SEO is bloody frustrating. We get that! 

Well, it is if you don’t really know if your agency is doing their best work for you.

The truth is, there are many so-called SEO agencies out there that just don’t give a damn about their clients. 

They give you all the spiel about how good they are and what results they will achieve during the sales conversations. Sadly, there are plenty out there that don’t live up to their own hype.

They ‘talk the talk’, but don’t even know the directions to start ‘walking the walk!’

This post is designed to give you a better understanding if your agency is ultimately going to deliver.

In simple terms, we will answer the question “Is my SEO agency really helping me?”

Is My SEO Agency Really Helping Me

Why This Post?

We get so annoyed when smart business owners are hoodwinked into signing up with shady SEO suppliers.

You know the type. The people that sent poorly constructed ‘we can save the world’ emails to you. 

Yes, these same emails that come from a someone@gmail.com or similar, unbranded domain. With no company credentials; address and phone number are omitted.

Pure and simple, spam. 

Garbage that will do you way more harm than good. Oh yes, of course their service is cheap. But isn’t it too cheap?

The harsh reality is that the SEO industry attracts all sorts of people. The good, the bad and the chancers.

It is one of these industries that you can claim to be an expert in, without any thought to reality.

In some respects it’s a bit like ‘everyone’ being a professional photographer. Yes, cameras are better than they have ever been. But that doesn’t mean you know what you are now professional.

Do you understand the importance of apertures, lighting, shutter speed and ISO’s?

It’s the same when it comes to SEO. 

As we have said, few agencies live up to their own hype.

So we decided to put this post together to hopefully help someone from falling into the trap of dealing with an under-par ‘joke’ agency.

Yes, it might well land us some more clients. But more than that, we sincerely hope that it helps to educate you a little more with some of the nuances in the SEO service.

The Very Beginning

We feel that any SEO agency worth their salt will be wanting to find out about their new client.

There is no better way of doing this than to jump on some form of ‘on-boarding’ call.

Ideally the SEO agency should come away having learnt some or indeed about their client, including:

  • Their main services
  • The geographical area they cover
  • The history of the business
  • What success would look like
  • What makes them different to the competition – their USP’s

These elements are pretty straightforward and without them you have to question if the SEO agency is really aligned to your goals.

It’s also good practice to understand how often and in what form the client would like to be communicated. Just makes it easier to ensure there are no missing links to the service you are offering.

Is My SEO Agency Really Helping Me?

The Short Game

We aren’t trying to give you nightmares.

But, if you have already hired an SEO agency and are reading this post then the chances are that something isn’t quite right.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about your SEO agency is if they are just focusing on short term gains.

We appreciate that you need results (for you the better the quicker) – we get that.

But, Google doesn’t like some of the strategies that go into these tactics. You can read a complete post about pay for performance SEO here, it might be relevant.

If you have been pitched and indeed signed up to some form of pay on results type SEO then you might be in trouble. 

Rarely do these types of strategies get past Google and its algorithms. Meaning that any gains you make in the short term are at risk in the medium to long term.

To test this, you probably want to ask what the short / medium and longer term strategies are. Do this in a call and see what response you get.

Something To Show

You should expect your agency to have something to show you, within a reasonable period of starting the service.

And, we aren’t talking about a rise in your ranking positions.

The early stages, say 2, 3 or 4 months into SEO might be a bit early for more significant results. So don’t fret too much at this stage.

But, you would be right to expect something from your agency. The fact is, they should be doing something with the money that you have wired them.

It might be refreshing to see some of the following:

  • An SEO audit of your website
  • Analysis of your sites back-link profile
  • Content for your site
  • Summary of what they have changed on your site
  • Detail the links they have built
  • Offer a performance dashboard with KPI’s
  • An overview of the work carried out

We appreciate that every SEO agency is different. What we aren’t saying is that you must have exactly these, but certainly you should have something tangible at this point.

We are more than happy to jump on a video call to discuss updates with our clients. It probably comes from being in the ‘not having anything to hide’ camp.


Not Asking For Access

SEO strategies need implementation. Fact.

So you will need to give them some form of access. Either to your WordPress admin area or other content management system (CMS) that you use. Our post about on-page technical SEO will give you an insight into why it’s needed.

A big red flag is that they don’t actually ask for access to it.

