There are a lot of shady SEO companies out there. Yes, sadly a lot of the SEO services being touted around the UK are of a very low quality, being carried out by a new wave of “digital marketing consultants” and agencies who simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to implement an SEO strategy but they sell it anyway and market themselves as experts. This results in businesses being sold false promises then becoming disillusioned and sceptical about SEO, devaluing the industry for all of us.

So, how can you weed out the bad ones and make sure that you only deal with genuine SEO agencies who can provide real value for your business? Well, there are some very common red flags that most bad SEO companies share and once you know what to look for it can be quite easy to separate the fakes from the pros. Here are a few red flag to keep an eye out for:

Look For Case Studies

This should be the first thing you look for as a prospective SEO client. You need to see real-life case studies which detail the goals of the campaign, the work that was carried out and the tangible results that were achieved. If you can’t find any on their website then that’s probably a good indication that they don’t get great results for their clients.

Ignore On-site Reviews

Reviews can be largely faked. Many of these dodgy companies reviews come from family and friends, if not themselves using different emails. Reviews mean nothing. Look instead at the companies on their client pages and make contact with them yourself. If they have done a good job they should be more than happy to provide a testimonial for you. Also, look closely at what the review is for, a web design company may have lots of great reviews for the sites they have built but how many are actually for their SEO services?

Beware Of Generic Packages

This is an immediate red flag. No genuine SEO agencies will have a one-size fits all type packages list on their website. That’s because they will need to review your website, understand your goals and look at the competitiveness of the industry before being able to quote you a price. If these packages mention X amount of directory submissions or citations for a monthly fee then run a mile.

Careful now

Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

This is an old saying but it’s very apt for the SEO industry. If you pay an SEO agency £200 per month, how much work do you really think they’re doing for you? That isn’t to say that you should always go for the more expensive option. In fact, part of the problem with SEO in the UK is that a lot of the big agencies are charging ridiculous monthly retainers for their SEO services and in a lot of cases all it’s paying for is swanky offices and bloated staff levels. You want to find the middle ground where you will get a genuine, well-planned, well-executed SEO strategy at a price that’s within your budget.

Avoid The Keyword Stuffers

If the website you’re visiting has a url along the lines of then that’s usually a sign that they are a less than quality service that will try to game Google and get rankings using dubious tactics like keyword stuffing and paying for PBN links. They might even get some short-term results, that’s until the next Google update and your site gets hit with a penalty and disappears without a trace. These sites are easy to spot as they will have their keywords placed in nearly every header, even when it doesn’t make sense e.g. “The Best [enter city name] SEO Agency”.

The truth is the successful agencies that are doing great work for their clients are getting the majority of their work through referrals and their reputation, so they don’t have the need to risk plastering nonsensical keywords all over their website.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

Are they promising you instant rankings, 100 links a month guaranteed, X amount of sales? Yeah, that’s all crap.

What’s Their Experience?

A quick look at what the website is mainly promoting should tell you where the expertise of the company lies. If they are a web design company with an SEO page in their services section then do some research to find out if they have an actual SEO specialist in their staff who will be working on your campaign. LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Often you will find that there is no one who specialises in SEO within the team, so who exactly will be working on it? Hiring a web designer to work on your SEO strategy is like hiring an electrician to do your plumbing, they are completely different skills. Also, take a look at their experience, have they worked in SEO related roles for other agencies or in-house for a company or have they suddenly moved from an unrelated role to the Director of an SEO agency?


Just Because They Can Talk, Doesn’t Mean They’re Good

There are a lot of knowledgeable SEO experts in the industry providing great insights on the latest techniques and strategies and generally providing education to businesses and marketers alike and that’s all great. But there has also been an influx of professional talkers in the Digital Marketing industry over the past few years with far less value to offer. They are usually pretty generic “digital gurus” making presentations to business owners in business centres on basic topics like “how to set up a LinkedIn page for your business” or “how to set up Facebook ads”. Naturally business owners might assume that they would be the best choice to help them with their SEO strategy but I would urge you to take all of the previous points into consideration to determine if they are the right option. In fact, a lot of them don’t even have a website which should make your decision pretty easy.

You Don’t Have To Go Local

It’s a habit of a lot of local business owners to only want to work with agencies within their own town or country. If you can’t find what you’re looking for locally then don’t be afraid to look further afield. There are no shortage of SEO agencies around the UK and if you look for the signs above and carry out your due diligence you will be able to find the right agency for you at a price that suits your budget. We will often refer people who we feel we aren’t the best fit for or don’t quite have the budget for us to be able to achieve their goals to agencies all over the UK.

So now that you know the tell-tale signs of dodgy SEO companies, what should you be looking out for to identify the best ones?

Some Questions Should You Be Asking
  • Can you show us examples of results you have achieved for at least 3 clients (with a break-down of the strategy you implemented)?
  • Can we see some examples of the links you have earned for them?
  • Who will actually be working on our campaign? Will it be yourself, an intern or will it be outsourced?
  • How will you be reporting and how often will the strategy be reviewed?
  • How will you be measuring the success of the campaign?
  • What will be expected of us? This is an important one, SEO is a partnership so you will be expected to do at least a little work on your side.

Geniune SEO companies won’t mind answering these questions. You should also expect to answer some questions yourself as a good SEO agency will have a similar set of questions to determine that you know what you want to achieve from the campaign, that you are willing to do the necessary work at your end, you understand the timescales involved and that you’re generally a good fit for them.

There are lots of great SEO agencies and consultants out there getting fantastic results for their clients and now that you know what to look for and what to avoid hopefully you will be better placed to sort the good from the bad.