business people looking at an SEO proposal

Hiring an SEO Company: The Truth Behind the Gab

When hiring an SEO company, how do you know who to believe? Learn which statements are false, and how the conversation should really go.

If you’ve had your own website for very long at all, you’re probably painfully aware of how many people are ready to stuff your inbox with spam, hoping to separate you from your money. Once you’ve been around a relatively short time, the amount of garbage you need to cull from your email traffic each day begins to swell… usually accompanied by confusion, frustration or disbelief. This is especially true when you start looking at hiring an SEO company.

It’s All Bullocks!

Some companies will guarantee first page ranking; many will promise to gain you tons of traffic with questionable tactics: “We’ll add you to over 500 search engines!” Other tactics, vaguely described as “relevant link building”, “quality guest blogging” or “exclusive content network” are often cited as the proposed techniques for making you financially secure.

Some of them might be amusing. My favorite is the generic blog comments about how they’ll give us some really good “SEO optimization”. I’m sorry, but if your idea of “really good SEO optimization” is spamming prospects in their blog comments, you’re not the company for me.

What isn’t funny is when companies come to us because they chose someone who hung out a sign yesterday after reading a few blogs. Sure, the price was low and maybe their “SEO expert” could talk a good talk, but the results were less than favorable. When their site is penalized or they question where the sales are, their “expert” suddenly fades on them.

4 Red Flags to Watch for When Hiring an SEO Company

There are some red flags to warn you of some of the more egregious offerings. Here are just a few of the things you should look out for before hiring an SEO company.

1. Promises with no information.

Anytime someone promises they can deliver substantial results to you right out of the gate with virtually no knowledge of your business history, your goals, or your pain points is someone you should take with a whole bolder of salt.

If your target SEO company claims to be able to get you onto page one within 2-3 weeks, you might naturally wonder “for what terms”. It’s a common trick to supposedly satisfy such promises by getting a page to rank for terms that have zero traffic. If you specify terms that actually have competition and search volume, it’s a different story.

The truth.

Ranking is almost never immediate. Generally, if it is immediate, you’ve either stumbled upon the holy grail for your niche market or it’s a useless term. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule but, in this case, the exceptions are pretty few and far between.

What should happen.

Your vetted SEO company should talk to you about your business. They should discuss the kind of issues your company is facing in terms of marketing and sales, and get your view of your overall marketing endeavors. Many companies, ourselves included, will provide you with a discovery document to help you flesh out the information they need to know.

2. Strategies without research.

If you talk to an agency and they respond with an immediate strategy, be wary. For example, when you talk about your business, you might here, “Oh, you need PPC!” because PPC is what they do best. Or, “Oh, you need to redesign!” because they’re primarily a design agency. In other words, whatever they do best is what they offer.

The truth.

No business is exactly like any other business, which means no marketing strategy or SEO campaign is going to be exactly like another. Your company setup is unique, which means your marketing strategy should also be unique.

What should happen.

No marketing company should begin work without some kind of discovery phase. This could be a formal discovery as mentioned above, an audit of your web presence, a competitor analysis or a mix of all three. Before offering specific SEO services, your target company should take the time to learn about you, your business and your niche before offering up a campaign or specific strategy.

3. Actions without data.

If they propose a theory for a “new tactic” that is sure to pass muster with the search engines, bringing you oodles of qualified visitors, maybe they’re onto something… or maybe they’re just on something. Find out what they base their theory on. Just because it sounds crazy doesn’t mean it is, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t, either.

The truth.

There’s nothing wrong with new theories; sometimes they can work wonders. But they can also wreak havoc if they’re poorly thought out. Before you entrust someone with your livelihood, you’ll want to be sure the decisions are sound, based on solid evidence.

What should happen.

Your business doesn’t run on feelings and neither should your marketing campaigns. There are actions that really work, and there is always data to back them up. If you’re talking to an SEO consultant or company who can’t back their words up with data, you need to look elsewhere.

Data-driven marketing is a real thing, and it should inform every step you make in your marketing campaigns, sales funnel and customer success initiatives. No marketer should ever tell you, “Well, I think it will work,” without the data to show you why they think it will work.

4. Promises of a secret sauce.

Some SEO companies hang on to a process like it’s the secret sauce for turning paper into gold. Language like “that’s proprietary”, or even a casual unwillingness to discuss any aspect of a campaign or process, should be a red flag. On it’s own, it’s not grounds for immediate dismissal from the bid, but your next question should be something like, “How would you handle a marketing campaign for us?”

The truth.

Sometimes, unwillingness to share is due to the fear that you may take their information either to a competitor or try to do the work yourself. In other words, the SEO company doesn’t want to give their business away. And that’s understandable. We, also, put serious thought into how we work our processes so that we can both be openly transparent and yet also be more likely to turn prospects into leads. That’s just good business.

However, some companies are unwilling to share because it’s hard to turn smoke into tangible things. So let’s sum this up: there ARE no secrets in this business except for how to work 20 hours a day on coffee and red bull – and we aren’t giving that one up.

What should happen.

Although most SEO companies work under NDA, and therefore can’t disclose what they’ve done with this company or that, they can talk about campaigns, strategies and tactics in a generalized way. For example, we’ve seen that auditing a client’s web presence before creating campaigns is an excellent way to ensure client success. We can talk about that all you want (maybe too much, so be sure you want to know)!

As a side note, once you’ve hired your SEO company, they should be willing to go over any process that pertains to your company, in depth. If you still hear, “that’s proprietary”, you want to consider another provider.


This probably sounds negative, as though everyone pitching SEO or marketing services is out to just get theirs. That definitely isn’t the case! Many SEO companies are customer-centric, highly knowledgeable and willing to support their clients in any endeavor they can. Most look at marketing as a partnership in growing their clients’ businesses. After all, when you succeed, we succeed.

However, there are some that only care about your money, and those are the types we’re warning you about.

When hiring an SEO company, take what you’re told with a grain of salt. Ask questions, investigate, talk to others, then make an informed decision. You wouldn’t let the first doctor that claimed to know it all operate on your child – why would you be less discriminating of who you let touch your business?

Discover what real data-driven marketing can do for your business. We’ve been building data-backed SEO campaigns for over a decade, and aren’t afraid to show you how it’s done – with your success! Contact us to discuss your marketing project.

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