You’re shopping for an SEO agency, and you’re nervous. You know there are good agencies out there, but there are a lot of scammers. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories of SEOs who promise people the moon, and then tank their organic traffic.
How do you know if the agency you’re talking to is a scammer who will take your money and run? It’s tricky, because they all say that they’re legitimate.
In SEO-speak, “white-hat” agencies build your rankings and traffic ethically, by following Google’s best practices. “Black hat” agencies use spammy, deceptive practices to try to shoot your site to the top of the rankings. They’ll promise you the moon, and your rankings will skyrocket…for a month.
Then you’ll wake up one day and find out none of your customers can find your site, because your “miracle” agency got you in a Google penalty.
But Black-Hat SEO is now so frowned on that EVERY agency says they’re “white-hat.” Here’s how you can really tell.
When you’re shopping agencies, ask them these 5 questions to help you pick the right SEO agency.
Question #1: Can you guarantee my site will rank #1 for X term?
If they say yes…run!
NO SEO can guarantee this. Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving. Tomorrow they could release a major update that will tank some sites. And, when you try to rank, you’re competing with a bunch of other companies that may also be trying to rank.
An ethical company can help you grow your organic traffic 5-15% per month. Over the course of a year, that translates to big gains. But no-one can guarantee a #1 ranking.
Next time you’re on the phone with an SEO agency, use this word-for-word script to find out if they’re scammers.
“I’d really like to rank #1 for (X keyword in my industry). Can you guys promise that?”
Here’s what an ethical SEO will say: “NO agency can guarantee that, and I’m not going to violate your confidence by claiming otherwise.”
That’s an SEO agency you want to seriously consider.
What will a scammer say? “We can definitely promise that.”
Question #2: Do you always follow Google’s best practices?
Again, there’s only one right answer here: “yes.”
When companies violate Google’s guidelines, they’re hoping Google doesn’t catch them. They’re gambling….with your site.
Question #3: How many links will you build?
This is a trick question. Link-building in 2016 is about quality, not quantity. Great SEOs will build a few high-quality links per month that move the needle.
The days of building hundreds of links to your site per month are done. We’ve seen lots of companies fall for this, only to end up in a Google penalty and see their site drop out of Google completely. If someone offers you that, run.
Ask the next SEO agency you talk to this question: “How many links do you typically build to clients’ sites each month?”
Most good SEOs will stop you right there and explain that link quality matters, not link quantity. Some might just say they build a few. Don’t choose an SEO agency that says more than 10 unless you’re an enterprise company.
Question #4: How many clients do you have? How long have they been around?
This is a way to separate out the churn-and-burn agencies. A good agency won’t take on too many clients, because that can lead to cookie-cutter SEO. We try to aim for around 15 clients at any given time.
A good agency should have mostly long-term clients. Great SEO can help you grow your organic traffic 5-15% each month and deliver an ROI of 500% or more; no company in its right mind will fire a great SEO agency.
If most of the agency’s clients only last 6 months to a year, that’s a big red flag.
Question #5: How will you improve our search engine rankings?
Good answer: high-quality backlinks, writing market-leading content for your website (that you can see/approve/are able to change), and cleaning up your site from a technical standpoint.
Great answer: all of the above, with case studies and testimonials to prove it.
Bad answer: “Don’t worry about it….it’s pretty technical.” If an SEO agency isn’t completely transparent about what they’ll do for you, you don’t want to work with them.
Use this word-for-word script the next time you’re talking to an SEO agency: “Can you please explain what tactics you’ll use to improve my rankings?”
And that’s it. Use these 5 questions, and the word-for-word scripts I showed you, to choose the right SEO company and avoid getting scammed. It is also good to review case studies and reviews on sites like DesignRush.
And if you want to skip the guesswork and sign up with a legitimate SEO agency, for a limited time we are taking on new clients. Before we even start working together, we’ll give you a FREE SEO audit of your site, performed by our talented team of SEO experts (no salespeople).
Get your FREE SEO audit here.