Today we have a guest blog from Gareth Simpson who is a pro at all things SEO related. Gareth is sharing his top 5 red flags for spotting a web/SEO agency that you should think twice about hiring.
We’ve all seen that unsolicited email pop up in our inbox. A web designer/SEO agency has’
‘taken the time to look at your website and although it’s great’ (aww, thanks guys) ‘we can get your company noticed by millions of web users…’ blah blah blah, delete!
These spammy emails, promoting spammy agencies are obvious to spot and avoid. But if you’ve invested in web and SEO before and had a bad experience, you also know that some bad agencies may be a little harder to spot than the ones cluttering up your junk folder.
Here are five ‘red flags’ to look out for when you’re talking with any web design/ SEO agency.
Red Flag #1: ‘We’ll Fix You Up and Be On Our Way In No Time’
Some of the very unethical agencies will promise you a speedy solution to your SEO needs, with no promises of ongoing maintenance, reporting, and re-adjustments to build long-term growth.
Alternatively, they may try to lock you into a long contract period with little mention of ongoing checks and balances to ensure they’re doing their work properly.
There are no ‘quick-fixes’ in SEO, only good practices. Any decent agency knows a heck of a lot of work goes into those best practices and simply cannot be done over the space of a few weeks/months.'There are no ‘quick-fixes’ in SEO, only good practices.'Click To Tweet
What They Should Be Saying Instead: ‘We Offer an Ongoing Transparent Process Which Includes Your Personal Input’
With any ongoing SEO strategy, transparency for the client is key to getting the job done. A good web company will want to get in touch and send you reports regularly. The lines of communication need to be open, so that problems can be solved and adjustments can be made to suit your changing needs.
Good SEO in 2017 mixes technical onsite improvements, brand consultancy, content, sales reporting, design, useability and offsite link building methods. A holistic approach is therefore necessary for success. A good agency will want to ensure that you are happy with the work being carried out by reviewing your goals and contract terms regularly.
Red Flag #2: ‘We Provide a Bulk Number of Links Per Month’
Every business wants to draw some online ‘buzz’ around their products/services. Many hope that if they get their name out there as much as possible, all of the right customers will be flocking to their store to make a purchase. But of course, that is no easy task.
For any SEO and brand agency worth its salt, making promises of a large number of links gained per month is wholly counterproductive; Google has made it clear, with link building it’s all about quality, not quantity.
What They Should Be Saying Instead: ‘We Can Place Your Product/Service In Front of The Right Customers’
If you’re a business that depends on customers from a particular locale a mention on a local, community site will draw in far more qualified customers than a generic industry news blog. Further, it may take many months to land a link on a ‘big name’ news website. A good SEO agency will be familiar with the vagaries of outreach, and won’t promise you the world.
Journalists are extremely busy people and rely on their contacts to get the information they need, when they need it. A good agency will appreciate the hard work that goes into the link building business and will do their best to ensure that their links only go to high quality, highly relevant target websites.
Red Flag #3: ‘We Can Help You Rank for Your Top Keywords’
Search engines use the most popular keywords and phrases, amongst other things, to rank the web’s most popular pages and deliver the most relevant links to the user. All web users are increasingly seen as individuals, and search is becoming more personally targeted with every update.
Therefore, any business claiming the ability to get your website ranking for your industry’s most popular keyword is not taking into account the changing landscape of search (i.e. the user). Further, it is likely they’re not interested in ensuring that your product meets your customers on its own merits (i.e. creating an engaging, well-designed site). (Need help with web design? Check out these eight things that go into every good website).
What They Should Be Saying Instead: ‘We’ll Conduct Customer and Competitor Research to Help you Target the Right Customers’
A good web agency will want to look at the user’s experience with your brand as a whole, and will spend a lot of time analysing your current traffic to figure out the characteristics of your customers. They may use methods such as buyer personas, effectively creating a ‘hypothetical customer’ to determine the types of content your customers might to see on your site and the kinds of articles they would like to read. They will also, hopefully, have a good deal of experience working within your industry, staying ahead in terms of audience preferences and targeting your brand to a niche market.
Red Flag #4: No Mention of Social Media or Authentic Brand Engagement
Google’s algorithms change on-the-fly, making it impossible for web and SEO agencies to cheat the system and guarantee any client a spot on the front page of Google. Methods that may have boosted onsite SEO a couple of years ago, like the stuffing of keywords, would be discounted today, as the popularity of authentic brand engagement builds.
As an illustrative example, if you were selling camping equipment, a page title with spammy keyword-stuffed descriptors wouldn’t help your customer feel positive about what you’re selling. Content in all forms, whether onsite or offsite, should focus on the message, the features, and benefits of your products, not JUST the keywords you want to target.
What They Should Be Saying Instead: We Use a Personalised, Multichannel Approach to Increase Sales
Ultimately, SEO is an ongoing, evolutionary process requiring a combination of different methods for boosting sales. Depending on your type of business, one method may work better than another. It is the skill of a good agency to target the right methods for converting more customers.
Your agency will understand how your customers would intuitively navigate around your product catalogue, the kinds of editorial content they would be most likely to respond to, and how customers would access help and support during the buying process. Many considerations have to be made if you want to develop a business with real authority and ‘clout’ in the search results.
The implementation of your a content management system is key to giving your customers a highly personalised experience of your brand, across all platforms. You want an online store that’s primed for mobile to take advantage of the rise in conversational commerce — ask a web designer or developer to help make your vision come true, and make sure that they understand SEO, so that you don’t have to worry too much about the technical elements.
Red Flag #5: Our ‘Secret Methods’ Will Bring You Results
You can be sure that your would-be SEO agency is a bad one if they use the ‘secret method’ line in their pitch. This classic snake oil salesman technique, when used within SEO, probably indicates that they’ll be using ‘Black Hat’ SEO tactics, like automated link building, to boost your site’s exposure. Posting badly written, low-quality articles online, will only drive irrelevant (if any) traffic to you, with no intention of helping those visitors convert into paying customers when they arrive at your site.
What They Should Be Saying Instead: If You’ve Had a Bad Experience Before, We Can Help
If you’ve taken a hit in the past, the only real way to come back from that is to seek advice from a good web design and brand agency. Take the time to reflect on what went wrong last time, and figure out if your direction could’ve been clearer or directed in another area?
An informed and professional agency will take your business’s past, present and future into account, so expect a great deal of information gathering before a highly-tailored proposal is presented to you.
Tips for Choosing a Good Agency
Sorting out the ‘goodies’ from the ‘baddies’ is ultimately a personal experience, in every sense. Any web design and SEO agency worth your time and investment will focus on:
- Getting to know your business and goals
- Increasing your bottom line and ensuring you get a good ROI from their services
- Delivering transparent reporting and input to ensure the SEO being done suits your needs