Ten years ago, if you asked business owners about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you’d probably be met with blank stares.
Nowadays however, SEO marketing has gone from a niche area to a massive, mature industry. Companies big and small have taken notice and are scrambling to get on board the SEO train.
With so many agencies now offering SEO services, businesses are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding an agency that suits their needs.
There’s just one small issue however: with so many agencies fighting for your business, how are you supposed to know which ones are actually any good?
This week, we’ll be giving you the inside track on what to look out for when considering an SEO agency. Here are six massive red flags to look out for when evaluating your SEO options.
1) The proof is in the pudding: word of mouth
What’s the most obvious sign of a successful business? Happy customers, of course!
Word-of-mouth is one of the best endorsements any business can have, whether it’s a restaurant, mechanic, or shopfront. Are you more likely to react to an ad on the side of a bus, or a glowing review from a friend?
Any SEO agency worth its salt will proudly display testimonials on its site, and boast favourable Google reviews. These are a huge help in establishing credibility. And don’t be afraid to grill them on their methods when you speak with them!
If your agency’s website doesn’t list any testimonials or case studies, don’t be afraid to ask for some. Trust us... we’re more than willing to share our success stories!
If an agency is notably quiet on the review front and doesn’t proudly display comments and testimonials from previous and current happy customers, you might want to keep looking.
2) SEO is a long-term strategy - is your agency in it for the long-haul?
So your site has reached the top - great!
Now comes the hard part... staying there. Search engine results are almost always in flux - one day, you might be top of the world. The next? You could drop to page three.
Maintaining your SEO ranking isn’t a one-off, done-and-dusted thing. Your site’s relevance is much more than just keywords - it’s an ongoing process which requires a long-term commitment from your SEO agency!
One of the hallmarks of a good SEO agency is a commitment an ongoing flow of content to keep your site ranking at the top.
On top of that, your competitors also have their own SEO strategies for pushing themselves up on the search results pages.
More strength to them - the only problem is this also pushes you down as a consequence. So to stay on top, your approach towards content marketing needs to be:
Good SEO agencies know this - this is why the best ones include long-term strategies designed to turn your website into your most effective marketing tool.
Ongoing improvements and updates to your SEO strategy
SEO is malleable; an ongoing process that needs to be carefully evaluated on a regular basis to ensure the most effective results.
To keep up, you need an SEO agency that keeps a close eye on trends, rankings, and keywords on a weekly and monthly basis.
Ongoing tweaks to your overall strategy helps you capitalise on lucrative keywords and searches, and helps you see where you might switch focus off some other less important or less impactful keywords.
Regular tweaks and improvements from a good SEO agency include:
- Modifying home page focus by tweaking content and main keywords
- Refreshing existing page content
- Design tweaks including call-to-action buttons and copy
- Creating new website pages to target a specific keyword
- Adding content on a regular basis through blog posts (this is the basics of content marketing)
3) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
The moment any SEO agency starts promising an “immediate number one rankings on Google”, you can pretty confidently cross them off the list...
Take any claim or guarantee of a number one search ranking with a grain of salt - it may seem counterintuitive but trust us!
While it’s true that effective search engine optimisation can push your site up in the page rankings, no agency can guarantee a number one ranking. Even Google itself advises against selecting agencies which “guarantees” number one rankings or promote a “special” relationship with Google.
Firstly, because nobody outside Google truly knows how their search algorithm works. As a result, no SEO agency worth their salt would make such bold statements about their service.
Furthermore, the relationship between Google and SEO providers is very one-sided - Google giveth, and Google taketh away. Digital agencies have little power, and Google doesn’t do “special relationships”.
Any agency guaranteeing a number one ranking is either:
- Talking about very specific, easy to rank keywords such as your business address
- Actually talking about Google Adwords, not organic search results
Long story short, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to SEO. Search algorithms are closely-guarded secrets and are frequently updated, often with little fanfare.
At iformat, we do have a guarantee, however it is a very specific guarantee that does not promise a number one ranking.
Instead, our guarantee is results-based: if we’re not bringing in enough calls and enquiries to cover our monthly fee, we will work for free until we do.
We’re dedicated to ensuring you see a real return on your investment. If you’d like more information on this important guarantee, please contact us.
Because then again, you could indeed rank number one for a keyword. But if that keyword is searched 10 times a month and brings only a handful of visitors (and no conversions) to your site, is it really even worth it?
4) One size does not fit all
The best agencies optimise your website with a clear understanding of your business, its competitive environment (both online and off) and its long-term strategy and goals.
Every business has a different:
- Target market
- SEO goal
The only way to obtain the best results for your website is when an agency makes a concerted effort to understand all of this.
There’s nothing wrong with having a formula… especially if it works! But even the most effective formula needs tweaking to fit the unique requirements of each individual client.
If your SEO agency’s final offer is a standardised package, or they didn’t start with a deep dive into your business before offering their services, take that as a warning sign and start looking at your options!
5) Their strategy involves backlinks… and not much else
Once upon a time, dodgy SEO agencies would flood their clients’ website with low-quality, spammy backlinks and for a hot second, they worked!
It wasn’t too long however before Google put their foot down, clamping down on “link farms” and punishing sites filled with these poor-quality links.
Backlinks for the sake of backlinks to nothing to improve your site’s ranking. In fact, they can even harm it.
When it comes to backlinks, think quality, not quantity. At iformat, backlinks are the last priority when it comes to your SEO. We focus on YOUR site (rather than others’ who might link to you) by:
- Adding high quality content
- Creating an easy-to-navigate menu
- Improving calls-to-action
Backlinks can be taken away at any time: you have no control over what another site does.
Meanwhile, your website, on the other hand, is being turned into a long-term marketing tool that will continue to attract visitors and leads long after those dodgy links are removed.
6) You didn’t go to them… THEY came to you
“Hello (name), I visited your website and I have noticed several domain errors that I can help fix to make you rank higher on Google…”
For the longest time, search engine optimisation has been a cold-calling industry. And while there are a handful of agencies that have pulled it off, in our experience the vast majority of digital agencies that use cold-calling as their main source of clients aren’t very reputable at all.
Here are some habits you can get into to keep yourself safe:
- Google them - you can learn a lot from their site and branding alone
- Ask about timeframes and results
- Check if they have an Australian office - many of these “agencies” operate out of overseas call centres
Final thoughts on good vs. bad SEO
The world of search engines and digital marketing can be a minefield.
There are so many acronyms. These charts are confusing. You don’t understand all this jargon. But this agency you’ve been talking to is promising great results.
But before you sign the dotted line, ask yourself: are they up to the task of taking the reins to your digital strategy? After all, it’s your business and money on the line - it’s only natural to demand the best!
If you’d like to learn more about our SEO process, including our guarantee, please get in touch today.
Call our office on 1300 88 64 50 or fill in this form and we will get back to you.
In the meantime, catch up on more SEO-related blog posts:
- These black hat SEO techniques will help you spot a cheap SEO company
- Find out more about the mysterious world of Google… including that time it also punished itself!
- Good shop, bad shop: comparing poor SEO to poor customer service