Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on February 19th, 2009

Six Signs of a Bad SEO Company

salesman_0.jpgFor every action there is a reaction. There is also a motivation, or reason, behind every action. In business, actions that have negative reactions are usually costing that business money and, unfortunately is costing their clients as well. In our current international climate, everyone is experiencing firsthand the consequences of bad actions, despite their foresight. Bad business is a virus that our country needs to shake off, and it’s going to take accountability and smart decision-making for us to help ourselves and each other out of this mess. A good first step in doing so is to do your research and know the signs of bad business. The SEO industry is no different. There are agencies out there that are implementing black hat SEO that can ruin your online presence and lack practical, professional strategies. Here are six signs that will prevent you from choosing the wrong SEO company.

1. They don’t build personal relationships. Many SEO companies will depend too much on emails and written responses in all stages of client relationships rather than securing meetings to get to know their client and have a chance to pick their brains.

2. They talk too much about themselves. There is an old rule of thumb of the client-company relationship where the client should do at least 80% of the talking in any intro call or meeting. Basically, SEO companies need to be great listeners and lead with questions. Don’t dive head-first into your capabilities, and resist the urge to chat about why your SEO skills are the best thing since the sliced cheese. By listening carefully in the intro meeting, you can easily find out what the true drivers of the client are for coming to you. Once you’ve listened, it will be easier to fit your services into the appropriate solutions.

3. They let their technology do too much talking. This goes hand in hand with numero dos. Good solutions have both the company and their technology talking. It a can be a sensitive balance, but one worth finding. Don’t devote too much of your presentations and pitches to tech demos. No technology can write copy or determine the appropriate weight various conversion activities should receive in an ROI calculation. Technology can’t take insights from certain SEO strategies and apply them into other channels. The right people in the room can sell an idea just as well as the new bell and whistle.

4. They overwhelm you with buzzwords and jargon in their pitch. Some agencies tend to fluff up their pitches with credentials and top-line observations. Then they use the ‘smoke and mirrors’ effect by letting the talk do the talking with so much industry jargon that you need a speak n’ spell to figure out what just happened. SEO buzzwords tend to be sprinkled this jargon heavily throughout their pitch to cover up the lack of insight and customized strategies that would provide you with actual results.

5. They don’t demonstrate that they’ve done this before for a similar client. Every SEO company should have case studies, but you aren’t going to care if you’re a mid-sized florist and their only reference is what was done for a Fortune 500 Internet retailer. It helps that the company can back up their credentials with something that shows what they did for someone in a similar situation, and a similar competitive vertical.

6. However, be weary of companies that don’t disclose conflicts up front. They may have case studies that may be a little too close to your situation, possibly with a direct competitor of your business. Some firms have built success around on specific vertical, but others stay clear of any potential conflicts by turning down business or creating internal firewalls.

Regardless of what agencies do to handle conflicts, they should be completely upfront about it. Sometimes SEO companies are not a good fit for your business. Yes, it does happen, just like every other aspect of your business. These signs do not only pertain to SEO companies, but can be used to evaluate any company or firm you may want to do business with. You want to gain and provide value out of every interaction you have with businesses that are providing a service for you. If you feel like you’ve lost valuable time, then it’s time to look for someone else that can make your time worth it.

Volacci. Your Profit. Our Passion.