Fiverr and Cheap SEO Services: A Cautionary Tale

By November 20, 2015SEO
Background: Fiverr is a popular website offering all kinds of services starting at $5 per job (“gig” is the term they use) and offers pretty much all things digital and then some. In late October I saw a webinar in which a new twist was given on an old idea – embedding content via an iframe into a web 2.0 post. For those unfamiliar, an iframe acts as a de facto link to that content and an embed is a signal of popularity/desirable content (the more times a piece of content is embedded, the better it must be). But the embed wouldn’t be the only part to it (because you can just embed a video, for example, and be done). There would a be an article written as well about a chosen keyword to give the post a theme, and then a few URL links from a list of citations that would be randomly inserted into each post, so that any particular post would have no more than 3 citation links from the list of 15 or so supplied. The output then on each web 2.0 would be an article with the iframe embed, and 2-3 URL citation links. The webinar used FCS Networker as the software, so that’s what I looked for when checking out outsourcers, as I knew for sure it had the capability to randomly rotate those citation links. Simple enough right?  Well, in the SEO world it is…or so I thought.


UPDATE: as of November 23, 2015 the site has jumped 5 positions for it’s main target keyword. While I haven’t fully figured out why just yet, it appears that Fiverr did help. At least it hasn’t hurt the site…though I am watching just in case the other boot does drop.

Oct 28 – Day 1: I messaged a few sellers on different sites about the job, and the first one who replied to me was a guy on Fiverr. We discussed the project specs:

Taling with the SEO service provider about project specs

Things Initially Went Well

We talked back and forth a bit about what I required and settled on a custom gig order of $50 USD.  Now, to point something out, the basic gig is $5, but for things like this you get what you pay for and I wanted things done right. So I ordered a few of his extras, making sure to remark that I was after quality over quantity.  Over the course of the conversation (8 messages total, 3 of which are above) I mentioned my overall requirements. Also, as I had paid 10x the original gig price, I had higher expectations.   Looking back, they were never all in one message, and the part about the citation links being URLs is kind of buried in message 5.

Anyway, the order came through (note the red):

Things started off well, or so I thought.

Things started off well, or so I thought.

It’s apparent that he thought the keyword would be used for link anchors, not just article content.  But also, somehow I forgot the iframe code, which should have put a screeching halt to the whole thing. It was the first thing mentioned in both the initial message and the order details.

Oct 29 – Day 2: Even without the iframe code he went ahead and did the order.

Oct 30 – Day 3: I looked it over and was alarmed.

Houston, we have problem.

Houston, we have problem.

There were problems across the board: almost all links were keyword anchors, there was no iframe code, 2 of the links I checked had the keyword anchor “Outrank Media are the best SEO company in Barrie,” and finally the quality of the articles were as follows:

Companies that unwittingly employ a search engine optimization that utilizes consequences that are temporary may be seen by these methods until Google detects the footprints left behind by these techniques, at which point they are going to find an adverse impact on their search engine positions. The black hat search engine optimization is generally long gone via this stage and offers quick-fixes!

Now, that might be unique, but it’s also just this side of pure gibberish.  Google doesn’t care about spam on Tier 2 these days does it? It was the type of content I wanted to avoid.

With all these red flags were going off I looked over things closely and realized the communication breakdown.  The guy is from India so English is not his first language (probably) and it’s not like my instructions were crystal clear. It’s important to note that Fiverr doesn’t show you the order requirements message by default, so when you go to the order page you don’t see it displayed upon loading (I’ve emphasized the green “show requirements” link you have to click to see what you wrote in there in the pic below).  Because of this, I wasn’t aware of the missing iframe code, which made job seem that much worse.

I had no idea about the missing iframe code.

I had no idea about the missing iframe code.

He mentioned at this point that I hadn’t supplied the iframe code, and so I finally sent the instructions that should have come initially:

This is what should have come in the first place.

This is what should have come in the first place.

That, to a native English speaker with some SEO knowledge, is pretty clear.  But not to him.  He kept pestering me for the iframe code, even though I had provided it already – you can see the time stamps on the images above and below in the bottom right hand corner of the message. This made it pretty clear he was not missing details (because you get a notification email from Fiverr every time there’s a new message or update to an order), he was missing large chunks. And then he said something that made me think he missed the concept entirely:

My Spidey sense is tingling about this guy.

My Spidey sense is tingling about this guy.

It seems that to him, a link must be a keyword phrase – there is no other way to link.  Even though all I wanted, and asked for, was for the citations to be URL links…exactly the way they are listed in the message thread.  And I did point that out. The cherry on top was arguing with me about the Outrank Media anchor term. The link text capitalized the name, and then described them as the best SEO company in Barrie. Incredible.

