As a business owner, you want to ensure that anyone responsible for representing your business online is trustworthy, reliable and can get the job done. Unfortunately, there are a number of SEO firms out there that are simply out to get as much money as possible from their clients, or are simply looking to scam them and not perform any work whatsoever.
As Canadian SEO professionals, we have to confront this truth and our mission with this post is to help business owners like yourself know what the warning signs are so you can avoid getting mixed in with the wrong agency.
No LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the most identifiable public resource platform for professionals and businesses alike. An SEO agency that does not feature a LinkedIn profile is either too lazy to create one (not a good sign) or is not interested in being identified as a fraudulent company. The company’s LinkedIn profile does not have to be extremely detailed with thousands of connections – it merely needs to exist and have verifiable credentials. Before you make contact with a company, always start here. It takes 30 seconds, and can save you a lot of trouble.
No list of case studies
Most SEO agencies and experts you meet will be via the internet. As such, you can’t expect to interview each one of these companies or individuals personally. Without having the interactions which build trust, you need something to turn to which proves that the company or person is capable of following through on what they claim they can accomplish for your business. Some companies do not display their case studies prominently, so you may need to ask for them directly. That being said, having a list of case studies (preferably with clients relevant to your business) will help you in making the decision to hire a company.
No list of references
Like case studies, references are incredibly important to any hiring process. If a business does not (or cannot) provide a list of references upon your request, that is a huge red flag. Either they do not want you speaking to past/current clients, or they don’t have any to begin with. In rare cases, some SEO agencies will sign privacy agreements with their clients which prohibits them from disclosing confidential information. If a company states they cannot provide you with references as they protect their client’s privacy, ask them for a copy of the privacy agreement so you can affirm they are telling the truth. Most companies in good standing shouldn’t have a problem with this, however.
Quotes you a price immediately
If an agency is able to give you a quote over the phone on your first conversation, you are probably better off hanging up immediately. Any company that uses cookie-cutter practices to price their services will not take the time to understand your specific needs and therefore will provide less-than-ideal results for your business. The typical quoting process will generally take 2 or even 3 communications, whether by phone or email. The pattern should go something like:
Introduction and price estimate:
“At first glance, it looks like $___ but I need to run a few tests before I know for sure.”
b) Follow-Up pricing estimate:
“After taking some time to review your website and your competition, I believe we can do this for $____.”
c) Pricing finalization
“When I provided you the pricing estimate, you asked if we could add ____, ____ and _____. If we do that, the final price will be $_____.”
Even if it costs a bit more, you are always better off going with an agency that takes the time to get it right the first time rather than trying to fix mistakes made due to carelessness.
Unclear about what they intend to do
Any agency or individual that seems unable to specifically answer your questions is best avoided. Confusion leads to miscommunication, and miscommunication leads to frustration. A common statement we hear from business owners is “I don’t really know about this stuff but I guess that’s your job.”
Our standard response is to let them know we will walk them through it slowly so they will understand what we intend to do without any doubts. This allows us to sort out any kinks in our strategy and ensures that all parties are on board before work begins. In the end, we want you to understand what we are doing and why it is valuable to you and your business.
Use technical jargon instead of “layman’s terms”
Related to 5) above, the use of technical jargon tends to be counter-productive as most business owners are not familiar with the finer points of the SEO industry. Using complex references in order to impress a potential client is generally a sign of someone trying to show off.
In the end, you don’t want someone to show off – you want results. An SEO that can’t break down their work for you in layman’s terms is probably best avoided for a number of reasons.
There will be no confusion and frustration
They will not have an avenue to charge you extreme prices for minor problems
You know they respect you as an individual because they want to make sure you approve the work they plan to conduct
Some people like to treat SEO’s like auto mechanics – they tell us to “just fix it” without understanding the underlying problem. Then, when the bill appears, they become upset. We try to explain the situation so the bill fits with the pricing we provide.
Do not offer a contract
Never, ever, accept SEO work from a company that does not offer a contract. Even if the contract is for month-to-month service (as opposed to a commitment period), a contract is the only thing that gives you control over your website and online brand awareness. The terms of the contract will spell out the company’s intentions and you will have greater insight into their thought process when bringing on clients.
Most business owners tend to focus on the cost. the services or the time involved in the contract. Very few pay attention to the process for exiting the contract or for enforcing the completion of the work contained within it. Make sure you do your due diligence and ensure that the company representing you has both parties in mind when creating their client’s legal documents.
This list is a starting point to help any business owners interested in acquiring SEO services through an agency or individual. It is not a comprehensive list, but following the suggestions listed above will help you stay away from most of the scams and shady characters out there.
Remember that we are always ready to show you how a professional agency handles your business needs, and are ready to speak with you at any time!