SEO agencies are home to skilled digital marketing experts who use innovative organic (non-paid) marketing techniques that are favoured by the search engines, to help businesses rise to the top of the search rankings, so that they’re visible to their target customers.
However, some agencies use lazy and underhand tactics to try and trick search engines. Such methods generate low quality traffic to your website and can permanently damage your online reputation. So if your SEO partner seems to be lacking the expertise to deliver the quality results you require, it might be time to switch SEO agency.
But with so many firms claiming to offer the best value to clients, how can you be sure that you’re partnering with the right SEO agency?
With that in mind, here are 10 signs that you should switch SEO agency.
1. Your SEO agency hasn’t explained its process
You should never trust an SEO agency that doesn’t explain its working process. They likely don’t have the necessary expertise or they’re using black-hat techniques which the search engines will punish you for.
So don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off by excuses such as ‘SEO is too technical to explain to someone outside of the industry’. If your SEO partner is truly an expert, they’ll be able to explain what they’ll be doing for your business in a clear and concise manner.
Aside from outlining its process to your business, a good SEO firm will also include you in the planning and strategizing of your campaign to ensure that you’re happy with the overall direction and that it’s a good fit for your business.
2. Your SEO agency wants full control of your data and logins
When you partner with an SEO agency, it can be tempting to hand over all responsibility for your website to them, so that you can focus on other areas of business that come more naturally to you.
However, you should be wary of agencies who demand full control of your website data and logins, because, should the relationship between you begin to falter (which it sometimes can) and you wish to take your business elsewhere, the agency could hold this information hostage in an attempt to keep the contract going.
In extreme circumstances this could lead to you having to create new logins and re-add tracking codes to your website pages, or even legal proceedings, which can be timely, costly and severely damaging to your business.
The best professional relationships are built on trust, so if your SEO agency is trying to exercise too much control over your business, it’s time to find a firm that’s happy to collaborate and will treat you as an equal.
3. Your SEO agency guarantees number one rankings
Attaining a high search engine position is one of the main purposes of SEO. So when you come across an SEO agency that boasts its ability to get your web pages to position number one on Google, it can seem like the perfect proposition.
In reality, it’s a misleading marketing trick that can cost your business a lot of money. Your SEO agency might well be able to get you position one rankings (as promised), but they’ll likely be for irrelevant, low value keywords that attract poor quality traffic to your website that doesn’t convert and provide the necessary ROI.
Furthermore, SEO experts estimate that Google considers more than 200 ranking factors when indexing a web page, so unless your SEO agency has somehow garnered some juicy insider knowledge from Google, there’s no way they can promise something as specific as a top ranking.
4. Your SEO agency promises instant results
If your SEO agency has promised you immediately improved search engine rankings and increases in traffic to your website, it’s time to run for the hills.
SEO is a long-term investment, where the benefits can take quite some time surface. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, it can take between three to six months for a household name business to reach page one of Google and between nine and twelve months for a new business.
Any firm that promises big results in the first few months will probably be using those dastardly black-hat techniques we mentioned earlier, which might yield good results at first, but once the search engines pick up on them (which they will), your website could be penalised beyond repair.
5. Your SEO agency lacks knowledge of your niche
SEO is in part about establishing yourself as an expert in your niche and the go-to brand for consumers. It’s therefore important that your SEO agency understands your industry and has experience in helping businesses similar to yours.
The fact that an agency hasn’t worked with a business in your niche shouldn’t be an immediate turn off. The time to be concerned is if they’re not asking questions, researching your industry and taking other noticeable strides to get to know your business.
One way you can determine a firm’s experience in your industry, is by looking at the case studies on their website or requesting some. This will allow you to see their past successes and assess their suitability as a partner.
Just remember, SEO is a fast-paced field, where techniques can quickly fall out of favour, so if your agency is relying on case studies that are ten years old, these are probably completely irrelevant the current SEO climate and the firm might be using outdated and ineffective techniques.
