SEOJuice or UpWeb.com | Cowboy Search Engine Optimisation
Black Hat Search Engine Optimisation Services
In today’s world search engine optimization known for short as SEO is big business and there’s no end of genuine companies out there touting for trade but along with the many genuine businesses, there's also plenty of cowboys like UPWeb Digital Marketing Solutions previously known as UpWeb SEO and before that SEOJuice. I used the services of this search engine optimisation company run by Dave Adamson for six months to help improve my website's ranking on Google but instead of achieving positive results, it ended with my site being slapped with a penalty notice because of black hat SEO techniques that had been used. In just a few months SEOJuice or UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions caused an enormous amount of damage to the online side of my business and instead of moving closer to page one on Google, my rankings plummeted and traffic dried up almost completely. Over the next three articles and with the help of screenshots, forum posts and extracts from e-mail correspondence that was exchanged between us, I will expose this cowboy for the dishonest and deceitful individual that he really is.
Dave Adamson of SEOJuice which then became known as UpWeb SEO before being changed yet again to UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions, is someone who needs to be avoided if you value your business. Sadly he has learnt nothing from his experience with me and continues to tout for trade using the same old tricks as he used back in 2012. What makes him so dangerous is that as well as being a prolific liar and a cheat, he's also extremely convincing as most fraudsters are. Eight years later in 2020 he still claims to be an expert in SEO and an entire page of his website is dedicated to all the places online where you can read reviews about UpWeb.com. Dave Adamson has always relied heavily on the power of customer feedback but as I will prove throughout this series of articles, few if any can actually be believed.
I first contacted SEOJuice or UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions based in Springwood, New South Wales in 2012 after having repeatedly seen promotional material posted by Dave Adamson in a respected digital marketing forum. Having already had my fingers burnt once before with a search engine optimisation company I was being extra cautious this time around. In years gone by I had always optimised my website myself so had a good knowledge of what it involved and certainly knew the difference between black hat and white hat SEO. When I initially saw Dave's posts I was wary of his guarantees of page one ranking within three months or your money back because it was almost impossible to make those kind of guarantees because nobody knew for certain exactly how Google's algorithm worked. From my own experience of doing SEO I knew all too well how difficult it was to achieve page one ranking and especially with jewellery related keywords. His posts were always long and informative and were usually followed by a stream of positive comments from apparent happy customers all of whom praised his work and the results they achieved. I followed his threads for some time before finally getting in touch.
After reading every page of his website at SEOJuice.net I e-mailed to say I was interested in using his services. I explained that I'd recently used a company in India but things hadn't gone to plan so this time I wanted a guarantee that white hat search engine optimisation techniques would be used and that all posts which included backlinks would be written by people whose first language was English. This was his reply:
I am sure we can help you when the time comes that you need to switch to an English speaking and writing firm. The main thing that troubles me with non-English firms is that SEO requires a lot of content generation, it is not enough to simply put links out there, the links need to be backed by and often incorporating topic related content. If results are achieved without doing this properly it isn't a good foundation for SEO because when the search algorithms catch on to the websites with poor grammar and little traffic the links are diluted hence your rankings could slip.
He went on to say the Small Biz package featured on their website would be most suitable for me so the following day I signed up and paid the first month's instalment. Unknown to me at the time the lies and deceit had already begun because just a few days later the following promotion was posted in the Warrior Digital Marketing Forum but I didn't see it until many months later. It had also been posted a few weeks earlier but again I hadn't seen it.
Phoney Advertising in the Warrior Forum
The following adverts appeared regularly in Dave's forum posts and along with all the positive comments that were being written by apparent happy customers, it was easy to be taken in by this cunning fraudster.
Believing the Warrior Forum to be a reputable and respected digital marketing forum I was convinced the posts must be genuine especially considering how often they appeared. Dave Adamson had more than two thousand posts to his name so must have been well known to the moderators but when I discovered all was not as it seemed and started replying to his posts, instead of banning him they just deleted my comments.
During the first couple of months of working with UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions I saw no improvement in traffic or ranking but was well aware the process takes a few months to kick in. By the end of the third month when there was still no improvement I started sending emails asking what was going on. Dave's replies were always thorough but were actually nothing but lies.
