September 26, 2014
Don’t sign an SEO contract without looking it over for these red flags!
By Maureen McCabe
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), most small business owners agree that it’s usually best to hire an agency to take care of this aspect of their online marketing efforts. There are many technical considerations that require the assistance of experts in order to drive more traffic to your website and ultimately bring in more customers to your business.
In a previous blog post, I briefly outlined one of the major warning signs to be aware of when you are hiring an SEO company: a guarantee of rankings. In this post, we’ll take a more in-depth look at SEO company guarantees and other red flags you should look out for before you sign that contract!
1. The Rankings Guarantee
If you encounter an SEO company that guarantees to get your website ranking on the first page of Google, RUN! There’s a reason this is our number-one red flag — and it’s because this is impossible to guarantee! Google’s ranking algorithms are always changing, and what works to get your website ranking one month may not be the same the next month. That’s why encountering a rankings guarantee on an SEO contract should prompt you to scrutinize the agreement very carefully. An SEO company has absolutely no control over what search engines decide to display as their top results.
The contract may state that the company will rank you on page one for a certain number of your main keywords. However, the contract is unlikely to state exactly which keywords you will rank for. Sure, the SEO company may be able to rank you on Google’s first page for 5 different keywords. But those 5 keywords are not likely to be great traffic drivers that will bring in qualified customers. And who’s to say that anyone is actually searching for those terms?
2. A Timeline Guarantee
Legitimate SEO companies will be realistic about the time in which it will take them to improve your rankings and bring traffic to your website. They know it can’t happen overnight. If you encounter an SEO contract that promises you will see results in a specific timeframe, this is a big red flag. Done right, SEO takes time and effort, and results won’t be instant. So if an agency is guaranteeing that you will be ranking number one within just a few weeks, steer clear. No SEO company can predict the future!
3. Directory Submissions
Many not-so-reputable SEO firms will try to impress you by explaining that they will submit your website to thousands of directory sites. While this seems great at first, you must understand what this really means.
The company might try to sell you on the benefit of having your website’s link on a huge number of other sites. But what they won’t tell you is that these directories are very low quality and will pass on little to no value to your business website. While there are some good directories to be listed in, Google does not find many to be relevant or useful to users. Even worse, having your site submitted to thousands of poor-quality directories could actually harm your site’s rankings, since you’ll be associated with these “bad” websites.
4. Search Engine Targeting
Pay close attention to which search engines your potential SEO company says they will be targeting. If they claim they will be ranking you in MSN, Ask.com, AltaVista or any other outdated, seldom-used search engines, be wary. When it comes to SEO, there are really only two search engines that matter: Google and Bing. These are the top two search engines that your potential customers are using, so it’s most important to rank well here first.
5. No Mention of Reporting
A good SEO contract will outline when you will receive reports about the results of the agency’s efforts. Whether they will deliver reports monthly, quarterly or after 6 months, you need to know up front when you can expect to receive an update about what your SEO team has been working on. As a client, you have a right to know what strategies are being used, how they are impacting your website’s traffic, what links are being built and find out about possible next steps.
If an SEO firm is not up-front about how their reporting works from the start, you can take this as an indicator that they may be using shady tactics that they might not want you to know about. Approach with caution!
Take the time to carefully go over any SEO contract that you are presented with. Don’t get stuck in a long-term contract that leaves your site stagnant or actually hurts your rankings and costs you a lot of money — and business — in the process. If you keep these five red flags in mind, you can make a more informed decision when it comes to hiring an SEO company.
For more SEO tips for small business, take a look at these blog posts:
Is it Possible to Get a First-Page Google Ranking?
Free Toronto Business Directory Guide for Small Businesses
How to Evaluate SEO Company. Part 1
When Should You Fire an SEO Company? When they lack credibility & trust. Part 2
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