10 Ways You Can Tell If an SEO Company is Killing Your Business

SEO is a great tool that can really help you to assist your business or website in taking off and becoming stable. Using search engine optimization can help you to rank higher in Google, generating organic traffic, and bringing more and more new people to your site over time through clicks. A lot of businesses use these SEO techniques to try and bring in new clients and customers since it is a tried and true method that has worked for many time and time again.

That being said, sometimes things do not go as planned. Your SEO agency may be able to do a lot to help you but sometimes, the results are just not there. In fact, they can even be quite negative. Let’s explore ten ways to tell if an SEO company is killing your business and see if we can get you back on the right track.

A Preface: How Can My SEO Agency Possibly Be Doing Harm?

You hire an SEO agency or any similar entity to assist you in getting more clicks and views from potential customers and clients organically. It makes sense that the results would be positive, especially since it is a service that you pay for. Sometimes, even the best SEO agencies make mistakes, though, leading to issues that could harm your business. Alternatively, sometimes SEO agencies do not do everything by the book or do what is best for your individual case.

This is why it is important to understand exactly what is going on with your business and what is being done by the SEO agency to better your campaign. Understanding this can help you get an idea of what they are doing to assist your business or potentially harm it. Let’s take a closer look at the red flags you should be looking out for.

1. They Cannot Explain Themselves

Results and increased ranking are definitely an indicator of successful SEO campaign management. If you notice these happening, chances are things are working in your favor. Sometimes, though, these results are not as noticeable or are not indicative of a good campaign program. This is why it is a good idea to sometimes ask for notes on what exactly the SEO agency is doing to assist with your SEO campaign.

If they cannot provide explanations for what they are doing or walk you through the process, you should be wary. While SEO takes time and you may not see immediate results or even results for several months, you should still be able to receive some form of deliverable information to help you understand what is happening with your site. This could include a site URL analysis, SEO audit documentation, samplings of optimized content to be posted to your site, articles that have been written with the intention of linking back to your website, and more. Just some form of documentation to offer you an insight into what they are doing to actually help your site progress and rank higher from an SEO standpoint.

2. There is Little to No Feedback

SEO agencies base their whole business model around assist you in excelling and ranking higher within search engine results. Due to this, they often have quite a bit of feedback on your site and offer commentary and recommended changes regularly. It is simply part of their job to use their expertise to offer better options and plans for your website.

Some lower quality SEO firms will just like through other sites to your content in order to get traffic and hope the results will be enough. Oftentimes, this is not even close to adequate but they are banking on this low effort input to yield enough to keep you satisfied. If they cannot come up with feedback and interface with you concerning what is being done on your website, they are likely not acting with your best interest in mind. Your relationship with the SEO agency should be a partnership, not just them running things their way and not communicating.

3. They Do Not Ask You For Information

In order to successfully run an SEO campaign, you have to have a good bit of information on the site you are planning to work with. It is essential to being able to custom tailor your approach for creating the content and SEO method plans to better serve the site.

The company that is doing your SEO work is going to need access to things like Google analytics and other accounts as an admin or authorized user so they can see what is happening with your site. They also need social media access and additional permissions sometimes, too. If they are not asking you for at the very least a list of target keywords and any penalties your site may have faced in the past, chances are they are just backlinking to your site from spammy content places to hope to boost your ranking easily without putting in the necessary level of work.

4. They Refuse to Explain Their Techniques

When you hire someone, you deserve to know what is being done to assist you or your business. This includes the SEO industry. Nothing to do with SEO is proprietary; most SEO firms actually use the same techniques, some are just better than others at choosing what is right for clients and executing their campaign plans. That being said, there is no reason for an SEO firm to tell you that they cannot explain what they are doing on your website.

If they have a policy in place to not tell you what is being done, chances are something is off. SEO practices are a proven method that works on a wide range of different applications. They are also pretty much the same across the board. If a company cannot tell you what they are doing to help you, chances are they are not doing much to help you at all.

5. A Drop in Ranking Occurs

Ideally, SEO work will boost your ranking rather quickly. Fully optimizing a site can take several weeks or months but there should be a noticeable difference fairly soon after you begin working with an SEO company. If a sudden drop in ranking occurs, you should be concerned, as it means that something has been done incorrectly. It could also indicate that your site has been penalized somehow, which is common when some low level, unethical SEO techniques are used.