Oct 31 – Day 4: As I read his message I knew this wasn’t going to work out, so I sent in a support request to Fiverr.  I sent him a message to let him know my position on the whole thing.

Woah woah woah.

Woah woah woah.

At this point I still didn’t know about the show/hide requirement link in the order page, but it was clear that Fiverr wasn’t stripping out the iframe code.  I decided to see what support would say.

Nov 1 – Day 5: With no word from support for about 34 hours, besides their ticket confirmation auto reply, I decided to try it one more time. I supplied excruciating detail in a text file that I attached to the order.

Nov 2 – Day 6: He came back with some questions:




Nov 3 – Day 7: Fiverr support replies, to let me know they’ve escalated the ticket (presumably to someone who can actually do something besides reply to email).  They also mention that if the issue has magically resolved itself to go ahead and close the ticket. Mmmkay.

Seller delivered the order for the second time, and unsurprisingly had made a few errors. The first thing was that there were over 425 submissions, well above the limit of 75 discussed earlier.  Because there were so many, none of the ten articles I checked were unique according to Copyscape.  Also, despite the numerous explanations, no citations had links – they were just the URL in text.  The quality was better, but still not anything a person familiar with spinning wouldn’t instantly recognize as mid-grade work. And there were still keyword links.

Nov 4 – Day 8: I had to wait a day to reply…sometimes you just have to step away for while.

The dream is over.

The dream is over.

I sent a message to support asking how to wrap this up, but letting them know I wanted to pay him something as I believed (and still do) that he was trying the best of his ability.  They replied with this:

We have reviewed the order and at this time you can either continue working with the seller to have the order completed or you may request a cancellation of the order by mutual agreement. Doing so would refund the Gig cost to your Fiverr balance to be used on other Gigs. If you have any other questions pertaining to this order please contact us.

Mutually cancel?  How likely is that?  A guy in India probably won’t willingly cancel a $50 order, so what’s the use of that policy?

Nov 5 – Day 9: I sent him a message saying I’m done with this project, and can’t pay full price for it.  Support replied that they are unable to issue partial refunds, though I was free to place another order.  With the original still in limbo, I wasn’t about to hand over more money.

Nov 8 – Day 12: I sent him a note letting him know what support said, and that if he cancelled the order and resubmitted an invoice for half the original amount I would pay it. He replied with a smiley face emoticon.  I relayed this response to support.

Nov 10 – Day 14: The third support tech to reply to me told me to tell the seller one more time to cancel and resubmit….it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day, because everything to do with this order had to be done at least twice.

Twice the Pleasure!

Twice the Pleasure!

Nov 11 – Day 15: The seller contacts me to say it’s not possible to cancel the order, which I relay to support. They reply that they are in the process of contacting the seller, and of the seller does not reply in 24-48 hours to get back to support.

Nov 13 – Day 17: I reply to support letting them know nothing has happened.

Nov 18 – Day 22 – Seller cancels gig and resubmits an invoice for $25 USD which I happily pay.


Conclusion: Some of you might wonder why I would pay for work that wasn’t up to snuff. Part of it was that I think he did do what he thought was best, and part of it was he is a guy in India with mass posting software that had a disagreement with me and knows a money site URL.  It would be nothing for him to spam the living crap out of this site, so better safe than sorry.  That said, I still set up a link alert for my domain anyway, which is not a bad idea regardless.

As for lessons…well, I’m not sure about this one.  I think the language barrier was part of it, and my instructions should have been granular to the molecular level right off the get go, but that goes without saying.  I was a little fast and loose with this one having just had a string of successes on Fiverr, including a custom order for a video that was delivered the day before I ordered this one. And that one was excellent.  Also, at a certain price point you just expect people to “get it,” meaning they have the ability understand what you are after.  I know going forward I will read descriptions closely and if the job I want done varies more than a little bit I’ll have to deal with a native English speaker first.  That should at least minimize the miscommunication.

Fiverr’s support was a little slow too.  Things worked out in the end, but it was 2.5 weeks after the first support request.  None of that should take away from the service though, as there are a lot of great gigs on there (in fact, I’ll be ordering another one today). Just that problems like this one don’t resolve themselves, so the sooner it’s sorted out the better for everyone.

And as a final thought for those who want $300/month SEO packages…think about what you are getting.  It’ll be gigs like this to your main site, except the person hiring the outsourcer (or firing up their own software) won’t care as much, and you probably won’t look over the work like I did. So when nothing happens (or your site drops in rankings) you’ll end up paying even more, because it’s not a blank canvas anymore. Automation can make things a lot easier, but it is imperative you know what you are doing, and know how to check the quality of the work.

Anyway, at least I got a blog post out of this. The thought of which was about the only thing that kept me sane throughout the process.  Well, that, and the sheer absurdity of it all.


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