It’s quite often the more simple and basic SEO practices that can have the biggest positive effects. Once you have optimised your site to a point, it then becomes all about smaller, technical, more specific changes.
If you get to this point, or really do not have the time or resources to handle it yourself (and you have the budget!) hiring an SEO agency may be your next step.
Hiring an agency to handle your search engine optimisation can be expensive, and the last thing you want is to find out that they used unscrupulous techniques that could harm your business or put your reputation at risk.
The bottom line is that SEO agencies which look too good to be true probably are. Below are some of the red flags you should watch for when considering an SEO agency.
If an SEO agency is giving you a personal guarantee that your page will be in the #1 spot on Google, you should be looking elsewhere.
Depending on how saturated your target market is, even landing on the first page can be a Herculean effort, and one that no company can guarantee without the use of spam or disreputable techniques like link buying.
If an SEO agency is throwing out facts and figures without even looking at your website, chances are that it’s either a scam, or just not a service worthy of investing in.
If the agency you are considering can’t secure a decent ranking for themselves, how can they expect to do it for you?
Ideally any company whose services you are considering should have at least some degree of search engine visibility.
A high ranking demonstrates that the company understands emerging trends and techniques for getting your content seen, so it’s worth spending a bit of extra money for the peace of mind.
If you ask how the company plans to increase your ranking, don’t settle for vague, buzzword-filled answers.
Any legitimate SEO agency should be more than willing to discuss their tactics in detail with a client, including specific long and short-term strategies for increasing visibility, ways to optimise your webpage for better rankings, and plans to achieve your specific SEO goals.
A company that can’t answer those questions doesn’t know enough about the business to be of any help to you.
Make sure you fully understand the work they are carrying out for you, the potential benefits, and are given regular reports detailing progress.
Technical SEO can be confusing if you have zero prior knowledge; so don’t let agencies bamboozle you with jargon – a good SEO agency will explain everything.
Old or Unsavoury Strategies
Always be on the lookout for any SEO agency that admits to using outdated or black hat techniques to boost search rankings.
If they start talking about keyword stuffing, link farming, guest blogging, or link exchanging, take your business elsewhere.
Using old or frowned-upon strategies to improve SEO will end up being ineffective at best, and potentially damaging to your reputation and your business at worst.
Take a look at Google’s webmaster quality guidelines to get an idea of what an SEO agency shouldn’t be doing, as it could land your site in hot water.
Lack of Clients
Take the time to do a bit of homework on an SEO agency before handing over your hard-earned money. “Homework” includes referrals from previous clients – never trust an SEO agency that has no prior clients, or that claims that the client list is confidential.
If a company is hiding their clients, chances are that it’s because they are unhappy with their results.
Sending a quick email to a few recent clients is a great way to get an idea of what you can expect from that company.
One of the quickest ways to figure out if an SEO agency is legitimate is to find a block of text from their site, such as an “About Us” page or a mission statement, and run it through a quick Google search.
This plagiarism checker will do exactly the same thing for you automatically.
In some cases, you may find that a company is copying the content of their own website from other sources and passing it off as their own, which should be an enormous red flag.
If a company is willing to copy content when their own reputation is on the line, you shouldn’t trust them with your business.
Take a look at Moz’s explanation as to why duplicate content can be so bad.
SEO companies that promise incredible results may seem tempting, but it’s important to keep in mind that questionable business practices can have serious detrimental effects on your traffic, business, and online reputation.
Before spending your hard-earned money to hire an SEO agency, always keep the warning signs listed above in mind.
We’d love to hear about your experiences of using SEO agencies. Did you see fantastic positive results and traffic improvements? Or do you have a more precautionary tale to tell?