SEO is one of the dodgiest areas of digital marketing – but there are a few SEO red flags that can help you determine if you’re getting value for money from your current provider.
I’ve been working with SEO since my first day in the digital marketing industry. As a junior copywriter, my first job out of uni was writing copy for website clients to help them rank better in Google. Back then (12 years ago FYI), SEO was simple. You wrote a couple of paragraphs of text, stuffed it full of keywords, published it, and within a couple of weeks your site was generating sales and leads.
But like all areas of digital marketing, SEO has evolved significantly since 2010. It is now a complex specialist area of digital marketing. Most of the things I was doing back in 2010 would now be considered ‘black hat’ and yield poor results. Google’s algorithm has developed to include thousands of different criteria – all weighted differently – and getting a website onto the first page of Google is no longer the simple 2-hour task it once was.
Unfortunately, as Google’s algorithm has grown more complex, a lot of dodgy SEO providers have sprung up. They take advantage of their client’s lack of knowledge in this field; they over charge, under deliver and barely communicate.
Almost every single one of BeKonstructive Marketing’s SEO clients has come to us from a previous SEO provider, sharing their war stories and battle scars with us. Often, as they talk us through the services they were receiving from their previous provider, I pick up on multiple red flags. Red flags that could have indicated to the client that something was amiss – and saved them thousands of dollars.
And because I believe that knowledge is power, I’ve decided to share some of the most common red flags I’ve seen in the past few years. Hopefully this information will help you assess the SEO service you’re currently receiving and determine if you are receiving fair value for the price you’re paying.
Red Flag #1: No New Website Content
The first red flag that I want to share with you is not having any new content published on your website, or not having existing content updated on a regular basis. There are two core reasons that this is a red flag:
- In order to rank for a keyword or phrase, you have to have relevant information, text or content on your website that relates to that keyword or phrase. So if your SEO team aren’t loading new content onto your website, or building out your existing content to be longer/more informative – then they can’t possibly be adding new keywords or phrases into your SEO campaign. They probably aren’t chasing new keyword opportunities, and it’s unlikely that they are doing regular keyword research to stay on top of search traffic trends.
- One of Google’s key algorithm factors is the freshness or newness of your content. Google doesn’t want to rank outdated information, so they favour websites that make regular updates to their site – both in the form of new pages or articles, as well as regularly reviewing and updating existing pages. If your SEO team aren’t loading new content to your website in the form of blogs, portfolio pages, news articles or other updates, then they aren’t meeting the requirements of this major algorithmic ranking factor.
Not having new content loaded to your website might also be an indication that your SEO provider is only focusing on off-page SEO activities like backlinking. Backlinking is an important part of SEO – but it should only make up about one third of the work that is being done as part of your SEO campaign.
Red Flag #2: Inconsistent SEO Reporting
There are two different things to consider here. First, a lack of reporting or transparency. Do you receive SEO reporting in regular intervals? The standard is monthly, but quarterly or bi-monthly is also acceptable.
Does your report outline not only the results of your campaign, but also the deliverables? What SEO activities has your team spent their time on this month, and why? How many new links have they established, how have they improved the health of your website, and what new content have they added to the site, to target which keywords or phrases?
If your SEO company are legitimate, then they will have no problem providing you with a clear breakdown of the work they have done in the past month.
The second thing to consider is the consistency of the reporting. If you are receiving regular reporting, but no two reports are the same – then that could be a sign that they are spinning the data to look more positive than it really is. If you compare two different reports and they look completely different – they report on different metrics, and use different graphs / tables or reporting styles, then I recommend asking your team why.
It’s also important to consider whether the data being shown in your reports is consistent with what you’re experiencing. Track your leads and enquiries, and make sure that they aren’t claiming leads that came from your social media or Google Ads campaigns as their own.
Log into your Google Analytics account from time to time and fact check their figures. Ask them where they have gotten the data from and ask them to give you access to the raw data. An SEO agency that is transparent will have nothing to hide.
SEO Red Flag #3: They Never Ask for Your Input
Your SEO agency should be partnering with you to deliver their service. If they are operating 100% autonomously, never asking for your approval for new content or to review some new keywords – then that is a major red flag.
You know your target audience better than your SEO company ever will. They should not be making decisions on your behalf about which keywords/phrases to target. They shouldn’t be writing new blog articles or updating landing pages without running the changes past you first.
SEO isn’t just about getting more organic traffic to your website. Rather, it’s about getting more relevant organic traffic to your website that converts into more leads or sales for your business. If your SEO team aren’t checking in with you regularly to check that the leads you’re getting are converting, or that the traffic they’re sending to your website is giving you value – then they aren’t really working in partnership with you.
I’m aware of the red flags – now what?
Alrighty, so now you know what some of the common red flags are, the next step is to decide what you’re going to do with information.
If you’ve got a few concerns then line up a meeting or a call with your SEO account manager and ask them some pointed questions. Ask them to be transparent about how they are spending their time each month, and where their focus is. Ask them to run all new articles or website changes by you for approval before they’re loaded onto the website. And let them know if the leads you’re getting are high-quality or irrelevant – they can’t fix it if they don’t know it’s broken.
If the response you get from this conversation is positive, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Give them a bit more guidance about what you expect from them in terms of input and communication, and if they are accepting of your requests then great.
If the response you get from this conversation is defensive, or if they can’t answer any of your questions on the spot – and are unwilling to put you in contact with the person who can answer the questions – then you may want to consider finding a new supplier. An unwillingness to put you in direct contact with the people working on your SEO campaign is a red flag that they are outsourcing your SEO and don’t know what is happening on your account because they don’t physically log into your account and check it themselves.
The final option is to get a second opinion. If you’re uncertain about whether you are receiving value for money, then I’d be happy to take a look at things for you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your domain name, an overview of the SEO package/service you’re receiving, and any recent reports. I’ll run your domain name through our SEO auditing software ‘SEMrush’ and see if the results that we get back align with the results you’re being shown in your reporting.
If you’d like more information about BeKonstructive Marketing’s SEO services – along with our pricing and packages – click here. If you want to learn more about SEO, you can access our free online resources here.