Red Flags to Look For Before Hiring An SEO

When it comes to any field of business there are good and bad services. Some services will make false promises with the hope of attracting more customers, while others only promise what they are confident they can achieve.

However, as someone that might not know that much about SEO, how can you identify which of these services is best for you? On the other hand, how can you identify which services are making empty promises? In today’s quick tip Kaushik covers red flags to look out for when it comes to hiring an SEO agency.

Making False Promises

The biggest red flag is promising something that can’t be promised. Many SEO agencies will make empty promises such as ‘we will get you rank #1 on Google’, or ‘we will get 10 of your keywords ranking on the first page of Google’. Why are these empty promises? Well, let me explain.

An SEO only has limited control over what will rank and what won’t. There are some aspects that will assist with ranking (such as having an optimised website, having detailed content targeting user intent and targeting the right long-tailed keywords), but an SEO or website owner doesn’t make the final choice on what ranks. Google does.

Therefore, there are times where despite best efforts we just can’t get that one article to rank #1. On top of this, many of the top ranking articles are years old – you won’t see the rank #1 until months or years down the line. Rather than making these false promises, you should ask an SEO what they can do that they have direct control over.

This means asking them what on-site work they can do to help you boost your SEO. A more reasonable promise from an SEO would be ‘I will optimise your articles to make sure they rank as well as possible for (given keyword)’.

Sure, an SEO could probably promise rank 5 rank #1 results within a month. But more often than not these rank #1 results will be for keywords with little or no competition that provide little relevance to your website. There is almost 0 point to rank for these keywords because no one is searching them! For this reason, SEOs that promise such results are an instant red flag.

Targeting Keywords Rather Than User Intent

Soovle is a great way to find keywords, but many of these aren’t user intent keywords.

Keywords are important when it comes to SEO. For years they have been the holy grail of SEO optimisation. While keywords are still very important, they are becoming less relevant in their typical form.

These days, voice search and user intent is becoming more important. With smart assistants and speakers really beginning to take off, it’s important to target your content at the new age of ‘searching’. That is to say, when someone speaks to their smart speaker or assistant, they usually won’t be asking ‘New York Weather’.

Rather, they will be asking questions. What is the weather in New York today? The same goes for your law firm. People will rarely be looking up keywords, but rather they will be phrasing questions. Your SEOs job is to find these questions and to optimise the content in such a way that when people voice these questions your site is the first result.

Of course, keywords are still important to a degree. However, with voice search becoming more and more used by the day, user intent is become more relevant every day. Keyword stuffing and other practices are also typically treated negatively these days by Google, so that’s another reason to target user intent instead.

Not Actually Doing SEO

This is more likely with a bigger marketing agency, but it’s possible that your SEO isn’t actually doing SEO! The thing is, SEO is a complicated job and it is generally a long term game. For this reason, it’s hard to tell what exactly the people in charge of your SEO strategy are actually doing.

It’s important that the agency or person that you hired is transparent and preferably from a smaller company. Smaller companies tend to focus more on you specific job because your business matters to them. In comparison, you are only a number to a bigger company.

Of course, this isn’t to say that small companies are always good and that big companies are always bad. It just means that you need to do your research. Look into company reviews and see what they have done for other businesses (not via their own testimonials, check reviews on other sites/social media).

Make sure that you are getting weekly, fortnightly, or monthly reports on what they have worked on and why that will help you. This leads straight into the last point…

Too Much Data

SEOs love to overwhelm people with data. SEO is essentially a data game, and often this data will be provided to you by your SEO in a large report every two weeks or month. However, the reality is that often this data is largely irrelevant and they may even be trying to obscure the important data by providing so much other data.

When you first decide on your SEO plan, make sure that you have clear goals. Do you want more organic calls? Do you want to increase your blog readership which will generate warmer leads in the future? A goal is essential.

Once you have a goal, make sure that you ask your SEO to only provide data on that goal. Are they actually helping you to achieve that goal that you set out to do? They may have increased the ranking of your homepage from #42 to #36, but how does that actually help? It doesn’t.

Therefore, if your SEO is providing too much data you have a red flag. You want to have clear goals and to only look at the data related to that goal (which is why you hired the SEO in the first place – to achieve said goal!).

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