The SEO game is challenging. It is an industry that changes so quickly that if your agency isn’t on top of their game they may actually be hurting your growth rather than enhancing it. Take for instance the items I’ve listed below. A year or more ago some of these things may have brought you more traffic. Recently however Google has tightened up their algorithms. Not only will your traffic NOT grow if you try doing these things, but Google (and other search engines) may actually penalize your site. Once your site is penalized, it can be extremely difficult to get back into the good graces Google. There are good SEO companies out there. If your agency mentions any of the techniques below you may want to consider a change.

  1. Volume and Classification of Links Most people even remotely familiar with SEO have heard about the value of links to their website. Your agency should be very open about their link building strategies. If they tell you they’re going to get you hundreds and thousands of links – you need to run the other directions. While there is still value in quality link building, massive linking schemes connecting low value sites to your site will now cause your site to be penalized by Google. The key is QUALITY links. These don’t come from forum comments, bookmarks or other outdated ideas. Quality linking takes time and experience. It is much better to be linked to a few reputable sites than dozens of poor sites.

  2. Duplicate Content / Re-hashing Content This happens way too often. Your agency writes a great article for your business and you’re understandably excited. Too often you may find that that same article has been used on other sites as well. So now instead of fresh ORIGINAL content your site is posting duplicate articles. Google now weights original content and authorship so heavily that you may actually be damaging your traffic. Make sure you’re getting the original article and not something posted to other sites.

  3. Content Ownership This is a bit more rare, but nonetheless very disconcerting. You’ve spent a year or more with your SEO agency and perhaps you’ve decided to make a change in your strategy. So you may decide to leave your agency. Imagine your surprise when your previous agency removes all the links and content they created in the previous year. Make sure you ask your agency BEFORE signing the contract who owns the content. You should own all of your creative and content.

  4. The Promise of Hitting a Specific Traffic or Sales Goal There are no guarantees in this business. We can offer fairly accurate forecasts, but we cannot tell you EXACTLY the amount of traffic/sales you will see. Google makes over 500 changes annually to their algorithm and they aren’t sharing those details with SEO agencies before they make the changes. What’s going to happen next week or next month? We don’t know. If your agency tells you they know what Google is going to do in the future, consider your options.

  5. Black Hat Strategies Black Hat sounds nefarious, but really it just means a gimmick or shortcut scheme to SEO. If your agency can’t explain exactly what they’re doing be concerned. If it feels like a scheme, it might be. Just ask them for more details. If they are reluctant to explain their tools, I’d be hesitant to have them do any work on my site. What may have worked for them a couple of years ago may get your site penalized.

In reality most SEO agencies are working hard for their clients. Unfortunately, it takes just a few unscrupulous folks to pollute the entire industry. SEO work isn’t magic. Your agency should be fully transparent. If you have questions they should be able to answer them without hesitation or resentment. Remember that you hold the power. You’re the client.