends the wrong signal… that they are cold calling (or spamming). Not a good sign for them. Worse, though, is the error of spamming someone with a respected voice in the industry. They might get a lot more publicity than they wanted.

  11. Sergio Rebelo

    This blog is here to be found. I am a regular reader on Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Watch, I don’t really if it was from there or from any other place, but I run across this a few days ago (I think it was on your 1st day) and added it to my bloglines, just to check… and you’re still there, so you’ve doing a good job 🙂

    But do you agree with me that the SEO industry is a very lobbyish and elitist one?

    And if you’re talking about spam and foul beginner errors that the companies fall into, you can take a look at the post I wrote about Flagr in twodotfive (just click my name)and leave a comment.

  12. Hawaii SEO

    A bit off topic but it’s somewhat relevant.

    Only the rude get sued.

    It’s an interesting study about how people with poor interpersonal skills always seem to get the short end of the stick.

    I guess it pays to be nice to people.

    Some people don’t seem to understand the basic principals of how to win new friends. Not having good interpersonal skills can be a big disadvantage for any carrier. Unfortunately, many of these people don’t realize they are being rude and blame their poor social skills on others.

  13. Garrett French

    Hey Barry,

    We just dropped Bill off at the hospital for severe internal bleeding due to the beating we gave him.

    Just kidding.

    Bill’s a good guy – new to the sales force – and eager to sell our services.

    Your point regarding research is well taken though.

    I will take your post as an opportunity to better educate our sales force regarding big names and the importance of research prior to sending out emails.

    Your spam indictment is a bit harsh I think, and I’m concerned by the rancor you seem to still hold towards my company.

    We’ve been through hell here as we’ve rebuilt from the rubble of keywordranking, but there are many good people who remain, people to whom I’m loyal, people who are loyal to our clients.

    Again, I agree that Bill should have done more research.

    Further, as the Marketing Communications Manager for MSI I’ll take the blame for not having educated on those who are the great, thought leading contributors to our space.

    Barry if you ever have any concerns about the conduct of anyone at MSI please contact me: garrett.french@marketsmartinteractive.com or call me toll free: 877-420-6255.

    I would have greatly appreciated the courtesy of a phone call or email in this case, but I understand – I’m known to get a little testy on SEL 😉

    Best Regards,
    Garrett French
    Marketing Communications Manager
    MarketSmart Interactive

  14. Barry Schwartz


    Honestly, I miss the old days. You are in a tough situation and I respect you reaching out.

    At some points, it gets too big and too much.

    Of course, I don’t blame you or even Bill. It is just too much.

    Garrett, unfortunately, I have seen some of the work produced by MSI first hand. I have seen some pretty disturbing things over the past couple years.

    I honestly hope that things have changed there and if you need any support with that, I am more than willing to help for free.

    The SEO/SEM community needs this and MSI is a large part of that.

    P.S. Nothing like a bit of reputation management at play.


    Barry Schwartz

  15. Barry G.


    I’m not the least bit surprised at this spam mail. Typical incompetence.

    Our 2-year experience with keywordranking and websourced was a disaster.

  16. Garrett French

    Barry G:

    We obviously mismanaged your business, and for that I apologize. The practices that fueled our metoric growth phase – which peaked in the mid to end of 2004 – ended up crippling our ability to provide good SEM work for quite some time.

    Our model in 2004 was basically hyper-servicing our marquee clients while locking lots of micro to small sized companies into long term contracts. I suspect that may have been your case considering you were with us for 2 years (I’ve been with the company for 2 years too – I started as a copy-writer).

    We don’t sell or service that way anymore, and in terms of quality and breadth of offerings we’ve leap frogged the SEM services we used to offer.

    That’s because we’ve cut loose the executives that promoted such ethically impoverished, cash-blinded, company-killing practices and put dedicated and passionate people into positions where they can have strong impact on our clients.

    We’re rebuilding. It’s a slow, sometimes painful process but I’m right in the middle of the most exciting and creative parts of it (new product development, media creation). We’ve got a ways to go but we’ve got a solid core of very excited and positive clients now.

    I regret that you remain so angry with my company. I have a request for you: Give me a call: 877-420-6255.

    I would like to hear *when* you had this disaster of an experience, and to hear you flesh it out. I want to see if there’s anything I can do from my corner of the company now to help you out.

    Best Regards,

    Garrett French
    Marketing Communications Manager
    MarketSmart Interactive

  17. to

    Speaking of spam I think Hawaii SEO left a little SPAM link on this page. Clean it up – Barry. You know the whole plucking a splinter out of someones eye before you pluck the log out of your own. Just a side note from an old ibm.com employee. I know spam and this is not it. Plus you responded to his email so there must have been something “personal” and “compelling” about it. I think you just didnt like his email.

  18. Barry Schwartz

    Hmm, to, is that your name?

    I consider this email spam. I do not know him and obviously, he did not know who I was.

    I replied only because I know of the company – since I report on this industry.

    Do you honestly believe I am trying to hurt anyone here? You do know I care so much about improving the industry as a whole.

  19. ex-MSI Guy

    Just a few comments from someone who, unfortunately, used to work for MSI.

