How to Look for Red Flags When Hiring an SEO Company

By Jason Berkowitz / 27 November 2018

Hiring the right SEO company can be difficult and time-consuming, especially when you don’t know how trustworthy the company might be. We outline a few red flags you should look out for when considering an SEO agency.

More than 70,000 searches take place on Google every second. For a business with an online presence, this presents an immense opportunity: Search engine optimization (SEO) offers one of the most organic and cost-effective solutions to tap into this market.

Having a digital marketing strategy that makes use of SEO is indispensable. The question, however, is who should you trust with such a crucial aspect of your business? Although it’s a no-brainer as to whether SEO is beneficial, you may end up paying more than what you were hoping to if you don’t select the right SEO agency.

There are many SEO companies offering these services, and it is difficult to gauge who can deliver on their promise of putting you on the digital map with SEO.

There are, however, certain ways to determine if an agency has any substance behind its claims. If you notice a company consistently lacking in any of the following aspects, it should instantly signal a red flag.

Lacking a Digital Footprint

One of the primary jobs of an SEO company is to establish an online presence for its clients. If an SEO company doesn’t have a credible digital footprint of its own, there is a solid chance it won’t be of much use to you when it comes to your online marketing efforts.

Google SEO agency search

However, there are a few easy ways to evaluate an SEO agency’s online presence.

For starters, simply conduct a search with a common keyword, such as “SEO agency” + the location of its business. If it appears among the top results, it usually means the company is doing a good job of optimizing its site.

Similarly, its website design, the level of activity on its social media handles, the rate at which its blog is updated with insightful content, and the presence, or lack of, online reviews are also good ways of evaluating an SEO company.

If an SEO agency isn’t successful at optimizing its own content for SEO, how could you trust it to optimize your content?

Offering Impractical Assurances

SEO is a great tool for achieving high rankings. However, if an SEO agency guarantees that it can send your site skyrocketing up the rankings, it’s a red flag.

Assurances of achieving specific results within a given period of time can also be unrealistic. Aside from the fact that the agency could be guaranteeing these results due to the usage of “black hat” techniques (practices that are against search engine’s terms of service and may get you banned from Google), there are several other reasons why such claims should be met with skepticism.

Guaranteed SEO services

The ever-evolving search engine algorithms, the level of competition, current marketing trends, the geographical location of where the search was conducted, and many other factors all contribute to how high or low a site ranks. Such a combination of uncontrollable factors ultimately renders dictating definite results impossible.

If an SEO company is guaranteeing results or the number one spot on a Google search page, avoid that company.

Urging You to Sign a Long-Term Contract

As a client, it is not beneficial for your brand to be bound by a long-term agreement.

Things are constantly changing in the world of SEO, and an agency will need to make frequent adjustments to your campaign. This could eventually affect the budget or intensity of the company’s overall efforts.

In other words, the unpredictable nature of SEO calls for frequent discussion between the agency and client and doesn’t allow for the same strategy to be executed for longer periods of time.

Therefore, you shouldn’t have a long-term contract, and SEO campaigns should be seen as month-to-month efforts. Clients should stay clear of agencies trying to lock them into minimum contracts of 6 or 12 months.

How your website ranks today may call for a more extensive or laidback approach 6 months from now – you can’t plan what SEO strategies you will use months in advance.

As a rule of thumb, campaigns should be frequently amended, the results should be analyzed, and the contract should be renewed only if the company produces favorable results.

An agency’s insistence on a long-term contract should be a definite cause for concern.

Insubstantial Planning

A good search engine optimization agency will know what it is doing. It will be able to prove its experience with case studies and understand how to analyze data and how to use SEO techniques to produce organic traffic. It’s not just about placing keywords in certain places or producing specific types of content that gets you high rankings.

Target market research, competitor analysis, the efficiency of the conducted keyword research, the implementation of proper on-page optimization tactics, the effectiveness of the site’s copy, and many other factors all influence a website’s page rank.

When hiring an SEO company, ask for a complete plan that is customized for your immediate and long-term needs – and hire the company only if you see potential in its ideas.

Nonexistent Communication

Good SEO strategies involve a lot of input from clients. From your current web standings to your policies, everything matters when devising a plan that truly meets your needs.

For this reason, if an SEO agency prefers to work in isolation and doesn’t frequently consult with you, there is a good chance the results will not meet your requirements.

If the SEO agency is confident about its work, it will maintain full transparency throughout the project. The company will keep its clients updated on what it’s doing and why.

So, consider a company that requests regular feedback and suggests ideas that reflect your goals. A good SEO company will know when to request guidance and when to lead the way.

Lacking Analysis

Strategies need to keep evolving with the requirements of the client and the changes or updates that occur over time. Steer clear of fixed monthly plans, magic formulas, and cookie-cutter strategies. Even when a company implements a strategy with a successful track record, there is no guarantee it will achieve the same results for every client.

This is because a lot differs from industry to industry and even product to product. For example, if a company has a young customer base, the SEO strategy for it will be vastly different from one that caters to mostly senior citizens.

Therefore, an executed strategy should be followed up by constant analysis and planning. A good agency will find out what’s working well, what isn’t, and what could use a bit of improvement, then re-strategize and re-execute.   

Perform Due Diligence When Hiring an SEO Agency

Executing a successful SEO campaign demands careful planning, a proper understanding of the business and SEO, and constant communication between you and the agency. This creates an atmosphere of mutual understanding while also allowing for the regular assessment of implemented strategies.

At the end of the day, it is the image of your business that is at stake. It is, therefore, advised that you thoroughly review a company and what it can offer before you entrust it with one of the main pillars of your online presence.

Lead capture icon


Based on your budget, timeline, and specifications we can help you build a shortlist of companies that perfectly matches your project needs. Get a free shortlist of best-fit companies from a Manifest Analyst.