With so many SEO services available, many promising different, exciting things, it can be hard picking which one to go with.  Here at The Content Works, a specialist website auditing company, we often pick up the pieces of a rogue SEO outfit doing things in a really bad way. Unfortunately, if it looks too good to be true, chances are that it is. Here’s our list of 6 SEO service red flags to watch out for.

1. They guarantee lots of backlinks for a cheap price.

Backlinks can be a very effective part of an SEO strategy, but they are not easy to earn. To prove your worth to another high quality website to the point where they decide to link to you takes time and effort.

So, if a SEO agency promises you that they can get you lots of backlinks quickly and cheaply, whilst this may seem tempting, it’s highly suspicious. Most likely they would only be able to do this through black hat SEO practices, such as purchasing lots of cheap spam links from backlink farms, which will likely get your site penalised by Google.

2. They appear to be really cheap

This is connected to point one, but still stands to be stated – if the agency is promising to give you results for a cheap price, this is likely going to harm your website in the long term. Take the average SEO’s hourly rate of £40/hour and then look at your quote. Work out how many hours are going in to the job you’re being quoted for.

This is because creating quality SEO strategies – from quality backlinks to quality content, to thorough analysis of your website – costs more money. The agencies that promise to do the job for cheap prices are most likely cutting corners, and it isn’t worth the penalty risk going ahead with them.

3. They promise quick turnaround.

As you’ve probably gathered from the earlier points, SEO is a long-haul, ongoing process. As much you’d like to see changes happen quickly, if you want to do a good SEO job, the results are going to take some time to take effect.

Things like creating good, tailored content not only takes more time, but takes time to be registered and noticed! If an SEO service promises results quick, they may deliver in the short-term through blackhat methods. But in the long term, this will actually have a damaging effect to your website’s reputation, so is not worth pursuing.

4. They don’t request access to your website to make changes.

Whilst you may be hesitant to hand over control (or partial control, anyhow) of your website to an outside team, if the SEO agency you are looking at tells you they don’t need to make any changes to your website directly, this is actually rather fishy.

On-site SEO – which can include everything from creating fresh, keyword-related content, to uploading optimised images, to improving site navigation – is an important part of any SEO strategy.

To do this, they will need access to your Content Management System, Google Analytics and Search Console data (to determine what changes need to be made in the first place), and perhaps even other details such as access to your social media accounts.

Without these, it is unlikely the SEO agency will be doing a thorough job for you – they are likely just adding toxic backlinks which will, as discussed above, harm you in the long term.

5. They refuse to explain their practices.

SEO can get complex at times, and the type of work being done to your site may be varied. But if the SEO service is being mysterious about their practices to the point where they won’t disclose a basic understanding of how they go about their job, this is a pretty big red flag.

6. Guaranteeing you will rank number one in Google.

The final, and perhaps most common red flag is the elusive promise that you will rank number one in Google. This sounds like the dream, right? But it’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds.

The reason is that nobody knows Google’s full algorithm, and even if they knew it now, nobody knows how it will change in the future – so without this full knowledge, guaranteeing a number one ranking is pretty…ambitious, let’s say.  

Alternatively, the SEO service may in fact be able to rank you at the top of Google search results…because the search result is so rare to begin with.

For example, if you run a pet grooming service, they may be able to rank you first for ‘how to get dog fur out of a brush without any expensive or professional tools’ – but that is because so few people are searching for this to begin with!

This means that even if you land as the first result for this keyword (keywords can be defined as phrases as well), it would not add much to your web traffic. So ranking number one is not always all it seems – be wary of those who claim they can guarantee you a place there.

Where next?

If you read just one more article on our site, please check out our piece on how small businesses can compete with big ones in organic search. With this simple guide, you can ensure you’re making the right decisions to help your website grow solid organic traffic and drive more sales.

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