There are a lot of deceitful SEO agencies out there that try manipulate companies into thinking their strategies are completely “white hat”, meaning they’re up to par with Google’s quality guidelines. However, that’s not always the case. A lot of SEO agencies have given the SEO industry a bad reputation because of how they make unrealistic promises and perform spammy SEO tactics just to win your money. How can you tell if an SEO agency is legit?
Below are some red flags to help you determine if an agency is legit or not:
#1 Rankings Guaranteed
For one, no company can ever guarantee any sort of rankings. If a company is saying that they can guarantee you to the top of Google, don’t hire them. I mean what company out there can control Google, besides Google themselves? My point exactly.
Not Looking at Your Website and Marketing as a Whole
Truth is, SEO is much more than backlinks and on-page optimization. It’s content marketing, branding, social media, and design all working cohesively to create a solid reputation and brand presence on the web. If an SEO agency says that you only need backlinks and on-page SEO, you should be concerned.
Any legitimate agency is going to request an initial audit up front if you have an established website. That way they can assess your current website and marketing strategies including existing backlinks, your website structure, content, reputation, etc. Any challenges should be clearly laid out before any SEO or marketing even begins. For example, let’s say you have a foundation for organic presence, but you’re losing users once they hit the website. The SEO agency should point this out in the audit and then in the strategy suggest you restructure and properly optimize the pages of the site that are losing those potential leads.
Focuses Quantity Over Quality Backlinks
Red flag for sure. It may have worked back in 2011, but since Penguin released, it’s extremely hard to rank organically when you have even a small amount of backlinks that aren’t even relevant to your brand. If part of the strategy is saying that you will receive 1,000+ backlinks in a short time frame, chances are they aren’t going to be quality links.
There’s really no way to guarantee a specific amount of links as every link is different. Ideally you’d have a combination of brand mentions, social signals, press releases, directory listings, etc. that all serve an individual purposes. Any company that’s offering you a specific number of a specific type of links, for example200 directory links in one month, is most likely still practicing outdated techniques that are now considered spammy.
What you want to look out for is a company that’s promising quality, not specific link types and quantities. Realistically a company can’t guarantee any links because they want your backlink profile to be as natural as possible. So, when the agency is flexible with the budget and says they can’t always guarantee a certain amount of links that month, but they will use the budget to create a blog post or something relative to your services, that is actually more ideal.
Fails to Mention Anything Regarding Social Media
If building your brand is primarily done online, why is social media not part of the SEO strategy? Like I said before, SEO is much more than building links and having keywords in your content, it’s building your brand online. Social media plays a major factor in building brand awareness. Social signals are also a key ranking factor in most algorithms. So, if this part is completely ignored by the agency, chances are they are overlooking an important part of any effective SEO strategy.
Fails to Mention Anything Regarding Technical SEO
Professional SEO agencies are advanced in technical SEO and understand what search engines need to see in order to easily crawl and index pages. The list can go on but it would include some of the following elements to really ensure your website is technically correct for SEO:
- Website navigation is siloed properly
- 404 errors are reduced by 301 redirecting broken links
- Duplicate content is found and eliminated
- Any HTML code warnings that are causing pages not to be indexed are found and fixed
- Site loading speed is reviewed and issues are addressed to speed it up if needed
Bottom line, your website needs to be set up properly in order to achieve your organic ranking goals. These are just a touch on the technical issues that can go wrong with a website and prevent the crawlers to index your pages properly. Another reason why you can see SEO is more than just content and links!
You want to make sure you’re hiring the best of the best right? If any of the red flags mentioned above come up when you’re looking over a proposal or speaking with a consultant, you might want to do more research on them in order to fully trust they know what they are doing and not just taking your money. Some questions to consider may be:
- Does their website appear to be SEO friendly and mobile ready?
- Do they have a strong brand and social media presence for their company?
- Are they blogging and is their content high in quality?
- Are they able to talk technically on the phone and point out issues that need to be addressed on the fly?
- Can they address the other items outlined above?
Those are some things I would be asking myself if I was shopping around for the perfect SEO agency. However, why even look any further? You are already in the right place – our team has your back! We offer both consulting and professional SEO services with over 20 years of combined experience. Check out our services here!