Avoid Cheating by SEO Consultants or Digital Agencies

Snake Oil SEO SalesmanHiring an in-house SEO person is often seen in large scale ecommerce websites or online businesses, in which organic search traffic constitutes a substantial proportion of their overall traffic visits. In such cases, hiring any external consultants or agency vendors may not be cost-efficient in the long run. With budget constraints, small online businesses or start-ups can consider to engage external SEO marketers instead of hiring one to be on your payroll.

Engaging with SEO consultants or digital agencies should not be totally ignored, even though you might already have an in-house SEO marketer. These external consultants or agencies often are the ones who will be keeping abreast of any of the latest search engine changes, and will be able to advise on the latest best SEO practices. Engaging them to perform an annual SEO audit on your websites will be useful to identify any shortfalls or blind spots, and marketing opportunities as well.

Many small business owners & start-ups have shared their experience on engaging external SEO consultants or digital agencies to optimize their websites for search engines. Some have found the right working relationship, while some ended with a terrible nightmare experience and thereby lowered their confidence to engage engaging external SEO marketers or agencies again. Below are some of the problems encountered, solutions & advices provided to those who have shared their experiences with me:

1. Guarantee to rank #1 on search results
Search results are returned algorithmically, when searchers perform keyword search. Not even Google engineers can guarantee to have your website to always rank #1 on search results, as ranking positions fluctuates from time to time. The art of SEO is to optimize your web pages or website to search engine friendly, and to increase the chances to display your website as listing on search results based on what searchers are searching for.

2. Paying monthly fees to appear & rank on search results
There are claims from SEO consultants or digital agencies that the website will continue to appear & rank on search results if the client agrees to pay them a monthly fee. If not, the website will be taken down from search results. Succumb to fear, clients ended up paying from their pockets.

No one can remove your website from the search results, unless you pull down your website or manually request to take down from Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools). At the end of the day, be sure of what you are paying for.

3. No work was done on my website after months
Other than link building activities, many of the SEO techniques, i.e. on-page, on-site optimization requires work action being done you’re your website. The SEO consultant or digital agencies usually have to provide requirements & work with your webmaster or web developers to apply the SEO solutions onto our website. Of course, you may not see immediate results the next day as SEO efforts require time for search engines to recognize the changes you have made.

Obtaining a work plan from the external SEO consultant or digital agencies is general preferred to understand the timeline and prioritization of each line item in the statement of work (SOW). No harm to find out the objective for line items list on the work plan, an experienced SEO consultant will be able to explain what he will be doing & what he sets to achieve. Do not hesitate to fire your SEO consultant or agency if they are not delivering any work or business value to your website.

4. Build many external backlinks to your website
Building external backlinks with your existing content or even constantly creating of new content is always a challenge, and you might end up having one or two backlinks or sometimes not even one. Therefore, it is very common for clients to outsource their SEO link building activities to digital agencies or SEO consultants at a cost-efficient price. As a client, you have to ensure that the built backlinks are from credible sources, and not from spam websites or link farm directories.

It is important to understand that Google adopts a complex mathematical model to assign PageRank value for every website & web page. The objective to build external links is to receive more PageRank value to strengthen your website in the long run. Nevertheless due to the sophisticated calculation of PageRank, it is impossible to game the system by getting 8 backlinks from 8 websites that have PageRank 1, thinking that this will be equivalent to getting 1 backlink from 1 website that have PageRank 8. In fact, the 1 backlink from the PageRank 8 website will give a higher PageRank value than having 8 backlinks from 8 different PageRank 1 websites.

On top of that, if you build 100 backlinks from one single website, Google may only consider as only 1 vote instead of 100 votes in its PageRank calculation. Another example will be the content on Web Page B is about selling mobile tablets, and it has 5 backlinks from 5 different websites that are totally NOT related or relevant to mobile tablets. Similarly, Google may even penalize the website for paid links or link farm manipulation.

Request the list of backlinks that your external SEO consultant or digital agencies have built for your website, and perform a check on whether the backlinks exist and they are from spam origins. Do not get your website to be penalized by Google, without doing due diligence checks on the backlinks.

Cheok Lup is a data driven & hands-on practitioner in digital marketing, who has acquired more than 10 years of expertise in web development, web analytics, enterprise level SEO, paid search, and performance marketing strategies & tactics. He has worked with established global firms – GlobalSources.com, Accenture Interactive, SAP, educational institutions – Singapore Management University (SMU), small-medium businesses (SMBs/SMEs), and start-ups.