How to spot a dodgy SEO agency

SEO

The impact of undertaking dodgy SEO shouldn’t be underestimated – it could cripple your business. Adopting what’s known as ‘black hat’ tactics may claim to offer your business short-term gains, but in actual fact run the risk of harming your business in the long-term.

Website success today means following good ethical SEO practices, based on Google standards with the latest developments regarding the ranking algorithms. Practices such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, mass link building and banner stuffing are tactics of the past and should be avoided at all costs.

So how do you know if your agency is doing the right thing? Here are some of the warning signs to look out for:

  1. Lack of transparency

You should be aware of exactly what your SEO company is doing to grow your business. SEO is a key part of your marketing and all tactics should be clearly communicated. So keep asking questions and even if you don’t completely understand the explanations, seek to learn and understand, it’s too important not to.

  1. Guaranteed success

Yes, this old chestnut. Many have been seduced (myself included!) by the promises of page one rankings on Google. SEO is an art, not a science, and Google’s algorithms are too obscure for any company to make a specific guarantee on results. SEO is an organic process and it therefore takes time to see results. The good news is that once positive results are achieved, it’s hard for your rankings to be displaced, providing a good volume of relevant visitors to your site.

  1. Monthly rate too low

Price is what you pay, value is what you get” – Warren Buffett. Quality SEO isn’t achieved by paying $500 per month, which might get you two to three hours per month working on your account – does that sound like enough time? Aim for a minimum of 10 hours every month and build a solid relationship with your agency, who is accountable for the results and works with you to succeed.

  1. Paid links

Gaining good quality backlinks to your site from trusted sites is absolutely a ranking factor with Google and should form a good part of your SEO strategy. Building a successful website takes patience, with great content that attracts natural links. Buying links to try and influence Google rankings is short-term thinking and while it might achieve results initially, it can harm your business in the long-term. Since the release of Google Penguin update, which puts the focus on the quality of the backlinks a website has garnered over time, natural linking has never been more crucial.

  1. Reputation

Whether it’s an SEO agency or a car mechanic, its pays to do your research before committing to use their services. Ask for examples of their work and results achieved, and agree on what success looks like for you. Verify their experience and knowledge (are they a Google Partner?) – you don’t want a friend of a friend who just graduated with an IT degree working on your SEO, it’s just too important to your business. Contact references and see if the way they deal with clients aligns with your expectations.

One final piece of advice – once you’ve engaged an SEO agency, don’t just ‘set and forget’. Be sure to work closely with them and understand the work being done, measuring the results and staying involved in any additional work..The partnership you form as a result will not only ensure a smooth process, but will give your business the best chance of SEO success.


About the author

Paul Carroll has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, and is currently CEO at Pure SEO Australia.