It always pays to do your homework when you are about to purchase anything. If you are in the market to contract with a SEO agency, you need to be an informed buyer. Here are 7 Red Flags that should make you re-consider working with any agency who exhibits these behaviors!
1. Promise you Page 1 placement for specific keywords. There are no promises in SEO, because Google controls the results. Not the SEO practitioner. Most SEOs with experience can gauge whether they can, or can’t, get you to page 1 for a keyword with some degree of probability. Some keywords are just too competitive. Others are attainable but worthless if searchers are not looking for them. Usually when a company promises you Page 1, they will satisfy that claim by ranking you on a non-competitive keyword that will not increase your traffic or your sales.
2. Talk to you about Meta Tags as a solution. There was a time when Meta Tags were valuable for website ranking. Early on in web search, engines did not have the ability to interpret what was on a web page in order to decide what the page was about. Instead, site owners used Meta Tags to tell the search engines about their content. Since site owners were not really trained in the field of tagging and indexing, the Meta Tags were often at best, incorrectly done, and at worst, manipulated to make the pages rank higher but not contain the specified content. Today, Google mostly ignores what you put into your Meta Tags.
3. Lead you to believe that they will have you ranking overnight, or within a few days. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Beware of unrealistic expectations. It is possible to rank a video on YouTube overnight, but unlikely that the video will appear on Page 1 of Google’s results anywhere near as quickly – if at all. Be sure your company specifies on what search engine they are attempting to rank you. Additionally, even if the SEO can get you to Page 1 quickly, the challenge is to keep you there. And remember, for you to get on Page 1, you will have to push someone else off. If the keyword is competitive and actually draws buyer traffic, it is likely that the business you pushed off is going to try to get back.
4. Over-use your keywords in your page copy. Several years ago, Google judged what your page was about by how many times you used your keywords on the page. The more you used them – in headings, behind your images, and in your body copy – the more important your page was. Today, websites containing pages like that are being penalized as “spammy”. Sites that were highly ranking have fallen because their keyword density is too high.
5. Create a reciprocal linking program. This practice used to be encouraged about 10 years ago. Most sites had a page for “Links” where they would link out to other sites, often in exchange for the other sites’ linking back to them. Today, if there is no logical relationship between your website and ones that you are linking to, your website is likely to be penalized by Google. It’s probably best to remove the “Links” page because Google prefers what it perceives to be “natural” linking activity.
6. Get thousands of links to your site from other places. Google has been counting links to your site from other sites, as votes “for” your site. While not all votes are considered equal (for example, a link from the New York Times website is much more valuable than a link from your client’s website), getting links is often an important part of an SEO’s strategy. But these links need to be from legitimate sources. Likewise, if you are only getting 250 visits to your site each month, it is unlikely that you are going to have 500 links coming to you – let alone thousands – each month.
7. Not providing you with periodic reports. You need to have a baseline report so that everyone knows where the starting line is. It’s impossible to know if you’ve improved without knowing where you started. You also need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes success: higher ranking, more site visits, more phone calls? Of course, an SEO company can’t be responsible for your final conversion percentage. If they are bringing you more prospects, it’s going to be up to you to close the deals. But they need to be your partner in the process. Sharing progress helps both parties to see what measureable results have been attained.