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When the red light comes on. Warning signs you’re working with a bad SEO agency

6 minutes of reading
When the red light comes on. Warning signs you’re working with a bad SEO agency
Category SEO

There are a lot of good reasons to hire an SEO agency – they have access to in-depth analytics and information about your industry, they have experience working with clients like you, and they have the resources to help you establish and maintain your online presence. But when it comes to companies, not all are created equal – some are better than others, and some just don’t care about helping clients succeed long-term. When should the red light be on?


What exactly does the agency do?

SEO agencies help businesses improve their search engine optimization in order to rank higher in search results and get more organic traffic. They deal with on-page and off-page optimization, as well as SEM (Search Engine Marketing). You then receive a full service related to IT, programming, marketing, and promotion. The goal is to create a website of the highest quality that will be appreciated by both users and search engine robots. Unfortunately, many agencies may want to cut corners, which is why it is important to be aware of the warning signs.

Run as far as possible

They make you pay for the service up front

This is one of the biggest red flags when it comes to choosing an SEO agency. If they require you to pay for the entire service upfront, it’s likely because they’re not confident in their ability to deliver results. A good agency will be more than happy to work on a monthly retainer basis. They’ll also offer payment plans that allow you to only pay for services as they are rendered. These agencies understand the importance of accountability and building trust with their clients and know that this can’t happen if they require all payments upfront.

The don’t have a track record

When looking for an agency, be sure to ask about their track record. A good agency will have a list of clients they’ve worked with and results they’ve been able to achieve. If they don’t have a track record, that’s a red flag. It could mean they’re new to the business or that they’re not good at what they do. Either way, you don’t want to take a chance on an inexperienced agency.

You should also ask for references from previous clients. And if they can’t provide any, then it’s probably best to keep searching.

They target keywords unrelated to your business

You should be very wary of an agency that promises to get you to the top of the search results for keywords that have nothing to do with your business. This is a clear sign that they are more interested in ranking you for keywords that generate a lot of traffic, rather than keywords that are relevant to your business and will convert into customers. You can check the effectiveness of selected keywords yourself in the Google Search Console and Google Analytics panels.

They promise guarantees

No reputable agency will ever guarantee you the number one spot on Google, and if they do, it’s a huge red flag. The reality is that there is no way to guarantee results in SEO because it’s an ever-changing landscape. A good agency will be honest about this and set realistic expectations. They’ll show you all of their rankings. A bad agency will refuse to show its work or rankings for fear of competition. And, if they don’t show you rankings for some reason, be wary.

The are overly salesy

When a company is more focused on selling you their services than they are on understanding your business, that’s a bad sign. You should be able to have a conversation with them about your goals and objectives, and they should be able to give you realistic advice about whether or not their services can help you meet those goals. If they’re constantly trying to upsell you on things you don’t need or pressuring you to sign a contract, walk away.

They don’t understand your industry

If your agency doesn’t understand your industry, they won’t be able to provide you with the results you need. They won’t know which keywords to target, what type of content to produce, or how to adjust their strategy as your industry changes. This lack of understanding can lead to wasted time and money on an ineffective campaign. Just like keywords, you can check the effectiveness of the selected content yourself in the Google Search Console and Google Analytics panels.

The bait and switch tactics

This is when an agency promises you one thing, but then delivers something completely different. For example, they may promise you top-of-the-line link building services, but then only give you low-quality links that will hurt your website’s ranking. Other bait and switch tactics include promising results in a short period or guaranteeing a certain number of keywords that will be achieved.

All they do is buy links (and it’s shady at best, illegal at worst)

When an agency is focused on buying links, it’s a sign that they’re not doing things the right way. Link buying can be shady at best and illegal at worst, and it’s not something that you want to be associated with. If they are buying links, run the other way! Doing so can lead to a Google penalty, which may result in you losing your position. And the agency will pretend that this is another problem that needs to be solved for additional costs.

They send you spammy articles filled with irrelevant links back to your site

When you work with a good agency, they will help you create content that is interesting and relevant to your audience. However, some agencies will take shortcuts and send you articles that are full of irrelevant links back to your site. This not only looks bad, but it can also hurt your search engine ranking.

Their ignore your concerns

They should also keep you updated on their progress and what they’re doing to help your website. If your agency is ignoring your questions or not keeping you in the loop, that’s a red flag. They’re not communicating enough. Any time there’s an issue with an agency, communication should be flowing both ways.

Last thoughts

If you’re working with an SEO agency and you’re seeing any of these warning signs, it’s time to cut ties and find a new partner. A good company will be transparent, communicative, and produce results. They should also be willing to answer any questions you have about their process. Don’t settle for anything less than the best for your business. Don’t forget that SEO is a lengthy process – nothing is going to happen overnight.

Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
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