OrangeSoda: About that AMEX ‘Debacle’

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in advertising strategy, changes in marketing, Google Updates, Marketing

Nothing is more surprising than when a small-to-medium sized business takes their social media seriously. Working in the marketing industry, I often find clients are either on the side of ‘do that magic SEO stuff that makes us #1 on Google’ or ‘I wrote all my title tags using keywords… from my keyword tag.’ You can then understand my amazement when OrangeSoda’s Dan Garfield, Site Architect and Sr. Brand Manager, contacted me directly after publishing the following tweet:

Debacle was a little... harsh, I suppose.

As mentioned in the tweet, OrangeSoda, Inc. has been acquired by Deluxe Corporation as reported in a press release. My comment stemmed from a number of news and blog post related to Google Webmaster Tools’ emails concerning the detection of “unnatural links” and American Express. In summary, AMEX established a division focused on marketing small business clients through the use of link building, social media, and directory submissions.

One article I referenced early on while investigating the unnatural link emails associated with Google’s Penguin release was by Bill Hartzer titled: How NOT to Build Links to Your Website: Courtesy of American Express. In his article Bill offered one key point of evidence from emails business owners received from AMEX’s Market 3D division:

3D Marketing Program Participation

3D Marketing Program Participation Email c/o Bill Hartzer

Not much was said about the Webmaster notifications by OrangeSoda or AMEX, so I was surprised by the call. During the course of the conversation, which was quiet pleasant – to Dan’s credit, we discussed some of the specifics of the actually result of Penguin and OrangeSoda’s work with AMEX. According to Dan, out of six thousand clients at the time of the algo change and 3D partnership, only 2 clients received these notifications. Furthermore, Dan stated that neither client was negatively impacted in ranking when the notifications were received. Who these clients are/were is a matter of privacy.

So, on one hand, there is information stating that AMEX went about SEO in all the wrong ways (i.e. buying links, ‘SEO’ content, etc.). While on the other hand, OrangeSoda is, c/o Dan, stating that for what they were responsible for there were little, if any, issues. I will say that Dan was forthcoming to the fact that the business owners were not barred from using other marketing services. Either way, the burden falls on business owners to take an active role in their marketing and link profiles. My concern is that the email the clients receive still puts OrangeSoda as the ‘executor’ of the 3D marketing program, placing responsibility on them.

In his follow up email, Dan offered this information:

Things have been crazy busy here in the last few months leading up to our acquisition and I don’t think we’ve had the proper time to talk about how Penguin and Panda have affected our clients. The great news is that our clients are doing better than ever, the updates seem to have helped our clients rankings.

There’s also been some hubbub around Google Webmasters letters. Of our nearly 6,000 clients we were able to confirm that two people had received a letter from Google Webmasters and neither of those clients seemed to have any affect on their rankings. We’ve been thinking that we should do a blog post every time Google updates to talk about how it affected our clients. We’re still mulling it over but we agree with you that transparency is the best policy so that’s what we’re striving for.

I did make the suggestion to Dan that the company not sit behind a steel curtain and let us lowly SEOs run about making wild accusations; at best we are wild guesstimaters. Instead, put out some useful details about how algorithm changes are impacting them and their clients, doing so can only help the SEO/SEM community.

In the end, only the clients, AMEX, and OrangeSoda know what actually happened and how the clients were impacted, but at least we know there are still some organizations out there willing to reach out and discuss issues with individuals when something is said that they don’t agree with. Well done OrangeSoda and congratulations on the acquisition!

A. Chris TurnerAbout the Author: Chris Turner is also known as ChocolateSEO. CSEO is Chris' Nashville search marketing and consulting service offering a variety of services to help you, your company and any website maximize web-based marketing opportunities. He is the father of three girls, one boy (finally) and husband to the wonderful Savannah. Join the author's circle: Chris Turner on Google+.

  • bhartzer

    Chris, thanks for the follow-up blog post. I would like to clarify a few of the statements that were made in this blog post (statements by Orange Soda).

    First off, there is absolutely NO way that Orange Soda can “confirm that two people had received a letter from Google Webmasters and neither of those clients seemed to have any affect on their rankings.” Why? Well, Orange Soda was providing this service as a white-labeled American Express Market 3D service. Orange Soda had absolutely NO access to these clients’ Google Analytics or web analytics–so there is no way that Orange Soda could know whether or not their “clients” were impacted or not by their actions.

    In the end, only the clients themselves know the full impact of American Express Market 3D’s (aka Orange Soda’s) actions. From what I understand, Orange Soda was not tracking rankings, and they did not have access to the Google Webmaster Tools or the Google Analytics  of the clients.

    In regards to the Deluxe acquisition, I congratulate Orange Soda–any company acquired by another deserves congratulations. I can also confirm that Deluxe did know about the American Express Market 3D / Orange Soda fiasco–employees from Deluxe were hitting my blog post like crazy, reading it.