    First, this is definitely spam – unsolicited e-mail. Sorry, Garrett and IBM guy.

    Second, this doesn’t look like an e-mail composed by a sales guy. Yes, he may have sent it, but the copy certainly seems to have been written by a marketing person. Perhaps even a Marketing Communications Manager. As such, I think it’s unlikely that a “National Marketing Executive” would have sent such an e-mail on his own; more likely it’s part of MSI’s current MO.

    Third, just my opinion, but I wouldn’t trust this company – rebuilt, renamed, whatever – as far as I could throw the whole building. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good people still there, but… have you ever seen the movie Boilerroom?

  20. Garrett French

    Hey ex-MSI Guy, no appologies necessary – we’re all entitled to our opinions.

    This email was, as far as I know, composed by Bill. He may have borrowed pieces of it from other sales team members – I don’t know for sure.

    He and I are meeting this Thursday at 1 pm to discuss his email strategies and I have a number of his email outreach templates on my desk right now.

    If you’re interested I would be happy to forward you the revised version of what Bill and I come up with along with the guidelines I provide him regarding adding informational value to the email, making it shorter, personalization to the individual, and necessary sales research.

    This work with Bill will constitute the entirety of our current email outreach MO as far as I know.

    Further, I appreciate your opinion regarding trust and my company. I’ve never seen the movie Boilerroom, though the title gives me some idea of your implications.

    I can say that our sales practices circa July 2004, as I outlined in the comment above, have changed due to their unsustainability and detriment to our company and our industry as a whole.

    I’d like to hear your suggestions on how we can improve and look forward to your phone call: w: 919-433-3139. Or call my cell if you still have it.

    Best Regards,

    Garrett French
    Marketing Communications Manager
    MarketSmart Interactive

  21. Barry G.


    Damn f–k-n right I’m angry and with very good reason. You say to me: “We obviously mismanaged your business, and for that I apologize”. How sweet of you!

    To me the word ‘mismanage’ connotes possible good intentions but lack of ability, skill, and knowledge to correctly implement.

    Not in my case. I got purposely picked clean by you hucksters to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and lost 2-1/2 years of my Internet life to the point where we had to start over from Ground Zero. When we left you guys we had absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, ningun to show for our sojourn with you except a much, much lighter wallet and zero visibility on the search engines. At that time I was contacted by several other bitter clients of yours with similar stories of getting $$crewed.

    I have no interest in lying on your couch and “fleshing” out my disasterous experience with your company. For why? Nor do I seek your “help” or “advice”. We now have a top-notch Webmaster who is White-Hat, super-respected in your industry, and knows what he’s doing.

    If you’re really serious and sincere about helping us and making amends, send me a check.
    Otherwise, Pass-Go.

  22. L. Tod Schlosser, Esq.

    Dear Barry:

    I am a current client of theirs and I could have written your letter as I have a feeling that we have shared a similar fate. You mention that you have moved on, and I would like to do so as well. If you could provide me with the contact information of the top notch Webmaster you are currently using I would be most appreciative. You may send it directly to my e-mail address which is rhcvisaservice@aol.com. Thank you for your assistance.

  23. Judah G.


    “We obvioulsy mismanaged your business” blah..blah…blah…

    You guys over at KeywordRanking / Websourced / ProRanking / CGI Holdings / and all of your other corporations, including your new MSI website made a concious and devious decision at some point (2003?) to turn yourselves into the second coming of the infamous Traffic-Power.com.

    In doing so, you screwed untold numbers of clients and small businesses (including ours) out of thousands of dollars a month for bogus SEO “campaigns” and “top shelf” marketing programs”, that were in reality nothing more than boiler plate templates and submissions with a “one size fits all” approach.

    We wasted 2 years of our business life (2003 – 2004) and hundreds of thousands of dollars for shoddy website development and BOGUS SEO work.

  24. Judah G.


    Each and every one of our experiences with your cast of characters, from our dealings with Pat Martin, Jeff Martin, Tom Dwyer, Mark Shurtman…all the way down to Jennifer Lumer and Leigh Garner…were unfortunate attempts to extract money from us every which way and at every turn for unfullfiled promises and non-existent SEO work.

    By the time we realized the extent of how we were being shafted by KeywordRanking.com we were already out of thousands of dollars and 2years of Search Engine life lost.

    Andy Beal and Mike Grehan (2 of the good guys) saw the greed for $$ (based on your initial “success” with bilking small businesses into long term contractual agreements with your bolier plate solutions) that had completely blinded the company, and decided it was time to jump ship and bail out before their reputations in the SEO industry would become tarnished as a result of the Websourced/MarketSmart Interactive farce.

    I don’t personally know you and didn’t deal with you during our unfortunate experience with the compnay you are now a part of. Maybe you’re one of the remaining good guys and just buying some time before you jump ship yourself.

    However, for you to come on here with your prattle to Barry G. about how you are “sorry that he remains so angry with Websourced”…and your invitation that he “call you to flesh out his feelings on the matter” as if you are some &^%$#!@ armchair psychologist…after our compnay and many others like ours were royally scre$$wed by your compnay, is both disengenuous and unfortunate.

