SEO is an essential part of any successful marketing strategy. But what do you do when your SEO agency is not performing well or not performing as expected? If you are considering switching SEO agencies or looking to know if its worth finding a better SEO provider, read on in this complete guide to know the telltale signs o’f if your SEO agency is doing a good job or not.
So you have an existing SEO agency… congrats on understanding that SEO is a great cost effective way to bring ready buyers to your site. You probably hired the firm because them seemed good at first or perhaps you were in a rush and you either had little time to search for the ideal agency.
You might also have felt it would be more cost-effective to hire a firm that quoted the lowest bid price for an SEO campaign.
Well, whatever be the reasons, you’re now in a position where your agency is not delivering the results you expected. iI you are losing confidence in your SEO firm and don’t know whether to keep them or fire them, it’s time to start asking some tough questions. Are they really as good as they claim? When was the last time you saw quantifiable results? Are they trustworthy?
This post will go over the red flags that should serve as sure-fire signs that you need to sack your current SEO firm and either hire a new one or do the activity in-house.
Sign #1: Mass Submissions
You should know there is something very fishy when your SEO firm suddenly promises you 500 directory submissions, 700 article submissions, 3,000 social bookmarks, and 29,832 forum links. Where links are concerned you really need to be smart and always look for organic links.
Bulk links are automated and are the very definition of ‘webspam’. You need to keep your eye on the link profile metric. Your link profile is used as a ranking factor by Google. Your site could be in big trouble if your link profile gets messed up.
And, it can get messed up really quickly with questionable linkbacks that originate from suspicious and spammy websites. In fact, even if you get a random supply of backlinks from sites that are completely outside your niche, then it should send up a red flag.
This is a sign that your SEO is not adding any link juice to your website to improve your site authority, but is simply flooding your site with a lot of backlinks. This amateurish approach used to work in the WildWildWest days of the internet, but not anymore.
In some cases, spraying a site with a lot of random and junk linkbacks can result in a short-term spike in rank and/or traffic. However, this is rarely going to last long as the traffic and rank start to drop. Your website may even get slapped with a manual or algorithmic penalty.
Get in touch with your SEO agency immediately and show them a list of all spammy websites. You may or may not get an honest answer about their involvement. Whatever the case, you would now have a lot of cleanup to do.
Sign #2: They Have (Literally) Nothing to Show
Your SEO agency, whether old or new, should have something to show for their efforts. This does not mean results, like a rise in ranking, but the actual SEO steps the agency has taken to place your site at Google’s forefront.
It may be too early to begin expecting results a month, two, or even four into the contract. SEO is slow work, especially now that Google bots stress on organic results. You don’t have to sweat your agency simply because they are unable to show promised results quickly.
However, you have the right to ask for deliverables because the SEO agency has to show something for the money you paid them all those months. Here are some of the things your SEO agency should be able to provide (when asked for) in the first few weeks and months of the contract:
- Your site’s SEO audit results
- Analysis report of your site’s link profile
- Content optimization
- Articles with backlinks (links to your site) that have been or are in the process of being published
You need to make sure the agency is doing something worthwhile and have the proof of it. These four things are just the tip of the iceberg. An honest and capable SEO agency would be forthcoming with other results when you ask them for it.
Most SEO companies quit asking their clients for things, a month into the contract. You need to steer clear of such agencies. Have a word with the representative and change the agency if needed. An SEO agency, regardless of their claimed proficiency or experience, needs your help all the way to achieve expected results.
It should be a bigger warning sign if even after weeks they don’t ask you for the basics, like:
- Admin or Editor access to CMS
- Admin or view access to Google Analytics
- Access to all social accounts and Webmaster Tools
- Results from past audits
- Targeted keywords
- List of past penalties and SEO jobs done
These are things only you as the site owner can help the SEO agency with. Without these accesses and reports, the agency may just be adding backlinks in bulk from their vast network of spam sites. These also mean that the agency is performing potentially harmful actions.
If you did hire such an agency, and now feel that there is nothing you can do about it, then you should simply cut your losses and run. Google actions in the long-run can be devastating to your website and rankings.
Sign #3: Zero Input and Suggestions
It is very suspicious if an SEO agency does not ask you to make changes. Maybe you had great results from them for 6 months, but all of a sudden there are no more suggestions and inputs.
It is important that you be wary of such situations. Keep your eyes peeled on Google metrics for your site. No suggestions or changes mean the agency is not working on your site anymore, while continuing the billing.
There are many dubious companies that stop working on client sites after showing minimal results to keep the checks coming in. Then, there are also some agencies that would just place a bunch of backlinks of your website on random spammy websites and blogs.
