There are hundreds of SEO companies, agencies, consultants, experts and gurus out there. Some of them are fantastic and produce amazing results for their clients. Others are so-so (maybe they’re just new) but still do a pretty good job when it comes to their clients. But then, like any industry, there are the bottom of the barrel SEO providers that are in SEO to make a quick buck and don’t really care about their clients. So how can you tell if you got stuck with one of those bad SEO providers? Here are three things that should raise a red flag:
1. Can’t provide link building reports because their process is “proprietary.”
At the end of the day every link your SEO provider builds for your site (or says they have built) counts for or against you in the search engines; for better or worse it is your website and online brand on the line. You have every right to know what kind of inbound links pointing towards your website! I’ve heard stories of SEO providers saying they can’t provide link building reports because it would disclose their “proprietary” link building strategy. While different SEO providers might have different approaches to link building, I think the only people that can claim any kind of “intellectual copyright” on their link building strategies are those that built some kind of SEO software from the ground up. A good SEO provider should be proud to show you what great, quality links they’ve found to help your SEO program. If your SEO partner is throwing up smoke and mirrors to avoid showing you what kind of links they are building I would throw your URL into OpenSiteExplorer and check for yourself. No matter who builds your links it’s your site that has to deal with the fallout if they were the wrong kind of links.
2. You have to chase them down to get answers to straightforward questions.
In the weeks preceding Penguin 2.0 I had a lot of site owners asking me what exactly Penguin 2.0 was, how it was different from 1.0, and if their website was at risk in any way. We in the SEO industry don’t have insider knowledge into what Google is doing, so sometimes we can’t answer questions about what’s coming down the pipeline, but a good SEO provider should do their best to find out! As a full-service SEO client you also have the right to ask questions and pick the brain of your SEO partner. In my opinion, I’d rather have a client that wanted to learn more and further their own SEO knowledge than someone that drops off the radar for weeks at a time. When you have to chase your SEO provider down to get answers to even the simplest of questions I’d consider that a red flag. Why are they playing so hard to get? Why are they so hesitant to talk with you? Are they afraid you’ll ask a question they can’t answer? Or are they afraid you’ll realize they’re ripping them off?
3. Somehow you end up doing more of the SEO work.
There are bound to be link building opportunities that your SEO provider can’t fully take advantage of on your behalf. Maybe you need a company email address to register for a profile, or perhaps it’s better if someone on you end reached out for a guest blogging opportunity versus your SEO firm, which can turn a lot of blog owners off. But for the most part the reason you hire an SEO firm is because you don’t have the in-house SEO knowledge or time to “do” SEO on your own. If you somehow end up doing more of the SEO work then you are getting ripped off! For instance, if your SEO provider is supposed to be handling your content creation don’t be surprised if they ask you for topics and guidance, but if you have to write 85% of the post what exactly are they doing for you? The best client-agency relationships are partnerships, but your SEO provider should be carrying most of the weight. You can’t wash your hand entirely of SEO but you shouldn’t be doing the bulk of the work either.
Unfortunately these scummy SEO providers have given the rest of us a bad rap. I guarantee that there are great SEO companies out there that will do a fantastic job with your SEO program. Bu don’t get fooled by smoke and mirrors (or price!) and keep your eyes peeled for signs that you are about to get ripped off!
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service SEO provider based in Boston, Massachusetts. With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.
Image Credit: seo.