Your business needs to have a strong online presence these days. It’s no longer an option — it’s a necessity, which in turn makes SEO a necessity. So, when do you turn to a search engine optimization company? And how do you know if you’ve chosen the right one?
You have undoubtedly received unsolicited emails (and more than likely on a weekly basis) from companies and individuals all promising to take your website to the top of the search engine results. The kicker?
Most of these offers from self-proclaimed experts aren’t qualified to deliver on their promises of improved organic search visibility.
Sadly, many business owners aren’t SEO savvy — and rightfully so. Most don’t have the time and resources required to become SEO experts. They’re too busy running the day-to-day operations of their business.
Have a sneaking suspicious that your SEO company isn’t legit? I brainstormed with 10 SEO experts to compile a list of major red flags to look for, indicating you might have hired the wrong SEO company.
10 signs you’ve hired the wrong search engine optimization company
You’re promised specific keyword rankings.
You aren’t provided monthly reporting.
There isn’t transparency in regards to strategy.
You’re only receiving blog posts.
You don’t get full access to Google Analytics.
They claim to have “inside connections.”
Automated software and outdated tactics are used.
They offer “cheap” SEO services.
Keyword rankings are the focus instead of conversions and revenue.
Promise of results in a ridiculously short amount of time.
1. You’re promised specific keyword rankings.
“Knowledgeable SEOs can evaluate the situation and give a ballpark estimate as to where they think a particular page can be moved up in the search results, but to say something along the lines of, ‘We will get you to the number one position in two weeks’ is just careless and unprofessional.” ~ Adam Steele, Founder of Loganix.
If you’re being promised specific keyword rankings, then you need to part ways with your current SEO provider and find one that will shoot straight with you. It’s impossible to predict rankings for two main reasons.
First, without knowing what the competition is doing, no SEO company can ever know, 100 percent, what they are going up against. There are many tools that can help to paint a picture of what the competition is up to, but there is always going to be a lot of unknown variables.
Second, no SEO agency knows what Google and the other search engines will do in terms of algorithm updates.
2. You aren’t provided monthly reporting.
SEO isn’t some top-secret formula that the best agencies keep under wraps. The truth is, anyone can learn what the best SEO practices entail, but most business owners simply don’t have the time to dedicate to learning about it. And frankly, most simply have no interest. That’s why they hire a search engine optimization company to handle the job.
Your SEO company should be providing you with regular reporting, and at the very least, this should be done on a monthly basis. Eric Ritter, CEO of Digital Neighbor, advises business owners use reporting to gauge the performance:
“Things like detailed traffic stats and conversion analytics allow you to see whether or not the SEO efforts are paying off. When you look at this data over a period of time, there should be a steady upward climb.”
The entire point of SEO is to increase the online visibility of your business, resulting in more revenue. Your SEO company should be providing you with reports that show increased sales, justifying their fee.
3. There isn’t transparency in regards to strategy.
“If a company isn’t completely transparent, it’s an immediate red flag.” ~ Aaron Haynes, Founder of Fenix Pro
A website is one of the most valuable assets a business can have, so it’s important you’re 100-percent certain your SEO company isn’t using any strategies that could potentially put it in danger.
“If your SEO provider says they can’t disclose what they are doing, it’s a clear indication that they could potentially be harming your website. Even if you don’t have the technical knowledge to understand everything that’s involved with search engine optimization, ask for a complete breakdown of the strategy being used. If a company isn’t completely transparent, it’s an immediate red flag,” says Aaron Haynes, Founder of Fenix Pro.
Editor’s note: Need a strong business website? Set up your online presence for SEO success with GoDaddy’s GoCentral.
4. You’re only receiving blog posts.
“The content on your blog needs to align with your keyword goals and there needs to be a promotions strategy behind each piece of content that you publish.” ~ Jacky Chou, Founder of Indexsy
There has been a major focus on content over the last several years, but content alone isn’t going to magically push your website to the top of the search results. It’s a component of SEO — not an end-all solution.
“Many SEO firms will put such an emphasis on content alone, leading the business owner to think that publishing weekly blog posts is all SEO entails. This couldn’t be more far from the truth. The content on your blog needs to align with your keyword goals and there needs to be a promotions strategy behind each piece of content that you publish,” explains Jacky Chou, Founder of Indexsy.
Every blog post should be focused around a specific keyword you want to target in the search results, and there need to be outreach campaigns performed to get your content out there, with the goal of acquiring links and social media traction.
5. You don’t get full access to Google Analytics.
The data that Google Analytics provides allows you to see how your website traffic has increased, or decreased, over a specific period of time. You can also see where the majority of your traffic comes from, whether that’s specific social media platforms or referral sources.
“Your SEO provider should never fully control your Google Analytics and surely shouldn’t prevent you from accessing it at any time. A reputable SEO firm will simply link to your Google Analytics account, merely gaining access, while leaving you with complete control.” ~ Onyabo Monagoe, CTO and Search Director of Amazing Condos For Sale
The more revenue-based data you can gather, the better you can evaluate the effectiveness of your SEO.
