Hiring an SEO (search engine optimization) agency isn’t a business decision you make every day. It’s also much more than just signing some papers and shaking some hands. 

Hiring an SEO company is the start of a professional relationship. However, it’s not just any relationship – this one is ongoing and long-term. As you know, no relationship can last without transparency and honesty. This is true for the one you have with your SEO company, too. 

Unfortunately, some companies aren’t as honest as others. This could be because they use black hat SEO tactics or because they aren’t spending as much time on your account as you originally contracted them for. Unfortunately, SEO companies are getting away with more today than ever before – this is especially the case if you aren’t sure what you should be looking for. 

Because this is the case, it’s important to know the red flags to watch for when working with any SEO company. This will help you know when they are or aren’t being upfront and honest with you. 

The Promise of Huge Results with a Small Cost 

SEO takes time, effort, and money to achieve big results. If SEO efforts aren’t done properly, there’s no point paying for them. A quality digital marketing agency is worth the investment. 

Be sure to take time to compare the cost of several different agencies. If some charge a lot less than others, they should probably be avoided. Even though SEO is not cheap, it is still a crucial part of your marketing strategy. The ROI (return on investment) you see should make up for the price of the services. If you attempt to save some money by choosing a cheaper option, you will never get the desired results. You will also lose money, which isn’t good for any company or business. 

You Have No Idea What the SEO Company Is Doing 

Does the SEO company tell you what they are doing? Are you getting regular updates about how your money and investment are being used? 

While you may have a vague idea of what the company is doing or what they are supposed to do, how can you be sure if they don’t provide proof? When you hire an SEO company, you need to know what they are doing from one month to the next. This is especially important since you should be the one approving the work. 

SEO firms need to get the go-ahead from you before publishing content, making changes to your website, securing a new link, or posting on social media. Also, the firm should deliver you various SEO reports regularly. This is something that should be agreed on in the original contract. 

Focusing on Link Building as the Main SEO Strategy 

Backlinks are a crucial part of SEO; however, they should not be the only service the company focuses on. There isn’t anything wrong with link building if it is done properly. That’s why it should just be one element of a bigger SEO strategy. 

The right linking strategy will work with your content strategy and PR efforts. It helps to have a huge set of current backlinks and relationships to get you started. Earned media actually means earned links. Creating quality content will encourage others to link to it. Another way to earn links is by guest posting on websites relevant to your industry. This strategy helps build connections and relationships, along with links. 

While all this is good, if link building is the main focus of the entire SEO strategy, this should be a red flag. Several black hat SEO techniques result in paying for backlinks or offering a quid-pro-quo link to a link farm that does not have any value beyond manipulating the rankings. Today, many search engines (including Google) will penalize sites that do this. If you have a lot of keyword rankings and visitors, you may experience larger penalties due to your position in search engines. 

You Speak to Someone Different Every Time You Call

Does it seem like you speak to someone new each time you call or reach out to the SEO agency you hire? If so, your account may not be receiving the consistent work you were promised. How can you know if what you talked about with one person was done if you are always talking to someone different? The answer is simple – you can’t. 

If you haven’t seen tangible proof of the work you have done and you speak to a different person every week, there’s a cause for concern. 

It’s also a good idea to watch for project managers or account managers being replaced on your account. This may be an indication of internal problems with the agency. If the agency isn’t stable, work to motivate the team and align them with the bigger vision, it may cause workers to seek new opportunities. In the end, this can harm your campaign. It will also lead to issues with communication and workflow, which is something that you don’t want to be paying for. 

The Company Uses the Word “Guarantee” a Lot

There are few things in the world of SEO that can be guaranteed. If you hire an SEO agency that makes all types of lofty promises, you should proceed with caution. Some of the most common guarantees to watch for that may be a red flag include: 

  • We guarantee you will rank on page one by the end of the first six weeks. 
  • We guarantee your site will rank number one for the most popular keyword in your industry. 
  • We are friends with Google and can ensure you rank on page one for any keyword you choose.

Do these guarantees sound familiar? If so, you should use caution. These are likely promises the SEO agency will never fulfill. 

The Agency Is Unable or Unwilling to Explain the Processes and Methods They Use 

Quality SEO agencies love to discuss SEO. From metadata and latent semantic search to backlinking and virtually any other related topic, the company should be more than willing to discuss these things with you. 

It should be a red flag if you come across a company that says these topics are too complex. While SEO is complex and there are many independent variables, a quality agency will help you understand what they are doing for your site and why they are taking certain steps. 

If the company gives you a standard boilerplate that doesn’t align with your unique needs or goals, it may be best to take your services to someone else. 

They Never Provide Hard Data 

The SEO company may provide you vague data from time to time, such as “your site has received a 200% increase in organic traffic since you started your contract.” While that sounds great, they haven’t shown you the numbers or any other proof. 

Without hard data, you have no way to know if they are exaggerating the results or not. Use caution if the company uses custom reporting platforms that don’t export data from Google Analytics. If you are only looking at various Excel spreadsheets and taking the data at face value, then the results may have been manipulated. 

Avoid Hiring Someone That Does Web Development Only 

It’s best to hire an expert who has technical SEO knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, this mistake is made too often. Your business may hire a web developer who can create a great-looking website, but they don’t know or use SEO techniques. Your site won’t gain traffic because no one has put effort into search engine optimization if this happens. 

Even if developers do have SEO knowledge, they aren’t the same as technical SEO professionals. This is someone who knows all the details of what your website needs to achieve success. This person will know what is needed from a marketing standpoint and from the back end of things. 

Some technical aspects go into building a website that will impact SEO. You must have a professional who understands this to ensure the website is set up properly. In the end, this is going to help you get the most out of the design and avoid penalties for various technical issues. 

Avoid Hiring an SEO Agency That Doesn’t Have the Needed Resources for Your Site

Developing an effective digital marketing strategy is something that takes an entire team. If the agency doesn’t have the right experts on staff, it will be necessary for you to hire them separately. Some of the professionals that any quality SEO agency should have include:

  • Marketing director
  • Copywriter
  • Digital marketing manager
  • Link building specialist
  • Technical SEO expert
  • Public relations specialist
  • Web developer
  • Data analyst
  • Social media manager
  • Video editor
  • Graphic designer
  • Advertising strategist 

Finding the Right SEO Agency for Your Business’s Needs 

As you can see, there are more than a few red flags to watch for when hiring an SEO agency. The tips and information here will help you find the right agency for the job and ensure that you get the desired results.