If you’re wondering if an SEO agency is any good you are probably either thinking about signing a contract with a new SEO agency or you are considering how good your existing SEO agency is.
And it’s a fair question because your SEO agency could very easily damage your business, so you need to make sure you get it right and if your existing SEO agency isn’t working out, you need to make changes, fast!
About seven years ago I started getting calls from business owners and marketers who had experienced some very poor practices being carried out on their site, which had damaged their business. Often this damage had been caused by spammy techniques, generally either black hat on page techniques or unnatural links through private blog networks.
I’ve been working in SEO for a long time. I admit, I’ve tried everything and I’ve learned the hard way about the types of techniques that can be implemented and those that can’t. I’ve instilled that ethos into GrowTraffic and I’m committed to the slow, steady and sustainable approach to SEO.
All too often I’ve worked with businesses who have paid thousands of pounds to SEOs who have told them they can definitely get them rankings and that those rankings are going to change their business – and even their lives.
If you’ve already been targeted by a spammer or a scammer, or if you want to ensure you don’t engage one of those types of SEOs, then read on.
Probably the first place you are going to look when considering an SEO agency is whether they can get their own website to rank for the keywords they are targeting. SEO is a fierce space, but if they’re worth their salt they should be able to tell you the keywords they are proud of and those keywords should be keywords that deliver traffic that converts.
As you’ve probably found your prospective SEO agency through a search query, then you are halfway to knowing that they are able to get their own website to rank. Next, you should ask them for examples of their client websites and the rankings they’ve achieved for those sites. Pro tip: also ask them for the contact details of their clients after they’ve told you the rankings they’ve achieved. Many SEO agencies will inform you about rankings, they’ve inherited rather than rankings they’ve achieved themselves, speaking to the client will help you understand what they have done for their business and what they are likely to do for your business.
How do you know your SEO agency isn’t hurting your website’s rankings?
If you’ve already hired an SEO agency then it’s essential that you are able to hold them to account and monitor what they are doing. This can be tough when digital marketing or SEO specifically aren’t your specialism.
So to begin with it’s important to get a good feel for exactly what they are doing. At GrowTraffic we price up every element of the work we’re carrying out and get that signed off in a quote before we begin. We also keep an SEO log, which we either summarise or let clients review. Unfortunately, most SEO agencies don’t provide the level of transparency we do.
Things to look out for when considering if an SEO agency is any good:
Processes and practices
One of the things we work hard at here at GrowTraffic is increasing the knowledge and the processes our team use to achieve success through SEO. In the early stages of your SEO project it will generally be too early to get any results from the SEO efforts but if you SEO agency is any good they should be able to tell roughly what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and probably most important, why they’re doing it.
These are some of the things you want to be looking for when trying to ascertain if your SEO agency is any good:
- An SEO Audit
- An SEO Change Log
- Articles published on your website
- Articles published on other websites with links pointing to your site
The level of communication you have with your SEO agency
OK, so you probably don’t want to be hearing from your SEO agency every week, but you will want to feel your SEO agency understands your business. If they are creating content on your website and other websites they are going to have questions for you. Furthermore, an SEO agency should want to communicate with you to demonstrate their value to your business. If your SEO is silent then alarm bells should be ringing.
Your SEO agency doesn’t request login details:
An SEO agency is going to want access to everything from your CMS logins, through to your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, your FTP and control panel. They will likely want logins to every piece of software you’ve got that provides them with some insight into your website and the way it’s positioned online, and the way your audience interacts with it.
Your SEO agency can’t suggest improvements:
Whenever we work with a client we understand it’s a two way street. We generally come up with a lot of different ways in which businesses can benefit from working with us, however, we then go back to the client and constantly rework our plans to take into account their business.
Many SEO agencies won’t have the gumption to come back to you with ideas. As with any marketing tactic, the way you deliver SEO has to change over time, it’s about getting the mix right and somethings will work for a while and then enter a period of diminishing returns when it’s best to try something else.
