Update: HopInTop has responded. For their perspective, scroll down to the comments.
Recently, a local Atlanta SEO and interactive marketing agency, called HopInTop, created what seemed like an interesting and fun scholarship opportunity for college students in the metro Atlanta area. Here are the SEO contest rules (my interpretation, (see the full message for complete details):
- The interactive agency will set the student up with a domain name and a website for free, HopInTop subsequently owns the website and all of the work (including unpublished research).
- The student with the highest ranking website for the keyword “Atlanta SEO” will win $5,000 and possibly an internship or job at HopInTop.
- To qualify for the scholarship, the student’s website must link to HopInTop’s website.
An invitation to enter the contest, along to the complete rules were emailed to students at Southern Polytechnic State University and presumably other colleges in and around Atlanta (the email mentions “local colleges”).
Clearly the agency’s hope is that students will manage to attain some PageRank (and perhaps AuthorRank) for the “Atlanta SEO” phrase, then pass that PageRank to HopInTop in exchange for money and a job. As any SEO knows, the first rule of PageRank is you do not buy PageRank, making this scheme clearly a black hat one.
I find this approach particularly devious because in addition to being black hat, it tries to take advantage of students that may not know any better. When Google discovers the scheme, if a student has, say, associated their Google+ Profile with the black hat site, it could damage that student’s reputation and Author Rank which could harm future prospects for a job in digital marketing.
I have been asked to share the following with you:
Good luck — Han Reichgelt
HopInTop SEO Competition
Who We Are:
Hopintop is the go to Atlanta based marketing firm specializing in SEO Internet
Marketing, Web Design, Pay Per Click Adwords, Public Relations, Content
Marketing and Social Media, driving revenue to local businesses. With over 20
clients worldwide, HopInTop strives to increase business revenue by matching
actionable and attractive Websites with buyer traffic through Internet promotion.
Branding is a top priority with HopInTop.com, dedicating valuable time to
communicate the goals and objectives, while understanding a companies’
bottom line. HopInTop is performance you can count on.
For the first time, HopInTop has implemented a contest to local Colleges and
Universities resulting in a scholarship for one winner. If you’re interested in our
scholarship, we are excited to tell you the requirements to score some extra cash
for school and possibly a career in SEO and Internet Marketing upon graduation
(possibly before!). It’s kind of an unusual idea, we know—but we’re proud of it.
Here’s how it works: We want to get your creative juices flowing and have you
create a non-profit Website about Search Engine Optimization. It can be a “How
To”, “The do’s and don’ts” or “A guide to drive revenue to your company”; these
are just a few examples. Again, we want you to be creative. We will also give you
a keyword that you must get the Website ranked for on the first page of Google.
The contest will run for 6 months and whoever ranks their website highest on
Google for the given keyword, wins. Pretty simple!
There are some qualifications you need to meet and rules you need to follow in
order to be eligible. We understand every circumstance is different, but please be
aware that we rarely grant exceptions to these rules. If we did, we’d have to do it
for everyone. You know how it goes. Below are the rules, regulations and details
of the scholarship contest:
• Student must be enrolled with partnering institution at the time of
• No criminal history.
• Student should be able to demonstrate knowledge of computer science or
• HopInTop will purchase domain and hosting.
• HopInTop will own all domains and hosting.
• Student creates and names the Website. Note: “SEO” cannot be in the
• Website will be non-profit. If financial gain is detected, student will be
• The contest will run for six (6) months, the first month is to create the
Website; the second through sixth month is to work your magic and rank at the
top of Google. The person whose website “on average” ranks highest on Google
for the given keyword after 6 months in total will be declared the winner of the
scholarship. Definition of “on average” means that HopInTop will be checking
rankings once per month on a random date. Then we will take the average over
the 6 months of which website has the top ranking in Google in the over all six
months. We will be monitoring for black hat methods to ensure integrity of the
contest. BlackHat SEO Definition – Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in
ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception
• Keyword to be given: “Atlanta SEO”.
• Must have a link on Website directing to HopInTop.com.
• EXTENDED: Contest will begin May 1st, 2014 and end on November 1st,
• Student must be able to produce, at our request, any type of information
regarding tactics or skills used to maintain on first page of Google.
• Student will have a chance to interview and possibly be hired for an entry-
level (full or part-time) position with HopInTop Internet Marketing Firm.
• Winner is not guaranteed position with HopInTop.
• HopInTop does not assume liability nor condone any SEO “scheme” to gain
top search results on Google.
• Google will be the only search engine used for determination of the winner.
• Minimum number of contestants: 5, maximum number of contestants: 100.
If minimum number is not reached the contest start date will be reset until we
reach minimum number of contestants.
The winner of the scholarship incentive contest will receive a check from
HopInTop valued at $5,000, no later than thirty (30) days from the end date
(October 1st, 2014) of the contest. ($1,000 for each consecutive month [5
months] is given if the students’ Website ranks higher than average on Google
from the rest of the competitors for designated keyword “Atlanta SEO”, totaling
$5,000). The winner will also be given an opportunity to interview with the CEO
of HopInTop for a (full-time/part-time entry level) position with the company.
During the interview winner will discuss his/her methods of achieving top search
results. In no way does the interview guarantee a position with HopInTop.com.
This is not a requirement, but if you’d like you may keep a diary blog that will be
posted to our website discussing your journey over the months. You can talk
about social media, marketing, SEO or anything pertaining to your thoughts on
the process. We’d love to hear from you!! You can find the diary under our
We look forward to your creativity and thank you in advance for your interest,
hard work and determination for the HopInTop Internet Marketing SEO
Scholarship Incentive Contest. Get your thinking caps ready and remember,
HopInTop is performance you can count on.
Please visit HopInTop.com for application and more information.
Good luck everyone!
Further details can be found on HopInTop’s website, which I am not linking to for obvious reasons (you are free to Google it).