How Not to Request an SEO Proposal: An Epic Email Fail to 51 Top SEOs

Posted by great scott!

Not but a few short days ago I had the distinct pleasure of being included on a list of 51 of the world’s top Search Marketers.  Alas, for this great honor I did not receive an award statue or a shiny plaque, not even an ornate certificate.  What I received was an email. A horribly executed email that would result in one of the most amusing email threads I’ve ever read, from some of the smartest minds in our industry.

What I’m about to share is a lesson in one fundamental rule: if you’re going to send an RFP to elite consultants, DO NOT simply CC them all in the same email…you’re about to see what will happen.  Names and URLs have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. All of the SEO’s are referred to as SEO1-SEO51, just as we were in the To: field of the email (I was SEO8)…those who feel like it can reveal themselves in the comments. 

July 24th, 5:32PM: The saga begins…the email below (edited for privacy) was sent to all of us, with everyone’s email address prominently visible in the To: field.

Dear SEO Consultant,

We are looking for estimates for our new internet venture. We have been in the technology and internet business for over 10 years, and successfully own and operate a technology consulting company called PDmunkeez. 

I have designed and developed a new concept for an auction site which will revolutionize the online auction market and has the potential for over $100,000,000 in annual revenue.  Similar sites include   ($28 million per year),  and  HOWEVER, what makes YARNZER.COM unique is our patent pending software program that will retain customers and make the bidding experience more exciting.  (It includes Python for the back end and JAVA/HTML for the front end).

In addition, we have a key member of our team with in-depth experience from one of the afore-mentioned auction websites, which gives us an advantage with our customer database and sales projections.
YARNZER.COM is 100% ready to go live. We seek early stage capital for advertisement and operations.  The advertisement capital will go to three major advertisement websites:,, and  

YARNZER.COM is not just an idea:  the site is built, the software is complete and operational, and my team is ready to launch at a moment’s notice. 

We have our business plan and presentation ready.

We do not require an NDA if you will acknowledge that we have a patent pending for our site.  This way we can give you access to the site.

We are looking for full advertisement campaign in SEO and PPC  for  Our budget is $100,000/month.  Please submit a detailed estimate for your services.  We appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you!


(Seems fairly harmless, right? It’s even a decent contract he’s offering. But as you’ll soon see, a client who makes such an obvious email blunder, and can’t even customize a greeting is not going to win over top SEO talent.)

July 24th, 8:03PM: The backlash ensues…


For someone with over 10 years experience with an internet
business, you sure as f**k don’t have a clue how to
properly contact the people you hope to work with.

I could give a s**t if you have a million bucks to spend.
If you think this is the right way to start, then my
rude reply here matches your rude spam perfectly.

My advice is that you spend your money on a bankruptcy
attorney, which you will no doubt need, it’s just
a matter of when.


(SEO32 later apologized for cc’ing us all on his reply, admitting he was cranky and may have been slightly drunk at the time…I, for one, was thoroughly amused, and SEO43 agreed. )

I was just grabbing the pop corn. I totally agree as well.

July 25th: Cue the mockery…

If anyone admits they took the job at this point, they’re voted off the island.

I actually don’t offer SEO, but just for kicks, I might go by a new alias. You can all call me seo29 from here on out 😉

The last time I was sent a similar email, I set up a facebook page for the recipients. If there is a silver lining, having everyone on one email trail/group brings great minds together.

I will be known as SEO19 from now on.

At least this is worth some comic relief.

(Uh-oh, confusion)

Wait. I’m SEO19!  Go get your own number, Gilligan 🙂


What an awesome rant, just found this jewel in my spam-box.

Going to get seo26 tattooed on my face this weekend.

How must our good friend Caroline feel about being SEO51?

Or as I like to call her, "info@"

I was feeling pretty good at SEO7! After all, ranking is everything, right?

Didn’t know I was agent SEO25? Was I on this email by accident or is there a reason? Was this originally an email to market something to SEOs?

July 26th: Roland attempts to apologize…

First of all, my apologies to all of you for failing to send blind copy emails. My assistant carelessly sent those emails and obviously did not understand what I was trying to relay to all of you.  My objective was simply to obtain a customized estimate from each of you to perform a comprehensive advertisement campaign for, including SEO and PPC estimates (with most of the budget spent on PPC activities).  We are seeking to launch with an advertisement budget of $100,000.00 for the first month of operations.

For your additional reference, the following is a link to our technology consulting company: If you review this site, ypu (sic) will see that we have experience in SEO.  However, we are looking to outsource the advertisement campaign for because it is a sizeable project that cannot be handled "in house."  What is most critical for us is to locate a seasoned professional like yourself who has extensive experience with PPC on sites such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

Finally, we would greatly appreciate your visiting the site and reviewing all of its key features in providing your proposal and good faith, customized estimate for your services.   

