In the marketing industry, new techniques and strategies emerge every day; SEO is no different! Brands that have a presence online have begun invest a massive amount of their budget in search engine optimization and will continue to invest in the future. If you don’t start optimizing your web presence now, you risk being left behind. If you do not have the knowledge of SEO and lack those marketing skills in your company, then you should think of outsourcing the SEO to a company that can work with you passionately and become your long-term partner.
The market is cluttered with potential options, and selecting an honest SEO specialist is not an easy task. According to a study by Business Insider, as more and more companies become interested in SEO, more and more service providers begin to pop up. With this much saturation in the market, it’s important to look out for certain red flags that will immediately tip you off to a bad partner.
Traits of a Sub-Par SEO Company
Picking a bad SEO company can do more harm to your business than not doing any SEO at all. Before we proceed, let’s discuss what some of the warning signs are, when it comes to choosing an SEO service provider.
Promising the Moon and the Stars
You hire an SEO company because you want to show the presence of your company to your customers online. It can sound alluring when someone assures you that they can double your traffic in a matter of months; the reality is that that likely won’t happen.
That’s a big warning sign if someone will guarantee you that they have the skills to take your website from zero to the top in no time. SEO is a long-term and organic process which will take months to show you the results, if not years depending on your industry. Nothing is impossible, but no SEO can guarantee that you’ll achieve top results quickly, let alone remain at that top spot for an extended period.
Not Interested in Your Business Goals
One of the most common warning signs to look out for is a company that doesn’t seek to understand what your business goals are and how SEO will play into achieving them. Are you looking to drive leads and they’re focused on traffic? Are you hoping to improve your presence in the local pack but they only want to focus on rankings in general? These types of disconnects can cause problems later down the line and prevent you from truly understanding the impact that SEO could have for your business.
If a potential SEO company doesn’t seek to understand your business goals, it’s likely they will also have poor communication throughout the entire process. Test out their communication early through a variety of methods. Give them a call; shoot them an email; if they have live chat, use it! Pay attention to their response time and the tone of their answers. These signals can help you pinpoint an agency that just might not be the right fit for your team.
A Poor Website and A Fragile Content Strategy
Before you trust your SEO to someone else, make sure their SEO is up to par! If their website and content is ugly, out-of-date, irrelevant, or just concerning in some way, it’s a sign that they aren’t drinking their own champagne. Great SEOs understand the importance of relevant content and engaging user experiences, so these two elements can be early identifiers of a provider that isn’t up to snuff.
Make sure you conduct a quick Google search to determine where a potential SEO partner ranks for key terms. Search for things like “SEO agencies”, “SEO providers”, “top SEO near me” or other related terms and take note of where they show up. Do they consistently challenge for a top spot? Do they even show up on the first page?
Traits of a Great SEO Agency
Before choosing an SEO agency, it’s important to join heads with your team first to discuss your content and marketing goals. From there, you can set out to choose a partner that will specifically help you achieve what you’ve laid out.
When you finally begin the process of researching potential partners, keep an eye out for the following traits that signal a great SEO company:
SEO isn’t just about being on the first page of Google; it’s about driving relevant traffic to your website. Ranking well is fine, but having content that brings in visitors and converts them into paying customers is better. The right SEO company will speak with you to understand your audience, your services, and your goals. They’ll use this knowledge to develop an individualized plan for your business, because there is no one-size fits all when it comes to SEO.'There is no one-size fits all when it comes to SEO.' - Chad Barber, 1111 Media Group Click To Tweet
Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk
A good company will stick to their words and will work hard on what they have committed; a great company will provide proof that what they offer works. Their claims can be backed up through data, case studies, recommendations, and previous successful projects. They won’t be afraid to share information about their past work or the strategies they employ, and they won’t shy away from more in-depth discussions about complex topics.
Great SEO partners will have a process in place to effectively maintain an open line of communication. Whether that means having a dedicated account manager or simply having internal processes that facilitate easy communication (like Slack, shared email inboxes, or tools like HelpScout), they will always be proactive when it comes to reaching out. They won’t make excuses for miscommunication or wait for an answer from the client side. A good SEO company will establish contact with you promptly or whenever they need to discuss details.
White Hat Tactics
One of the most important things to look out for when choosing an SEO company is that they practice strictly white-hat tactics.
There are some SEO tactics that can achieve results in a quicker time by unethically manipulating the system or attempting to game Google’s ranking algorithm. While this might seem like an attractive option for those looking for quick wins, it could ultimately be one of the most damaging choices you make for your business. Black-hat SEO tactics can lead to site-wide penalties from Google, resulting in the complete removal of your site from Google search results.
White-hat tactics, on the other hand, are ethical and abide by Google’s policies. Don’t be afraid to confront a potential partner if their methods seem fishy or unethical!
Proper Analytics Tools
Fancy software isn’t necessary for a great SEO. At the very least, every competent SEO should have advanced training in the management of Google Analytics. Not only should they be able to set up Google Analytics on your web properties, they should also be able to navigate the reporting interface, pull out the necessary and relevant data, and explain it to you in a way that is intelligible.
Focus on Conversion
Good SEO agencies know that traffic and rankings are hugely important from an optics perspective, but at the end of the day, traffic doesn’t pay the bills. Conversions move your business forward, and great SEO companies will place a stronger emphasis on creating a strategy that leads to real customers, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.
When choosing an SEO company to partner with, it’s absolutely essential to start from your own business goals. Understand where you want to take your business and how SEO will help you get there. Only then will you be able to find the perfect partner for you!