    Don’t expect a phone call from us any time soon for a get together to “break bread”.

    If you would like however to refund some of the money you owe us…we shall be happy to accept ask Barry Schwartz how to get in touch with us.

  25. Chad Y.

    Hi Barry,
    Wow, thanks for your comments and blog.

    Barry & Judah G.,
    Have you taken any legal action against KeywordRanking/MarketSmartInteractive/Websourced, or plan to?

    We’re a current client of Market Smart Interactive, since late 2004. I can see now that we’re definitely not the only company to have gone through very bad times of no search engine visibility while shelling out thousands of dollars per month. Things are looking a bit better now, but I’d still appreciate advice on searching for better options as our contract ends in 8 months.

    Can you refer us to that great webmaster your referenced? My email address is ckkhy@yahoo.com.

    Also, does anyone have experience with KowaBunga’s outsourced affiliate management? Kowabunga is like MSI part of the Think Partnership. While MSI has at least produced some results for us, Kowabunga’s management of our affiliate program has been horrifically bad and a total rip off. KowaBunga pledged to find suitable affiliates, but over 14 months has consistently produced 88-98% of clicks from non-compatible affiliates that have a conversion rate of 4/100 of 1%. A 2-3% conversion rate would be much more normal. When challenged over this rate of garbage quality clicks, the CEO of Kowabunga Todd Farmer said these garbage quality clicks were “great” (in his own words) because they represented traffic. Such utter nonsense. Kowabunga has totally scammed us and refuses to correct their errors.

  26. Judah


    My first, and best advice I can possibly give you is that when your current contract expires with MSI …run like the dickens and never look back.

    Unless your company name is Lowes Corp. or CitiBank.. you will ultimately be thrust into the same non existant “SEM” campaign as all the rest of MSI’s customers. True, you may pick up some organic traffic over time…this however will be in spite of your SEM company…

    The only thing these guys are good at, is snaring more and more customers into long term contracts with the lure of them being the “biggest” compnay for SEM on the net. The few marquee companies that they focus all of their efforts on, are used as the bait. They also tried hooking up with some big name SEO guys like Andy Beal, Jennifer, Mike G. etc. to promote their reputation…problem is that these big names ultimately ALL jumped ship (as has been blogged here and elsewhere..) within short succession of each other when they saw the devious, slimy, game plan of these shysters and hucksters.

    We are currently on board with an incredibly well respected name in the SEM industry. These guys are “white hat” professionals who focus on building a proper website from the ground up for long term SEO results. No shtick. No games…just good old ethical and clever web building for awesome results.

    We have experienced tremendous growth with these guys in these past few years and look forward to a long relationship with them.

    It is not my intention to use this forum as a platform for promoting other companies and websites.

    If you would like more info. please contact the moderator of these boards for my info. I will be happy to discuss our experiences with you.

  27. Chad Y.

    Hi Judah,
    I sent an email to Barry requesting that I be sent your contact email or that he forward my email address to you.

    Yes, I agree that I’ll need to move on from MSI when the current contract expires.


  28. Dbar

    I have been reading the string for a couple of weeks and honestly you people are harbouring such hatred and jealousy in my opinion. Go solve real problems and quit with this petty BS. You are coming across like complete insecure children.

  29. Dbar

    all of you who want to rag on an organization who besides their failures (by the way not one interactive firm I have dealt with has ever been perfect)have tried to restructure and provide a better plan for their current and future relationships. I am sure you have screwed up before with your tiny little shop imagine what happens when a corporate take over happens and you have 150+ people and 1000 clients. This is called growth and sometimes growth happens too fast and you can’t help it. yes they screwed up, but the company didn’t make excuses and tried to right the ship. And from what I have read since the begining you had a new bus dev guy send a personal email which you called SPAM to discuss your business objectives and you want to burn him and the company at the steak. Please get a life and work on your own clients because you are spending too much time on a non-issue.

  30. Chad Y.

    There’s a significant difference between making a mistake and a systematic effort to cheat or defraud. Yes, anyone including small shops or large enterprises can make mistakes. But to whom much is given, much is required. When you accept thousands of dollars per month from a small business for seo work and there is no good faith effort to render services, that’s a scam and fraud. It’s systematic fraud when there is an organized behavior to perpetuate the pattern. When multiple companies can attest that they suffered from making payments to a company for which they didn’t receive proper services, one should not outright dismiss those claims. Actually, it’s worse that smaller companies suffered from lack of services for fees rendered as they have fewer resources to begin with and being scammed by Think Partnership companies like MarketSmart Interactive makes it just that much harder to service their own clients.

  31. Paul j baumgarten

    The Marketsmart Interactive, Websourced, Keyword Ranking guys were the slickest thieves I have been exposed to since Enron.

    They billed me for $3,000.00 on December 29, 2006 and then close their doors on January 5, 2007 without doing any work to merit the payment.

    Now known as Think Partnerships, Inc., they continue to steal and steal and steal.

    And those idiots are listed on the AMEX exchange! Symbol on AMEX is THK.

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