Should You Fire Your SEO Company? 15 Things to Look for in 2017

Let’s just cut to the chase, yes Evolvor Media provides SEO-related services, but we do so much more then that – and have been for quite some time. We’ve used the phrase “digital media strategists” for over 4 years now. The fact is, if a company is still calling themselves an SEO company in 2017, than they are probably implementing antiquated techniques and have not really embraced anything that has happened over the last 10 years.

Times have changed dramatically, and the effectiveness of what’s commonly referred to as “SEO” has, too. That is not to say all elements of traditional SEO are bad. You should definitely run frequent technical SEO checks on your website to look for any egregious errors. However, you can do that yourself, and often for free for smaller websites (see the tool on this page, for example).

SEO has gotten such a bad name from scam services throughout the years; industry thought leaders like Moz
(formerly known as SEOMoz) have distanced themselves from that label defining their services, as “SEO” has become more than just keywords and technical easy-fixes.

I am sorry to declare that yes, you might want to consider firing your SEO company if you’re not entirely sure about the value of the service they are providing. Let’s dig a little deeper find out exactly what that means.

If you have no idea what your SEO Company actually does, than you are not alone. Let’s take a look at some practices generally employed by these companies and how they might be hurting your business.

1.    You don’t actually see anything

If I were to sell you a car, and I didn’t actually show you a car, you would be pretty skeptical, right? The same should be true of your SEO Company.

The difficult thing about SEO is there is no defined time table for how long it should take to produce results. Companies know this and often use it to buy time to keep you paying a monthly retainer. It may take a number of months to see solid results, but during that time, they should be providing you with a number of things including:

  • An audit of your site, which lets you know where the problem areas are and what they should be focusing on during the first few months.
  • An implementation timetable detailing what they plan to do, and when they plan to implement each initiative.
  • An analysis of your site’s link profile.
  • Articles with links to your site that are being or have been published on other sites.

These are just a few, but you should always make sure they are doing something tangible so you can actually track progress and make sure they are fulfilling their stated objectives.

2.    They work in a silo

In order for an SEO agency to function effectively, they need a lot of company input and availability to specific resources. If you were working with a trainer at the gym, and your stated goal was to lose weight, you’d expect them to weigh you before you started your training, right? SEO agencies that are truly trying to help your business will always ask for the following:

  • Editor or admin access to your content management system (CMS)
  • View or admin access to Google Analytics
  • Access to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Access to social accounts
  • AdWords account access (if you are currently utilizing this tool)
  • A list of target keywords that you would like to rank for
  • Past audits/work that has been done to previously analyze your SEO

If a company says they don’t need anything, and are working in a silo, it could be that they’re merely adding backlinks from their vast network of spammy sites, which can do more harm than good for your site. Sure, traffic will increase, but you can’t do anything with it. They aren’t real customers looking at your site. You don’t read spam emails do you? Spam customers don’t read your website either.

3.    They tell you everything is fine

The best SEO agencies view their relationship with you as a partnership. In order for you to be successful, you’ll have to work with them. That means they will make recommendations, and give you reasons why these recommendations would be impactful. You may not choose to implement everything, but if all you get is a pat on the back, and an atta boy, then why are you paying them?

4.    They have secret techniques

SEO should be entirely transparent. The company you work with should not only help you drive results, but educate you on why they are doing what they are doing. If you ever get a response like “we do a variety of things, but it involves basically optimizing your site for search engines,” or “it would take too long to explain what we do,” fire them immediately.

True SEO involves legitimate and proven tactics to get results. Your agency should be your partner, and partners don’t keep secrets.

5.    Your traffic or rankings drop

Traffic and rankings decline for a variety for a variety of reasons. Your company should be having regular meetings with you to explain why traffic or rankings are rising or falling.

If you notice that your traffic or rankings are steadily declining without explanation, then your SEO might be performing actions that are getting your site algorithmically penalized.

6.    You see an uptick in suspicious backlinks on your link profile

One of the metrics that you need to watch is your link profile. Your link profile is how you tell Google to rank your site.

If your link profile gets messed up, you could be in some serious trouble.

A link profile gets messed up when your site receives too many questionable backlinks from spammy or suspicious sites.

If you begin to see a proliferation of backlinks that have nothing to do with your area of business, it could be a sign that your SEO is devaluing your link profile.

