Let’s be honest – SEOs have a bad reputation. And forgive me if the irony is that, as I am an SEO, you’re trying to trust me when I tell you this is true.
Here’s why the SEO industry has such a terrible reputation that makes a lot of businesses want to clutch their wallets and run the other direction.
When you pay for something, you want to see results. And SEO can be a huge monetary investment. Some of the biggest and high renowned SEO agencies don’t promise you results off the bat – but why is that? If an SEO agency knows how to do their job, can’t they give you an accurate timeline of when you’ll see your rankings for your desired keywords?
Therefore, a lot of lesser known SEOs or SEO agencies will promise you results within the first two months. You sign the contract and boom, here’s when you can expect to see your site ranking in the top 10 for this list of keywords. As businesses we care a lot about being able to determine our ROI, and so we often prefer agencies that can provide a deadline.
And then there’s another subset of SEO agencies that sound way too good to be true.
Some SEOs promise to get you results – and won’t make you pay until you see them!!! Isn’t that amazing? That sounds like a great idea!
Wrong. If you’re far along enough in your business to be making a good profit and have a handle on the marketing realm, you know that anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true.
Handing over the reigns of your website’s rankings and changes is like willingly walking over to the edge of a cliff, and jumping over the edge without even being pushed. And rarely is there any water to buffer your fall at the end.
If you’ve come across any of the type of agencies or companies that I’ve described above, and were about to sign your name on the line, here’s why you need to stop and think before you do something that could potentially be ruinous to a business you care deeply about. While many have fallen into the black hat SEO trap, you don’t have to face the same ill-fate.
Let’s go over the reasons why all of the seemingly attractive and appealing SEO agencies described above, are deceptively hiding black had tactics that could lead your website to its impending doom – and there’s rarely anything you can do about it once you’ve let a deceptive SEO dig your website into a grave.
After you’ve been warned, we’ll provide some ways to help you evaluate how an SEO agency is a reliable place to call your SEEO home!
Signs You Should Stay Away From an SEO Agency
#1: Guaranteed SEO Results Within a Time Frame
Time is money – as business owners or managers, we are well aware. So if we put our money into marketing, we want to see a return on our investment as soon as possible, so we can reason out why we spent the money, or even put more money into a technique that is working.
As someone who works in an SEO Agency where we strive for not only educating our clients, but also transparency, I’ve come across my fair share of clients who are so relieved to be working with us. And after I’ve examined the work or damage that was done by their previous SEO Agency, I know exactly why.
I have never had to tell a client what will happen to their results if they try to go to another agency. And this is something you will hear A LOT from agencies that don’t do a good job. Built upon their fear that they are not only losing a source of their revenue, but that you will also indeed see the results you’ve always wanted if you move on to a reliable SEO Agency, these companies will often tell you what will happen if you leave their company.
You will lose your rankings. You will see a drop in traffic. Don’t do it, it’s a mistake.
So here’s the thing – they’re right. You will lose those rankings that you craved so badly for and paid for. But it isn’t because you left them for another agency. It’s BECAUSE you left them.
There are a number of strategies that are involved in getting a website ranked, and their are certain spammy tactics that can be used to get you the rankings you want to see much quicker than doing it the, albeit slower, more efficient and long term results.
As soon as you walk out that door, they will remove whatever strategy they had implemented to get you short term results, and then point out the loss in rankings a month or two after you’ve left in hopes that you’ll come running back.
If a company decided to leave a good SEO Agency that did the real work – if you left the company, you would like to have those rankings for quite a while. You may not see any growth once you’ve left, but you wouldn’t see a steep drop in traffic either.
Black hat agencies purposely employ tactics that will allow them to pull away your results as soon as you leave. You will likely find that you are losing rankings for keywords that honestly don’t really matter to your website – these are low hanging fruit that any reliable agency can get pretty easily. Companies like these don’t know how to compete for the high value keywords you want to rank for, and make up for it by ranking for hundreds of keywords that don’t provide value, so don’t be too concerned when you see a drop in rankings after you leave.
