SEO

January 1, 2019

5 Red Flags of an SEO Agency and How to Avoid Them

Since SEO is ever-changing and not fully understood by most non-SEO experts, less ethical companies will take advantage of this to get by with the minimal amount of work while still accepting your money.

If you hire someone or a company to manage your SEO, make sure you understand the scope of the project and have been given realistic expectations. Take time to become familiar with the main concepts behind ranking with Google or ask for advice from someone who’s trusted by you or the industry.

Keep Your SEO Pro Accountable by Understanding Your Ranking Info in Google Search Console

Even if you don’t have time to learn a lot about SEO, you at least need to know how to check your rankings in Google Search Console and understand the data in the Performance Report.

Warning: I’ve watched well-respected SEO agencies gloss over any indication their client’s site hasn’t improved at the end of an SEO project. This is not only a disservice to their client, but highly unethical.

If you can understand how to check your rankings the right way, you can keep control of your investment with any SEO investment.

How to Detect an Untrustworthy SEO “Pro”

  1. They can’t give you a clear plan to improve your site. Or they don’t have much of a progress report to offer during a scheduled check-in.

Seriously, if this is happening on the regular, run.

SEO is all about measuring, analyzing data, taking action, and measuring again. If you haven’t heard anything from your SEO people in a few weeks and then they can only give you vague answers or excuses about the work that’s supposed to be in progress, ask for specifics so they can’t buy themselves time with nonsense. They should be able to give you a tentative timeframe of how long something should take, what is involved in the process, and why it needs to be done.

  1. They have a high turnover rate of employees/contractors.

I could go on for a while about this red flag. I’ve been the contractor for an agency who couldn’t pay me on time and fell far behind on payments. As a result, I had to put a hold on and eventually stop any work on clients’ projects because I wasn’t being paid. Not only did this hurt my income, but it frustrated clients and cost them time and money.

Suffice it to say, regular changes to your point-of-contact because they aren’t working with the company anymore could be a red flag. Chances are if you’re noticing frequent issues with the team members, there’s a bigger mess going on behind the scenes.

  1. When it comes to writing content, they prioritize the number of words on your page rather than the quality and user experience.

It’s true that more content gives you a better chance to rank for relevant phrases. Google wants to lead searchers to helpful content that answers their questions or matches their intent. That typically means a good resource with a thorough explanation.

But there isn’t a magic number of words that will get you to rank. You just need to provide quality content that serves your visitors’ needs and reflects your branding.

Beware of low-quality writing solutions!

Don’t let an SEO agency outsource writing to a cheap writing agency content mill OR write content for you if they don’t have experienced writers on their team. Ask to see writing examples on a live site if they offer to write your content.

This is YOUR brand. Your web content and blog posts should reflect your brand’s personality and sound like you!

  1. They encourage you to write in a way that sounds awkward for the sake of keywords.

This is a common issue. SEO agencies will do extensive keyword research and provide you with a list of high volume, low competition keywords. If they only want to use that list to include throughout your website without planning topics based on that research, their methods are outdated and might just muddy your content and make your visitors’ eyes glaze over.

For example…

  • Repeating “Myrtle Beach wedding photographer” multiple times on your home page can hurt your rankings if those phrases aren’t adding value for the visitor.
  • Choosing words that sound awkward just to match keyword phrases can make your site sound contrived and robotic. Google wants your visitors to easily find the information they’re looking for and easily navigate your site with clear headings and text.
  1. When planning changes to a page design or content, they don’t review your Google Analytics first.

If they claim to be doing on-page optimization but can’t tell you…

  • what page your visitors are staying on the longest
  • what links they’re clicking on
  • which pages have the highest drop off rate

…then any changes for the sake of SEO aren’t based on your specific site. They might be doing what they’ve seen work for other sites or what is recommended in general. That doesn’t mean the same will work for your site.

Bottom Line: Trust Your Instincts

Transparency is key when it comes to projects that the client doesn’t fully understand. This holds everyone accountable and keeps you involved and invested in the work.

Many agencies and experts are trustworthy and worth the investment. Don’t let a few bad eggs tarnish your opinion of any SEO pro. Before hiring someone, check their online reviews, ask for recommendations from colleagues, – and ask them about what to expect – and hold them to it!

Projects can unexpectedly require more time and effort, but they should be updating you with this info as it happens and not only when you ask about what’s going on.

Need Help With SEO?

Good luck!

If you need help with your SEO, check out our SEO packages that focus on content, technical issues, or both. We always start with a full audit before accepting the first payment for an SEO or content project. This gives us a chance to give you a realistic timeframe and identify any major issues that could hold up the project later. We only moved forward once expectations are set and a solid plan has formed.

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