5 Red Flags That Scream “Do NOT Hire This SEO Company”

Are you looking to invest in SEO services to help grow your business?

If so, you’re going to want to do your homework.

The SEO industry is extremely competitive, and there are probably dozens of SEO companies within your city.

But just how do you go about choosing the best one to work with?

Or, perhaps even more importantly:

How do you choose which SEO agencies NOT to work with?

"No Thanks" sign to SEO agency.

Since the industry is so competitive, you’re going to find a plethora of different marketing tactics and psychological offers aimed at converting you into a customer.

But some of these tactics can be dangerous for both your business and your pockets.

Below, you’ll find 5 typical red flags that you should be on the lookout for when being pitched by an SEO company:

1) There Is A Focus On “Guarantees”

With search engine optimization, you can only influence NOT control where you show up in search engine results.

Everything that we do as SEO experts is to optimize your website in a way that gives your business the best chance of appearing in search engines for your target keywords, but that’s just it:

The best… chance.

There is absolutely no way it can be guaranteed that you WILL show up for ANY given search.

Any reputable SEO specialist will tell you this.

Caution sign for partnering with SEO companies.

So if a company is promising you any sort of ranking guarantees, you can assume 1 of 2 things:

1) They’re giving you a guarantee just to differentiate their services from the competition, even though it is actually impossible they can know for certain whether or not they can 100% rank your website to the top of Google search,


2) They are using shortcut tactics that are against Google’s Policies and Guidelines that, yes, may be able to put you to the top of Google in a short amount of time, but in the long run will only hurt your business by receiving a permanent penalty by the search engine.

Both are sub-optimal.

The best practice is to steer clear of any SEO company that guarantees ranking results.

2) You Talk To A Different Person Every Time

BIG red flag.

If the company can’t even get their ducks in a row BEFORE you sign the contract, what makes you think they’ll smarten up when you actually do sign the dotted line?

Agency life is fast-paced and high pressure.

There is a lot of turnover, low retention rates, and churn-and-burn.

Because of this, you will be hard-pressed to find an SEO company whose internal organizational structure is sound.

Often times, clients are passed from sales rep to sales rep, from account director to account manager, and from SEO manager to SEO analyst.

The client ends up having to speak with multiple different contacts, none of whom truly understand what’s actually going on with their SEO campaign.

The best structured agency will have a single point of contact that has been with the client since the very beginning of the campaign, and understands everything that has gone on since, is currently happening, and is going to happen with the campaign in the future.

Your personal contact with the company should be the individual who understands every detail of your campaign, and is able to answer any questions you may have about it.

Instead, if you find that you’re ALREADY being constantly siphoned off from person to another, it is best to move on to a more organized company.

Things will only get worse when the campaign begins.

3) There Is A Cancellation Fee

In SEO, you need to be very careful of the fine print.

The nature of SEO is that it’s a long term, slow process.

Contracts are usually at least 12 months long, with results starting to kick in at around the 3-to-6-month mark.

The problem with this is that if you don’t start seeing results until 6 months in, how do you know that the company you hired is doing a good job?

Saying "no" to SEO services.

With paid ads, you can see results right away.

Literally the next day.

With this, you can make quick decisions on whether or not you want to stay with the company you just hired.

With SEO, however, you don’t have this luxury.

This is why when you eventually DO get to the, let’s say 4-month mark, and there are absolutely no results to show for it, you don’t want to worry about getting charged a cancellation fee to cancel the contract.

Why should YOU have to pay for THE COMPANY not getting YOU results?

It just doesn’t make any sense.

There should be an understanding with the SEO company that – since you can’t know whether or not they are actually getting you results until after months and months of monthly payments – it is unfair to have a cancellation policy ON TOP of this.

If there is no understanding, this means that the incentive for the SEO company to do a good job on your website is very low because they’re going to get paid months of recurring payments AND a 50% (general fee) cancellation fee on the remaining balance for doing nothing of what they promised.

A cancellation agreement is an extremely disconcerting policy to have in place as if puts the client at an extremely disadvantageous position.

The client bears all the risk.

Therefore, if an SEO company is pitching you a contract that has a cancellation policy, run VERY far away.

4) Reporting Is Vague

In any marketing initiative, you need to track everything.

You need to understand where it is your money is going, and what’s working and what’s not.

This way, you can eliminate the areas where your ROI is weak, and scale the winning areas for more profits.

It is a cause for concern if your SEO company cannot explain to you what a winning SEO campaign looks like.

An example of bad SEO reporting.

Questions you should be asking any prospective SEO company:

What are the campaigns KPIs?

How often will I receive a report?

What will be in the report?

If the company cannot communicate to you EXACTLY how they will track the progress of your campaign and what these performance spot-checks will look like, then I would question their overall service.

What gets measured gets managed, and if they are not measuring the right things – or even worse: don’t even know or are unknowledgeable about what will be included and measured in their reports – then it would be best to walk the other way.

5) It Seems Too Good To Be True (It Probably Is)

This is much like anything in life.

SEO companies are professional marketers.

They are in the business of SELLING.

Scalability and customer acquisition is what they do for a living.

Which means everything in the book will be thrown at you.

Guarantees, discounts, promotions, follow-ups, social proof, testimonials – you name it!

It is your job to educate yourself to comb through the fluff and discover what is actually true and what is just extreme embellishment (AKA straight up lies).

Caution when an SEO agency says "guaranteed results."

Ranking guarantees? You literally CAN’T guarantee that.

Discount if I sign now? Now I’m stuck in a 12-month contract that I have to pay to cancel.

Dedicated representative? I’ve talked to 3 different people and NONE of them knew what was happening with my campaign.

These SEO companies will throw anything and everything at you just to get the sale.

This is why it is SO important to do your own research to avoid getting burned.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a California SEO agency, companies will pounce on you in a heartbeat.

But it is very easy to partner with the wrong agency in this industry.

This is why it is extremely important to look for these 5 red flags: so you can steer clear of the agencies that have the wrong intentions.

If you’re looking for more information on how to choose the right SEO company, here are 10 questions you can ask yourself that will help you make this decision.

And if you’re currently in the market for SEO services yourself, please view our Arizona SEO page or our search engine optimization in Santa Barbara, or contact us to ask how you can qualify for a completely free, manual SEO audit and custom 12-month action plan to help your business reach its SEO goals.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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