Excerpts from E-Mail Correspondence
When can I expect to see something happening and when do you think the keywords will start to settle down? So far there has been no improvement in traffic or ranking at all.
Although your keyword positioning is certainly improving over each month, traffic can be low for a number of reasons. The traffic spikes are usually a good sign though so hopefully the spikes start to become more consistent and then permanent. To speed up the keyword process I would recommend we start targeting some additional lucrative keywords because the ones you are using are quite broad and the competition is high so this would explain the jumping around. If we actually start to mix the keywords up with longer tail more exact keywords there is no doubt the rankings will improve much faster and stronger.
Have you found a reason yet for the decrease in traffic? Although there is the odd spike every few days the number of hits remains low and I’ve also noticed a considerable drop in sales compared to this time last year.
You may have heard about Google's next major update Penguin 2.0 which is just around the corner. I am very excited to see the results from this on your campaign as we have been travelling in the same direction as Google in terms of link quality for some time now.
Whilst business is still down on last year I'm extremely concerned to see today that one of my keywords which has been stuck on page two of Google since January has now dropped to page 9 and the others which you are promoting are still way beyond page 50!
I can see the drop in ranking for this keyword is concerning as well as drops in ranking for other keywords as well so I can definitely understand your concern
You said one of the articles which you wrote has been posted on .........but when I go there it says it's no longer published. I look forward to seeing what difference if any, these articles make as I really need to get things moving urgently and start pulling in some decent traffic again.
We are busy writing high quality articles for Stone Mania and buying images to create some excellent feeder sites to use for the back linking efforts. These are going to dramatically help your rankings once all 15 are complete and we send links to them. In fact they are already helping significantly, and that's just with 3 of them. I look forward to reporting on some further positive progress for you shortly!
I’m really not convinced the links and articles that you're writing are making the slightest bit of difference. It has been six months now since you’ve been working on my website and I'm not receiving anything like the volume of traffic that I was getting during the latter part of last year. There has been a significant drop and with an average of 25 hits a day at the moment it seems unlikely to change any time soon. I have expressed my concerns to you about this each month and although on some days there has been a very small improvement in traffic it’s almost unnoticeable and certainly hasn’t brought me any new business. I also need to correct you when you say my keywords are all stuck on pages 2, 3 and 4 of Google because from what I can see some have been on page six for several weeks and others are nowhere in sight. My website has no major issues that could be causing such poor results, the speed issue has now been resolved so how can it still be getting so little traffic even after five months of so called "excellent quality" SEO?
We are still creating high quality article links which are definitely making an impact but what we'll be creating another layer of high traffic links from participating in more highly relevant forums and blogs and getting your links and anchors in there wherever we can.This should start having a major impact in about 2 weeks so fingers crossed this pushes you back to page 1 for the majority of your keywords and as always we will be keeping a close eye on rankings for you. All on-page factors are excellent so it is just a matter of pumping out enough power and authority through link building.
Just wondering what progress is being made with the campaign? Traffic continues to fall and the unique visitor number is now at the lowest it has been all year and it’s also dramatically down on last year’s figure as well. Bounce rate is up and time spent on site remains unchanged. Even though I’ve never really been happy with my own SEO efforts, as you'll see from the attached there has always been a steady improvement in figures over the years but since December which has historically always been a very busy month, the figures have continually fallen which is odd especially considering the amount of work you claim is being put in by SEOJuice. I really don’t know how much longer I can hold out waiting to see an improvement in traffic and business and would like to hear how long it will be before you expect to start seeing something positive come out of the work you are putting in. Next month will be seven months yet traffic is continuing to fall.
Regarding the three month projection, that is a globally recognised time frame to judge how an SEO campaign is progressing. Traffic and rankings typically start improving from the 2nd month onwards but in some cases this will vary depending on a number of factors out of our control. From what I can see so far in your rankings some keywords have moved up and some down, so we are yet to see a strong and consistent rise in your rankings. As I can see that our links are now being picked up by the search engines and indexed I would anticipate that you will start to see some strong improvements over the next couple of weeks at the most.
