Warning: Do Not Hire Sam's Club for Search Marketing

Ian Lurie

Sam’s Club has thrown their hat into the SEO/PPC scam ring. In what’s becoming a weekly tradition, I’ve volunteered to point out why you’d have to be brain damaged to hire them:

1. They Can’t Market Themselves. Can They Market You?!

In marketingspeak, Sam’s Club’s online marketing page is the south end of a northbound horse. It’s awful. If they can’t market themselves, they can’t market you, either.

You can see their page in all its glory here.

Where to begin?
First, their title tag. The title tag is important in search engine optimization (SEO). Sam’s Club is selling SEO and pay per click (PPC) consulting. So a sane person would assume their title tag would include the words ‘seo’ and/or ‘ppc’.

Here’s their title tag:

Sam's Club Title Tag

I don’t see ‘SEO’ or ‘PPC’ in there. Do you? So who wrote this title tag? The folks that are going to perform SEO on my site? No thank you.

Good code is important in SEO, too. I won’t bore you with the details here. If you have kids, picture the nastiest, most disgusting excretion ever. That’s what the Sam’s Club code resembles.

Then there’s the description META tag. While that tag won’t help with rankings, search engines often display as the ‘snippet’ in a search results listing. A well-written description tag makes folks more likely to click your listing. So it’s important.

The Sam’s Club description tag is “Let Sam’s Club help get you connected with your customers.” That’s what shows up in their search listing, too:

Sams Club Listing

That search listing makes me want to track down whoever wrote it and slap them. It does not make me want to click.
Don’t hire someone who can’t write a good description tag.

2. They Don’t Know What Pay Per Click Is.

The folks at Sam’s Club are confused. They talk about ‘pay for performance’ at the top of their ad, then mention ‘pay per click’ below:

Sams Club PPC

It’s OK to be confused between the two forms of paid search marketing. But not if you’re being paid to manage them.
Don’t hire someone who can’t tell you the difference between pay-per-click marketing and pay-for-performance marketing.

I took a scream break at this point. After stomping around my back yard, yelling at squirrels and pelting imaginary raccoons with rocks, I felt better.

3. Ridiculous SEO Claims

Here’s what Sam’s Club promises in their search marketing package:

seo sams club

Search engines don’t use ‘profiles’, so I’ll ignore the first two murky and totally useless claims.

Then they talk about ‘Hand submission of your website URL to the major search engines and directories’.


How many times do reputable SEO experts and the search engines themselves have to say “Hand submission isn’t as good as links” before everyone clues in?

The hand submission claim should ring alarm bells for anyone looking to hire a good search marketer.
Don’t hire someone who can’t sell themselves with accurate information.

I’m Keeping This Short

I’ve left out stuff like:

  1. The hard-to-find, hard-to-read call to action.
  2. The poor layout.
  3. The lousy copy.
  4. Failure to adhere to any landing page best practices.

Let’s just say that if I were Sam’s Club, I’d be embarrassed to be hawking internet marketing services of any kind from a page like this.

If I were you, I’d be very careful before hiring them.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. This is the new thing these days. I just had McDonald’s service my laptop and got a free happy meal.
    Tomorrow my dentist will be changing my oil while I get my teeth cleaned. That reminds me I need to go buy floss from my SEO firm.

  2. Heah Tracy – Can I get the number of your dentist, my oil is running low … keep havin’ to top off 😉
    Seriously… unfortunately, a lot of unknowing people will fall trap to it.
    Thanks for the great post!
    Maria 🙂

  3. The flip side to this is that as large companies move in to commoditize the low end of the market they’ll:
    1) Validate the market — it won’t be such a chore to convince clients that they should take SEO seriously.
    2) Bring more people into the market that would not have come before, and they will soon have a need for higher end services.
    If Sam’s sees the opportunity, then we must be on to something. The key is whether you can add more value than Sam’s…

  4. That won’t be hard. The key is that we need to educate the newcomers so they understand that Sam’s Club is trying to rip them off.

  5. I have to chime-in and add that no one picked up or mentioned that Sam’s is using INNUITY,INC. to manage their seo efforts.
    Although the comments are on par with the level of work performed, perhaps [it] should be directed to the “behind the scenes” company performing the work.

  6. Hi Cuis,
    I did actually know that. I figured I’d do the honorable thing and give them a chance to fix the obviously lousy job they did.
    But now I don’t have to worry about it 🙂
    Innuity, you need to get Sam’s Club’s pages fixed. They’re embarrassing. I’ve fired staff at my company for producing dross like this.

  7. Obviously you’ve just scratched the surface on this one.
    I love how when you click to get “More Information” for either SEO or PPC, you don’t actually get more information. You get a 6 field form to submit so one of their smarmy sales people can call you.
    There’s nothing like promising one thing and delivering something completely different to show you know what your doing.
    Thanks Ian. Keep up the good fight.

  8. You got it wrong. They don’t want to give YOU more information, they want you to give them YOUR information.

  9. Looks like they’re reading your blog post, I just checked their site and their title now reads:
    “Sams Club Websites: Local Search, PPC and SEO Services from Sam’s Club”
    They’ve changed their description tag too:
    “Sam’s Club provides a variety of search engine marketing services – including local search, PPC and SEO – to help drive qualified customers to your local on online business”
    I think you should send them a bill.

  10. Well, if they want to know the other stuff they did horribly wrong, they’ll have to pay me, yeah.
    First one’s free…

  11. Sams Club is coming to your city’s local search results very soon. They are number one in ours and now people are calling me and expecting huge discounts for SEO and Design because sam’s club can do it cheaper! I tell them them to do it.
    I hear rumors of Wal Mart wanting to offer Family and Criminal Law in addition to their award winning CPA services while you buy toilet paper.

  12. The sam’s club people have no idea. The upper tier management at our local Reno branch doesn’t even know how to operate email, or even correctly relay a email address.
    The local manager is a ###### and pardon the pun, is a LLAMA. She wasn’t aware they even offered the service or how it works. She read it from a corporate manual and will not support people who buy the service, she will direct them to a customer service line.

  13. Ian do some real research and then tell the world what you think about Sam’s Club Online Services. All I see is that you read a website that is marketed toward Sam’s Club Member that’s while little seo what needed. Seriously just try and think a little out of the box. Also your comments about “profiles”. Have you heard of Local Search Engine Marketing? Ian how old are you? 19? Take some time and learn out to really research because your skill are clearly lacking. People like you make more and more people nervous about going with any online marketing firm. Grow up and start acting like a real professional! I can’t believe I got sucked into replying to this post… what a waste of time.

  14. I have a one word answer that says all that needs to be said. Those who understand the answer will get it right away, those who do not are the ones that will pay Wal Mart to do their SEO and deserve what they get.
    The one word answer is a movie title, and that movie title is:
    Idiocracy (go rent it if you haven’t seen it!!)
    Just remember you will have nothing to fear from any competitor of yours that uses Wal Mart for SEO.
    “Wait … What?”

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