6. They claim to have “inside connections.”
“We are constantly being contacted by SEO companies on a daily basis, and we have heard some outrageous claims.” ~ Christopher Oliver, Head of Online Marketing at Dallas Flooring Warehouse
Is your search engine optimization company telling you they have inside connections that allow them to achieve higher rankings for their clients? Or that they know about updates and algorithm changes before they happen?
If so, run, and run fast. No SEO company on this planet has inside connections.
Let’s think logically for a minute. If there was indeed a company with these types of connections, wouldn’t they be ranking their own websites in the most profitable niches while basking in the sun on their private island? If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Christopher Oliver, Head of Online Marketing at Dallas Flooring Warehouse, has heard it all. He says, “We are constantly being contacted by SEO companies on a daily basis, and we have heard some outrageous claims. From old high school friends that now work at Google to access to internal algorithm guidelines. I’m able to laugh it off because of my experience in the industry, but to a business owner that doesn’t know what SEO is, I can see how some are easily duped into believing these types of claims.”
7. Automated software and outdated tactics are used.
“These days, software should only be used to help organize and execute the different components of an SEO strategy.” ~ Colin McGuire, CEO of Boomn
What worked back in 2005 in terms of propelling a website to the top of the search results will now get you de-indexed and penalized by Google in a matter of days. It was very easy to spam the internet with low-quality links featuring exact-match anchor text and achieve number one rankings using automated software.
Sadly, some SEO companies still use these same tactics more than a decade later.
“These days, software should only be used to help organize and execute the different components of an SEO strategy,” advises Colin McGuire, CEO of Boomn.
“For example, using a tool like Hootsuite to schedule your social media content in advance, or BuzzStream for your blogger outreach. However, it should never be used to help with tasks such as link building or content creation.”
The average business owner isn’t going to know if potentially dangerous automation tactics are being used, so don’t be afraid to simply ask. If your provider can’t ensure they don’t use these potentially dangerous and outdated practices, it’s time to look for another option.
8. They offer ‘cheap’ SEO services.
When you truly understand what goes into an effective SEO strategy, you begin to understand why all the $199, $499 and $799 monthly search engine optimization services can’t possibly deliver results.
“When you consider the cost of content creation, man hours for outreach and link building activities, as well as company overhead, you begin to understand that a quality SEO service isn’t cheap. Then you have to work in a profit margin, as no SEO company is working for free.” ~ John Stover, Founder and CEO of Best SEO Firm
Now, if you have a low-cost SEO service that doesn’t automatically mean your website is in danger. What a low-cost company is offering might be safe in terms of potential search engine penalties, but it might not be effective enough to make any decent gains in the search results. In that case, you would be better off allocating that money to other advertising and marketing options, such as pay-per-click or social media promotion.
9. Keyword rankings are the focus instead of conversions and revenue.
“While a ‘No. 1’ keyword ranking sounds good, in reality they don’t all necessarily translate into sales.” ~ Corey Northcutt, CEO of Northcutt
Keyword rankings were a main focal point back in 2008, but today they are essentially useless without data to back them up. Let me ask you a question: Would you rather rank No. 1 in Google for two keywords that were responsible for generating $3,000 monthly revenue, or would you rather rank in the number six and five positions for two keywords that generated $20,000 in revenue every month? No need to answer that — I already know your response.
“Some keywords, such as a brand name for a local business, are very easy to rank in the No. 1 position with solid on-page optimization alone. While a ‘No. 1’ keyword ranking sounds good, in reality they don’t all necessarily translate into sales,” says Corey Northcutt, CEO of Northcutt. “A true SEO partner will focus on showing you conversions and revenue increases, as those are the numbers that truly matter.”
10. Promise of results in a ridiculously short amount of time.
SEO isn’t a short-term marketing strategy. It can take several months to start experiencing noticeable results. Some brands don’t break into the top of the search results for an extended period of time because the competition is stacked in their particular niche.
The key is to be consistent. Many business owners get frustrated and want instant results, which leads them to a search engine optimization company that lures them in with ridiculous claims. Tommy McDonald, Founder of SerpLogic, explains:
“I can’t begin to tell you how many times my agency speaks to business owners that went with an SEO firm that promised them results in 30, 15 and even seven days, only to come to us when that promise wasn’t fulfilled.”
Think of SEO as a long-term strategy, and be prepared and willing to invest time and money into it. It’s not something you can start and stop along the way — momentum is key, and businesses that are committed to SEO with a reputable and knowledgeable firm will experience the best results.
SEO is such an important component of your online marketing strategy, making partnering with an experienced search engine optimization company crucial to your long-term success. Use the information above to determine whether or not you need to evaluate your current SEO provider. It’s never too late to switch, and in some situations, the sooner you make that switch, the better.