It's a good sign that traffic flow has steadied out a little, however the fact that the rankings have not made significant improvements over the last few months is a little disappointing so I understand where you're coming from. The good thing is that all the links are permanent and will continue to build upon the new links we are creating to grow the link popularity and quality of Stone Mania, which in turn will improve rankings, traffic, and sales over the next few months. Sometimes it can take some time for the search engines to make significant progress on rankings, we will be monitoring the movements closely this month as I anticipate things are set to skyrocket anytime now. If the results have not improved significantly this month we will provide additional links to give the site a boost in the search engines.
Not only was I now becoming frustrated at the lack of improvement but I was starting to believe that UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions had no idea at all what they were doing. Despite my concerns I stuck with them for a while longer because the alternative was to start over again from scratch with yet another company which wasn't overly appealing. With the arrival of April's monthly report there was nothing worth celebrating and although most of my keywords had moved, it was once again in the wrong direction.
In my next email I said:
I've given you access to my Google analytics account and want you to look at the impact that your SEO is having on my website. Bounce rate, time spent on site and overall traffic has remained relatively unchanged over the last few months and if anything has moved in the wrong direction. I've complained to you a few times now and am beginning to question the legitimacy of your company. Having done SEO myself for many years I've always seen results after about three months and on the 15th April you would have been working for me for four months yet there's been no improvements of any kind.
And Dave's reply:
After reviewing your analytics I can see the rather steady traffic flow with not too much improvement so I am definitely keen to improve this for you before June. What we will do to boost your rankings throughout April is create an additional layer of backlinks for you which should create some potency and have you getting first page rankings for the majority of your keywords by June.
SEOJuice / UpWeb SEO had to date not had any success at all with promoting any of my keywords and the only one which had always performed well had now slipped down to beyond page twenty on Google. I was told it was because my keywords were all broad search terms and was asked to give them a few more which Dave said "would rank quite quickly" and give me a significant boost in traffic within the next month or so. Needless to say they did neither.
The following month the continued lack of improvement was blamed on the poor performance of the platform upon which my website is built and it was suggested I consider moving it over to Wordpress. Here's what Dave Adamson told me:
I have again looked deeply into your website to find out the reasons why your site continues to do so poorly despite the high quality SEO and website content and aside from the site getting a very low load speed score, I believe it ultimately comes down to the sluggish code that your website is written in. Have you ever thought about moving to a more modern CMS such as Wordpress for this website? I honestly think that in order to save your online business the last straw would be to convert your website to Wordpress and have all onsite SEO configured to the highest quality. This will dramatically improve loading speed, the ease of the search engine bots to crawl the website, plus many more benefits. Another idea is if we move your budget from the consistent monthly backlinks to a higher level of content concentration for just a month or two we should see some decent improvements which could potentially save your online business.
Despite having always seen positive results when I'd done my own search engine optimisation, since instructing UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions there had been no improvement at all and they had now found something else to blame it on. They even had the audacity to suggest I upgrade my monthly package to the next level which needless to say was considerably more expensive.
Here's my response:
Following your email in which you said my website was running slowly I have done some digging and discovered that deep in the back end was a tool which was converting my images from JPEG to GIF which takes up about four times as much space. Considering the number of images on my website no wonder the site has been running slowly. The tool has now been removed and all images have been converted back to jpegs. This along with the work that you're doing should make a significant difference. Regarding changing the site to another platform I have spoken to someone with years of experience building websites who has told me you're talking absolute rubbish. He advised me in no uncertain terms not to transfer over to Wordpress because the platform is TOTALLY unsuitable for an eCommerce website. Furthermore even though the package which I signed up for is having absolutely no effect at all you now want me to upgrade? You must be kidding! Another thing is what's the point of trying to optimise more keywords if there's not been any improvement in the existing ones?
And an excerpt from Dave's reply:
Good to hear about the GIF files, I am sure this will definitely make a huge improvement. I have just checked the Stone Mania homepage and it is still showing as quite a low score, have you optimised this page yet? We should start seeing site wide ranking improvements very soon.
April's report was sent by Ally Church Operations Manager at SEOJuice who I later found out was soon to become Mrs Adamson. Why that’s relevant will become clear shortly.
It was another three months before I finally saw the light and realised I'd been dealing with a fraudster who knew nothing about legitimate white hat search engine optimisation techniques and had clearly been outsourcing work on my website to India. After almost seven months Stone Mania was nowhere to be found on Google all of my keywords appeared outside of the top one hundred search results. To date I had paid this fraudulent company just under USD$3000.
