Call us 1-805-856-1502


Is this SEO Company for Real? Online Marketing Red Flags and Green Lights

October 15, 2012

Black Hat SEO Snake Oil

Online Marketing Red Flags and Green Lights

If you’re a business owner, you’ve inevitably been prospected by an SEO company. Probably several. “We want to get you ranked number one on the search engines. Imagine the increased revenue you’ll get with our affordable SEO package!” With most companies out there, imagining is all you’re going to be doing because you’ll have wasted several thousand dollars with no results to show for it. In fact, even some larger and more successful Internet marketing firms will happily take your money and, in return, provide you with fluff. Did you know that your business can even be damaged by an aggressive black hat SEO campaign?

However, there are reputable companies out there that can get you great results that will both drive traffic to your website and increase your bottom line. As an experienced team of Internet marketers, we’re very familiar with the red flags that give away a bad SEO company, as well as the green lights that represent a great, upstanding firm. We’ve compiled some things to look for when making your own judgment of an Internet marketing company.


Red Flags:

I guarantee that you’ll be number one!

Search engine algorithms are always changing, and each time you or your competitor’s site is crawled, there is a potential to move up or down, slightly or drastically. Additionally, each keyword has a different difficulty level based on industry, the amount of competition, the effectiveness of your competitor’s SEO efforts, and many other factors. Imagine if your financial advisor promised you a 50% portfolio growth for each of your financial instruments. If it sounds too good to be true…

A good SEO company will never guarantee rankings. However, they CAN use proven techniques and experience to improve your rankings. Any time you hear the words “guarantee,” bells should be going off. At the very least, ask them how they guarantee it.

A large number of promised backlinks for a low price

Link building is a labor-intensive process of continuously creating popularity for your business across the web. It is not necessarily difficult for someone who knows what he or she is doing, but it is nonetheless time consuming, and, as you know, time is money. Of course, there are unscrupulous ways to get around this fact, such as soliciting link farms, which can cut the costs of doing business and remove the need for an in-house link building team. That’s the most likely way that the SEO company prospecting you right now can offer their $200 package with 250 backlinks.

However, over the long term, these black hat methods can actually damage your rankings or, in extreme cases, result in Google blacklisting your site. Sure, it sounds attractive when you suddenly find a company that is one third the cost, but in our experience, these low-cost “solutions” will make you wonder why you are paying hundreds of dollars a month for snake oil, whereas quality SEO generally pays for itself and much, much more within months. Be wary, and when you find a deal that feels too good to be true, ask the sales rep to describe in detail the backlinking process his or her company employs.

Lack of communication

If you’ve already signed up and gone through your company’s onboarding process, but you haven’t heard from them in a couple of months, it’s probably because they’ve put your campaign on autopilot (inactivity usually leads to stagnating or declining rankings). Here’s a test: give them a call and ask them how your campaign is going. Can they give you any specifics?  A great SEO firm will keep you updated on the progress of your campaign and will be intimately familiar with your progress.


Green Lights:

Regular reporting

It’s definitely a good sign if you are promised monthly ranking reports; this means that the company has a method for measuring your progress and isn’t going to hide information from you when campaigns underperform. It’s even better if the company’s reports clearly define all the work they’ve done for you in that month, including onsite changes and link building efforts. A good SEO firm will also be monitoring your web analytics to track clicks and conversions, among other important criteria, and they will provide you with this information in reporting. Remember, it’s about your online business development and progress should be tracked!

Personalized strategy sessions

A great online marketing company is going to sit down with you (face-to-face or over the phone) and get an understanding of your business before they start suggesting campaign options. A cookie cutter approach rarely works for SEO. The firm should complete competitive analyses and keyword research to give you a range of choices depending on where you want your business to go. You should look for a company that will balance your needs with their expertise. Of course, you should also feel good about the direction of the campaign you’ve chosen after the discussion has taken place. Remember that strategies can be discussed and selected before you pay a penny.

Proven track record 

The firm should be able to show you (not just tell you) the results of some of their other clients. Test it out. Type in the search terms that the SEO company claims they got top rankings for. Is the client easily visible? Also, ask yourself, “Does this seem like a keyword that drives paying customers to the site?” You have to be sure that the company you’re joining knows how to optimize for relevant business-related keywords.

Many clients are reluctant to allow a company to divulge contact information to prospects, but if you can, try and get in touch with an existing client to get some first-hand information about the company that’s courting you. The most important thing to find out is how long this client has been with the company. If they have had protracted success over a longer time period, you should feel more at ease.

A good SEO company will set realistic expectations and will regularly meet and exceed them, contributing to the long-term improvement and success of your online marketing efforts. Choose wisely, and watch out for red flags like the ones listed here. We wish you success in your SEO campaign!

Comments are closed.