If you’ve got an SEO agency that isn’t any good you’re going to find they’re just going to do the same thing over and over again, hoping to regain the glory of past successes or perhaps even worse, you may find they’re not really doing anything at all.
The key thing to look out for is to check that they are communicating with you and are able to say what they’re doing. There should be a change log and there should be task management. Remember as well, that retainer SEO is just about allocating time each month. Find out what that time is being spent on, or what it’s going to be spent on.
Your SEO agency refuses to share their SEO techniques
At GrowTraffic we always tell our new clients that we don’t want to do their SEO for them, well at least we don’t want to be doing their SEO for them forever. That’s because if we do our job right, we’re going to give them enough information and expertise to do it themselves. And if they’ve grown effectively, they may even be able to put in place the right kind of resource.
So you need to ask them questions. If they hesitate, spin you a line or you get a sense that they have no answer then you want to be have an emergency meeting with you SEO agency, quick.
You also want to be clear that they are carrying out white hat SEO techniques. I’ll come onto what those are later, but when they tell you what they’re doing, you always need to understand why they are doing it and why it’s a sustainable approach.
A manual penalty could indicate a problem SEO agency
I’ve helped a number of websites recover their SEO following a manual penalty. They are some of the most painful experiences a website owner can go through and they can have dire consequences to your business. They are also sure indicators that your SEO agency has been carrying out manipulative and spammy questions.
If you’ve been working with an SEO agency for a long time and then you get a manual penalty, you should probably get rid of your SEO agency. It could be that they’ve started to get desperate and they’re trying to get some quick wins or it could be that they’ve always been doing things you wouldn’t think they’d be doing.
Your rankings hit the deck
Rankings go up and down all the time. And I’d be suspicious if you only ever get positive ranking reports from your SEO agency. However, if your rankings suddenly drop through the floor or start to slip and never seem to recover, then you’ve got to try to work out what your SEO agency has been up to, because they may have tried for a quick win that’s got you penalised.
Your traffic starts to drop off
This is coupled with rankings but if your traffic starts to drop then it’s time to start asking questions. There are all sorts of reasons why your traffic could drop but your SEO agency should be able to start to give you a reason why you’ve had a drop-off and what they are going to do about it. It’s worse still if your SEO agency doesn’t even realise you’ve had a drop-off.
You start to rank for the wrong or random keywords
A while ago I worked with a business who started to rank for some very strange keywords. They started to rank for casino terms couple with their own keywords. These rankings had come about through some very dodgy links their previous SEO consultant had placed on their website. Whilst most SEO agencies have the kind of processes in
Your backlinks start to look spammy
OK, most business owners and marketers don’t check their link profile as religiously as an SEO would do, however, if you’ve got an SEO agency on the case you need to be checking. Links help you rank and you can get short term wins by pointing a lot of random and spammy links back at a website. The problem is this won’t last forever.
You’re going to have some strange backlinks from time to time, that’s just the nature of a backlink profile – so don’t react everything something odd stands out – however, if you are consistently getting spamming links in your profile you can guess that either you’re SEO agency is up to something dodgy or you’ve upset someone.
Your anchor links are all optimised for keywords
Whilst you’re checking your backlink profile you better have a look at the anchor links you’re SEO agency are building. When I started out in SEO way back in the midsts of time every link I build used an exact match anchor text. That was just the way things were done back then.
Fast forward to 2012 and the Penguin update, and something like 3% of the internet was penalised because of anchor text manipulation (amongst other things). I’m sorry to say that my own websites and many of the websites I’d worked on were damaged by the Penguin update. It was at that point in time that I started to work to a mentality of ensuring my SEO practices were even whiter than white. I continued to do SEO but I’d always do it the hard way or long way. And it’s worked so far, so good.
If your SEO agency are building nothing but exact match anchor text (that’s an anchor text that matches your keyword) then you better start informing them that’s not how to do SEO in 2019 and you’d probably want to start to looking for a new SEO agency.