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. If you’re currently working with an agency that works on a customized SEO pricing model, then you need to make some changes. 

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

As soon as you see national SEO pricing is different than local SEO pricing, you need to run the other way. An agency that is 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 a transparent and affordable pricing model for our clients. 

2. No Tangible Leads Are Being Created

Receiving documentation every month regarding what a marketing agency is doing on your behalf is important. Some agencies provide 30-page reports to clients. This is designed to make a client feel like they are making strides toward reaching their 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 detail 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 are solely 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

One of the most important steps toward reaching a wider audience online is hiring professionals to create a business website. As a website is constructed, 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’s been launched, 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. 

What usually ends up happening in situations like this is that business owners are locked out of their websites after terminating their relationship with a predatory agency. This means the business owner in question will have to find another agency to build a website. 

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 not always a good idea. The average homepage isn’t 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 knowing when to embed 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

One of the first things you should receive when hiring an SEO agency is a detailed plan of attack. This plan should include things like marketing 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, you need to beware. 

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

If the marketing agency you’re working with seems more worried about getting paid than helping you reach a wider audience, you need to get rid of them immediately. By working with an agency that is both organized and goal-oriented, you can 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. 


10. A Lack of Reviews is a Red Flag

There are thousands of marketing agencies currently operating in the United States. Some business owners fail to realize just how important researching a marketing agency is before hiring. Once you hire a marketing agency, you will have to deal with whatever inconsistencies they throw at you. One of the best ways to narrow down the selection of marketing agencies at your disposal is by checking out past SEO for small business reviews. 

If a particular marketing agency only has a handful of reviews, then you should view this as a red flag. The lack of client reviews indicates that an agency is either extremely inexperienced or that they haven’t performed well for past clients. Rather than settling for an agency with a low number of positive reviews, you need to find a marketing agency that can prove its worth. 

You can find reviews for a marketing agency by checking their social media pages, their Google My Business listing, and resources like Yelp. By taking the time to get a feel for how well a marketing agency has performed in the past, you can make the right hire the first time around. 

11. Monthly Reports That Don’t Provide Much Information 

Predatory marketing agencies use their client’s lack of knowledge against them. The average business owner knows very little about the key performance indicators (KPIs) that need to be monitored during a marketing campaign. 

Some of the most important KPIs to monitor for your paid advertising include:

  • Monthly website traffic
  • New leads generated
  • Cost per lead
  • Cost per conversion

If you’re receiving monthly reports from a marketing agency that don’t contain any relevant information, then you need to view this as a red flag. A trustworthy marketing agency will provide monthly reports with relevant metrics that you can clearly understand. 

A trustworthy marketing agency will also take the time to analyze the reports they provide. This is done to ensure you understand how well the marketing campaigns that have been created by this agency are doing. An agency that has the goal of ripping you off wants you to be confused. 

The more confused you are, the easier it is for them to max out your marketing budget without producing results. This is why you need to pay close attention to your monthly marketing reports. 

12. Don’t Engage With Unsolicited Emails From Marketing Agencies

The average email inbox is flooded with unwanted messages on a daily basis. If you are like most business owners, you work hard to keep your inbox organized. Predatory marketing agencies use a number of tactics to convince business owners to give them a try. 

Perhaps the most common tactic predatory marketing agencies use is sending out unsolicited emails to business owners. These emails will usually contain a report that the marketing agency has generated after reviewing your website. 

This report will be created in a way that gives a business owner the impression that their website is in shambles. Business owners that buy this scam hook, line, and sinker soon regret it. If a marketing agency contacts you saying your website is in need of an overhaul, this is usually a lie. Ideally, you only want to communicate with marketing agencies after you make initial contact. 

13. Watch Out For Low Introductory Pricing

Before venturing out to find a marketing agency to hire, most business owners create a budget. Having a budget allows you to narrow down the marketing agencies at your disposal in short order. As you talk to marketing agencies, you will probably be confronted with price quotes that sound too good to be true. 

The reason why these offers sound too good to be true is because they are. Many predatory marketing agencies will reel in new clients with rock-bottom introductory pricing. Offers like $99/month for search engine optimization should be avoided. 

The low price of these offers will not last. Eventually, you will be paying astronomical rates without receiving any real leads from your marketing campaigns. You need to find a marketing agency that is transparent about their pricing and what is offered in their packages. Paying a bit more initially will be worth it when you can unlock your true lead-generation potential with the help of a trustworthy marketing agency. 


14. The SEO Agency Owns Everything

Inexperienced business owners know very little about how the relationship between a marketing agency and their clients works. This lack of knowledge can lead to a business owner hiring an agency that preys on their inexperience. A marketing agency that insists on owning both your website and all marketing materials created should be avoided at all costs. 

Predatory marketing agencies use these tactics to force clients to remain with them. If a marketing agency is adamant about having a contract, then you need to read the details of this contract. Generally, these contracts will have tons of loopholes that allow the agency in question to retain possession of your website and content if you stop using them. 

The last thing you want is to start over at square one after you stop using a marketing agency. This is why you should insist on working with an agency that allows you to retain control of your website and content. A good marketing agency wants to act as your partner, not your overlord. 

15. Low-Quality Content

Good content is one of the main things you need to achieve your marketing goals. Your marketing agency is responsible for developing and publishing this content. In many cases, the first opportunity you have to make a positive impression on potential customers is with online content. 

If your content is filled with spelling and grammatical errors, then you will have a hard time making a good impression. A marketing agency that seems to not care about the quality of your content should be fired immediately. The right marketing agency will realize the importance of great content and will work hard to develop new blogs and page content on your behalf. 

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.