5 Huge Warning Signs of a Bad SEO or Digital Marketing Agency


Out of my 15-year profession, 7 of them had been spent at a digital advertising and marketing company.

It’s the place I discovered to chop my tooth, put a deck collectively, communicate to purchasers correctly (jury continues to be out on this one), and so on.

Were we excellent?

Of course not, however we had been trustworthy and approached each engagement with coronary heart and our clients finest curiosity in thoughts.

I additionally spent the primary half of my SEO profession as a personal guide working with smaller companies and approached it in the identical means – with honesty and enthusiasm.

Even when issues weren’t going nice, I used to be straight with my purchasers and advised them the nice and the dangerous. Full transparency was key to constructing and sustaining these relationships.

Out there on the earth, nonetheless, there are some lower than trustworthy people who’re merely trying to take your cash.

Below I spotlight, based mostly on my interactions with these corporations and people during the last 15 years, some of the methods to establish and keep away from them and guarantee you’re working with stable SEO professionals.

1. They Ask to Own Your Data/Logins

One of the hallmark indicators of an company/guide making an attempt to lure you is by beginning off the engagement by asking you for full management over your logins, information, and reporting.

Many corporations fall for this beneath the guise of “I just want them to handle it, that’s what I’m paying for, for them to handle everything”, however don’t notice how actually harmful this may be if issues don’t work out between the 2 corporations.

Let’s say you get to the purpose the place you not need to work along with your company/guide, unlucky sure, nevertheless it occurs.

What many shady businesses/consultants will do on this state of affairs is to carry your information and logins hostage to maintain the contract going.

This can balloon into authorized disputes that stretch on for months, even years, and within the worst-case state of affairs, ends with you needing to create new logins and including new monitoring code to your websites.

I’ve seen this occur time and time once more, particularly with smaller companies.

The lesson right here: the start of any skilled relationship needs to be constructed on belief, nevertheless it’s a two-way avenue.

While you’re hiring these people to “handle everything” from an SEO perspective from you, examine their background and get references, if they’ll’t present any references then look elsewhere.

2. They Guarantee #1 Rankings/ Top Results

It nonetheless boggles my thoughts that there are SEO professionals on the market successful enterprise with the pitch “We guarantee #1 rankings”, however they’re on the market and individuals are hiring them.

Look at this advert that confirmed up once I Googled “SEO companies”:

1st Page Rank - SEO ad

Really? First-page rank assured? Tell me your secrets and techniques, oh magical wizards of search.

What they aren’t going to inform you is what they’re going to get ranked on Page 1.

Any SEO value their nervousness can get one thing to rank on Page 1, regardless of if it’s driving high quality site visitors, income, or results in your web site.

This is a frequent ruse utilized by lower than trustworthy businesses and consultants to get you within the door. Here is the way it works:

  • They get you on the telephone to debate your web site. This will probably be finished by luring you in with misleading adverts just like the above, a free audit that they ship you, or a long-winded electronic mail about one thing that simply occurred with Google which they all the time place as one thing you ought to be nervous about as a result of we noticed a drop in your web site utilizing their proprietary yadda yadda yadda.
  • You get freaked out and provides them a shot as a result of you’ll want to repair no matter points they’ve defined to you since you in all probability don’t totally perceive all of the ins and outs of natural search and also you simply need somebody to deal with it.
  • Work begins. Within a few weeks you see a few key phrases soar to Page 1, which fulfills their declare of guaranteeing Page 1 outcomes. You are thrilled. You can’t imagine you haven’t labored with these guys earlier than, and you’ll’t anticipate the enterprise to begin rolling in.
  • Fast ahead a few months and Page 1 rankings proceed to come back, however no new enterprise does. No new leads. Just rankings.
  • They clarify that SEO is a sluggish burn and that you’re seeing new Page 1 outcomes each week and to be affected person, however by no means actually stepping into the weeds with you to clarify every thing that’s occurring. It’s all excellent news from them, every thing goes nice, however you aren’t seeing any return.
  • Ultimately after 6+ months, you begin trying into the key phrases you’re “winning” on and notice they’ve subsequent to no month-to-month search quantity and will not be that related to what you are promoting. You notice you’ve greater than possible been duped, attain out and get canned non-answers, and start the method of canceling your engagement.

PSA: Google’s algorithm is a large, floating math equation out in area that’s managed by a machine studying AI that learns our search habits and modifies its outcomes based mostly on these learnings.

The lesson right here is that nobody can assure something relating to Google’s algorithm, not even the algorithm itself. If any of us may, we might be very wealthy have barely much less nervousness.

three. They Tell Their Story, Not Yours

Speaking of reporting on metrics, one other telltale signal of a lower than stellar company/guide is that if their reporting is all the time telling their story and never yours.

What I imply by that’s that they’re all the time highlighting what went proper, what they did superior at, and why you must pay them extra on the upcoming renewal.

They by no means discuss what went incorrect, what didn’t work, and the teachings that had been discovered to make the present marketing campaign so profitable, which generally is extra necessary than the wins themselves.

Only figuring out half of the story is detrimental to what you are promoting and your personal schooling. By not being clear your company/guide has finished you a massive disservice by not permitting you to study from their errors.

Agencies/consultants on this mindset are all the time afraid to inform you precisely what they’re doing as a result of they don’t need to give away their “secret formula” that’s making every thing work.

The fact is most of the time that system includes many exams and missteps that allowed the marketing campaign to get to its present state, which is tremendous helpful for everybody concerned to know, not simply them.

The lesson right here is to be sure you are listening to about what didn’t work, in addition to what labored. Regardless in case you are glad about it or not it’s higher to see the complete image.

four. The Partnership Is Positioned as Transactional

You all the time be conscious of how an company/guide pitches you, as it is rather telling of how the connection will function.

People who need to assist you’ll inform you they need to make it easier to, individuals who don’t will inform you how a lot their service prices and the way month-to-month conferences will probably be structured. This is the distinction between hiring a associate and a vendor.

A associate goes to dig in with you, climate the storm with you when issues aren’t going good, and have fun the wins with you collectively as a crew.

A vendor goes to ship you a invoice.

If an company/guide is available in and spends the hour or two you’ve got given them of your time and solely talks about how nice they are and doesn’t give any perception into what they’ll do for you, the connection in all probability gained’t be that fruitful.

While there may be nothing incorrect with a brag slide or two, you must all the time be on the lookout for people who did analysis in your model and supply actionable issues they imagine you possibly can accomplish collectively supported by information. Those are those who care about what you are promoting and whereas they may nonetheless ship you a invoice each month, you gained’t thoughts paying it a lot.

The lesson right here is to all the time search a associate, not simply one other vendor.

5. Their Case Studies Are Outdated

Speaking of brag slides, you must all the time ask what yr the tasks/outcomes are from. One of the best injustices of natural search is how lengthy folks use case research for.

SEO modifications each single day and whereas it’s superior you actually knocked it out of the park for Pets.com again in 2000, that story doesn’t actually assist me gauge your expertise in 2019.

The lesson right here is to all the time dig a little deeper on these wins and after they occurred. With SEO altering as a lot because it does, even a venture from a couple of years in the past may don’t have any relevance in the present day.

Good luck on the market!

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Image Credits

Screenshot taken by creator, May 2019



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