You want to find an SEO agency to boost your rankings. Are you taking your site to slaughter by jumping to quick conclusions, or are you going to put some thought behind the process? (Hint – let’s do the latter.)
I’ll cover the basics, one issue in detail, and then move onto a more positive approach. Let’s go!
SEO is not… (red flags contained within)
…but that’s not to say a lot of companies you’ll find think otherwise; they’re the ones we are avoiding.
There. That just saved you a few grand. Let’s save some more money…
It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
You search Google for SEO. If they rank, they are awesome at SEO? Nope – wrong, as I’ll clearly demonstrate below.
There are multiple listings in the top 10 (UK) that are spam; they break Google’s guidelines. They will be reported and removed. I won’t name names but I will focus on one of those spammy sites. From now on, the spam site I focus on will be called Bamm-Bamm! Yeah, as-in the Flintstones!
Here are the impressive keywords Bamm-Bamm ranks for on SEMrush:
Just to confirm. This site is going up against the best in the business. It’s not an easy term to rank for. There are 395,000,000 pages that could be listed in the top 10.
Bamm-Bamm has 524 linking root domains. Of the 4 pages of backlinks on OSE I checked; I didn’t find any natural ones. They are mostly footer links, passing Page Rank and are highly keyword optimised. Let’s see what Google thinks with some of examples of what they don’t like on their “Link Scheme” page.
Ticked so many boxes I ran out of ink…
I’ve not seen a site rank for phrases this competitive, but then for so little in total; just 52 keywords? That’s a red flag. Compare that with MajesticSEO (a legit SEO tool, ranking for similar keywords); 618 keywords in total. Come on Bamm-Bamm, WHOIS ya’?
The domain was registered just over 2 months ago – to think your so-called expert SEO is suggesting 6 months with no guarantees – they’re kidding!? But wait.
They have a phone number. I Google it. Low and behold, it’s on another SEO site; it’s Bamm-Bamm’s ugly little brother. 424 linking root domains using the same strategy.
I’m an unsuspecting business owner. The homepage of the sibling is uber-impressive; showing me this screenshot. That traffic growth would be immense for sales, where do I sign?
Dude, don’t sign anywhere. SEMrush has a different opinion. It also shows the exact reason why Bamm-Bamm’s ugly brother was abandoned in the first place (it’s the same phone number and name on WHOIS for both sites).
Now you see it, now you don’t; so long – traffic!
If you go to a nightclub and brawl, you’ll get thrown out. If you do the same thing the week after, you’ll probably be banned you for life. I mean this isn’t 1 or 2 links; it’s the whole link profile that’s spam and not even any substantial content to give it a back bone.
This guy is treading on egg shells. He may get one more chance after Google catch up to him. He does it again? Or maybe even this time? Google will de-index every single one of his sites when they arrive at the party.
Just so you’re clear; this is already happening. Visit a recent post here showing sites and networks that have been de-indexed, alongside David McSweeny’s article (it was his research that led me to this post and it’s worth a read) which uncovers a few more SEO tactics that are going to get a site slapped (and need to be avoided).
Anyway – back to Bamm-Bamm. I’m not highly technical. In many ways I’m actually pretty stupid. Yet, in just a few minutes I found:
If I can find that in a few minutes, imagine what Google’s Web Spam team can do, even if he was hard to find? And, imagine if you’re paying this guy to get your site from 50,000 (random numbers) to 100,000 visitors a month, and instead, he slaughters it? It’s dead. Bamm-Bamm-boom!
So where does that leave us? Do we have to go and learn SEO? Are all SEO agencies scammers? Relax. There are some good companies out there…
There is no point me writing 1,000 words telling you to phone friends, family, people you’ve worked with, business owners you know – to get in touch on Twitter, Face Book or LinkedIn and see which companies you should check out. So there it is in 40.
You don’t have any companies that have been recommended to you; that’s why you’re here? To start with, I’d suggest watching this video from Moz. It’s a nice foundation, to get the ball rolling…
What I was going to do is uncover every red flag in detail. I realised that this would be incredibly boring; thinking about made me feel a little glum. So instead, I’ll take a different approach and then add some companies leading by example, in an attempt to cheer myself up.
Are you SEO-literate?
