Many business owners who try to handle all aspects of marketing their services or products online make many mistakes. Not only is creating and implementing digital marketing campaigns complex, but it is also time-consuming. This is why leaving the job to seasoned professionals is imperative. 

There are over 87,000 marketing agencies currently operating in the United States. If you are new to the world of digital marketing, it is easy to get taken advantage of by predatory agencies. Many agencies are run by great salespeople instead of experienced marketing professionals. The main goal of these types of agencies is to get clients to spend tons of money. 

Knowing more about the cons these predatory agencies run can help avoid being taken advantage of. Here are some signs you might notice if your current marketing agency is ripping you off. 

1. The Agency Only Offers Customized SEO Pricing  

Requesting quotes from multiple marketing agencies is the best way to narrow them down. Business owners new to the world of online marketing are at a higher risk of being ripped off by predatory marketing agencies. You need to make some changes if you’re currently working with an agency that works on a customized SEO pricing model. 

Customized SEO pricing pushes the narrative that things like national SEO campaigns should cost more than local SEO campaigns. In reality, these marketing campaigns require the same amount of work, which means they should cost the same amount. 

When receiving a customized SEO quote, you will notice that the price of the proposed plan is motivated by things like:

  • Complexity of campaign execution
  • Ranking difficulty of keywords
  • The online competition a business has
  • Perceived credibility of your website
  • The estimated ROI of the campaign

You need to run the other way as soon as you see national SEO pricing is different than local SEO pricing. An agency willing to charge you for this bullshit clearly can’t be trusted. You need to work with an agency that provides a what you see is what you get approach to pricing. Small Business SEO is passionate about providing clients with a transparent and affordable pricing model. 

2. No Tangible Leads Are Being Created

Receiving documentation every month regarding what a marketing agency is doing on your behalf is important. A sign that your marketing agency is ripping you off could be receiving a well-designed 30-page report with no real substances. These over-designed reports make you feel like they are making strides towards your marketing goals. In reality, these lengthy reports are designed to confuse business owners and make them more apprehensive about asking questions. 

In most cases, these reports will only highlight the number of impressions your paid ads have received over the past month. You’ll notice that the number of ad clicks that turned into actual customers will be suspiciously absent from these reports. 

If you notice that your monthly reports only focused on impressions, you can be certain that the agency in question is hiding something. The main thing you need to know about your paid marketing campaigns is the cost of acquiring customers. Any agency can throw money at Google and get impressions, but it takes an agency with the experience to actually convert clicks into actual customers. 

3. You’ve Lost Login Access To Your Website

Hiring professionals to create a business website is one of the most important steps toward reaching a wider audience online. As a website is developed, you probably won’t have much access to its back-end components. However, this should definitely change once the website is launched.

If the agency you’re currently working with has retained control of your website after it has gone live, you need to view this as a huge red flag. The number of business owners that don’t have login access to their website is absolutely staggering.

In situations like this, business owners get locked out of their websites after terminating their relationship with a predatory agency. Then the business owner will have to find another agency to build a website and start over.

4. Paid Traffic is Being Directed Solely To Your Website Homepage

Reaching a wider audience with your online message will require a mix of free and paid marketing methods. When handled correctly, paid marketing campaigns can drive many qualified leads to a website. Inexperienced agencies that charge too much for their paid marketing services tend to make crucial mistakes that affect a client’s ability to generate leads. 

Driving all of the traffic from paid ads to the homepage of a website is a horrible idea. The average homepage is not designed to accommodate all of the keywords being targeted in paid ads. Sending people interested in the content of a paid ad to a homepage devoid of in-depth information can be disastrous. 

This is why working with an agency that realizes the importance of embedding landing page links in paid ads is imperative. High-converting landing pages will feature things like:

  • Consistent branding
  • Direct and simple copy
  • Great video and visual elements
  • A call-to-action that stands out
  • Compelling headlines
  • Proper use of negative space

You can reel in potential customers and convert paid ad clicks into revenue with properly optimized landing pages. 

5. The Agency Seems to Be Flying By the Seat of Its Pants

A detailed plan of attack is one of the first things you should receive when hiring an SEO agency. This plan should include things like goals, metrics to measure SEO success, and a breakdown of the type of content the agency will produce. If the marketing agency you’ve hired has no marketing plan for your business in writing or clearly listed on their site, they may be ripping you off. 

To be successful, a marketing agency needs to know things like:

  • Your target audience
  • Your marketing budget
  • How to measure marketing success
  • Goals you want to achieve

When the marketing agency you’re working with seems more worried about getting paid than helping you reach a wider audience, get rid of them immediately.  Working with an agency that is both organized and goal-oriented, you will start to see results. 


6. The Promise of Immediate Results

Predatory marketing agencies will say just about anything to win over a potential customer. This usually involves claims of being able to generate immediate SEO results. Anyone with knowledge of search engine optimization realizes that getting a website on the first page of Google takes time.

If an agency lies to you about the ability to achieve instant SEO results, it will also lie to you about many other things. Small Business SEO shoots you straight about what we can help you accomplish and how much time it will take. At Small Business SEO, we are marketing experts, not slick salespeople.

7. The Inability to Communicate With Your Marketing Agency

Reputable marketing agencies realize just how important client communication is. If a business owner is paying you lots of money to market their products/services online, they will need regular updates. Many marketing agencies make communicating with them difficult for their clients. In most cases, these agencies don’t want to communicate with their clients because they aren’t doing what they promised. 

Is contacting your marketing agency difficult and cumbersome? If so, you need to make some changes. Rather than leaving message after message to get a callback, you want to work with an agency that values communication. With open communication, you can get answers to your questions and updates on how your marketing campaigns are doing. 

8. Lack of Transparency

Want to know if your marketing agency is ripping you off? Ask yourself, does the marketing agency you’re currently working with keep information about your campaigns a well-guarded secret? The last thing any business owner wants is to fight to get information about the marketing campaigns they’ve invested in. Agencies that aren’t transparent about what they’re doing for clients usually have something to hide. 

Receiving timely reports and a clear scope of the work is important. Without this information, you simply have to take the word of the marketing agency you’ve hired. To ensure that your money is well spent, work with a marketing agency that is passionate about transparency.

9. Failure to Complete Goals and Objectives

At the beginning of your relationship with a marketing agency, you will need to create a list of goals and objectives. These goals and objectives generally include increasing website traffic, better lead generation, and expansion into new online markets. With this list, a marketing agency will start to create customized campaigns for your business. 

If the marketing agency you’re working with always has excuses about why these goals and objectives are not accomplished, there is a definite problem. In most cases, the inability to complete marketing goals and objectives indicates that an agency doesn’t know what they’re doing. 

Are you noticing one or more of the red flags covered here? If so, it is time to let Small Business SEO take over your digital marketing campaigns.