For businesses of all types and sizes, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an essential way to grow and remain relevant. Being a multi-faceted and on-going process which is continuously changing, it is important to hire a company that is knowledgeable and keeps up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. As such, many businesses choose to hire a digital agency to help them market their brand effectively via the search engines, but, with so many SEO companies out there to choose from, where do we begin?
We have already discussed what type of things you should be looking for when choosing a good SEO company, but how do we determine whether an SEO provider is bad news? We discuss several of the key points to look out for when deciding who to steer clear of.
It is important to ensure that the SEO company you are hiring employs white-hat tactics in order to achieve results for their clients. White-hat SEO, also known as “ethical SEO”, is focused on optimising for the website user, as opposed to just for the search engines. This means content should be relevant and written for people, keywords should be used in a natural way, and links to your website should also be relevant, natural and from trusted sources.
Black-hat tactics, on the other hand, focus only on search engines, as opposed to the audience. Examples of such techniques include; heavily stuffing keywords onto pages in order to rank, participating in link schemes which are not analysed carefully by an SEO expert with proper experience, and using doorway pages. Such tactics should be avoided as they can result in a penalty for your website, which may mean a total loss of rankings altogether, for varying lengths of time.
That being said, when consulting with an SEO provider, any techniques which seem unethical or shady should immediately raise a red flag. Likewise, if a provider refuses to answer questions pertaining to their normal strategy, this too should raise concerns, since honest SEOs will want you to feel as comfortable as possible and should outline their SEO strategy with you from the beginning.
Making false promises
You should straightaway be cautious of any SEO provider who makes bold claims as to what they are able to achieve. SEO is often a long-winded and uncertain process, which is dependent on several factors, and, in reality, no provider can guarantee top search rankings overnight (or even within several months).
As such, you should absolutely avoid companies or individuals who make statements which promise first-page rankings in a very short space of time.
They have "insider information"
No-one has the knowledge to understand all of Google’s algorithms and ranking factors, which is why you should run far and wide from anybody who claims to have insider information that will ensure you a number one ranking.
Yes, an SEO company is capable of learning the ins and outs of many aspects of the Google algorithm, based on carrying out extensive work on lots of varied clients over many years, making them skilled and proficient in lots of areas, but they still have not “received” any secret information from Google themselves.
Any company which quotes a fixed price to you at rapid speed, before they have had a chance to understand your business objectives, your website needs, and other significant aspects, spells trouble from the get-go.
Here is an example of the type of wording you may see offered within an SEO package:
Bronze SEO package: 5 pages of SEO optimisation on the website, 100 inbound links to your website, 200 submitted articles offsite.
Why is this a problem? Well, the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to good-quality SEO, and the price you can expect to pay will depend on a plethora of different factors.
High-quality SEO results cannot occur unless the provider takes the time to fully get to grips with your business, who your competitors are and the keywords which need to be targeted. In essence, a good SEO campaign should be a bespoke process which is unique to each business, meaning prices will always vary accordingly and cannot come as a package deal.
It is also worth pointing out that, in Google’s eyes, one great link to your website could be worth 100 poor links. It is certainly not about the numbers, but instead having access to the best of the best, which can only be achieved through years of building strong contacts with various industry professionals, publications and influencers.
No case studies or positive past results to demonstrate
Excellent digital agencies will have built up a solid portfolio of past clients and will be happy to demonstrate real case studies or references to you in order to highlight positive ROI and the results that they have been able to achieve. If a company refuses to demonstrate any of their success stories with you, this should ring alarm bells.
Moreover, if case studies are being shown to you, are they based on staff that have left the company, or are they from long-standing account managers who still work there?
You should also ask the company which metrics, in particular, they consider important, as the poor businesses may choose to demonstrate insignificant “vanity metrics” which carry no significant weight or benefit and may be easily manipulated. Instead, consider the important metrics, which include; organic (SEO) traffic, conversion rate, number of ranking organic keywords and revenue from organic traffic.
Over-emphasis on keyword rankings
Of course, positive rankings can point to a successful SEO campaign, but it is important to bear in mind that there are many other variables to consider. Really, what matters most is your businesses’ overall bottom line, and ranking highly for lots of low volume and non-competitive keywords with low conversion rates will not do too much to help your business flourish in the grand scheme of things. Also, having a number one spot for one key phrase on your homepage, but not ranking for multiple variations, is also not going to be effective.
There is simply no point in ranking well if you are not getting sales and leads as a result. Respectable SEO companies understand that it is about much more than just keyword rankings.
Moreover, a good SEO company will focus on the big picture, and how SEO aligns and interacts with many other areas, including the website design, its usability, content marketing, PR and so on.
Questionable online reviews
You wouldn’t buy a new laptop without first reading reviews about it online, and the same should apply when it comes to hiring someone to work on your website. Google My Business, Yelp, Glassdoor and various social media platforms are all good places to go in order to find out what past clients and ex-employees really think of them.
Of course, online reviews can be easily manipulated and should, therefore, be taken with a pinch of salt. However, businesses with nonne at all, or lots of glowing reviews which might appear fake, should raise suspicions, as well as those with many bad reviews, which could be fake and posted by competitors.
Research is key
If carried out properly, SEO can deliver huge ROI and business growth opportunities. But, with a large number of companies and individuals claiming to be SEO experts, it can be tricky to identify a good provider from a bad one. However, by equipping yourself with the correct knowledge and asking all right questions, you can better avoid being poached by poor quality SEOs who may not have your best interests at heart.