More potential customers than ever before are doing research and finding businesses via Local listings on Google.Therefore, if you own a small business, SEO is crucial for your success. It simply isn’t “getting ahead” anymore; it’s what is expected in order to stay open. Unfortunately, many small business owners do not know how to navigate through an SEO strategy on their own. Getting organic traffic is challenging and if your chosen SEO agency isn’t using the appropriate resources, knowledge, and support, you may end up more harmed than helped. In order to prevent that, keep an eye out for these red flags:
#1: They Promise #1 Rankings
This is number one because it is the most troubling hint that your SEO agency isn’t what you want it to be. There are no guarantees with organic rankings, so they are either not being honest with you or don’t know what they are trying to sell you. Either way, stop paying this agency and get out while you can. There are certain paid and “black hat” (aka penalized) methods to artificially boost the search engine’s opinion of you, but none of it will help in the long term.
#2: They Focus on Too Many Search Engines
A unscrupulous agency will offer to get you listed in many different search engines. They will say it's pretty easy, all you need to do is submit your name, business info, and that’s it! It’s not that this is wrong, it’s just simply not needed. It's not important to get listed in thousands of search engines. Only three search engines are really important: Google, Yahoo and Bing. A huge portion of American searches are done on Google and very few searches are performed on other engines beyond these three.
#3: Your Rankings are Declining
If you are losing rankings instead of gaining, take notice! Don’t obsess over checking your rankings every day, but if you see that your rankings are steadily declining for the keywords you care about, then your SEO agency might be performing actions that are getting your site algorithmically penalized.
#4: They Don’t Have Anything to Show You
You won’t have proof of their efficiency right away, but in several months your agency should have plenty of data and reports for you. While they may not be able to provide results on an increase in rankings, the agency should be able to show you the actual SEO practices they are doing within a few weeks.
#5: They Don’t Want Your Input
If your agency says that they’re experts and don’t need any input from you, that’s not only rude, but alarming. Remember that an SEO agency knows about SEO. They will only be able to help your company by learning about your business, customers, and brand image directly from the source- you. If they don’t ask questions about your industry or your business, it could be that they don’t need them because they’re adding linkbacks from their network of spammy sites. Buyer beware!
#6: There is a Drop in Traffic
While rankings and traffic typically go hand-in-hand, they don’t if the strategy is off. If your agency is getting you to rank high for terms that aren’t the right direction for you, it won’t help your traffic at all. Determine exactly what changes were made to your site in the days and weeks leading to the decline. If your traffic is down and your bounce rate is up, there’s a problem with your content, or user experience on your site. Your agency should be able to explain why trends are happening and even predict outcomes.
#7: Their Techniques are Top Secret
You have the right to know exactly what’s being done with your site, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to be involved in what they are doing with your site, you should always ask. If they give you a generic answer like “We do a lot of things, it will take time to explain, but it involves basically optimizing your site for search engines.” you should run away, quickly. Truly effective SEO involves White Hat SEO techniques that are accepted as legitimate and are proven to get results. If they are doing those things, they should be able to explain them easily and simply to you.
#8: They Stray from White Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is strictly forbidden, while Gray Hat is generally not to be done either and is in the process of being penalized. Getting involved in either one of these will lead to damaging penalties for your website. You’ll know if you receive a manual penalty when you get a Google Webmaster Tools notification or an email message. If you receive a manual penalty one or two months after starting working with an SEO agency, you have the right to be suspicious and ask about their practices.
#9: You Start Ranking for the Wrong Area
This is one way untrustworthy SEO agencies make good on their promise to get you to rank #1: they get you rankings that don’t matter. If your organic keywords change significantly, beware. If you begin gaining traffic from the wrong keywords, it’s happening for a reason. If you start receiving calls or quotes request from your business from a different city and even a different state, it means that your SEO agency is targeting other locations just to gain traffic even if it means that the traffic is irrelevant to the city you serve.
#10: They Use Automated Efforts
If your SEO Agency says that they have an automated software that will generate 100% unique content for your website, that’s certainly too good to be true. A crucial aspect of adhering to the inbound methodology is creating remarkable content that will be valuable to your readers. That’s impossible to do with an automated system. Instead, their automatic system will create poor, keyword-stuffed content. Keyword stuffing means adding the same keyword in your website over and over, to improve your rankings. Google is aware of this practice and should be avoided at all times.
#11: They Add One Link Everyday
Links to your website are very important; they add value to your site and give you authority in the eyes of Google. Links need to happen naturally, so there’s no specific time frame to create a series of quality links. Receiving links from questionable sites will get the attention from Google and might fall into a penalty. If your SEO Agency promises one link per day, you should question them from what websites they are linking and how they can get them so easily. An organic strategy can’t be overly systematic if your agency is truly creating a strategy that’s perfect for your situation.
Your brand and online reputation are too important to hand them over to anyone who guarantees they know what they are doing and will increase the traffic in just one week. If you’re truly concerned about your business’s success, you’ll give SEO the attention and investment it deserves. SEO takes patience, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.
To learn even more about what is considered good SEO practices in today’s competitive atmosphere, download our free eBook Modern SEO today.