When the time comes to hire an SEO agency to help boost your online presence and rankings, chances are you’re going to have a lot of questions. This is okay. I’ve been in and around the industry for close to six years and I am no expert. Whether you’re a novice, someone who knows enough to be dangerous, or a seasoned veteran looking for some help, these 5 signs will help you eliminate a lot of so called “experts”.
Guaranteed 1st Page Rankings
No SEO company can or should offer a guarantee for first page rankings for your keywords. I don’t care what else they say, or what else they show you, this is impossible. Guarantees are the biggest red flag for any company and should end the conversation immediately.
Bottom Line - none of these companies work for or “have a special relationship with Google.” It just doesn’t work that way. Sure they may have a great track record, but guarantees are impossible to make in this industry.
Won't Share Past Results
Piggybacking a bit off the first point, any SEO company that refuses to share their results with previous or current clients should be shown the door as well. Any reputable SEO firm isn’t afraid to showcase their successes, their process, and even their failures. Nobody is perfect in this industry, so be sure to ask them for examples or each.
Bottom Line – Just because a company isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Understanding the successes, process, and any failures they’ve had will go a long way in building a trusting relationship.
Unable/Unwilling to Give Explanations of Service/Process
If you hear the words “Through our proprietary process, your site will see an increase in rankings”, make sure you ask exactly what it is they are going to do. If they are vague, too technical, or just very brief, ask for clarification. If you’re still unclear, it could be time to look elsewhere.
Bottom Line – In today’s SEO world, the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t is out on the web. No firm should have an ace up their sleeve, or a proprietary process that nobody else uses (if they do, chances are it’s not a white hat tactic).
No Discussion of Overall Business Goals
Today’s SEO firms should act more as overall Internet Marketing consultants more than just “We swear we’ll improve your rankings” consultants. The days of improving rankings by implementing nothing but a technical SEO strategy are gone. Today, it’s more beneficial to build a brand, generate content, and share it across the web.
Bottom Line – Make sure the conversation leads to overall goals for the marketing plan and the business itself. Improving rankings on a SERP should be part of an overall plan to grow, not the only strategy.
Links to Your Site Start Showing up in Questionable Places
Adding to the last point, a red flag that your SEO firm is engaged in some naughty practices would be that links to your site start showing up in questionable places. Make sure you have Google Alerts and Google Webmaster Tools set up. The Alerts will help flag any event on the web that involves a keyword (your business name), and the Webmaster tools will allow you to see which domains are linking to you. If you see a suspicious domain, don’t hesitate to speak with your SEO firm and ask what they are doing.
Bottom Line – Google is getting better and better at detecting these poor SEO practices. Unfortunately, SEO firms still practice them religiously, so they need to be monitored and called out when possible.
Contracting with an SEO firm is never an easy decision, but hopefully these five red flags will help you eliminate some of the less effective companies. Keep in mind that communication is key. There should always be an open dialog between client and agency in the SEO relationship.