In this post, I’ll share 5 phrases you can keep an ear out for to avoid being taken advantage of by a disreputable SEO agency.
SEO, or search engine optimization, can feel a bit like black magic. To those of us who don’t work in the industry, getting our websites to appear higher in Google’s search results is a mystery, but one we know we need to solve for our businesses.
That’s often where digital marketing agencies step in. These folks have studied Google algorithms and know the best ways to help us reach new customers.
Unfortunately, there are some people out there who know how confusing SEO can be and use that knowledge to prey on business owners who don’t know what to look out for.
I’ve seen this happen to friends and clients too many times. In this post, I’ll cover 5 phrases to listen for when interviewing a new SEO firm for your project so you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
1. “We get can you to #1 on Google!”
Even the people who work at google can’t guarantee who will be at the top of Google search results. While there are two crucial strategies to SEO, there are many more small factors that impact where you appear in Google results every day, and Google’s algorithm is always changing.
What does “#1 on Google” mean anyway? It’s important that you rank highly on Google for certain keywords. Which keywords are you being promised? Are they just going to get you to #1 for your business name? The only people googling your business name are people who already know about you. That’s far less valuable than helping you rank highly for more common keywords related to your industry, like “flowers Amherst” or “plumber Greenfield.”
Additionally, what do you think would happen if your SEO agency started working with a competitor of yours who wanted to rank for the same keywords as you? Would you bid for who gets to be #1? What happens if you lose?
2. “Guaranteed results in 30 days (or less)!”
A solid SEO strategy takes time, often 6-12 months, before it pays off. Helping Google to recognize the value your site brings and how relevant it is to your industry isn’t an overnight process.
Anyone claiming to help you rank for your target keywords in 30 days or less (I’ve even seen 24 and 48 hour offers!) isn’t really offering SEO. They’re exploiting some unnatural or spammy tactic that will ultimately harm your SEO when Google realizes your site has been trying to pull one over on them.
3. “We have insider secrets/friends at Google!”
…and we’ll use them to improve your site once you send us your money.
People who claim to know some top secret tactic for helping you rank on Google are just disguising their shady tactics. A solid SEO professional knows how to implement keywords and backlinks effectively. They have the same information you or I could find with a quick Google search, and they add their own experience and strategy to that to improve your site’s SEO.
SEO firms who claim to know the secret sauce to ranking at the top of search results are often just trying to “break” Google’s algorithm using what we call “black hat” methods. You’ll see a short-term boost to your SEO, but when Google discovers what they’ve done, it’s your site that pays.
4. “Don’t worry about the technical details. We’ll handle them.”
A strong SEO firm will be more than happy to tell you all about their plans for your website strategy, and they’ll be able to explain them in terms you understand. They’ll share statistics about how your site is currently ranking, and how that ranking changes over the course of your work together.
An agency that tries to tell you the details are too complicated or technical for you to understand is just trying to cover up their questionable methods.
While SEO is complex, there are two things we know are crucial to a good strategy: producing valuable content on your site, and other sites that link back to yours.
You can ask an SEO firm these two questions to get an idea of their strategy for these two important factors:
How will you help me with creating content?
A bad agency will tell you that you don’t have to lift a finger. They know how to automatically generate content for your site.
Good firms will help you with establishing a publishing calendar, recommend headlines with important keywords for your site, and even help you find a professional writer in your industry if you don’t have the time to write content yourself. They’ll also offer to review the content for you to make sure it’s well optimized.
How will you help me get more websites link to my site?
A bad SEO professional will tell you that they have a network of websites and directories they can submit your website to.
A good agency will tell you they can help with contacting websites that already link to your site and ask them to use even better words in their links. They’ll offer to contact those same sites to ask if they’ll link to another page on your website. Then, they’ll reach out to other websites and blogs in your industry to secure guest posting opportunities.
And lastly, they’ll help fix up your links on your own website so the most important content on your site is linked to often.
5. “We only charge $500/month!”
Given what you now know about good SEO strategy, what would you expect $500/month buys you? A few hours of someone’s time? Do you think that’s enough time to put together a solid SEO plan for your site, and enact it too? I don’t.
Here are the three likely scenarios when you’re working with an inexpensive SEO agency:
- They’re not doing any work at all for your money
- They’re using “black hat” tactics that will hurt your SEO in the long run
- Or, best case scenario, they’re inexperienced and aren’t creating an effective strategy for you
I hope this post helps you avoid being taken advantage of by scammy SEO agencies. If you have any questions or ideas for identifying SEO scam artists, let me know in the comments!