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How To Spot A Bad SEO Agency

During the summer of 2019, I had the privilege of working at Conductor, an SEO agency based in Manhattan. This company served as my first real experience in the corporate world and introduced me to the digital marketing industry. Before this, I had little knowledge of search engine optimization or what makes a good or bad SEO agency. At Conductor, I adapted their “customer first” way of marketing and the importance of pure honesty with clients.

A lot of people out there are extremely fiscally motivated and won’t hesitate to lie in order to put money in their pockets. I was able to see this first hand when looking at other agencies in the industry.

Highlighted below are different ways you can spot a bad SEO agency and avoid them, and ensure your company is working with real SEO professionals.

Guaranteed #1 Rankings

If you ever hear an SEO agency pitch to you that they can get you on the first page of Google, run for the hills! Guaranteed first page results is a huge red flag that your business should avoid! Any SEO company worthwhile can get something to rank on the first page. However, this doesn’t mean that what you rank for will actually drive quality traffic.

Saying that they can rank you on the first page is a common trend among less than honest agencies in order to get you in the door and money into their pockets. Here’s how it plays out:

  • The bad SEO agency will lure you in with ads and free audits only to give you some type of problem or a new Google development that will more than likely freak you out and lead you to give their agency a chance.
  • Within a few weeks, you’ll see keywords jump to the first page. Which is great right? Wrong. See page rankings may continue to come but you won’t actually see any new leads, just rankings.
  • This will cause you to take a look into your “winning” keywords only to realize they might not even be relevant to your business and receive little to no monthly search volume. Meaning you’ve wasted your time and money with a bad SEO agency.

The point of this here is to understand that Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and learning through AI. It modifies our results based on the user’s search habits. Meaning, no one can guarantee anything, and if we could, we’d be extremely wealthy.

Remember, you want an agency that will sit down and give a thorough explanation of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Not just pipe dreams that they can guarantee your website on the first page of the world’s largest search engine.

A Bad SEO Agency Doesn’t Tell Your Story

marketing research for SEO agency

A bad SEO agency will be focused on telling their story, not yours. Meaning they are always telling you what they did right and why you should resign with their company. They won’t talk about what went wrong, what they can improve on and the lessons learned throughout the process.

Only knowing half the story can be detrimental to your business. Full transparency is the key to building a successful relationship. Not being transparent with clients makes it harder for your business to learn and grow from their mistakes.

Something I realized the more involved in the industry I became is that many agencies will avoid telling you how they get results in an effort to protect their “secret formula”. Well, the truth about said formula is that many times it involves failures and missteps along the way in order to reach success. It is super important for all parties involved to know the whole story.

The lesson here is that you want to know the full picture. Avoid SEO agencies who only sell you the sweet side of things. This is only doing harm to your business by not allowing you to learn from their mistakes!

Transactional Partnerships

Business partnership

Always be mindful of how an agency pitches to you. This is a direct indicator of how the relationship will operate.

I was able to sit in on many sales calls and the rep I worked with always painted the picture of how we were able to help the customer achieve their goals. A bad SEO agency will focus less on how they can help you and more on what they have done before. If an agency ever guarantees you results before even hearing what you want out of them, you might as well hang up the phone.

A real agency will buckle down with you. They will be ready to celebrate the victories and work through the lows. They won’t try and just sell you something. If a consultant comes in and just promotes their own services rather than explain how they can help you, the relationship will not be very successful. This distinction is crucial and will have a huge impact on your business.

Now obviously any company is going to toot their own horn. I’m not saying avoid any agency that does this but pay careful attention to how they do this. What you ideally would want is a company that has already performed research on your brand and shows you prior results for a similar company.

These are the people who truly care about your business. The lesson here is to seek a partner, not a promoter.

If you enjoyed this article and want more information on digital marketing you can read more here.

Key Takeaways

SEO years ago, was something new and rather undiscovered. We didn’t know much about Google’s algorithm and what went into ranking on the first page of search engines. Today, however, we understand just how important SEO is in ranking on the first page of Google. This means you should be taking control of your SEO either internally or through an agency.

If you choose to go the agency route you’re going to want an agency that won’t overwhelm you with confusing problems and fake promises. Understand that Google is ever-changing so no one can guarantee results.

Get the full picture from whatever agency you choose in order to fully understand and learn from your mistakes as well as theirs. Transparency is key.

Lastly remember to seek people who truly care about your business. You want to be treated like a friend not just another number.

Good luck!

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1 thought on “How To Spot A Bad SEO Agency”

  1. If the client made the right choice of the SEO/Digital Marketing Agency then I the agency will care genuinely for their business and always work best to improve their sales, reputation and brand recognization. A good Digital Marketing Agency is always willing to implement new ideas and strategies, update the clients with the reports and communicate regularly to build better relations.


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