5 Red Flags You Should Look for in an SEO Company


It’s a common practice for businesses to outsource search engine optimization to third-party companies. SEO is something that comes with a learning curve, and that needs time and effort to be done right. Instead of hiring or training an in-house team, contracting outside SEO specialists is often a sound choice.

At least it can be if you hire the right company. Search engine optimization is a growing industry that has many people who are well-equipped to help your website get better rankings. But it’s also an industry with its fair share of people who will take your money, under-deliver, or make your website’s rankings skyrocket only to be brought down by a search engine penalty. And you should know how to recognize the latter when you come across them.

They Will Say You Need SEO Without Checking First

Here’s the thing with search engine optimization — not every business needs it. According to Justin Morgan, a digital marketing expert who specializes in SEO for dentists, SEO is needed only if there are large enough search volumes for relevant keywords. Otherwise, the expense of the optimization might not be justified. SEO doesn’t always deliver a good ROI.

It’s relatively easy to check whether optimization has the potential to deliver results. But if your company starts telling you about the great things they’ll do for your website without checking whether there’s room for such an improvement, walk away. They are more interested in selling you their services than having their services work for you.

They Will Guarantee Things

Search engine optimization is further away from rocket science than you might think. In fact, it’s far away from being any type of science because no one really knows how it works. Yes, people know what the goal is. There are some guidelines as to what is acceptable to achieve the goal. And there are strategies that are likely to deliver results. But no one can guarantee that following the guidelines and using the accepted tools will get you specific results.

No one except a bad SEO company. Because SEO doesn’t work in a way that lets you predict what exactly will the outcome of your actions be, any type of guarantee a company gives you is meaningless, false, and misleading. It’s a sign of a company that’s more interested in its bottom line than honesty and integrity.

They Will Offer Quick Results

Search engine optimization needs time to show results. We’re not talking about years, but you shouldn’t expect to see results overnight. Unless your website is a complete SEO mess and you’re starting from a severely disadvantaged position, you should look at optimization as a process that will unfold over several months.

But there are always companies that will offer to do more in a shorter time span. Optimization on steroids rarely follows the guidelines set by search engines. And when those guidelines are ignored, that’s when penalties start to happen. Just ask anyone who used link-stuffing and anchor over-optimization before the Google Penguin update. Or anyone who farmed content before the Panda update. Don’t be fooled by those who offer quick gains.

They Can’t Prove Their Expertise

SEO companies need to show proof that they know what they’re doing. The usual way of going about it is by providing a list of past clients. You can either contact them or try to use some search terms to see how well their websites perform. Either way, you need to verify that the company you’re thinking about hiring has some experience. If there’s no way to do it, you shouldn’t hire them.

But what if you happen to be the company’s first client? Everyone needs to have a first client, right? Well, that’s true, but even those who are new to the game need to be able to showcase their skills. They can make sure that their own website is optimized, for starters. They can create a separate website they’ll optimize and maintain as a way of showcasing their skills. If they can’t be bothered to make that effort to win over clients, you shouldn’t be doing business with them.

They Avoid Communication

Sure, they’ll talk to you until they get paid, but what happens after? A good SEO company will commit to sending you regular progress reports. A bad won’t, and they’ll avoid answering the question when you ask them about it.

And that’s not the only question a bad SEO company will try not to answer. The companies that use black hat methods are unlikely to speak about it, even when asked. They won’t have a good answer for why their service is much cheaper than the competitions’. They won’t divulge their link building strategy. And the sign of lack of transparency is a clear red flag that you should stay away from the company.

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