You want your business to grow (more leads, more sales, more traffic) â€“ and you realize SEO is a great strategy. Which means itâ€™s time to hire an SEO firm right? Unfortunately, many companies donâ€™t know the first thing about SEO, which leaves them open and vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous firms. If you want to end up on the first page of Googleâ€™s search results, you need to take a very disciplined approach to finding the best SEO firm possible.
This means knowing what warning signs to beware when shopping for help with your companyâ€™s SEO efforts. Here are eight clear warning signs the SEO firm youâ€™re considering isnâ€™t the right bet:
1) They Buy Backlinks: Youâ€™ve heard that getting sites to link to yours helps, but you certainly donâ€™t want it like this. An SEO firm which buys backlinks from unreputable services is likely to give your company low quality and automated backlinks. Many of the pages these links appear on are called â€œfree for allâ€ pages, because theyâ€™re full of totally irrelevant and unrelated links. Plus, seeing as buying backlinks is completely against Googleâ€™s policies, this is a sure way to get penalized by Google. Even big companies are penalized by Google for this practice, like the BBC and Mozilla.
2)They do SEO Copywriting: If a potential SEO firm offers â€œSEO copywriting,â€ run in the opposite direction. Google has changed the algorithms it uses to rank content, which means practices like keyword stuffing and writing specifically for search engines is a dying art. Instead SEO firms should be going back to marketing 101, instead of trying to game the system. No more misspelling key terms in an effort to rank higher, no more unnatural text just to include more search terms.
Firms need to know your audience, write consistent to the tone of your brand, and tell a compelling story, all while using proper grammar and spelling (hey, itâ€™s worth pointing out seeing as itâ€™s not always the case!). Also important to note, â€œsticky sitesâ€, those with a low bounce rate, now get ranked higher. So if you tell a compelling story that resonates and keeps your audience reading and engaged, your bounce rates will improve and inturn your rankings will also.
3) They Promise Fast Results: SEO isnâ€™t only a science, itâ€™s also an art. This means any firm promising you results in a week or a month is one to be avoided. The sneaky way to get fast results is to employ â€œblack hatâ€ techniques. While these shortcuts might seem like a quick pay off, theyâ€™re a sure way to get your business in the penalty box with Google. SEO takes time, and itâ€™s an ongoing promise. As the results continue to improve, the right firm will continue to keep yielding positive results month over month, year over year.
4) They Have â€œSpecial Toolsâ€: Â As you talk with a potential SEO firm, you find yourself impressed with their secret sauce. They tell you all about their special automated processes and proprietary tools sure to get you ranked fast. Where do you sign up? Before you hand over your first check, take a step back. SEO is no longer a hackerspace since Google has cracked down and changed its algorithm to focus on natural and organic content. Now itâ€™s a marketers space, and these â€œspecial toolsâ€ will surely backfire. Not to beat a dead horse, but many will get you blacklisted and many of these tools wonâ€™t be around long because they probably violate Googleâ€™s policies.
5) They Want To Lock You In: If the SEO firm youâ€™re talking to wants to lock you in immediately, take a step back. If they want to get you tangled in a 12 month or longer commitment, ask yourself why. Maybe itâ€™s so you canâ€™t drop their services once you figure out theyâ€™re not delivering on their promises? If theyâ€™re really that good, why would they need that long-term contract?
6) They Donâ€™t Have A Long History: There are plenty of great SEO firms opening every day, and plenty of smart entrepreneurs and business leaders getting into the industry. That said, you should probably wait until a business has a little experience under its belt before signing on. You donâ€™t want to be the first client of a firm still trying to iron out the kinks of a new business. Especially when itâ€™s a service where the wrong techniques can have a long-term damaging effect on your business.
7) Their References Donâ€™t Exist: One of the most essential steps you should take before hiring an SEO firm is to talk, at length, with clients and other references. If references donâ€™t exist and arenâ€™t readily available upon request, itâ€™s time to cross this particularly firmâ€™s name off your list. The only reason not to provide references is because they donâ€™t have any satisfied customers to direct you to.
8) Their Packages Are One Size Fits All:Â Every business has a different website. That means different needs, goals, target audience, and overall specific reasons to jump into the SEO game. If youâ€™re talking to a firm and their packages are â€œone size fits all,â€ go look for a better fit. Good firms need to really study your business, understand your objectives, research your competition, analyze your website, and only then can they put together a solution. Beware of firms that have â€˜packagesâ€™ and sell you into one of them before doing a deep-dive into your business.
Sometimes the first step to finding the best firm for your needs is knowing which companies are all wrong for the job. By paying attention to these eight warning signs you can save yourself a lot of trouble, and avoid risky companies that have a good chance of not only getting you poor results, but getting your website penalized with the search engines.
Have you had a bad experience? Share in the comments below.
Ilya Pozin is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and investor. He is the founder ofÂ digital marketing agencyÂ Ciplex,Â online video entertainment platform Pluto.TV, and social greeting card company Open Me.Â