Let’s face it: In the minds of many people, SEO companies occupy the same mindspace as telephone psychics, alien abductees, and homeopathic medicine. We work in an almost-entirely-abstract world, manipulating rules that other people don’t have the time or energy to wrap their minds around. When an SEO company tells you that “Privately-held blog networks aren’t as effective as content marketing with outreach,” you either nod knowingly, or you just heard “Thing 1 is more bad than Thing 2,” and they might as well be talking about quantum annealing or Admiralty law. And of course, there are certain bad apples among the SEO crowd who take full advantage of their asymmetry of knowledge to bilk people out of boatloads of money by lying mercilessly to them.
But there are certain dead giveaways that highlight almost every lie that crappy SEO companies tell, and if you learn to listen carefully, you can spot them.
Dead Giveaway Number One: Guaranteed Rankings
The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are not under the control of an SEO company. They’re under Google’s control. As such, there is no amount of SEO magic (or money, or time) that can guarantee you a #1 rank, or a top-3 rank, or even a first-page rank. If an SEO company guarantees you a #1 ranking, it’s because they’re certain that they can get you to rank number one for the search term “lacrimal tzatziki bonus.”
Dead Giveaway Number Two: SEO Is All You Need To Succeed
Any company who tries to tell you that they don’t need to have any other skillset in order to make your website profitable is either lying or delusional. SEO is a powerful tool, but total optimization starts at the earliest stages of web design, reaches out horizontally far beyond the scope of SEO (including areas like social media, traditional advertising, internet advertising, video marketing, pay-per-click campaigns, and in some cases even direct mail or in-person appearances), and extends forward well past the point at which your website has ranked for several dozen keywords and is getting solid organic traffic. If your SEO company isn’t, at the minimum, looking at your basic web design for optimization opportunities and looking toward A/B testing your landing pages to improve conversions, get a new SEO company.
Dead Giveaway Number Three: Set It And Forget It
SEO is in a state of constant change — not only is Google always updating this or that bit of their algorithm, but your competitors are constantly working to improve their site’s rankings as well. If you aren’t paying at least nominal attention, you’ll end up bumped off the first page within a couple of months at most, and you’ll have spent all that money on SEO for no real purpose. You need an SEO company who will partner with your business to help you get on top and stay there by watching your industry, watching your competitors, and innovating new ways to help you keep up with their growing authority, backlink support, and social network.
Dead Giveaway Number Four: We’ll Handle Everything, You Just Collect The Money
In some ways this is the opposite of #2 — some SEO companies will assure you that all you have to do is have a product to sell, and they’ll build your website, drive traffic to it, insure your conversion rate, and take care of your social media presence and PPC campaigns too, all without your input. This is a disaster waiting to happen — if these guys had the chops to pull off all of that, why would they be getting you to pay for their services? They’d be running their own site and raking in the money directly. A good SEO company, again, will partner with your business — as in, you do the business part, and they’ll make sure you get traffic and that your site is well-crafted to promote sales. You’re still going to have to have an excellent product, excellent customer support, excellent advertising, and be able to manage your own costs (including paying the SEO team.) If you don’t have those things, no SEO team will be able to make your business succeed. If you do, a great SEO team can take you from ‘might make it’ to ‘making it’ — and that’s a huge step for any business.