If they haven’t asked for this in the early stages then there is an extremely strong chance that their ‘strategy’ just involves adding links from other sites, be it their PBN or other network of spammy sites. 

They don’t need access for this. 

Strap yourself in and wait for the penalty from Google to hit you – because it will. It’s just a matter of time!

Aside from the CMS access as mentioned above, it would also be good if they asked for:

  • Google Analytics access – either view or admin level
  • Google Search Console (GSC) access
  • Social Media account information and possible access (depends on the structure of the service)

Lack Of Suggestions For Improvements

Your SEO agency really should be asking you, or sometimes telling you to do certain things.

If they aren’t then it could be a signal that all is not on the up and up.

There is a reasonable chance that they are either doing nothing or not much more. 

A reputable agency will be making recommendations. They will be sharing their experience with you to deliver the results you need. In many cases these form the basis for a long term partnership. 

To enable the partnership to grow and become successful you will need to ‘work with them’, as much as they ‘work with you’.

Confirming The Following

It’s likely that you already have your doubts about the services being provided.

Here’s a short Q/A that will help to confirm things.

Is My SEO Agency Legit?

In all likelihood if you find that several of these sections appply to your agency then the chances are that they aren’t ‘legit’.

Sadly, this is all too common with called SEO’s and of course serves only to taint the industry.

Does My SEO Agency Even Care?

Many of the ‘agencies’ that offer services in this field don’t really care if you get results or not.

These are more likely (but not limited to) the ones that ping you a cold email, with no contact info other than the email itself.

It’s fair to say that many of them are just looking to make a quick buck. They’ve read about SEO on the web and have now cast themselves as experts.

Is My SEO Agency Scamming Me?

If you are here and believe that your SEO agency is scamming you then there is a pretty good chance that you are right.

Ask yourself, what have they done to on-board you, what is their game-plan, have you seen any results?

If the answers come back as a resounding no then you are right to think you are being scammed by your SEO supplier.

Quantity Over Quality

This one mostly relates to the building of linkbacks to your website. Although, it can also apply to other elements.

Link building is still an integral part of SEO – hopefully it is carried out in a positive way for the right results. 

This is where many agencies get it wrong. And, badly wrong at that.

You see, they think that they can gain your confidence quicker when they build lots of links. While this might have worked a good number of Google algorithms ago it certainly doesn’t in 2023.

Often they will use their private blog networks (PBN’s) to build out these links. 

If you aren’t already familiar with PBN’s they are a network of websites that are fully under control of the agency.

The strategy involves the agency buying up expired domains that are then used to purpose content of a different nature. These domains have a residual element of ranking from Google. They then link from these networks to the clients site.

Sounds good? Well it would be if it wasn’t going against Google’s terms of service!

The PBN network strategy can work, but isn’t the strongest platform to build your SEO campaign on.

Should Google find out then you are at risk of these links becoming worthless. This happens in one go.

No one wants to arrive at the office to find out that your ‘top of 1st page’ rankings have now turned into ‘bottom of page 3’ rankings. Oh and with an email from GSC giving details of the manual penalty your site is now under.

Believe us, we have seen it for prospective clients. It’s not nice. 

Unwilling Or Can’t Share Their Techniques

As a paying client you have the right to understand about the service you’re paying for. Right? 

Here’s a list of some of the responses that you don’t want to hear:

    • “Tons of things, it would take too long to explain them all”
    • “We do lots of things, but it revolves around optimising your website for Google and Bing”
    • “As an SEO agency, our efforts on your behalf have to remain confidential”
    • “Due to the industry, we aren’t allowed to confirm our practices”
    • “I’m not 100% sure, but will get back to you”

If / when you get responses similar to those then our advice would be to immediately cancel your contract. You need to fire the SEO agency before they do more damage to your website.

Reputable SEO agencies will be using ‘white-hat practices’ to assist your growth. These strategies are accepted as legitimate, proven techniques that should be easy enough to detail.

The Promise Of Bookmarking & Lot’s Of It

SEO is about carrying out quality work. It isn’t about carrying out huge quantities of the following:

  • Article submissions
  • Directory submissions
  • Forum comments
  • Bookmarking

These are the things that ‘agencies’ do when they don’t really know what to do.

Is it conceivable that someone can deliver quality when their focus is on quantity?