On 2nd August I sent the following e-mail:
I'm extremely disappointed and angry that after seven months of using SEOJuice my monthly traffic has done nothing but drop. Since January my online business has virtually come to a standstill with hardly any orders coming in from new customers which is a first in all the years that I’ve been trading online. Keywords that once appeared within the top five pages of Google now sit beyond page twenty and many others I can't find at all. It's even difficult to find Stone Mania when you search for the company by name. The results achieved by your company are worse than when I was working on Stone Mania myself. If I stay with you much longer I'll have no business left at all. By the way, was my last email not even worthy of a reply?
Having made it clear that I wanted to terminate my agreement I received the following reply:
Despite their failure to fulfil any of the promises stated in their promotional material including "top five placement in Google or your money back", I didn't at the time ask for a refund but a few months later when I discovered the extent of the damage that had been caused, I demanded a full refund. Needless to say it wasn't forthcoming and it would be five years almost to the day before I would see any of my money again.
Whilst trying to see what else I could find out about this black hat search engine optimisation company I trawled through Dave's old posts in the Warrior Forum. In doing so I came across a review of their company which I couldn' believe I was reading. After reporting it to the moderators, Ally Church Operations Manager at SEOJuice soon to be Mrs Adamson was banned. As you'll see later on in my blog, Dave subsequently claimed the reason she was banned was because she didn't use the account for a long time and was on the same IP address as him. This guy just doesn't know how to tell the truth.
Thousands of Spammy Backlinks
By this time I had also learnt that my website had been slapped with a penalty notice from Google because thousands of spammy backlinks like the ones below had been built on behalf of UpWeb SEO. In each forum entry the keyword that I was paying them to promote was a backlink to the homepage of my website.
The following banner on their website claiming that all content is written by native English writers if that even makes sense, was just another lie.
The text above was copied from the homepage of my website.
Even though I received monthly reports which included all the backlinks it stupidly never occurred to me to look at them. There were hundreds and hundreds of pages featuring thousands of spammy links.
Every time I visited the Warrior Forum I saw new posts by Dave Adamson featuring phoney promotions and guarantees of page one ranking on Google or your money back and assurances that if page one ranking was not achieved they'll work for free. Each entry was followed by loads of positive comments from apparent happy customers praising the results that had been achieved.
Having told SEOJuice / UpWeb that I wanted to terminate my agreement they certainly didn't offer to work for free and only refunded me for the previous two weeks work. By that time they had been working on my website for almost seven months.
In an email dated 23rd September I said I wanted them to delete ALL the backlinks that had been created. This was Dave Adamson's reply:
Unfortunately we do not have the details anymore to do this but within the backlink reports that we sent you on a monthly basis they include the usernames and passwords of each forum profile so you can go in and remove/edit any of the articles yourself. I am also not sure how the comment has been copied/pasted from your website as that is not the process we use.
Not only was Dave referring to these incomprehensible spammy backlinks as "articles" but he was telling me to amend or delete them myself. Besides none of the usernames and passwords being valid, there were far too many for me to delete and at that time I wasn't familiar with Google's disavow tool because I had never had to use it. In a further email I said:
So copying snippets of text from my homepage to use in forum threads is not a process you use yet the urls in the monthly reports which YOU sent me lead directly to posts which feature the same two lines of text along with thousands of spammy backlinks featuring keywords I was paying you to promote.
In his reply Dave said:
While we have tried to do our best to rank your website both through our link building and on-page SEO guidance, I am deeply sorry you feel this way about our service. It was never our intention to purposely provide a service which you deem as low quality, nor should any of the content from your website have been copied and pasted into the forum links. Needless to say we have fired that supplier due to the quality standards of their service slipping over time. When we first started using them we were assured that they were using only native English writers and the quality was more than acceptable and at first they were above and beyond our expectations. Please be aware though, these suppliers were only handling the Forum and Profile links part of the service, all other links were either handled by ourselves manually, or other 3rd party sources here in Australia. We have now brought all link building sources back within Australia to maintain quality and reliability of our service, and will definitely be keeping a close eye on quality going forward. Honestly, as some of the forum links may not be providing any benefit to your rankings, they would certainly not be hurting your rankings in any way. The drop in traffic may be because any of your competitors could in theory create negative links and even post these in blackhat link farms or explicit websites in an effort to ruin your rankings. - This is known as negative SEO and the fact that anyone can do this to any website means that it does not carry much (if any) negative weight. There are plenty of articles online regarding negative SEO and whether it really exists, the best course of action for you to take would be to simply disavow the low quality links and this will release any connection between Stone Mania and these links.
