So, you’re considering hiring an SEO agency, but you’ve probably realised that it’s difficult to know what good looks like when you yourself are not an SEO expert. Naturally, you don’t want to get stuck with a rubbish SEO company. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post we’ll discuss the 5 telltale signs that an SEO agency isn’t worth their weight in gold so you’ll be able to choose a great agency right off the bat.

Guaranteed page 1 rankings or position 1 rankings

A lot of cheap SEO companies promise page 1 rankings. This is normally a complete con, so beware!

The reason it’s a con is because the agencies almost never tell you what keyword they’ll get onto page 1 for you. So, to achieve this goal, all the agency actually needs to do is make sure that your website ranks on page 1 of Google for your brand’s own name. Most websites already rank on page 1 for their name. So, guaranteeing page 1 rankings isn’t really a substantial claim to make in the first place.

Even if an SEO company does agree to get you onto page 1 of Google for a non-brand name keyword, then that begs the question, ‘what keyword?’ Is it something that anyone even searches for when they want a service like yours, Like ‘London Plumber’. Or is it something obscure like ‘London plumber with a van and a dog who likes Game of Thrones’. The point I’m trying to make here is that if someone is making a commitment then they need to be clear about what it is they are committing to. Otherwise it’s just hot air. SEO companies should be able to tell you how many people in your country search for any given query, and there are free tools online that allow you to check search volume data yourself.

Even if the promise they make does check out in terms of search volume and non-brand, it’s still a bad idea to hire an SEO company that promises rankings for specific keywords. Why? Because Google themselves say so. And, the reality is that rankings fluctuate a lot. So an agency might get your site ranking for a great keyword today, but it could be gone tomorrow. It’s better to find an agency that guarantees natural traffic.

Guarantee more traffic from Google

Wait. Didn’t you just say it’s good to find an agency that guarantees natural traffic? Yes I did. Bear with me on this one.

When an SEO agency guarantees more traffic from google, it’s very important that they clarify that the traffic is organic traffic. Otherwise they can simply switch on some PPC (which is also from Google) and increase your traffic temporarily that way. This wouldn’t exactly be honest since you most likely bought into the idea of getting natural traffic.

The benefit of SEO traffic over PPC traffic is that it is much more permanent. If the agency just switches on some PPC to increase your traffic temporarily it’s kind of cheating.

Even if you find an SEO agency that promises organic traffic, you still need to be vigilant. It is possible to fake natural traffic using bots. You’ll know if the agency is faking the traffic if you don’t see any ranking improvements  and your conversion rate plummets.

The Google Partner trick

When an SEO company boasts about being a Google partner and brandishes the Google Partner badge on their website, this can be a sign of deception.

The Google Partner badge is not a sign of quality, nor does it have anything to do with SEO.

Google Partner badges are awarded to PPC agencies for spending more than a certain budget threshold on PPC. But many sneaky SEO agencies position it deceptively on their SEO pages to make potential SEO clients think that their SEO is approved by Google, which of course it isn’t. Google doesn’t offer any partner badges for SEO.

The closest SEO related badge that Google does provide is the Google Analytics certification badge. This means that the agency probably has a number of staff competent in using Google Analytics. However, it’s possible to fake this because the exam is not supervised, so don’t get too excited when you see this either.

It’s important to have an honest relationship with your SEO agency from the get go. So, the advice here is to avoid choosing an agency that uses any deceptive tactics to lure you in.


They ask you to choose the keywords

Many cheap SEO agencies ask their clients to tell them what keywords they want to rank for, and they then get to work on making your website appear for these words.

But how are you, as the client, supposed to know what the best keywords are?

Keywords should be chosen based on keyword research. This means choosing keywords based on what’s relevant, achievable, has transactional intent, and most importantly, is validated by search demand data. Any good SEO can identify such keywords relatively easily. But, when an agency asks the client to choose the keywords, this is an instant sign of amateur SEO.

Keywords picked by the client equate to little more than guesswork. And this approach means all subsequent SEO work is built on this guess work. It’s a Ludacris approach.

The best way to select keywords is to have the SEO agency to choose the keywords based on hard cold data. Once they have chosen the words they should ask the you to check them over in case they have selected some words that don’t quite mesh. Agencies should get the keyword data from reputable SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SEM Rush or an Adwords account.


Poor grammar or spelling errors

If you visit the website of an SEO company and you notice poor spelling or grammar it can be a red flag.

Many SEO companies that you see appearing in Google are actually foreign owned agencies. There’s nothing wrong with foreign owned companies as such. But if you see consistent spelling and grammatical errors, consider it a warning. Grammatical errors on an SEO company’s website, could mean they don’t quality check their own work. So, isn’t it likely then that they also won’t notice errors in the work the deliver for your website?

SEO experts often need to write content for your website, whether it’s meta descriptions, titles or general text content. A good command of the English language and strong spelling skills are therefor pretty essential for SEO.

If your account manager’s first language isn’t English it could lead to frustrations down the line. Communication is such an important part of any relationship. Language barriers can certain inhibit this relationship from blossoming and slow down progress if there are lots of misunderstandings and miscommunications. You should always aim to hire an agency whose staff natively speak the same language as you do, but of course you’ll need to weigh this up against the cost. Foreign SEO companies are often much cheaper.

How to choose a great SEO Agency

If you want to play it safe and choose a great, yet very affordable SEO agency, then look no further than Spark SEO.

We specialise in offering premium quality, low cost SEO for small businesses. We don’t guarantee specific rankings but we do guarantee positive organic traffic increase over time. Our consultant’s first language is always English, and we pride ourselves on our transparent and honest approach to business. To learn more click here. Alternatively, go check out our other blog post on how to choose a great SEO agency.