These don’t always come from efforts from your SEO Company, but they should be able to explain and fix them. If they have no idea, then it’s time to gently move on.

Now, not all SEO is bad. However, they probably won’t call themselves SEO companies. More appropriately, they will refer to themselves as digital marketers or analysts, content marketers, inbound marketers – we all have different ways of referring a a more “robust” way of approaching SEO/SEM.

seo deliverables

Here are a few of the reassuring signs that you’ve got a good partner for your business.

1.    Real deliverables

A quality firm is going to show you what they’re doing. They may not be able to show you first-page results from day 1, but they do give you evidence of things that they’ve done.

Look for the following:

  • High domain authority sites that have real backlinks to your site. They should be able to give you web addresses so you can see how your content is displayed.
  • An audit of your site, homepage, content, or link profile, that includes an implementation timeline to fix any identified errors.
  • New content for your pages, or changes to your existing content with an explanation on how the chances will affect your rankings.
  • A weekly or monthly report, displaying work they’ve done and how your site ranks.

2.    Recommendations for improvement

As I mentioned above, the companies that do this right, view themselves as a partner in your business and have recommendations for improvement. Some of these include:

  • A complete audit of your site
  • Start or revamp social channels — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Integrate social channels with your website
  • Institute an ongoing content marketing plan
  • Start or revitalize your blog
  • Adding content to your website
  • Optimize all website content
  • Add alt tags to images
  • Change your robots.txt to allow crawling on other portions of the site
  • Create a sitemap.xml
  • Improve site speed
  • Managing SEO Plugins
  • A number of other SEO tactics – the list can be long!

When an agency makes such recommendations, they’re not necessarily trying to upsell you or scam you. Sure, the “extra services” — audits, content, etc. — might cost. But this isn’t throwaway money on your part. These SEO services are intended to help you.

Some agencies that might actually fire you, the client, if you don’t comply because without implementing some of these initiatives, they will not be able to have the success you desire.

That is a sure sign they are operating in the best interest of your business.

3.    Ranking improves

If your agency is giving you better rankings, then you’re probably in good hands.

Here are signs of legitimate and trustworthy rank improvement:

  • Your site is ranking high for your #1 targeted keywords
  • Your site is ranking on the first page of Google for various keywords
  • Your site is ranking for a variety of targeted keywords
  • Your ranking stays consistent. Shifting a few positions up and down on a weekly basis is normal. Dropping several positions day after day for several days at a time is not good.

4.    Your traffic goes down, but your revenue goes up.

In some cases, you may work with a digital marketing agency, and subsequently see your traffic drop.

This is a cause for concern only if your revenue drops.

Your goal is quality traffic, not just quantity. If you receive less traffic, but it’s good traffic, then you’ll improve your revenue.

This kind of traffic is more likely to convert on your site and drive revenue often with less investment because you aren’t paying for keywords that aren’t converting. Isn’t that your ultimate goal?

Things You Need to Do:

As you try to figure out whether you’re working with a legit agency, there are a few things you should do. In short:

1.    Be patient

As the Philadelphia 76ers would say, “Trust the Process.” It can take several months to see real results. Make sure your company is transparent, explains exactly what they are doing and why, and that they are giving your real deliverables. If so, you will eventually start seeing results.

2.    Do your own research

Make sure you are up to date on industry trends. It will allow you to have more informed conversations with your agency and will show them that you are committed to the process.

3.    Work together

This is a team effort, and you need to view your agency as a partner in the process.

You need to share the burden. Search Engine Marketing is a multifaceted field and it needs a strong partnership to yield success.

4.    Know what to expect

Have a clear understanding of what you expect your agency to do. Don’t fire them because they’re not doing something that they weren’t supposed to do.

Are they….

  • Creating content?
  • Creating real backlinks?
  • Constantly auditing new pages and site changes?
  • Monitoring your link profile?
  • Optimizing social channels?
  • Improving your conversion process?

5.    Monitor them

It’s vitally important to do this with any outsourced services.

Find out how they’re doing. Find out what they’re doing. Ask for reports, (actually read these reports) and make sure to set up frequent check-ins.

If you don’t, you’ll constantly be asking if you should fire them but stopped by the fear it might hurt your business.

Brenden Roche

Director of Marketing