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!


(Let it be noted that this message was once again sent to everyone, with all addresses in the To: field. Face-palm.)

July 26th continued: It doesn’t work…

Greetings Sir Roland,

For $100,000 per annual year your company will generously receive a sponsored link on the sidebar of Search Engine Notebook, from all of our posts, with the anchor text "[Insert Anchor Text Here]", totaling in over 10,000 targeted inbound links to your site, [Insert Site Here], over the course of the fiscal year.

Fear not Sir Roland, for that is not all, we will also submit to over 5,000 targeted search engines and SEO directories, building the authority link equity of from these high profile search engines and SEO directories.

And Sir Roland, as part of this innovative SEO package, we will also participate in commenting on over 10,000 Blogspot blogs in your favour. As you may know, Google owns Blogspot, so a comment from Blogspot is the same as a link from Google, except for you will have 120,000 of them over the course of a year.

For the investment of 10,000 US Dollars per month, you will not find a better deal.

Sir Roland, do feel free to contact us or send your Paypal address, and we will set you up with a monthly subscription.

Godspeed, SEO #52

[PS. Can you spell parody?]


Well Done SEO52! LMAO

Dearest SEO52,

I wish to bid $12,000/month for services you described very nice.  Please let me know, does include happy ending, yes?


Dear SEO1 to seo51,

Greetings to all, I’m happy to see us all on the same mailing list.. looks like somebody was doing their homework.

Lets see… Roland‘s algorithm landed me the #2 spot here…  Links do not appear to be a factor, though it seems that special attention is given to SEO1 – SEO4… possibly hand selected? .. how must I optimize?

You guys are nuts. Entertaining, but nuts nevertheless – seo32 is clearly a bad influence. Now quit cc’ing us all and get back to work 🙂

(Perhaps SEO39 was right, but tomorrow is another day, and a whole new crop saw the thread and became involved)

July 27th: The hits just keep on comin’…

Dear Roland,

It will be 10K for me to waste my time even preparing a proposal for a guy too lazy to even narrow his choices down to three to five SEO firms and instead feels because he has a big budget, in his mind, he can waste our time instead.

F**k off,
SEO 15

Dear Roland,

*Sigh* I almost felt badly for you.  Certainly you chose the wrong crowd in front of which to make such a bonehead mistake.  And everyone deserves a second chance.  So I was pleased to see the title of your apology email in my inbox…until I read it.

Rather than taking responsibility for your mistakes, you start by blaming your assistant for the cc fiasco.  It was your email mate; your responsibility.  

Beyond that, and as SEO15 notes, you clearly have no idea what kind of firm you want to work with (or don’t care), choosing instead to contact every imaginable kind of search marketing provider, some of whom do not even provide PPC services.  

Most of us prefer to work with straight shooters who take responsibility for their actions and do their homework.  We also know from experience that the way people approach potential business partners is a good indicator of how they are likely to function in the future.  So good luck with this one.

Unfortunately, you are now in the awkward position of knowing that any firm on this list that actually wishes to continue talking must really, really need (want?) the money.  At this point, you might consider just hiring a new employee, with some decent PPC and paid advertising experience.


(There were a few more clever jabs, including an amusing exchange between two people who were both labeled SEO26 in the list.  One suggested a duel, the other just registered  The latter wins.)

July 27th: The saga comes to an end, "Shawshank" style…

I wish I could tell you that Roland fought the good fight, and the SEOs let him be. I wish I could tell you that – but internet marketing is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile – the internet consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Roland would show up with fresh bruises. The SEOs kept at him – sometimes he was able to fight ’em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Roland – that was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.

Please, someone compile this whole thread in a readable format, and package it off to Valleywag.

Who to do it… hmm…. might I suggest Martin‘s assistant?

Have a great week, Team SEO (/PPC)!

And what SEO42 asks for, SEO42 gets, so here we are (Valleywag, feel free to pick this up). 

Now I know a lot of you must be reading this and wondering how these consultants can be so cavalier and dismissive about a large contract, even if the potential client made a stupid mistake.  What you need to understand is that the people on this list are not hurting for clients. They’re busy, they’re successful, and they’re damn good at what they do. They have the luxury of being able to select which projects they take on and, as SEO34 so eloquently pointed out, mistakes like this can be a good indicator of a client that will be difficult to deal with and everyone on this list knows better than to take on a miserable client.

What can be learned from this?  When you’re contacting people you want to work with, whether it’s asking for an RFP, marketing your consulting services, looking to partner, hell, even requesting a link, you need to not only know who you’re talking to, but show some respect.  Few things make people less receptive to you than making them feel like a number; like they have no individual value and that their skills and accomplishments are not appreciated.  Be personable, knowledgeable and respectful and you’ll get a lot further in this industry whether you’re a beginner asking for advice, or a company with a good-sized budget.

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