Our reply to false accusations made by NOW Magazine about working with us.

Today we received the below review from one of our past clients, NOW Magazine in Toronto. For transparency and to provide full feedback to this review, we decided to post the full conversation here on our page.

THE ORIGINAL REVIEW by NOW MAGAZINE:

We at NOW Magazine are posting to warn other potential customers about our horrific experience with SHO – which is in fact just a single man and some terrible cheap outsourced labour.

We’d like to preface every thing by mentioning the owner of SHO is barred from our premise for documented threats of violence.

We hired SHO to create a simple responsive redesign of our movies website as well as some SEO work on our main website. The movies website was incomplete and never launched (though their portfolio won’t mention that) – we had to guide SHO’s outsourced developer through every single step and even had to introduce a basic Kanban because they couldn’t perform basic changes such as changing a shade of red across the site to the right hex. They didn’t even test the site on mobile devices or outside their own browser so when they first said we were good to go live it didn’t work on a smartphone, Firefox or Internet Explorer.

There was also no staging/testing site – they introduced new changes directly onto the live site which on several occasions broke it. We’ve never dealt with such a haphazard backwards and unprofessional development workflow before. So many of the core fundamentals simply weren’t in place or followed. This is clearly an agency accepting any and all work – even if they aren’t capable of doing it. Be well advised that the majority of your money goes to outsourced labour at 1/6th what you paid.

Which bring me to another point – SEO. We hired SHO and their ‘SEO team’ to assist with driving more traffic to our website and improving rankings among major search engines. We leveraged a platform called Moz which is an industry standard for tracking your SEO performance on a regular basis.

SHO would attend weekly meetings and provide custom reports on how great SEO was doing and some shiny green arrows pointing up to let us know they were fixing all the bad stuff! When our technical team actually took a look at what SHO was doing – We found out they were adding links to the Google outdated content tool and creating exceptions inside Moz not to look at these pages any more. What this translates to is SHO was telling Moz to ignore problem pages/links. This means week on week Moz would appear to show improvements (because if you aren’t including errors obviously your numbers will go up). They also changed our site and section titles several times to random gibberish containing keywords and broken English – severely impacting our rankings and making a publisher look foolish to the outside world.

Here are our two pieces of advice:
1. Don’t hire them. Cold call any of SHO’s former customers and ask what their experience was like. We are not an isolated incident.

2. If you’ve been convinced to work with SHO then you’re in damage control mode. The owner loves to talk and mention buzz words, acronyms and other tech terms – even if none of it makes sense. Bring your IT/Digital Strategy team into ALL meetings with SHO and involve them in all e-mail communications. Any half tech literate person will spot the red flags and false promises from a mile away. Don’t trust SHO branded reports. Force them to login to the actual product dashboards and make sure you ask questions and fact check the answers you get. Got a friend that knows a ton about SEO or another topic? Echo what you’re told by SHO to them.

We have documented every correspondence and piece of work and we’re happy to substantiate any and all claims.

HERE IS OUR FEEDBACK TO THIS REVIEW:

Thank you NOW Magazine for your review. This review is clearly a retaliation from an angry employee. It is based on the bad review that your company received literally yesterday on Indeed.

You also created a new account online called NOW IT to make this comment, because you did not want to use your official brand to comment. We’ve decided, however, to reply with our official brand name and identity.


The Indeed review from yesterday was from your former employee, who happens to currently manage SHO. So creating a bad review based on false accusations on a small agency only demonstrates your lack of professionalism and further validates the poor Indeed review that your company received.


For clarity, here is our reply to the false information you provided here.


Your Comment: “single man and some terrible cheap outsourced labour”. We are a startup digital agency with a small team, 4 internal employees to be exact. We do have remote staff because we believe in supporting remote work and work from home. All the services that we provided to your organization was executed by our internal team, who had signed NDA’s with our company, and absolutely no out sourcing was involved during this process. This is why you were constantly in touch with the same people over and over because you had a committed team that worked on your projects on a monthly basis.

Your Comment: “The movies website was incomplete and never launched (though their portfolio won’t mention that)”. This is true, we don’t have your movie website as a part of our portfolio. Because it was not a finalized project. Our in-house developer, who was on our payroll at the time of this project, worked on this with you. We did create testing/staging environment for every project we worked on. You requested a custom made website with many API connections for your movie listings. If you recall, we did spend many weeks working on this microsite with your team and conducted many tests on all browsers. It is true that sometimes things need to be tweaked to get the final results you are looking for. However the reason this project never got completed was the lack of decision making and feedback from you, the client. We had all the assets ready to go live with the page, but you could not make the final decision about the domain, and sometime it took 2 weeks to get an answer from your team, for us to move forward on the project.