This strategy is often outlined in the spam emails that arrive in your email client every day.

Although it is more indicative of overseas agencies, but UK agencies will do it too.

This form of automated, spammy SEO is garbage (crap). And is a sure fire way of getting your site to drop like a balloon filled with lead when you are caught.

It’s the poster child for ‘web spam’ – and Google hates it.

Site back and wait for your site to be de-indexed. Because it is going to happen, sooner or later.

Start planning for a new domain now, because your current one is destined to become unusable for SEO purposes.

Heard of the phrase ‘less is more?’ – it’s perfect for link building strategies.


Your Rankings Take A Hit

Rankings can fluctuate for a range of different reasons.

Sometimes these are short term, and often when Google is trying to understand the implementation that is going on with your site.

But other times it can be because there are issues with your SEO strategy.

Keep an eye on your rankings, we recommend you to do so. But don’t become obsessive with it. 

It’s like checking your weight during a diet. Doing it every day isn’t sensible, and often leaves you wanting to make knee-jerk decisions..

If you start to notice that your rankings are steadily dropping then your agency could be carrying out actions that are resulting in your site heading towards a penalty.

Check with the agency to see what they are doing. If it doesn’t match with what you have signed up for then get them to stop.

Is My SEO Agency Really Helping Me?

The image above is from one of our clients who found that they had fallen foul due to the work carried out by their previous SEO agency.

Your Traffic Tanks

Another tip that there could be an issue with your SEO campaign is if your website traffic suddenly tanks.

More often than not this could be a sign that Google has implemented some for of algorithmic penalty.

Which of course is a really bad thing.

You could check to see if there have been any recent algorithm updates around the time of your traffic hit. Then ask your SEO supplier what updates were conducted on your site in the days leading up to the issue.

You will want to ensure that you query with them any off-site activity that has taken place. Although to be fair it could be that links that have been created a while back have only recently been indexed.

The downside to this is that you will now be missing out on enquiries due to the traffic shortage. To those who have been in this situation, it kinda feels much like your phone has been cut off – that’s how severe it can be.

Now Ranking For The Wrong Terms

In an ideal world you will already be well versed with the main target keyphrases that your campaign is working towards. Remember, we touched on this in an earlier section.

You can also verify this by looking in the Google Search Console to see what search terms are driving traffic to your pages. Here you will see a mix of both short and long tail keywords.

Of course it is good to understand that Google will rank a page for a wide range of connected keywords. Providing of course it is relevant to those search terms.

But what about if all of a sudden your site starts gaining traffic from the ‘wrong’ keywords?

This will have happened for a specific reason. It doesn’t just happen by accident.

These search terms should always be relevant to you and of course, you also need to be able to convert them into real life customers. Otherwise, what’s the point of even doing SEO?

Search intent is massive when it comes to SEO in 2023. It’s vital to the success of your endeavors that you are attracting the right types of visitors.

If all of a sudden traffic starts arriving from suspicious queries then it could be a tell-tale sign that careless work has been carried out by your current agency.

Claiming A Google Relationship

Believe it or not, this one still happens on a fairly frequent basis.

The SEO agency will ‘suggest’ that they have some form of affiliation with Google. Maybe even that they have the inside-track on future algorithm updates.

Yes, this lunacy never seems to go away!

Let’s put it right here, once and for all.

There is no facility at Google to get your site to rank. There is no support desk for organic search. And, no-one is the relative of a Google engineer who knows all about the next series of updates they are going to roll out.

If you get ‘hit’ with this BS then we really do think that your SEO agency is scamming you. Sorry to say!

Is My SEO Agency Really Helping Me?

They Seem To Be Doing Nothing

SEO is a labour intensive task. Well, it is if the agency is doing the right things by you.

The problem is that because of this SEO can be quite a hard service to scale.

Agencies take on more and more clients and then struggle to commit the right amount of resources to deliver the results that their clients need.

A stretched agency will often only have time to focus on the clients that require the most amount of attention. Sometimes the model here looks like this. They do the bulk of the work at the outset, around the on-boarding time. Then once you are seeing some results they switch their focus onto other clients who need more work carried out.

This is more prevalent if the agency has ‘locked you in’ to a long term contract. They can risk spreading the work a little thin, because they know you aren’t able to go anywhere else.

