10 ways to identify a bad SEO company

How many times have you been sent a poorly-written and frankly ridiculous email from an SEO company on the other side of the world, who start their ill-advised pitch by telling you that you are not getting enough web traffic, and then follow it up by the guarantee that they can get you to #1 in Google’s search rankings using their incredible techniques of bad spelling and dodgy link building?

OK, that last bit was paraphrasing, but we’ve all been sent these emails from offshore SEO spammers, either at your personal email address or via your business. They’re highly annoying (although amusing if you’re in the right mood) and it would be nice if you could get rid of these forever so you can concentrate on finding the right SEO company for your businesses marketing needs.

Although these emails are a waste of your time, they are actually quite helpful, because they spell out exactly what kind of SEO company you don’t want to partner with, and with this in mind, let’s take a look at 10 ways you can identify a bad SEO company when seeking a new supplier.

#1 – They’re not ranking in Google organic search

If an SEO company are telling you that they can get you to the coveted #1 spot in Google’s rankings for your chosen search terms, it must come from personal experience, right? Yes, in the cases of good SEO companies. But the bad ones will be nowhere to be seen. The first tip is to check the company’s name in Google, to see if they’re even a legitimate company. The next step is to do a search for “SEO company [Your Location]” as an example. If they’re not on the first page, how can they expect to get your business on there?  They should rank in organic search not the paid Adwords.

#2 – They make guarantees that even the best companies don’t make

No SEO company can guarantee the #1 spot in Google’s rankings because the goalposts, webmaster guidelines and the competition are constantly evolving.  There are also only a handful of people in the world within Google that are completely privy to the full elements of the Google algorithm. This is a good thing, as it keeps you and your SEO company on-point and striving to achieve the best rankings, traffic and conversions in legitimate ways. A bad SEO company will make guarantees that they just can’t deliver, so watch out for these ridiculous claims when they contact you.

#3 – They tell you they are connected with Google for SEO

Anybody who has watched a Matt Cutts or John Mueller video can appreciate that Google are pretty tight-lipped about detailed parts of the search algorithm.  This is partly because of the overwhelming number of people (including bad SEO companies) who could take any definitive information and use it to manipulate every search result on earth in an instant. Google only push out information that it feels webmasters need to know, so anybody trying to tell you otherwise is selling something they can’t deliver.

#4 – Their email address isn’t hosted by their own website

Check the email address of the companies and SEO’s that get in touch out of the blue and tell you that they can give you the world on a plate. MikeSEOmanager@gmail.com has Google eating out of his hand to the point that he still operates from their email address, rather than using an email address hosted by his own website. This happens all the time, and is a bad start for a legitimate, professional company.

#5 – They use your lack of knowledge against you

It is easy to be duped by power-play salesmen and smooth-talking SEO consultants if you don’t have the confidence to interact with them down and discuss strategy. This is when mistakes are made and valuable resources are lost on bad SEO companies who promise much and deliver very little. Knowledge is power in SEO, and websites such as Search Engine Land, Moz and RAD SEO can help you understand the world of SEO a little better so you can hold your own when dealing with companies who will try to use your lack of knowledge against you and make your feel vulnerable enough to part with your cash.

#6 – They have bad feedback on Google+

If a company is telling you that you are guaranteed to get to #1 in Google, they must have prior experience of doing this, so check out their Google+ feedback. Nearly all good agencies will have received feedback across the web and this is nearly always where disgruntled customers will go if the service was not up to scratch.

#7 – They don’t practice what they preach

We’re #1 experts in blogging, social media, PPC, blah blah blah… But hang on, you don’t have a Twitter account, your Facebook page is empty and your blog was last updated during London 2012. Not a good sign. If an SEO company is promising you results across a multitude of channels, make sure that they are delivering this for themselves as much as anybody else. Otherwise, why would you trust that they can deliver it for you?

#8 – They’re too cheap

SEO is not for the light of pocket, and the reason for this is because it takes a lot of time and effort to get the best results from legitimate SEO practices from conception to delivery. If a company is offering a great service in exchange for peanuts, chances are that they are not the ‘experts’ they are claiming to be and could even be carrying out black hat SEO practices. Good SEO takes time, planning, knowledge, technical understanding, creativity and persistence.

#9 – You can’t get in contact with them

A good SEO company knows that clients are not experts in this field and will need reassurance and feedback so that they are kept in the loop with any major changes or updates to their campaign. That means that they can be reached by phone, email, Skype and social media during working hours, and won’t disappear like Batman every time their back is turned. If an SEO company can’t be reached or doesn’t want to talk to you for any reason: get out of there pronto.

#10 – They want total control

Reliable SEO companies like to share their victories with you and want to keep you in the loop with technical updates, reports and progress. That means sharing Search Console and Google Analytics data with you, as well as keyword and competitor data, so that you can work together to create new strategies and make tweaks to existing ones to keep improving. If a company is discouraging this and is reluctant to share, you should steer clear of them.

There you go, 10 useful tips on how to avoid a bad SEO company. Let’s hope that when your business takes the plunge, you can refer to this list and save yourself a lot of time, money and hassle, and get the results your company deserves.


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