Not only only was this guy a fraudster but he clearly thought I was stupid. He was now telling me that although the backlinks were not providing any benefit to my rankings they were not hurting them either. That goes to show how much he really knows about search engine optimisation. He was also blaming the drop in rankings on negative SEO instead of the thousands of spammy backlinks that had been built. Dave genuinely expected me to believe that one of my competitors could be spending their time posting spammy backlinks in black hat link farms or on explicit websites in an attempt to damage my website's ranking. This guy really is an idiot.
The Fight to Get my Money Back
Having paid this company almost $3000 I was more determined than ever to expose their black hat search engine optimisation techniques to ensure that nobody else fell victim to their phoney promises and guarantees.
Having asked yet again that he refund my entire investment Dave replied;
We did start a guarantee on our service which was in effect to plans ordered through the Warrior Forum earlier this year but when you signed up we were not offering any ranking guarantees
I had signed up with them in December 2012, the forum promos which featured ranking guarantees and an offer of a full refund were dated 19th May 2011, 4th July 2012 and 30th August 2013 and I had screenshots of them all. Nothing had been said about the offers only being open to forum members or them having a time limit. Whenever asked by members in various threads Dave Adamson always confirmed the offers were still valid and all parts were available to everyone who signed up. Imagine a guarantee that you offer being excluded because a customer signs up to the deal directly through your own website instead of through a post in a digital marketing forum!
In a response to a question from one member dated 2nd April 2012 Dave replied "You are GUARANTEED a minimum ranking IMPROVEMENT percentage each 3 months or we work for free". In another dated 20th June 2013 he said "So it's a monthly fee and if we don't achieve top five ranking within three months then we continue to work for free for the next three months. If we don't rank you in top five after the total six months, we refund all money. We have never needed to provide this refund due to us always reaching minimum goal"
And on 18th September 2013...
Here's more posts from around the same time:
Following his last post in the screenshot above SEOJuice / UpWeb SEO disappeared completely from the Warrior Digital Marketing Forum. The link to client reviews that he refers to did at one time lead to another page which included a handful of posts dated June to August 2014 but none were reviews about the services that his company offered.
Irrespective of what this con man was saying to everyone else in his posts, this is what he was telling me;
The guarantee includes a refund of the initial 3 months after a total of 6 months work but we did not work for you for a full six months. That said, I am willing to go back 6 months on your subscription and refund the total USD$ of the last 6 months of your subscription, which would total USD$2100.
He had worked for me for almost seven months and during that time I had paid him $2800 and that's exactly what I wanted back, not just the $2100 he wanted to give me. Upon asking for a full refund I was told: "Please take note of our Terms & Conditions."
Please note that you did not sign up through the Warrior Forum offer, you signed up directly through the homepage of our website at seojuice.net. I have the old website files on my computer where you would have needed to accept our terms and conditions before continuing and there is no mention of a ranking guarantee at the time. This is a very different offer than what was at the Warrior Forum and anything I mentioned on the Warrior Forum is simply not relevant to you.
Whilst I may or may not have accepted their Terms & Conditions they say nothing at all about any offers that are made in their forum promotions not being applicable to people who sign up directly through their own website at seojuice.net. So despite posts such as the one below, Dave Adamson was determined not to refund my money. What is written next further confirms what a lying cheating fraudster he really is.
UpWeb SEO | Lies and Fake Guarantees
Even though UpWeb SEO had achieved absolutely nothing during my campaign except for a penalty notice from Google, they were still spouting out fake lies and guarantees on their newly updated website. This cunning fraudster was still trying hard to con unsuspecting business people into signing up to his black hat search engine optimisation services and had even put up his prices.
Looking back through some of his earlier posts, on 7th April 2012 he says:
Yet in another dated 19th May 2011 he says his company has been a major player for almost five years.