You’re hiring an SEO agency, because you don’t even know what a Meta description is? If that’s you, stop – stop right now.
You seriously need to have an understanding of SEO; if not just the basics. It will allow you to see progress (or lack of) beyond just rankings; really appreciate what’s going on behind the scenes. Rankings today, doesn’t equal rankings tomorrow. Likewise, no rankings today could be a steady snowball to success.
Starting from the ground up; linking. You need to read, re-read and then re-read that page again (yes, 3 times). If your SEO guy talks in a language made up purely of links, they won’t be speaking it for very long. They need to work towards being bi-lingual at the very least. You don’t want an eggs-in-one-basket scenario, especially when the handle on the basket is just about to break.
If you go into this with even some basic knowledge, you’ll fair much better. You also won’t end up paying for Bamm-Bamm.
Ok, let’s go window shopping…
Can you kick their ass?
Probably not. But it’s nice to know that you could if you wanted to – if they ruin your site and disappear with your dime.
In all seriousness, there needs to be an identity. A lonely contact form with no reference to a person or company screams “we’re hiding” and that translates to “we won’t be around for long and neither will your cash”.
For a large agency, this is what I want to see. This is Branded3′s contact page. Simple, multiple contact points, including their office addresses. It’s not really difficult, is it?
Do they look good?
Bamm-Bamm? By cross-referencing names, addresses and numbers (which were mostly hidden) – I found things I didn’t want to find; his ugly brother for one.
You want a company that isn’t scared to get their name out there (without you looking for who they really are) and individuals that don’t mind their name being associated with it.
But what is “looking good”?
Amanda Disilvestro – it’s that simple.
OK, I cheated a little. I already knew she’d be the best reference point here as she writes on the blogs I read. But, if you’d used the process highlighted above for Higher Visibility, you’d have found her too.
You search her name. You find her being interviewed by Search Engine Journal. So she’s attending SEO related events. That shows a company interested in networking with the best in their industry; a good thing. Unlike our guy who is planning his next move for when Bamm-Bamm goes ka-boom!
You then visit their SEJ’s “about” and “advertise” pages and realise “Hey, they get 700,000 visitors a month and have been online since 2003 – she’s kind of credible now”.
Browsing through the other results (checking each site to determine quality and credibility) and find she blogs. She’s no slouch when it comes to blogging!
Where? On SEJ regularly, Social Media Today, Search Marketing Standard, Buffer (one of my new favourites), Word Tracker and…OK, I’m kind of bored now – you get the point. I’d assign credit to Higher Visibility as an SEO company for their association with Amanda – the reason they hired her in the first place.
As someone that writes and consumes content daily – that all strikes me as extremely positive; exposure, connections and good overall strategy. +1 there.
Are they worthy guardians?
If they can’t look after themselves, how are they going to look after you?
This brings me to site quality, site quality of the SEO company that you are looking to employ. It’s a quick process; nothing major.
First, I want to check their links. You’re going to need a basic understanding of link-building to do this.
I can see their links via OSE. Not only can I see which ones they are building, but ones they are acquiring naturally. Look at all the companies I referenced here. All of those have gotten natural links for nothing. I’m not going to start linking out to sites like Bamm-Bamm and his bro’ – that would do my site no good.
Here is the catch, when you find bad looking links. OSE will show this siteas having 100+ bad links (which have been disavowed) – as the site has been (and still is) subject to a spam attack (get a life, Dude). So it’s a quick check, but not always a clear indicator.
Anyway – Search Engine People as an example. 706 root domains and nearly 7,000 links. I found plenty of cool references from Moz, SearchEngineLand, SEO By The Sea and SE Round Table. They are getting referenced on high profile sites and plenty of natural mentions. That’s good, by the way.
Secondly, most agencies will stress the importance of content marketing. “Bro, content marketing is so cool, let’s write some stuff and make some videos”. Ok, probably in a less informal manner than that…
If this is something they are pushing on you, then surely they should be utilising the same processes, as part of their strategy? I mean, you wouldn’t try and sell me on how to make money so I can buy an awesome car, then turn up in…
Hobo (love that name!) springs to mind as a quality blog. Obviously people on Twitter are thinking along the same lines:
Hey, it’s not a comprehensive list, but it should add a bit of flavour to the process.