The Warning Signs of a Bad SEO Company (And How to Find a Good One)


Warning Signs of a Bad SEO Company (How to Find a Good One) - Eric Sachs SEO

Let’s face facts: in the digital media marketing world, there’s always room for improvement. The latest technology or tactic can change an entire marketing strategy and it’s important for marketing companies to be self-aware of their flaws.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, I’d invite most SEO companies today to take a look in the mirror and realize just how problematic they’ve become for the entire industry.

This isn’t an attack on any one SEO company in particular, but rather a comprehensive look at the fundamental flaws that appear in 90% of SEO companies in business today.

The reality of SEO is that it’s a full-time job. Small business owners trust SEO companies to handle all the details because SEO itself can be a complex, intimidating aspect of a marketing strategy, especially if you’re completely new to the world of digital media marketing.

Unfortunately, this general ignorance about what people should actually be doing when it comes to SEO has lead to some less-than-ideal business practices. More importantly, these SEO companies rarely actually help their clients in a meaningful way (but more on that later).

Without further ado, it’s time to get into exactly what’s wrong with most SEO companies today.

Lack of Transparency

If I was only allowed to address one issue in the SEO industry, it would be this one. Here’s a prime example: most SEO companies are hesitant to share past results. Why? Because generally speaking, they likely don’t have anything substantial to show you. The idea is that any reputable SEO company should be willing to show off their successful efforts.

No one expects perfection from a company, and having examples of failures is unlikely to compromise a business – provided they’re outweighed by plenty of success stories. And yet, most SEO companies will be hesitant to provide you with any kind of results they’ve had for previous or current clients.

Of course, the smoke and mirrors don’t end there. There’s the common ‘proprietary process’ speech that most SEO companies give, where they’re either unwilling or unable to give an explanation of their services or even general process. If you don’t know exactly what a company is going to do, that’s a problem.

Despite how tedious and challenging SEO can be, the basic fundamentals of SEO are available with a quick Google search. Assuming that this particular company hasn’t somehow stumbled onto some cutting edge technique that completely throws convention out the window, they should be able to explain their process clearly to you.

But it gets worse. If you haven’t had a conversation with your SEO company about your general business goals, that should be a red flag. The days of siloed marketing efforts are long gone. As the digital media marketing landscape continues to shift, it’s important for marketers to implement a variety of tactics and incorporate your business goals into their process.

Conversations about strategy don’t just need to happen, they need to take into account the overall goals for both your general marketing strategy and your business itself. Improved ranking on Google should be a step in the process, not the entire strategy. Purely technical SEO strategy is narrow-minded by today’s standards, and it does little to address the real question that should be on any good SEO companies’ mind: “How can we help our clients?”

Small business owners end up with less than satisfying results from these businesses for the simple reason that they were led to believe the strategy would have more depth and impact on their business. The unfortunate reality of SEO companies today is that (if you’re lucky) you might get your rankings improved on a SERP by a small amount for a limited time. By the time you’re done with them, you’ll be wondering what on earth you really paid for.

Shady Practices

Understanding the reasoning behind this lack of transparency is an important part of realizing what’s wrong with the SEO industry today. Here’s a good rule of thumb: SEO companies that seem like they’re hiding something are usually hiding something.

These businesses thrive off of small business owners and other clients not knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. And since most SEO companies practice this kind of behavior, it’s difficult to ever truly gauge what’s being accomplished, what’s been accomplished, and whether or not your goals will end up being reflected in the marketing strategy.

First and most obvious red flag? The guarantee of first page rankings. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for first page rankings. Any SEO company worth working with will likely give their all when it comes to creating and implementing a strategy to get you on the first page of a SERP.

The issue is the guarantee. No matter how effective or successful this SEO company claims to be, they can’t promise the impossible. And rest assured, it is impossible to guarantee first page rankings, especially if they give you a timeline like, “You’ll be on the first page of Google within the first 90 days.”

The reality of SERP and rankings is that even with an impressive track record, it’s impossible to guess with absolute certainty whether or not your business will end up getting a first page ranking. Unless your SEO company has a special ‘in’ with Google or Yahoo, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to deliver on that promise. What’s more likely is that this guarantee is an empty promise designed specifically to get you to hire them.