Having finally become tired of me exposing him for the fraudster that he was every time he posted in the Warrior Forum, he found somewhere else to peddle his lies. In this post dated August 2013 he says he has been working from home for almost two years.
Having introduced himself as a new member just five hours later and he was at it once again.
He was even posting on his own Facebook page which made interesting reading and it's how I discovered the company's operations manager Ally Church was his fiance.
Whilst boldly advertising that SEOJuice or UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions as the company was now known would achieve results or work for free, refund your money or upgrade your package to ensure you felt working with them was the best decision you had ever made, he was at the same time telling me that none of these offers were applicable to me hence he would only refund USD$2100 of my investment instead of the full amount. Search engine optimisation is all about attracting people to your website yet Dave Adamson was telling me that because I signed up directly through his website, none of the offers and guarantees made elsewhere were applicable.
I was now emailing him every few days and mentioned I would soon be in Sydney on business and had arranged to meet with a solicitor whilst there. Sadly the trip had to be cancelled.
After more emails I received this:
If I agreed to his offer I would still have paid $528 for almost seven months of work which had achieved nothing other than a penalty notice from Google and that really wasn't a good deal. Incredibly whilst all of this was going on he was still posting promotions in various forums and when I searched back through some of his old posts I found one from the 5th December 2012 which was just a couple of weeks before I signed up with him. In that post a member asked whether the offer of a full refund was still available if they didn't achieve page one ranking within three months and Dave confirmed that it was.
One Determined Crook
I had been following his posts in the Warrior Forum for some time and was also posting my own comments warning others to stay away from his company. I was also still finding more sparkling reviews but all had been written by his fiance and Operations Manager at SEOJuice who on their newly updated website was listed as a search engine optimisation consultant. This was one fraudster who was determined to keep going full steam ahead irrespective of how many businesses he damaged along the way.
His latest posts had headings like Voted Best SEO Service on the Warrior Forum - Rankings Guaranteed, Ranking through Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Jump in now for a FREE TRIAL. Despite Ally Church having already been banned for posting at least one fraudulent review, it didn't stop Dave from using it time and time again in other promotions. I'd now had enough and posted the following but it was quickly deleted by the forum moderators.
Here's another of my responses and although Dave did initially reply he then thought better of it and deleted the entire thread but not before I had taken a screenshot.
As well as being a con man this guy was also a nasty and persistent liar. None of his replies were truthful which can be confirmed by the many screenshots in this blog and furthermore, anyone who has ever used a forum will know that you don't get banned for not using your account for a period of time or for sharing someone else's IP address. He had in fact offered me a refund of $2100 and with regards to refusing it because I wanted almost $3000, that was because I had paid $2800 for his black hat SEO services and had receipts on PayPal to prove it. I didn't spend any on repairing the damage that his work caused because I did it all myself. On Ally Church writing the review before she started working for UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions, in her post dated 24th January 2011 she states she signed up with them in "November" so that could only have been November 2010 yet SEOJuice wasn't formed until January 2011. In reality her review was written just eleven days after the company was formed.
It's good to know that they also offer a cleanse service because their customers are certainly going to need it.
I continued responding to his posts and was also blogging about my experience with this black hat search engine optimisation company and ironically, it was ranking very well on Google. Finally I was on page one but sadly for all the wrong reasons.
In reply to one of my comments Dave said:
The lies were flowing thick and fast because when I asked him to delete all the spammy backlinks he replied "unfortunately we do not have the details anymore to do this". Furthermore even though the guarantees on their website were exactly the same as when I had signed up, Dave was saying that his services were very different now to how they were before.
Each time I replied to one of his posts my comment was deleted by him or the forum moderators.
Interestingly whilst doing some research on the Warrior Forum I came across the following article
Following a post from October 2013 things became even more interesting. Watch how this pans out:
My post was once again deleted and Dave then also deleted all six pages of his thread. The only words that remained were 'Please Delete' but before it was deleted I managed to post again.
Unsurprisingly a short time later the thread was deleted.
This nasty crook was now running scared but this time he had met his match. In the next instalment of my blog on SEOJuice / UpWeb Digital Marketing Solutions you'll see more screenshots which show that Dave Adamson certainly wasn't prepared to give up without a fight.