There are a lot of agencies out there that promise to help you with your search engine optimization. Some of them are great services that can boost your visibility and drive traffic to your site. Others are a bit unscrupulous and try to boost your site’s ranking through nefarious means. And still others outright lie about what they can do for you and what you need, tricking you into paying for their services by promising results that they can’t really provide. So how do you tell the difference? Here are some things to look for.
- They guarantee specific results. Many companies will promise to make your site the No. 1 ranked search result for the keywords you choose, and may even say they won’t charge you until they do. It sounds legitimate, but there are a couple of problems. First of all, search results are organic and frequently fluctuating. A company can promise to improve your ranking, but guaranteeing you’ll be No. 1 isn’t really feasible unless they cheat. Which brings us to the second problem: they cheat. They’ll generate artificially inflated reports with dubious origins in order to “prove” you’re ranked No. 1 (and charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege). Meanwhile, traffic to your website, the number that actually matters, is the same as it’s always been.
- They give you a long-term contract. Many SEO companies will force you into a long-term contract for their services at the beginning, charging you by the month. They’ll talk about the results they can offer you, such as improved search rankings and backlinks, but they won’t specify these things in the contract itself. Then, when they don’t do anything to improve your site or its SEO, they can argue that they’ve done nothing to breach the contract and refuse to let you out of it, so that you continue to pay them month after month for a service they’re not providing.
- They try to redesign your website. An SEO company may tell you that your current site is simply beyond hope as far as optimization goes, and in order to see any results, you’ll need a complete redesign of your site (which they’ll be happy to provide, for an additional fee). But in truth, unless your site is tied to a really large amount of bad links or has an undesirable reputation that’s proving impossible to shake, it’s seriously doubtful that it will need a complete overhaul.
In order to make sure that the SEO company you’re hiring is legitimate, there are a few steps you can take. First, take the time to get familiar with basic SEO practices, both the good and the bad, so that you can recognize and differentiate between the two. Next, vet the company. Ask around, search on Google to see if there’s any bad press or a preponderance of disgruntled customers, and of course, get references and a list of former clients, and talk to them.
And finally, read the fine print. Know exactly what it is you’re agreeing to, what they guarantee in writing (and how it compares to what they say), what their responsibilities are to you, and yours to them. Talk to them about any parts you don’t like or just don’t understand, and remember that it’s your prerogative to negotiate changes to make it more equitable. SEO can and should be a great and beneficial experience for you and your company. Don’t let a bunch of Search Engine Villains turn it into a nightmare.