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11 Ways to Identify a Sketchy SEO Vendor

August 15, 2016 Digital Media Solutions

And Why You Need an SEO Dashboard

SEO requires a long-term investment to accommodate for incremental enhancements to your website and structure, so it’s essential to work with someone you trust. But how do you know if you can or should believe what your SEO strategist is telling you? Much of it comes down to your gut. If claims seem too good to be true, they probably are.

To help you quickly identify the bad SEO providers, here’s a list of sketchy SEO practices to watch for:

1. Wild promises.

From first-page rankings to results within a defined time period, any type of SEO promise should be called into question. Why? Because SEO is similar to public relations. A PR firm can promise their effort, but they can never guarantee a media placement. SEO is much the same. The rankings are ultimately determined by the search engines, and no amount of work can guarantee anything else.

2. Paying for links.

Paying for link-building services is an acceptable SEO practice. Paying for the actual links, on the other hand, is a big mistake. At best, it will produce negligible results. At worst, Google will take notice and penalize your site (like what happened to JC Penney in 2011).

3. Paying for reviews.

While we’re on the subject of payments, reviews are another thing that should be earned versus purchased. Unfortunately, paid reviews are common ― especially within ecommerce. Because fake reviews impact customer experience, Amazon filed suit last year. While most of the fake review lawsuits have no merit, questionable behavior never wins in the long run.

4. A super-fast boost in rankings.

Because SEO clients like to see immediate results, some SEO companies strive to produce them, no matter what it takes. If you’ve seen your ratings ascend at the speed of light, find out if your SEO vendor is using tools that place tens of thousands of links at a time. While effective, it’s a “churn and burn” strategy. The links are placed, the rankings go up, Google notices, the site is penalized and the rankings fall as quickly as they initially climbed.

5. Unexplainable traffic spikes.

If your visit metrics seem to climb overnight, it’s very possible that “fake” traffic is being driven to your site. Some SEO companies actually employ outsourced, offshore click farms ― people who are paid to visit your site over and over again. Other than the traffic spikes, it can be hard to spot this practice. If they’re sloppy, your referring site traffic will tell their fraudulent tale.

6. Lots of generic content.

Because SEO companies often get criticized for not delivering anything tangible, some have tried to overcome this through high-volume content production. Often, they outsource content development to budget writers, and then place the content on questionable sites. It delivers link equity with no measurable impact on performance.

7. Over-optimization.

Keywords are important in SEO, but keyword practices have changed considerably over the years. Content that is detected by Google to be unnaturally stuffed with keywords will not rank well. Focused on user experience, Google prefers the use of semantic keywords. Essentially, this means every page should have a focus with natural sounding content.

8. Claims of special Google relationships.

Google does not have a certification for SEO professionals. No one has a special relationship with Google to get early information or a better definition of the Google algorithm. The best SEO professionals are not knighted by Google. They are trained, well-read, well-practiced individuals who believe in working hard to deliver a strong ROI for their clients. (In case you’re curious, here’s an article about the Google certifications that do exist.)

9. You don’t own your content.

I’m sorry to say that, if this is you, you’re already in a bind. You can’t run away, because you’ll be left with nothing. Consult with an SEO professional you can trust to develop a systematic approach to walk away, with a plan to support your business during the painful transition.

10. No defined strategy.

SEO should never be performed without a strategy. Like everything else in marketing, objectives need to be defined with strategies and tactics outlined to achieve them. SEO performed without a strategy can be successful… but successful at what is the question.

11. No transparency.

Lots of SEO companies claim to be doing a lot of work when reality is quite the opposite. For example, early in my career I knew someone who would regularly comment on five blog posts, all linking to his client’s site, and claim to have performed a week’s worth of work. Now this technique doesn’t work anymore, but the practice of under-delivering lives on, supported by the accepted lack of transparency into SEO plans and tasks. The SEO team at DMS doesn’t believe in hiding anything. We provide all of our SEO clients with customized dashboards that provide full transparency into everything we do. The visibility lets you know exactly what you’re paying for, while providing comfort that none of the tactics above are included in your plan.

Introducing Our NEW Customized SEO Dashboards

Customized SEO dashboards from DMS put all of your SEO reporting, deliverables and tasks in one place to streamline your SEO management while providing full transparency of planned and executed SEO initiatives.

Our customized dashboards are organized and populated based on campaign-specific needs and objectives to highlight the pertinent information. Data from a variety of state-of-the-art reporting tools is pulled into the dashboards multiple times a day via APIs. And all data is sorted, enhanced and structured to focus on the granularity that matters for each individual SEO campaign. Dashboards typically include:

  • Traffic trends, conversions and engagement metrics
  • YoY, MoM and WoW changes with successes highlighted
  • High-level SEO plans plus the individual action steps to achieve success
  • Full campaign history

While metrics are important for benchmarking and performance evaluations, actionable data is the true focus of our customized SEO dashboards. We ensure the actionable data is in the forefront, with SEO tasks sorted by level of impact and/or effort.

  • Content marketing recommendations guide development based on keyword research and prior success with prioritization to emphasize tasks projected to deliver the greatest search volume growth.
  • A regular link profile analysis presents newly crawled links, prodding immediate evaluation to ensure SEO actions are being noticed and incoming spam is addressed.
  • Local SEO recommendations add an element that can help boost search results – even when focused on national traffic drivers.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to SEO engagements and see a sample SEO dashboard, click here to contact DMS.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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