#2: They Promise Free Work Until You See Results
So what about the SEOs that promise free work? Even if they’re doing something that’s bad or just temporary, at least I won’t have to pay for it?
As soon as you see results, which we described in the previous section you will indeed see because they ensure it happens, you will have to pay. And if you’re not versed on how SEO works or what your data actually means, there’s no way you would be able to know if what they were doing was black hat.
This is why they can promise free work. It is the same method as those who promise results in a certain amount of time – this version just sounds even better because you’re not paying anything until you see what you want to see.
Google penalizes websites that embark on black hat tactics – there’s even a specific section in your Google Search Console that you can check to see if they have physically given you a penalty. You can find this under “Manual Actions.”
Once you’ve gotten a manual action, it can take a very long time to reverse it, and for many it’s nearly impossible. Some companies have spent over two years working to reverse the manual action before it was finally removed.
If you have a manual action, you will not rank for anything. And if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on SEO, it’s not a good look.
Don’t fall for the trap of these agencies, or try to make a quick turnaround by shelling out the lowest you can on SEO, because unlike PPC or social media, the consequences are not temporary – they can be long term.
How to Choose an SEO Company
Both of the SEOs or SEO agencies described above will likely be some of the worst investments of your marketing budget you could ever make. The following are tips that can help you find an SEO Agency that is actually reliable.
1. They Don’t Promise Anything Described Above
All of the previously mentioned items and results are generally the result of black hat tactics – some that can get you penalized in the long run if you decide to stay with the agency, and some that will be an immediate loss in investment, as they will take away all of the factors that were causing your increase in rankings.
SEO is supposed to be a long term investment, where the return on your money is far beyond what you spent in the first place (or over the months if you’re on a retainer).
2. Use the Clutch Directory
Clutch is a well-known directory of marketing agencies – whether it be PPC, CRO, web design, and in this case SEO.
It is an extremely reliable resource, as you can see an estimate or range of how much each SEO agency generally charges their clients. In addition, each company listed on Clutch has ratings that are trustworthy, and here’s why.
When you look at the reviews on Clutch, these are not left by a random person wanting to build up their business profile, or even a random person trying to bring a company down. When users leave reviews on Clutch, they actually have to go through a phone interview process that takes at least 10 minutes. Employees from Clutch will ask them questions about their experience, and this information is what is populated into the reviews.
Clutch also verifies that the person leaving a review was actually a real customer or client of the company, making it one of the most legitimate review sections on the entire internet.
If you want to compare some of the best SEO agencies in a certain industry nationally, or even locally in your area, Clutch serves as a reliable resource for your SEO journey.
4. The SEO Agency Has a Personal Customer Advocate
No one wants to be just another number. SEO is a very competitive space, and if the SEO Analyst or agency working on your project doesn’t take the time to know your goals, or know your website, or know your industry, works on your campaign – you’re not going to get the best results. In a low competitive industry, you might get lucky, but in a highly competitive industry like attorneys or eCommerce, don’t count your luck.
A customer advocate, or a project manager, that is extremely accessible, and keeps you constantly up to date on your project in the world of SEO is highly important. SEO is constantly changing, and you know that if you stay up to date with Google’s constant algorithm updates.
Google’s goal is to ensure that it is providing its users with the best available information that is not only relevant, but also trustworthy. Therefore, the algorithm is constantly being updated to root out any websites that are using spammy or black hat tactics just to get ranked at the very top. It also is updating its algorithm to better understand website’s in a way that humans understand it, so simply chugging in your target keywords a billion times isn’t going to cut it anymore.
An SEO Agency with a customer advocate will keep you up to date on your specific campaign. When your SEO Analyst or Strategist comes across a valuable opportunity, you will know as soon as possible, so they can get to work capitalizing on this venture. When something goes wrong with your rankings or there’s been a serious issue with your website, your project manager will reach out as soon as possible to let you know of the issue so that you are aware of any hiccups and it can get fixed.
With SEO, time is of the essence, and you need to be able to see transparently what is happening with your campaign. Otherwise, you could end up with a lot of issues that you, and they, won’t know how to fix.