Maybe because I’m about to preach, they should have used an image of me jumping on a soapbox.
The Spring Conference season is in full swing. I have already been overwhelmed several times. Not from great presentations (there were a few), but from conversations with business owners and newcomers to the marketing industry.
Case in point: At an automotive conference, I spoke with a dealer who, on the advice of an SEO provider, deleted the dealer’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. He said they told him it wasn’t good for him to have an open forum where customers wanted to say anything about his business. I pointed out that the customer would still be there without his dealership…and he agreed! He said he thought it sounded weird, but he shrugged and thought his SEO guys knew what they were doing.
This spring I’ve been talking to a ton of business owners. They feel cheated by their SEO provider. I have spoken to far too many marketers just starting out in this space who have no idea how to judge the value of the work their employers offer. It’s done too often.
In this week’s article, I thought I’d take a look at some red flags and warning signs. I step into the soapbox to preach, but I take a step back and look at the SEO industry with an open mind.
(Note: Yes, most of us are legitimate SEOs and marketers who know what we are doing and do everything we can to help our clients. This post is not for everyone — sorry. This post is for business owners and industry newcomers. )
Below are 10 red flags that you may be dealing with a shady SEO provider.
1. Low quality duplicate content
I spoke to a merchant who suspected the content had just been called by the provider. Their blog was filled with “(City), (State) Honda Civic AC Repair” posts and had versions for every car in the lineup. There are 15 or 16 posts in total, but they are all exactly the same. The only difference was the car model.
And it gets better! They took those 15 posts and reused them all in about 20 different cities. All 300 blog posts are exactly the same, with some keywords replaced in each.
Clearly, this was bad news. If you think you’re getting dirty recycled content, copy the sentence from the post, put it in double quotes and google it and you’ll only get exact matches. If you see over 42,000 exact matches like this dealer does, you know you’re in bad shape.
2. Lazy and outdated tactics
I had a pleasant conversation with several attorneys at SMX West. One of them told me that her new SEO provider sent her website people a list of requests (they never asked for access to WordPress. This is a bad sign). The requested title tag was nearly 30 words long and the META KEYWORDS listed at least 35 cities.
They also requested that everything but the first sentence on the home page be hidden behind a “read more” link.
If you’re reading Search Engine Land, you have access to a wealth of information on SEO best practices. If something seems fishy or outdated, a quick online check of reliable sources can confirm or deny your suspicions.
3. You only get blog posts
If a provider’s overall SEO strategy is simply to serve blog posts, that’s clearly bad news for business. Clearly, making your website the right resource is much more than sharing a bunch of blog posts. It’s not too much.
4. Artificially reduce bounce rate
Sure, bounce rate can be a good engagement signal, but it shouldn’t be the metric that “finishes it all.” Too many business owners obsess over bounce rate when there are more legitimate metrics for SEO success.
What Matt Cutts said in the open Q&A at the last SMX West before hiatus has stuck with me ever since. When someone asked about bounce rate, he said if the call to action was a phone call, I wanted High bounce rate. If you’re encouraging users to call, a high bounce rate could mean that users convert and then walk away.
If your SEO provider promises significantly lower bounce rates, you should ask what they do. Often he just adds a script that pings Google Analytics every 4-5 seconds that the user is on the page. boom! Your bounce rate will magically drop, but not because your content is engaging, nor because customer behavior has changed.
5. A la carte SEO service
You hire an SEO provider because you believe their expertise can help your business grow online visibility. It’s not a good sign when you see a menu of possible services, all broken down into individual elements.
You hire them because they are experts. They shouldn’t expect you to know exactly what it takes to make your business stand out more in search. Having multiple different packages is perfectly fine, but if you have to select individual components to create your own package, it’s not a good business decision.
6. Ranking guarantee
It’s 2016 now, and I’ve read it about 327 times so far, so I won’t go into detail about it. But if you’re totally new to his SEO, here’s the truth:
No one can guarantee rankings.
So if your provider is doing it, run away.
7. “Cheap” SEO
SEO cannot be automated. You have to sit and work. It’s not cheap. SEO is manual and time consuming. If you’re paying less than $750 to $1,000 per month for SEO, that’s also a bad sign.
8. SEO setup fee
If your provider charges a “setup fee”, ask why and what is included. Setup fees are rare, but due to ongoing research on the front end of SEO projects, providers sometimes try to charge new clients a setup fee.
It’s possible that you’re just asking for extra money just because you can.If you charge a setup fee When Your first month service charge, they are not doing extra work in the first month compared to what they do in the next month.
9. No Access to Google Analytics
If your provider has Google Analytics set up on their site, but you’re still denying access, you need to get out of here as soon as possible. There is no reason for your provider to deny you access to your own website analytics. Yes this sounds crazy to most of us but it happens all the time.
Conversely, if you start with a new provider that doesn’t require access to Google Analytics, it should run just as fast. If you don’t have access to analytics, you don’t know what’s going on with your website. How can I improve my traffic?
10. No monthly report
Providers must always provide monthly SEO reports. At a recent automotive conference, I spoke with several providers who were using large, well-known providers who only produced quarterly reports. They didn’t know any better as it was the only provider they had ever used.
Also, many people told me that the SEO report only shows keyword rankings. In today’s world of localization and personalization, keyword ranking reports are useless indicators of his SEO success. Reports should always show organic traffic and lead trends over time.
These are therefore the most heinous crimes, I Come across in the past year or so…. But we look forward to hearing from you. If you have a great story, share it on social media. We laugh and use our examples so that we can help people avoid shady providers!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
What’s New in Search Engine Land