Speaking of things that SEO companies will do just to get your money, let’s discuss one of the most concerning aspects of a surprising amount of SEO companies today: black hat marketing. While the world of black hat marketing can get pretty complex, we’ll keep things simple here and say that if you’ve noticed links to your site popping up in some questionable places, you’ve probably got an issue worth discussing with your SEO company.

The shady behavior doesn’t end there. Some ‘industry leaders’ choose to hire uneducated, outsourced labor to do all the heavy lifting just to maximize their profit margins. They choose to swear by ranking reports instead of case studies simply because it’s easy. Some companies go so far as to create fake traffic with no relevance or actual impact on the business other than providing them with an inflated, unrealistic sense of how many visitors they’re getting.

This is why it’s so important to have a clear idea about what an SEO company plans to do for your business. The sad state of most SEO companies today is that they aren’t looking to help you long-term. In fact, a frightening amount of these businesses operate under a very simple business model:

  • Use a call center to contact and aquire new clients.
  • Promise a 90-day guarantee, telling new clients they will have page 1 search rankings in just 90 days.
  • Have the new client sign a contract wih fine print that states that SEO is a continually changing environment and results are not guaranteed.
  • Outsource the SEO work to India, Pakistan, or the Philippines where SEO work is cheap but extremely inconsistent and unpredictable.
  • Expect that clients will cancel after 90 days when they don’t achieve the promised results.
  • Expect an “acceptable” level of charge-backs when clients are unhappy (approximately 120 days into their contracts).
  • Replace lost clients with new ones.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the business model of 90% of SEO companies, who have built their entire business around tricking you and anyone else they work with. It’s a waste of time and money.

Finding the Right SEO Company

Most SEO companies have a variety of issues that need addressing, but they all stem from the same place: a lack of concern over the client’s experience. Plenty of SEO companies have decided to play the numbers game, banking on the fact that there will always be another person to fall for their tricks.

We bring all this up because at Sachs Marketing Group, we counteract this culture by having a singular focus: fixating on bringing long-term, meaningful value to our clients. We prioritize transparency from start to finish because it gives our marketing strategy the best chance for success.

We’ve created a way for clients to essentially look “over our shoulders” while we work, with a web-based SEO workflow spreadsheet that documents each and every task we complete and attach all the supporting evidence that the work was actually done. We also regularly upload reports showing web traffic, ranking positions, and changes in page rank and authority. Clients have the ability to log into this system anytime they want to see the progress on their campaigns.

Our competitors would argue that by showing our processes in such detail, we run the risk of educated our clients to the point that they will no longer need us. To which we say: hogwash! Our clients stay with us long-term because we deliver results. We have nothing to hide and no fear that we may become obsolete by over-educating our clients.

We’ve never shied away from our responsibility to improve your business. And because of all that, we’ve never had a charge-back in an industry where most SEO companies charge-back 8-23% of their total monthly volume. Earlier, we cited the shady business model of bad SEO companies. For comparison, here is the Sachs Marketing Group business model:

  • Conduct a thorough SEO analytic review of your market, website, and web presence.
  • Gain a clear understanding of your target market.
  • Set very realistic goals and expectations.
  • Do all of the Internet marketing work in-house; never outsource.
  • Build relationships with hundreds of other websites in similar markets for collaborative, mutually beneficial efforts.
  • Generate high-quality web content written by native English speakers with an exceptional command of the English language.
  • Be completely transparent in terms of our daily work flow and show our processes to you.
  • Keep in contact contact and provide progress reports regularly.
  • Become intimately involved with your conversions (sales) and maintain a vested interest in your online success.

Retain our clients (our first client who came to us in 2010 is still with us today). We have no contracts with any of our clients and yet they choose to stay with us long-term.

The results are no credit card charge-backs and happy clients who enjoy an increased return on their marketing investment (ROI) as a direct result of our efforts. We go above and beyond what most SEO companies even consider doing, because we’re in business to be of service to our clients, not rip them off and make money.

We don’t just say we care about our clients – we show it, day in and day out.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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