We need to talk about SEO.

Five years ago, no other three letter acronym is likely to have caused more confusion for businesses looking to grow their business online. Back then the key question(s) was simple: what does it do and why do we need it?

We’ve since witnessed search engine optimisation evolve from a little known buzz-phrase into LinkedIn’s ninth-most valuable workplace skill – oh yes, it’s official.

Those three letters are now an essential consideration for all modern businesses. But as SEO becomes more and more in-demand, new challenges arise. So many of our current clients initially contacted us because they were deeply unhappy with the service provided by their former agency.

These days, the key SEO question businesses need to ask themselves may have changed, but it’s just as simple…

What are the signs you are working with a dud SEO agency?



1. Managing expectations

‘We can rank you on page one of Google for your highest volume term in a week for only £100’!

Are alarm bells ringing? They should be.

Consider the competition within your niche. If ranking for your most important search query was as cheap as £100 and could be achieved within a week, wouldn’t everybody be doing it? Hell, we would.

Unfortunately, your competition is working as hard as you are with the help of agencies like Scepter Marketing to improve their visibility to your desired customer base, and it takes time, effort, and ingenuity to earn the right to rank first.

SEO has evolved significantly over the past five years and, with over 200 ranking metrics to optimise for, it’s unlikely such small time frames and budgets will make much of a dent, which ties directly into our next big clue…

2. Price

In his article, ‘5 reasons to avoid affordable SEO services‘, Nathan Gotch hit the nail on the head in describing precisely why you get what you pay for when it comes to SEO.

The key message is affordability. The price of the campaign should provide a projected and tangible ROI which falls in line with the proposed strategy. This leads to an ever-growing campaign where profits are reinvested back into the channel to provide compounding returns.

The high-quality assets that Google loves cannot be developed on a shoestring budget and, in the long run, you’ll likely end up wasting money that could have been invested into a more viable campaign (PPC, for example).

3. Strategy

We’ve seen it many times before. Frankly, it doesn’t take long to do. Your dud agency logs into Google Adwords, adds a few keywords related to your business and pulls off the top ten highest volume ones, telling you that if you rank for these you will receive boundless traffic and growth. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, is it?

An SEO strategy should be aligned with the growth of your business, with organic visibility reflecting these areas of growth. Important questions to ask are, ‘Does your SEO agency truly understand what you do’? or ‘Do they appreciate where growth will come from’?

Understanding the intent behind your priority keyword set is of utmost importance. For example, as a recruitment consultant in Manchester would you benefit more from ranking for ‘jobs in Manchester’, or ‘recruitment consultants in Manchester’?

Adwords would tell you that there are significantly more searches for the former, but the latter would provide a direct route those who pay for your services.

Keyword research is one of the most crucial elements of a campaign, setting the way point for future success. Do your priority keywords truly reflect opportunities for business growth, or are they misaligned, or even vanity terms? Does your strategy aligned with your business development?

4. Fixed-term contracts

Controversial, but thought-provoking. If your agency is as good as they say they are, why do they need a fixed term contract? Surely strong, consistent results would lead to your continued business?

I say controversial because there are reasons in which a fixed-term contract may be beneficial to both parties, such as providing confidence of partnership.

For reference, CandidSky don’t have fixed-term SEO contracts… and to date have not needed them (if you feel otherwise, please convince us in the comments section).

5. Results

This is the big one.

Does your SEO agency attain real results for your business?

Over how long a time period are these achieved?

How are the communicated?

When it comes to results we believe firmly in the realist approach (which ties to the earlier stated expectation management). Significant results will not be seen overnight, but there always be indicators of growth. How does your agency communicate these growth indicators, and can you foresee a future in which your investment will lead to compounding ROI?

Bonus entry – Claims and Terminology

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