Such agencies hope to make things turn around and result in high yields with minimum efforts. They are not interested in their clients or interfacing with the client’s website. They are only interested in short-term results to make you think the agency is a good bargain or a steal.
Look for an SEO agency that views the relationship with you as a partnership. They need to get you involved every step of the way to make your site a success in search results. Recommendations are the least an SEO agency makes after auditing the site.
Sign #4: The Content is Not for Real People
If you come across site articles or some other form of content that makes you wonder why the thing was written in the first place, then you should consider firing the unremarkable SEO agency behind it.
Any content to really leave a mark and give you a ranking boost needs to be useful and add value to searcher intent.
A great rule of thumb while considering content is to ask yourself, whether you would publish it on Twitter? If not, then you really need to have a chat with your digital marketing agency.
With the current Google updates, it is your content that is your opportunity to rise and shine among consumers, influencers, and other peers in your industry. You really need to use the opportunity to build trust with readers and not hit them with worthless words.
Sure, well optimized content will still give you a marginal advantage with search engines. But, the only way you are going to get returns in the long haul is by building trust with potential customers. This can only be done through decent content marketing, which requires a decent SEO agency.
It’s time to fire your current digital marketing agency if they don’t focus on long tail of SEO or a stronger social following. A good SEO agency must direct efforts on increasing brand visibility and higher organic search rankings.
Sign #5: Your Rankings Drop or It’s for the Wrong Keywords
A drop in website ranking can be because of a number of reasons, and doesn’t necessarily mean that your SEO agency is to be blamed. You need to prevent yourself from obsessing about the rankings, but at the same time, keep an eye out.
If you see a steady decline, then your agency may be getting your website algorithmically penalized by performing certain undesirable actions. You need to have a long and detailed discussion with your agency about this and if anything seems suspicious, then get them to stop immediately.
If you are not aware of your target keywords, then find out. In addition, find out how longtail keywords are driving your ranking as per Google Analytics. Navigate to Acquisition → Keywords → Organic to find this.
You should beware if your organic keywords change drastically. There’s a reason for you to gain traffic from the wrong keywords. It is also problematic if you stop ranking for keywords that were previously high-ranking.
Your traffic growing goals comprise of earning targeted traffic and not random traffic. It could be a sign of careless or indiscriminate work if your traffic comes from suspicious or arbitrary queries.
Sign#6: Sudden Traffic Drop or Manual Penalty
Drop in traffic is similar to drop in search engine rankings. It could be the sign of an algorithmic penalty.
This is a very bad sign for your website. You should have clear suspicions if you hired the SEO agency a month or two back. Of course, you don’t want to fire them right away. It doesn’t always mean it’s the agency’s fault, but then again, it might be.
The cautious response is to start asking the right questions. In case of a traffic drop, find out if there were any algorithmic changes to have coincided with the decline in traffic. Next, determine the extent of these changes, if any, and the changes that were made to your website in the days and weeks preceding the traffic decline.
Finally, make sure your SEO agency gives you an accurate picture of all offsite actions undertaken by them. Manual penalties are the worst things to happen to your website and you would be notified about these through an email message or a GWT notification.
You need to carry out some close questioning and do some careful thinking in such situations.
Sign #7: The Agency Can’t Broaden Their Vision
Tunnel vision has no place in the SEO world, simply because, search engines and algorithms are constantly updating and changing. Gradually, SEO is converging with all other marketing channel which has made it necessary for people to adapt.
It’s not enough to create a good website. You really need to focus on providing a good user experience. In the same way, it’s not enough to simply leave it at creating good content. You also need to promote it.
Most SEO companies that fail are unable to adapt to the changing search engine algorithms. Zealous keyword stuffing and indiscriminate directory listing may have worked once upon a time. But, sticking with an SEO agency that still clings to these methods could spell disaster for your website.
As per Google, changes are made to their core search algorithms at least once a day. While most changes are negligible and tiny, there are always some that are huge. Whatever the case may be, change and search engines go hand in hand. Google is forever upgrading their tech to better serve searcher intent.
Consider yourself warned if your SEO agency is not letting you know about these changes or is unable to explain the major ones. One great way to find out whether your agency is cut out for the job is to ask them about their process.
Any SEO agency that refrains from explaining their process or tries to shroud it in a cloak of mystery by claiming to keep their methods confidential, not be permitted to disclose trade secrets, or for the explaining to take too long, be warned.
These are signals that your existing SEO partner is not all that they claim to be and they may be using black-hat or grey-hat techniques to give you a short-term ranking bump. You need to understand the potential long-term reputational damage with such tactics rather than just feel good with short-term results.