5 Red Flags to Look out for When Choosing an SEO Agency

I have been in the search engine optimization game for over a decade now. Clients come to me with two chief objectives: to win at Google and crush their online marketing goals. Sounds simple, right? Well, there is more to it.

It takes a very agile SEO strategy to keep up with Google Trends. It took me years to develop a team of experts, tools and processes at Alphametic. When a new client comes to us, we often spend a good amount of time correcting careless SEO mistakes of the past and see a number of SEO sins that could have been easily avoided.

Choosing the wrong business partner can cost you a lot of wasted time and money. So, if you’re looking to work with a search marketing agency, avoid these five SEO sins.

Sin No. 1: Bandwidth — Not considering your ability to execute.

Many clients have specific objectives when working with an agency: To get on the right path in their SEO strategy, analyze their performance gaps or perform an actionable audit and find “quick wins.” This is the first stage. If this is all your business requires, a consulting project is adequate. However, if you are looking to increase your rankings by creating new (and more) content and building relationships with bloggers, you need much more. In which case, you need to be prepared to invest in content, technology, public relations and outreach at the outset of any SEO project.

Today’s SEO climate is dynamic, competitive and highly specialized. If your team does not have the bandwidth to create extra content and strategize effectively and cohesively with your SEO provider, you will commit the first sin — not being able to execute an SEO plan.

Sin No. 2: Vetting — Not thoroughly checking your agency’s background.

SEO agencies and consultants all have capability statements, testimonials, whitepapers and client lists to back their work and explain their strategies. Reading these materials is the bare minimum of research that should be part of your process for hiring an SEO agency or consultant. Check references by reaching out to past and current clients to obtain full reviews of their SEO wins. Furthermore, make sure that your agency or consultant knows your business or has the bandwidth and staff to become experts in your business. Agencies or consultants specializing in consumer products may not be the right fit if you are looking to gain placements with service-focused, business-to-business needs, and vice versa.

Check references and client testimonials before you commit the second sin of choosing the agency partner that talks the talk but has no track record of walking the walk.

Sin No. 3: Missing the point man — Not having an identifiable team or point person.

If you actively detach from the process of searching for an SEO agency and, instead, view the search as a simple sales funnel, you miss an opportunity to gain insight into how a reputable agency should acquire new business. Depending on how you find your SEO agency — referral, online or direct — you will deal with a leadership team in sales. You may be very happy with the sales pitch and the level of skills the SEO pros are pitching you, but will they actually work on your business or meet with you when the work begins?

Make sure that you understand who exactly will work on your business and who is just selling you. During the sales process, you should meet your account team and make sure that there is the right chemistry between your own team and your daily agency contacts. Your needs may require just one person or they may require a combination of skills. However, it is critical for streamlining work and keeping communication clear to have a point of contact at your agency you can trust. Otherwise, you are missing the point, man!

Sin No. 4: No numbers — Not setting clear goals.

Having quantifiable metrics is the key to success. If you have not set a goal in SEO metrics, you should not be in the market for an SEO agency. Whether they are monthly percentage increases or annual goals, engagement or conversion, these benchmarks are motivation for an agency, in addition to being an integral factor for your own company.

With goals and timelines, comes accountability. It is the fourth sin for the client and agency relationship to fail to assign goals because the chain of accountability starts with the goals set by the respective teams. Outline your goals and observe them at intervals.

Sin No. 5: SEO is your savior — Thinking SEO can solve all of your problems.

Your SEO agency is not going to solve all of your problems, make your product a success and make your sales team convert more phone calls. Your agency should show up for you and provide the tools, customer service, creative content, winning ideas and organized communication to supplement your team. However, the agency needs a point of contact for your team to grow your business.

If you have a product or service that does not have a natural client base or does not service a need, then you should probably refine your business model before you hire an agency or a consultant in order to avoid making the final sin.

So, what’s your experience choosing the right search marketing agency for your business? By staying aware of these five sins, you should be better prepared to make a good agency-partnership decision for your company.

(Article written by Matthew Capala)