The Real Bob Sakayama
by Lisa Page, ThisIsBattle : lisa @ thisisbattle.com
"He may not exist" - Rev Sale.
Because he played an outsized role in the super high Google ranks for this website, I was assigned to learn as much background on Bob as possible. He seems to be someone our readers would want to learn more about. After I got my ducks in a row, read his old blogs - Google-Genalty.com, Re1y.com, Bad1y.com, Imp1y.com and BobSEO.com - I spoke with him and followed up later with emails. My publisher asked me if I was sure it was Bob I was communicating with. I said I was pretty sure it was. But then I remember reading this from one of his early websites, bobseo.com:
"Bob spent his youth reverse scamming the perpetrators of the Nigerian 419 scam. Using numerous aliases, he manipulated would be scammers into following his instructions as he led them on wild goose chases, concluding in humiliating recipe submissions, photo shoots, and telephone auditions. His work was so effective in diverting criminal behavior, that corrupt government officials inside the Nigerian government thought he was acting on behalf of the CIA, and formally filed a complaint... ...Only a few people can say they have met Bob, and the person they met may not really have been him."
I'm pretty sure I spoke to Bob because he could answer all my questions very credibly, but we did not meet in person, only by phone/email, so more accurately - I spoke with someone who claimed to be Bob Sakayama. Although it felt strange doing it, I did ask if he was really Bob Sakayama, CEO of TNG/Earthling. He said thought he was so I have that on the record.
After reading this post on bobseo.com you will believe that those statements about reverse scamming the Nigerian 419 scammers, humiliating recipe submissions, photo shoots, telephone auditions, etc. are just humorous tall tales. But Bob told me that this list is accurate. The Nigerian 419 scam involves an email sent to prospective victims, with an enticing story of a lot of money, often left by a recently deceased rich person, that could be easily claimed by a simple task, like paying to bribe a bank officer or to settle a customs issue. The actual scam is in these small payments to free up the money. There are hundreds of different stories - Bob responded to over 250 scammers as Reverend Sale Shalom, who always blessed the scammer and was eager to help. The scammers always wanted a phone number and mailing address, but the reverend's story was that the church was under surveillance by Homeland Security so the only safe communication was email. And he was always willing to send money if the scammer would contribute a recipe for a favorite meal for the ritual of welcoming the scammer as a new member of the church with a feast in his honor. This is how Bob learned about white soup, red sauce, and grasscutter.
The reverend writes that he tried to send a valuable coin, part of a collection bequeathed to the church after a wealthy member of the congregation died. He told the scammer that an antique coin was sent to the address in the original email and that he should get it appraised before attempting to sell it. In one case the scammer, in a panic, said to recall the package and send it to a different address (the real address), which is how Bob learned that the Nigerian government was behind that scammer.
One of the best threads involved the reverend working for the defense department on a project to develop a paint that made things invisible. He sent a photo of his bookshelf as proof the paint was working because you could not even see the monkey that had fallen into the paint and now was climbing the shelf. Several of the scammers became obsessed with learning more about the paint until the reverend had to notify them that Homeland Security started closely monitoring his account because of the national security implications of this information leaking.
Because of all the recipe mentions, the Food Network was going to give the reverend his own show and he was auditioning talent to present the recipes. The auditions were held via telephone on TNG/E's studio line, so all were recorded. Several scammers called and repeated Bob's silly scripts and poems attempting to show off their ability to be animals or dinosaurs. A couple maxed out their phone cards auditioning.
Sometimes, just as he's about to send money, the reverend gets a feeling the scammer is not who he says he is and asks him to take a picture holding a sign saying, "Hello Reverend Sale Shalom". Bob has many such photos.
Often the scammer tries to protect the reverend, like when a church member convinces the reverend to sell something called "ganja" that he's growing in the church basement. Several scammers plead with the reverend not to do this as it might land him in prison. They tell him not to trust that church member who may be scamming him!
Although I had intended to do a more inclusive interview and cover more of the skills for which Bob is well known, I ended up spending way too much time on the scammers because it is such a great tale, and because I'm sure it's also true. And there are so many different threads - one lasted over a year. He sent me a couple via email and I can see why a publisher is interested. Bob treated this exercise as an art project and I could tell it was very rewarding for him. So he may be a very skilled search consultant who knows how to rank websites in Google, but everyone already knows that. The Nigerian 419 scams, and the effort Bob put into making that fun and entertaining is way more interesting to me.
I was going to begin this piece with, "The real Bob Sakayama was born Robert Ken Sakayama in Tokyo, Japan..." but the Rev Sale quote I started with tells a bigger truth.