Six Red Flags When Choosing an SEO Agency

Six Red Flags When Choosing an SEO Agency

Choosing an SEO agency is essentially the same as hiring a plumber to repair leaky pipes or a construction company to remodel your kitchen. We identify Six Red Flags When Choosing an SEO Agency to help you avoid less reputable firms.

SEO is a top priority for online businesses because it generates free traffic to a website. Unlike other acquisition channels such as PPC, display ads, and retargeting, SEO is quite fun. The remarkable thing about it is it looks into search users and makes online traffic friendly to those users.

Here’s a guide that can help you in  looking for an eCommerce SEO agency:

SEO and Its Best Practices

Always remember that optimizing your site, creating quality content, and following best practices takes time. It is not always feasible for every business to bring that function in-house. So if you find an effective company, you’re in a jackpot!

Thus, working with SEO agencies will allow you to complete this critical work without worrying about onboarding new employees. However, while agencies are convenient, they also carry some inherent risks. So, choosing the right agency is crucial. 

What do SEO Agencies do?

The role of an SEO Agency is to identify opportunities and optimize your website to increase qualified traffic. 

There are plenty of reputable marketing agencies that do fantastic work But, regardless of the agency, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of factors that, if encountered, warrant a follow-up question or two.

Especially when you are unfamiliar with a subject, it is easy to believe that someone else is an expert.

Six Red Flags When Choosing an SEO Agency

Anyone can claim to be a genuine SEO expert simply by using SEO jargon and creating a good website. But, first, keep an eye out for the six warning signs of a wrong SEO agency.

Number of years in business

Agencies that have been in business for less than two years may be a red flag. But, this is not to generalize since there are new SEO agencies that are great at what they do.

So, if you are willing to work with a newly established agency, it would be best to request to talk to their previous clients and see examples of their work before proceeding.

Missing information

A lack of contact information on the following are indicators that you might be dealing with a scammer. 

    • website
    • yellow pages
    • Google local listings
    • social media accounts 

These platforms provide social proof through reviews and the number of fans. If they do not exist, the business may as well.

Poor Design Poor SEO

Anyone who offers to help you with your SEO should have impeccable SEO skills. 

Another sign that they threw a website together to take advantage of e-commerce websites seeking quick, inexpensive help is lax site design.

Cold calling potential clients may indicate that an agency prioritizes quantity over quality. Therefore, be especially wary of agencies that contact you without a formal introduction.

Inexperienced employees

Obtain business cards and research the SEO experts on LinkedIn to ensure they’ve done this before — preferably several times. 

A small number of junior employees at an agency is standard, but if a so-called “SEO expert” was selling can openers door-to-door two months ago, you might want to turn around.

Guarantees of performance

Organic search is governed by proprietary search engine algorithms that the outside world only has a hazy understanding of — and that’s being generous. 

Smart SEOs are optimistic about the possibilities, but they always frame the discussion through the lens of uncertainty. Specific performance guarantees from agencies are a big red flag. 

Let’s look at some examples below.

First, there is no way to guarantee rank. A site can be optimized for key terms, and an SEO agency can predict that it might eventually rank in the top half of Google SERPs for money keywords. 

However, ensuring #1 rankings is extreme overconfidence.

Second, they should not guarantee a specific number of new links. Why? Because the quality of links is essential. Having wrong links can cause irreversible damage to a website’s search engine performance.


Directional forecasts, like rankings, are not the same as boasting specific visit volume. Therefore, agencies can only make a prediction, but it will not always be that accurate. 


Optimized online pages should result in more sales and guarantee that specific numbers do not set the proper limitations for your expectations. 

SEO is a global practice. So many specialists in this arena pop up on your social media screens. 

In addition, different exchange rates and going market prices can make overseas agencies very affordable. I know of many businesses that have had great success with SEO professionals from Europe, Asia, and South America. 

But beware: the constant demand for SEO services has inevitably resulted in the presence of unscrupulous individuals who prey on North American businesses looking for a good deal. 

SEO is similar to anything else in that you get what you pay. Established foreign agencies are frequently not significantly less expensive than domestic offerings because they pay for top talent capable of optimizing an e-commerce website. 

Unfortunately, cheaper options hire people with little or no SEO experience, wasting your time and money. When considering a foreign agency, be extra cautious, talk to references, and ask the right questions. You could get a great deal from a great agency if you do some additional research.

Bait-and-switch tactics

This is the oldest agency trick you should be wary of in the book. 

All agencies want to convert prospects into clients by putting their best foot forward, but some use bait-and-switch tactics. 

When a highly regarded or experienced SEO expert is cited as proof of an agency’s competence, make it clear who will be doing the work.

Yes, hiring industry veterans is a good sign, but it may not do you much good if they never interact with your account. Everyone has to start somewhere, and a lot of hands-on SEO work does not necessitate years of experience to be done well. 

Senior optimization wizards, like great leaders, know when to delegate. Transparency is essential in any contract: know what to expect and meet with the account lead regularly. If you’re sold on a rock star, don’t sign a contract until you see the work will live up to the hype.

Questions to Ask Potential Agencies

  • What other similar works have they done?

While many SEO best practices are applicable across web verticals, industry-specific knowledge can mean the difference between landing on the first or second page of Google SERPs. 

Optimizing a car dealer’s website, for example, requires an entirely different strategy than optimizing an online clothing store’s website. 

In addition, e-commerce optimization has complexities and particular considerations that agencies should have demonstrated experience in if they are to be given the key to your castle.

  • What’s their process for building links?

Links are a vital component of SEO, and great online marketers don’t just sit back and wait for other websites to find them: they use link building to speed up the process.

The disadvantage? Backlinks are one of the simplest ways to get a Google penalty when done incorrectly. 

Worse, shady backlinks are accessible for an ill-intentioned agency to get quick results, only to abandon you when Google swoops in. 

Your top priority in selecting an SEO agency should be to find one that works with your long-term goals in mind, and links are a prime example of short-term gain and long-term loss. 

Even if you decide that link building isn’t something you want assistance with, it’s an excellent way to assess an agency’s values.

  • How do they carry out SEO?

Like any other professional situation, an SEO agency’s job is to understand its client’s brand and vision and make suggestions within it.

These are just some of the questions you may use as general criteria to evaluate an SEO agency.

Final Thoughts

There will always be subpar options — and even outright swindlers — among the vast array of options. 

Knowledge, as always, is power. Use these tips in your vendor selection process to ensure you have confidence in the agency that will ultimately make or break your online store. 

Take your time when choosing an agency, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your network if something doesn’t seem right. You may also choose to use this list to guide you:

  • Always look for appropriate experience, integrity, and a desire to do things correctly. 
  • Interview each option
  • Obtain a list of references, and contact those references
  • Ensure that your objectives and what the agency can accomplish (both their verbal commitment and historic accomplishments) are in sync.

Six Red Flags When Choosing an SEO Agency

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