If you, like me, are an SEO salesperson, or if you are in account management, you have definitely heard it. Likely even the other members of your agency have heard it as well. To what am I referring? To the SEO Rip Off/Blackhat Story, of course. Though the details of the story may change prospect to prospect, there are a few standard elements that always seem to be present. They are: 1) My past SEO company charged me an arm and a leg, and they didn’t get results. 2) My past SEO company took my money, and I just never heard from them again. 3) My past SEO company was doing really great for me, then we got slammed with a Manual penalty from Google, and I found out that my agency was doing black hat SEO. These are all very unfortunate occurrences that happen too often. However, each of these need not be the coffin nail for your SEO hopes. There are reasons to seek out a good SEO company. Today, we will examine three of them that correspond to the stories mentioned above.
- You are now much wiser to the SEO game and know what to look for in a quality agency.
So, you had a poor experience with an SEO company, and you are unsure about how to judge the effectiveness of future partners before you purchase. Fortunately, you have many more tools in your belt now to help determine what a good SEO strategy is and what is likely to produce the best results. You have great websites like Moz and Raven Tools that constantly publish great content focusing on best practices for SEO as well as great SEO news sites like Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land that will help you remain up to date on trends and news in the digital marketing world. Furthermore, you clearly know a strategy that doesn’t work (aka, your first agency’s strategy), and you can use that to compare new plans. Finally, you now know that the proof is in the pudding. That is, you now know that if a company can’t rank itself highly for key search terms, it very likely can’t rank your site either. If you talk to an agency that can’t be found in the search engines, you know to take a pass and move on.
- Demand a contract that protects you in case the client doesn’t perform the agreed upon services.
I am still stunned at the sheer number of times I am talking to a prospect about a competitor who is offering SEO services without a contract. You, prospect, now know the futility of a relationship with an SEO agency that doesn’t hold itself accountable in writing to you. Are you simply going to take your salesperson’s word that he or she is going to get the work done? You simply can’t afford to make this mistake again because the worst case scenario is too costly to you in terms of money and time wasted, and it happens too often. You are not being pushy to ask for the terms of the agreement to be committed to writing. You are simply being a wise, forward-looking business person who is concerned for his or her best interests.
- Educate yourself on Google’s algorithm updates to protect against spammy SEO and find a company that has never done black hat SEO or had a client penalized for work done by that agency.
Panda and Penguin aren’t simply your favorite animals at the ZOO. Flawed as they may be, they are also some of the best changes to happen to SEO in forcing the spammers into relative ineffectiveness. They are both updates to Google’s algorithm, the notoriously secret formula that determines search rankings. Once you can understand both Panda and Penguin, you will then be armed with the knowledge you need to quiz each SEO company on their past work. First, find out if the company you are considering has ever done black hat SEO in the past. Though this isn’t a completely damning fact if they are currently doing white hat SEO, it is a sign that you should be very wary of working with that company. Second, find out if that company has ever had a client penalized. If they have, you need to do some serious soul searching before working with them. Though they may have reformed their ways, in my opinion, you should probably move on as there are plenty of agencies that have never earned their clients a penalty before.
Your SEO story doesn’t have to have a bad ending. Things can turn around and be better, and you can experience the joys of targeted traffic and inbound leads all day long if you follow the steps above. While I haven’t covered everything you should dissect when vetting an agency, the above is a start.