It’s a fact: most people don’t click past the first page of search engine results.
So the first pages of search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are prime real estate.
But there is a lot of competition to appear on the first page of a search engine when users search for a particular term. That’s what makes search engine optimization (SEO), the process of improving website traffic from search engines, so important.
But as search engines like Google get more sophisticated, so has SEO. With so many factors and algorithms involved, SEO can seem complicated and almost impossible.
Many companies hire specialized SEO agencies to help. These agencies usually consult with their clients’ marketing team, or serve as an outsourced marketing team. They may design a website and create content to help their clients improve their search engine rankings, web traffic, and–eventually–their revenue.
In my work as a content writer, I’ve had several clients who also worked with an SEO company. In many cases, they would ask me to implement their SEO consultant’s advice into the content I wrote for them. Unfortunately, some clients were so desperate to improve their search engine rankings that they would do just about anything the SEO company told them to, no questions asked.
Sometimes SEO advice–even from an established SEO agency–is unhelpful, outdated, or just plain wrong. Advice like filling content with the keywords they want to rank for, no matter how awkwardly it fits into the content. Advice like creating regular content without caring about the quality. Inevitably, such measures yield disappointing results.
Plenty of SEO companies are staffed with honest, genuine experts. Others, however, are run by scam artists who take advantage of clients’ desperation. Before you sign a contract (and a check) with an SEO agency, make sure you’re working with the former, not the latter.
Here are some red flags to watch for when hiring an SEO company:
1. Guaranteed results.
If an SEO experts promises or guarantees that you will rank on the first page of Google, or even as the number-one result under a particular search term, get away ASAP. Google itself has said, “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.”
2. Fast results.
In their efforts to attract clients and close deals, SEO companies may promise fast results. Unfortunately, fast results are usually short-lived. SEO is a long-term growth strategy, requiring weeks, months, and even years of testing web design, researching keywords, building links, and creating quality content.
In a similar vein, avoid SEO agencies that pressure you into taking action right away. Proper SEO takes some time, planning, and research to get right. Making rushed decisions under pressure will not get you the results you want.
3. One single solution.
SEO involves a combination of factors, from the keywords you use to the way your website is designed to the type of content you share. If an SEO agency promises a single, fool-proof method, kindly turn their offer down.
I’ve worked with clients who had been convinced by their SEO consultant that one particular detail or technique had to be 100% correct, or their whole SEO plan was wasted. That simply doesn’t happen. SEO is made up of many small details that work together, and while you should take steps to avoid mistakes and ensure that they are all working in harmony, a single error will not send your whole website into search engine oblivion.
4. Unsolicited offers.
Are you even looking for an SEO company to work with? If not, then avoid agencies that message you first. Now, if someone contacts you because you met before, or because you have something in common, that’s one thing. But if you get an unsolicited offer from someone with an unverified company name and an email flooded with typos, consider it spam and move on.
5. Short-term focus.
Search engine algorithms evolve in response to changing technology, user needs, and consumer habits. The SEO techniques that work today won’t necessarily work next year. Your SEO partner should understand this.
Don’t work with someone who is only focused on the short-term. An SEO expert can’t predict the future, but they should understand that their advice and solutions need to be flexible enough to respond to future changes. They should also understand that true SEO takes time to build and implement properly, and will help you set goals and make decisions with that in mind.
6. Won’t help you understand.
SEO can seem complicated, but the right SEO expert will be able to tell you what they plan to do and why they expect it to work. Don’t mistake your confusion for their expertise! It’s important that you understand where your money and resources are going.
For example, Google search results have both regular (or organic) search results and an advertising section (paid search). A disreputable SEO provider may promise high rankings in organic search results, but actually puts your website among the ads. Make sure to ask your SEO provider about what part of their fees go toward organic search results and what part toward (more temporary) paid ads.
Just like any other industry or specialty, some SEO agencies are more honest and knowledgeable than others. Watch out for these six warning signs, and you can steer clear of bad actors and find an SEO company that will help you make appropriate, informed decisions to achieve your marketing goals.
Need help creating SEO-friendly website and marketing content?
That’s what I’m here for! If you’re struggling with your content marketing strategy or implementing SEO into your content and copywriting, let’s talk. I help healthcare organizations and medical marketing professionals develop quality content that increases traffic, leads, and revenue.
Check out my content marketing ebook, “Essential Tips for a Powerful Content Marketing Strategy.” After that, feel free to connect on LinkedIn, as well!