Your Comment: “We’ve never dealt with such a haphazard backwards and unprofessional development workflow before. So many of the core fundamentals simply weren’t in place or followed. This is clearly an agency accepting any and all work – even if they aren’t capable of doing it. Be well advised that the majority of your money goes to outsourced labour at 1/6th what you paid.”When we started working together, you had just hired new digital and IT employees. Our team provided constant support and training for your new employees. We assisted you, on many occasions, to make sure that any questions from your team are answered right away. This included off-hour texts, emails and phone calls. We provided you detailed reports every week on our progress, with clarity on the work and the hours spent on each project. Once again none of your work was ever outsourced and was done by our in-house employees. As it is clearly stated on our website, we provide 360 digital services to our clients. We also have a month long brand discovery process to get to know our clients and their needs. This means that we do not in-fact take on any work and prefer focusing on a full brand development experience with our clients.


Your Comment: “SHO would attend weekly meetings and provide custom reports on how great SEO was doing and some shiny green arrows pointing up to let us know they were fixing all the bad stuff! When our technical team actually took a look at what SHO was doing – We found out they were adding links to the Google outdated content tool and creating exceptions inside Moz not to look at these pages any more. What this translates to is SHO was telling Moz to ignore problem pages/links. This means week on week Moz would appear to show improvements (because if you aren’t including errors obviously your numbers will go up). They also changed our site and section titles several times to random gibberish containing keywords and broken English – severely impacting our rankings and making a publisher look foolish to the outside world.”
We did provide weekly reports to your team during our meetings, this is correct. Those shiny green arrows pointing up, where in fact the data we provided to demonstrate our weekly progress on your SEO and fixing your backend issues. Your new digital project manager had called our team, on many occasions, to ask questions about the functionality of the MOZ platform and SEO in general. In fact the digital analytics manager (not sure of their exact title) you had hired, had difficulty understanding the reports they were hired to evaluate and analyze. And SHO had to jump in to provide feedback and support, which we happily did. Also on our SEO reports, we provided you Google analytics and Google search console reports, along with the MOZ report. This was done to prevent the exact same issue you bring up here. It clearly demonstrated the improvement of your pages on the backend month over month. MOZ was only one element of the report to accurately validate and measure the results, in comparison to other platforms such as Google analytics and search. You also had your internal team double check our work on a weekly basis to make sure that the results were true. So if there were any any issues anywhere, your team would have caught it and bring it up to us, as they had full access to all platforms and metrics. We were never addressed about any issues as you continued to validate our progress.


Your comment: “1. Don’t hire them. Cold call any of SHO’s former customers and ask what their experience was like. We are not an isolated incident.”We have a small circle of clients which we’ve built great relationships with. We’d be more than happy to publicly address any issues that any of our clients have experienced in the past working with us.


Your Comment: “If you’ve been convinced to work with SHO then you’re in damage control mode. The owner loves to talk and mention buzz words, acronyms and other tech terms – even if none of it makes sense. Bring your IT/Digital Strategy team into ALL meetings with SHO and involve them in all e-mail communications. Any half tech literate person will spot the red flags and false promises from a mile away. Don’t trust SHO branded reports. Force them to log in to the actual product dashboards and make sure you ask questions and fact check the answers you get. Got a friend that knows a ton about SEO or another topic? Echo what you’re told by SHO to them.”
We are not sure what you are referring to as Buzzwords and acronyms or tech terms. If you’re talking about words like SEO, backlinks or API, These are very regular terms used in a digital marketing meeting. You had a newly hired team that never had an issue asking any questions if they didn’t understand something we said or presented. To our knowledge, there was never an occasion where we used a term that was not understood by your team.


Part of our job was to educate your fresh team about the capabilities of your platform and the tools you were using at the time. Even though you had hired them because they supposedly possessed such skills in the first place.


Our branded reports were mainly screenshots of the metrics from reliable platforms that we both agreed on, to monitor your traffic and engagement at the time. We had to log in to these platforms and create a screenshot of the metrics every week to prove our work to you, for clarity and avoiding any confusion.

Your Comment: “owner of SHO is barred from our premise for documented threats of violence.” This is simply a false accusation, we are not even sure why you would attempt to make this accusation. We’ve never been informed legally about this matter. So we can not comment any further.


In conclusion, we provided the above comments to clarify these accusations. Once again, it is a shame that a brand with such claimed reputation in the city would take company time and resources, to make false accusations about a startup agency like ours.


This is clearly an attempt to create controversy, intimidation and furthermore trying to protect a brand with a bad reputation. A simple search on Google will provide more than enough information about the previous issues you’ve had with your former employees and some of your readers.


You are angry because a former employee wrote a bad review on your Indeed company page? And trying to destroy that former employee’s reputation in their new role at a new company, by creating false accusations. This really leaves us amazed and yet shameful to have to write this reply to you. We hope that you are fully aware of the legal implications of your actions as NOW Magazine.


As a claimed progressive voice in this city, it is frankly embarrassing to see this attempt made by your staff. Maybe it would be better to focus on what improvements you can make internally, to prevent your former employees from leaving bad comments about your business.


You are a unionized company and attempted to falsely accuse a startup agency and negatively impact their brand and image, by using your company resources and time, to create these accusations.

You’ve got a lot to think about!