5 Signs You Need to Fire Your SEO Agency
Since SEO is ever-changing and not fully understood by most non-SEO nerds, some companies will intentionally or unintentially take advantage of this by doing the minimal amount of work while still accepting your money.
If you hire an expert 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.
Get to Know Your Rankings 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.
True Story: 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.
Common Red Flags of an Untrustworthy SEO “Pro”
1. No clear plan to improve your site
Or their progress report looks like the last one they gave you.
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 only give you vague responses 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.
Questions for a Progress Update:
- What has been done since our last check-in?
- What is being worked on now?
- What’s the next step?
- When can I expect this to be done?
- Have you found any changes to my rankings? Can you show me the info you used to determine improvements?
2. High turnover of employees/contractors
Possible signs of disorganization, cheap labor, inability to pay employees/contractors.
I could go on for awhile 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.
3. Planning Content for SEO, Not the Visitor
Word Count is NOT the Priority
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.
There’s no magic number of words that will improve your rankings. You just need to offer readers quality content that serves their needs and reflects your brand’s unique voice.
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!
4. Awkward Wording for the sake of Keywords
Google is smarter than that anyway.
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.
- 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.
5. Not Checking Analytics Before Suggesting Changes
Every SEO project is different.
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 making recommendations based on other sites or on general best practices. That doesn’t mean the same will work for your unique situation.
Transparency is key. Ask for regular updates and stay involved throughout the project.
Bottom Line: Trust Your Instincts
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 where they’ve been.