6. Your SEO agency doesn’t provide metrics
Metrics are the factors against which your SEO campaign success will be measured, such as keyword ranking, CTR (click-through-rate) and backlink quantity. Without them, you’ll struggle to gauge how well your campaign is doing and hold your partner to account.
A competent SEO agency will work with you to set out the metrics and goals for your campaign and ensure that these align with your business goals. If your partner agency doesn’t collaborate with you at this stage, you’ll end up with a weak campaign that’s not effectively tailored towards your business needs.
The SMART framework is most effective when setting campaign goals because it helps ensure that they’re precise, easy to assess and not open to various interpretations. For example, if we look back to point number two of this blog, an SEO agency could meet the goal to get you to page one of Google for five keywords, but if you’ve not specified the keywords, they could choose irrelevant ones which yield no business benefits.
7. Your SEO agency has poor communication
SEO is an immensely complex discipline that’s adapting by the day, so if your SEO agency isn’t keeping you sufficiently updated on the workings of your campaign, you’ll soon end up becoming an outsider to the operations of your own business.
An SEO firm with good communication skills will keep you in the loop with regular reports, meetings and catch-up calls, where they’ll fill you in on the progress of your campaign and you can ask questions and make suggestions, which they’ll happily consider.
They’ll also be available and easily contactable during office working hours. So be wary of agencies whose main method of contact is a generic enquiries@ [company name] inbox. You should have a direct contact and ideally a phone number to call, so that you can reach them promptly and resolve any issues in a timely manner.
8. Your SEO agency focuses on their business, not yours
When you’re paying an SEO agency to help boost your business online, it’s natural to want to hear about their past successes and those relating to your own campaign. However, this should be balanced out by a firm focus and genuine concern for your own business and its ambitions, on the part of your agency.
So take the time to really listen to the things that your agency associates say during your catch-up meetings. Do they sound as though they’re passionate about your business and invested in its success (they’ll tell you if they are) or are they constantly focusing on what they’ve done well and trying to upsell their services, with no real regard for your needs?
Agencies who do the latter don’t provide you with a full picture of the progress of your campaign and aren’t fully committed to providing you with the best value. So if your SEO agency is behaving in this way, it’s time to find a firm who will keep you informed of both the positive and negative aspects of your campaign and work with you to implement sound solutions.
9. Your SEO agency has failed to increase your conversions
SEO involves using non-paid methods to increase the level of quality traffic to your website – this is where some agencies stop. They’re able to significantly boost the number of visitors to your website but these visitors are not converted, due to problems on with your site.
This is why any SEO agency worth its salt will conduct an audit of your website at the start of your campaign, to ensure that it’s prepped for the surge of traffic that SEO will bring and is capable of offering the superb UX (User experience) required for generating leads and sales.
If your agency hasn’t taken the time to look closely at your website and your conversions aren’t increasing, it’s time to start asking questions, because if your site’s not up to scratch, the money you’re paying them will go to waste, as your new visitors won’t become customers and you won’t benefit from increased revenue.
10. Your SEO agency is a one-trick pony
Most SEO agencies have a speciality, this could be anything from keyword research to link building. This is fine, however, SEO is a growing discipline that crosses over into various digital marketing disciplines such as content creation and social media marketing. It’s therefore essential that your SEO firm has staff that are skilled in a wide range of areas.
A reputable SEO agency will be transparent about what they can and can’t do for your business and in some cases, even turn down your custom if they can’t provide the services you require. So be wary of firms that offer anything and everything, as well as those that are vague about their skillset – you need to be sure that you’ll get exactly what your business requires from this paid partnership.
Final thoughts on SEO agencies
The best SEO agencies will treat your business as the unique entity that it is and collaborate with and support you through the good and the bad, in the pursual of your goals.
So if any of the warning signs raised in this blog have set alarms bells blaring with regard to your current SEO partner, now’s the time to switch to an SEO agency that’s capable of delivering great organic results, has first-class expertise and will serve as a trusted advisor for your business.