5 Ways to Spot a Rubbish SEO Agency – How to Choose an SEO Agency

If we follow the pareto principle, then either 80% of the SEO agencies that exist are rubbish or 80% of them are quality. I think we all know, it’s probably somewhere on the average to rubbish scale. Unfortunately there is a low barrier to entry within the SEO industry and a lot of the agencies you come across are nothing more than ABC SEO agencies. Take a site, provide keyword titles, meta descriptions, run site through submitting to directories, article marketing, rinse, repeat and finally retire to big shinny house on the hills …. ave it !!

But there are of course a lot of high quality agencies out there as well, so all is not lost. Here are 5 signs that your SEO agency may be a little bit on the rubbish side.

1. The Ssshhh Link Building Strategy

Over on the State of Search website Sam Crocker had a very good post on how to structure an SEO project. Although the model Sam talks about is just a good retainer model, there is a core message of better transparency in that post. If your agency refuses to tell you where they are building links its probably not a great sign (it happens). If your agency is a little sketchy on details and just guarantees they can pull in X number of links that all have between 2 and 4 PR, the warning bells should start ringing. They more than likely have their own network or access to a network. Of course, there is nothing wrong with networks and maybe you don’t want to know where your links come from. There is nothing wrong with that either. But if you are interested and explained that to your agency, the “Ssshhh” link building strategy is a sure sign you are going to get a right good spamming.

2. Team Inexperienced – F**K YEAH

One of the great things about online marketing is the people who progress fast are extremely passionate and smart about their work. But there is also a culture of taking on recruits, giving them a couple of months experience and letting them manage accounts. As a client you are then charged the same rate, regardless of their experience. The rate you pay for an SEO team should be scaled against the people who work on your account. You should have complete visibility of your team and if someone only has 1 years experience, the hourly rate should reflect this. Ask questions about your team, including their experience to lead your project. Check out their LinkedIN profiles. Agencies should be looking to hire DARC employees, so they should be visible.

3. I’ll Screw my Own Site for Cash

I have no problem with pushing boundaries when it comes to linking. I am no white hat SEO (in the terms of how SEOMoz define white hat SEO). Usually link building strategies need to be adopted for the client. If there are grey areas you simply inform the client what competitors are doing to push the limits, that you can beat them, but to be clear, you are also bending these limits a little. If you are looking for an SEO agency on Google (using generic keywords like SEO, SEO Company etc), but don’t want any type of aggressive link building, it can be worth taking a quick scan through the top SEO agencies link profiles via SEOMoz and their clients link profiles. For example:

If an SEO agency is willing to build 79 links with exact anchor phrase using profile links you can pick up over at the WarriorForum for $5 to their own site, then you may get the same treatment. By the way this works and is easy to replicate. To save yourself the fee, simply go to the WarriorForum, purchase Angela’s and Pauls backlinks, go to Odesk.com, employ someone to submit these for you on a monthly basis and run all links through something like Linklicious … boom, Irelands top SEO firms (in Google’s eyes) whole strategy you can adopt for your own needs 🙂 – more on that in another post.

4. Who Needs Custom Reporting

One of the first questions you need to ask your SEO agency is what type of reports am I going to get to see how your SEO strategy is aligned with my business goals. Ask for 1 or 2 custom reports that capture everything you need (if you are using Google Analytics). Standard reports from Google Analytics are useless. Your agency should have ninja geek skills and you should get everything you need from a single report or at least in two. This is important so you can show internally what’s happening and let’s face it VP’s are not impressed by a keyword bouncing up and down the first page of Google. They want to see one report that captures all the necessary information.

5. The “ME TO” Company

And lastly, any web dev company that has tagged on SEO as a service 🙂 … Only joking of course … it’s not worse than traditional PR firms who are now Social Media agencies !!!





So what have I missed, any other tell tell signs of a rubbish agency ?

About Kieran Flanagan

Online Marketer who implements both inbound and paid strategies to help companies grow internationally. Lover of content marketing, SEO, analytics, CRO and strategy. A highly motivated marketing geek high on data crack.