For this reason alone, we won’t ask our clients to commit to these longer contracts. Our clients stay with us because of the results that they continue to get.

Low Quality Or Thin Website Content

As part of any SEO arrangement there should be a degree of fresh content going up on your website. The amount of content will of course vary depending on the resources that have been allowed by the agency. Your monthly fee will go a long way into determining this outcome.

What we sometimes notice is that website content isn’t quite as good as it really should be.

Sadly, this is one area that you can’t skimp on.

Google needs high quality content to understand you are relevant in your niche. As well as that, your potential new clients need to be able to read content that will steer them in the right direction.

SEO is ultra competitive and these on-site signals are one of the best ways to gain traction.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), from the likes of ChatGPT or Google Bard, has helped some of the lazier agencies produce content in its entirety.

AI can be super cool to grab content ideas and research elements.

However, using AI to ‘write your content’ at this stage is really bad news. Very often it leaves you with a lower quality of written work. Sometimes this content falls into the category of being thin.

It certainly doesn’t have the human experience element attached to it.

We aren’t saying don’t use AI.But don’t overuse AI.

Content has historically been the single most expense element of an effective SEO campaign. Now that it can be compiled via AI your site could be at risk of not delivering to its potential viewers.

Take a look at the agency’s site as well. Their landing pages might be up to scratch, but delve a little deeper and explore their blog pages.

It might uncover a clue as to what you could expect from them.

Think about it. If they are unable to produce high quality content on their site, how could they possibly do it for their clients?

The Wrap Up - Is My SEO Agency Really Helping Me?

We want to start by saying that not all SEO agencies are going to let you down. There are some damn fine agencies around who will do some great work for you.

However, by definition, if you have reached this part of our content then there is a very real chance you are seriously concerned about yours.

SEO when done correctly is one of the most valuable marketing tools that you have available to you. The trust that it builds in potential new customers is second to none.

We hope that this post has debunked some of the myths associated with poor quality SEO firms.

As a transparent agency, we would welcome the opportunity to have a chat some time. Feel free to reach out to us about our Local SEO services and we’ll take it from there.

Check Out These Related Posts

Local SEO
Case Studies
Contractor SEO
How To Measure SEO ROI The Easy Way11 min read

How To Measure SEO ROI The Easy Way11 min read

SEO can help businesses grow, but it can be expensive without proper controls. To achieve success, measure ROI and take steps to improve it. This post discusses what ROI for SEO looks like and how to measure it.

SEO vs PPC: Which is Better In 2023?14 min read

SEO vs PPC: Which is Better In 2023?14 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine conflict have destabilised the economy, leading to rising inflation and earnings. Businesses can still succeed by marketing effectively, with SEO and PPC being effective ways to gain new business. The post discusses the differences between each platform and which could be a better fit for a business.

What Is On-Page Technical SEO & Why Does It Matter?8 min read

What Is On-Page Technical SEO & Why Does It Matter?8 min read

On-page technical SEO is crucial for a website’s ranking positions as search engines consider over 200 elements to rank pages. Neglecting it can lead to giving away business to competitors. Learn more about it in our post on improving your standing in search engines.

Local SEO Case Study Fencing Contractor4 min read

Local SEO Case Study Fencing Contractor4 min read

[dipl_double_color_heading heading_main_part="Case Study Fencing Contractor Service" _builder_version="4.14.4" _module_preset="default" global_heading_settings_level="h1" global_heading_settings_text_align="left" pre_header_font="||||||||"...

Local SEO Case Study Accountant & Bookkeeper3 min read

Local SEO Case Study Accountant & Bookkeeper3 min read

[dipl_double_color_heading heading_main_part="Case Study Accountant & Bookkeeper" display_in_stack="on" _builder_version="4.14.4" _module_preset="default" pre_header_font="||||||||" main_header_font="|700|||||||" custom_margin="0px|0px|0px|0px|false|false"...

Local SEO Case Study HVAC Contractor3 min read

Local SEO Case Study HVAC Contractor3 min read

[dipl_double_color_heading heading_main_part="Case Study HVAC Contractor" _builder_version="4.14.4" _module_preset="default" global_heading_settings_level="h1" pre_header_font="||||||||" main_header_font="|700|||||||" custom_margin="0px|0px|0px|0px|false|false"...