6. A Drop in Views Occurs

Similarly, if you experience a sudden drop in views and clicks, you should be very concerned. This is a telltale sign of an algorithm penalty, which often occurs if the content does not mesh with the current algorithm and is penalized and dropped in ranking, leading to fewer views and clicks in general. While this is not always the case, it is certainly a common issue and worth being cautious of, as it is a probable cause for the sudden drop in viewed content and site visitors, especially if your ranking is also lower than usual. Keep tabs on this, because it may indicate other issues, but definitely also ask for a list of changes made to your site by the SEO team to see if any of the changes could be the trigger.

7. You Recieve a Manual Penalty

A manual penalty occurs when something on your site appears to be spammy and problematic. When this is found by a search engine, the penalty is issued, which is essentially one of the worst things that can happen to your website.

While it may not be the SEO company’s fault, if you have been working with them for a month or two, you do have reason to be concerned. Generally, this means that something they have changed on your site could have potentially triggered this penalty to have been generated. In order to tell if the manual penalty was received due to their error or something else, you need to look deeper at your site and even consider getting a second opinion just to give you an outsider professional viewpoint.

While not a death sentence for your site, this could pose a very real problem with your ranking abilities, so please be sure to research what caused the penalty, request clarification from Google or whatever search engine issued the notification, and, if it is the SEO company’s fault, consider discontinue using their services due to the severity of the matter.

8. Anchor Texts from Linkbacks

As one of the most blatant low-end SEO attempts around, anchor texts from linkbacks happen when you use a URL to bring in your keywords. For example, if your site is called www.besttabletstylus.com and your target keyword is “best tablet stylus”, then you get a backlink, it will show up as “best tablet stylus”. This is penalized by search engines since it is force integration of the keywords where they do not belong.

A good way to tell if your SEO company is doing this is by checking your anchor texts. If you gave them a list of keywords and suddenly all of those keywords or a good portion of them are showing up as anchor text, you should be alarmed. Companies sometimes do this as a way to trick clients into thinking they are doing the work when in reality it is nothing more than a cheap trick with very serious potential consequences.

If caught by a search engine, you are facing a penalty. It is just not worth it.

9. You Are Ranking for the Wrong Keywords

When you work with an SEO company, they will often ask for you to give them a list of target keywords to rank for. These are the words they will work with first since they are obviously part of your overall goals. If you do not have any in mind, the SEO company will recommend ones they think will be suitable and give you a list, most of the time within reputable businesses.

If you go into Google Analytics, you can take a look at what keywords you rank with and which are driving traffic to you in order to get a better idea of what is helping your site the most. If you notice you are no longer ranking highly for a keyword that you previously were or that you are ranking for a lot of keywords you should not be, you should be concerned.

This is because someone who comes to your site through a false keyword association will not be happy. They also will not be beneficial to your site and, over time, this type of thing can result in your site being penalized. If you notice this, bring it up to your SEO company and see if they can help to correct the issue.

10. Suspicious Linkback Growth

Your link profile showcases how you should be ranked within Google. It shows the sites you have been affiliated with through them linking to your content and offers an air of authority that is appreciated within Google’s algorithm. Having a lot of good linkbacks can really boost your reach and increase your ranking.

That being said, having a lot of linkbacks from suspicious or spammy sites can indicate that you are trying to cheat the system, which is something that Google will not allow. They will often penalize sites who engage in this behavior, meaning if you notice that you have a lot of strange linkbacks, you need to get it fixed and corrected ASAP.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The thing with SEO is that if it is done correctly it is undeniably beneficial. If done incorrectly, though, it can absolutely tank your website and cause it to have penalties that destroy its ranking fairly quickly. This is why if you notice something seems wrong, you need to communicate with your SEO team and trust your gut. You deserve proper SEO.

Josh McKay
Josh McKay
I write on the foundational concepts of search engine optimization (SEO). Learn the strategy behind great SEO, including keyword planning, content optimization, link building, and SEO for ecommerce, local search, and mobile audiences.
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