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identifying red flags when hiring seo company

Choosing the Right SEO Company – Part 2: Identifying Red Flags

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in simple terms is the practice of improving a website’s visibility and user experience to increase organic traffic in search engines. Investing in SEO is a smart move because it provides sustained results over time without the need for monthly Google Ads, Facebook Ads – you name it, expenses. Many business owners find it beneficial to partner with an SEO agency to enhance their online presence. However, the market for SEO agencies is quite saturated, and it can be challenging to navigate.

Since we have already discussed factors to consider when choosing the right SEO partner for your business, it is important to now identify the warning signs with equal importance.

Read also: Choosing the Right SEO Company Part 1: Factors to Consider

Identifying Red Flags When Hiring an SEO Company

Examine their link-building strategy and content strategy

Backlinks are an integral aspect of SEO; however, they should not be the only ranking factor of a company’s efforts. Building backlinks, if done correctly, can be a valuable component of a comprehensive SEO strategy. The ideal linking strategy should align with your content strategy, the traffic should be coming from sites with high domain authority, and the links should be relevant to your niche or industry.


Backlinks are an integral aspect of SEO; however, they should not be the only ranking factor of a company’s efforts. Building backlinks, if done correctly, can be a valuable component of a comprehensive SEO strategy. The ideal linking strategy should align with your content strategy, the traffic should be coming from sites with high domain authority, and the links should be relevant to your niche or industry.

Beware of Black Hats

While these approaches are beneficial, it is important to recognise that if concentrating on nurturing backlinks becomes the primary focus of the entire SEO strategy, it can raise concerns. Various Black Hat SEO tactics (practices that violate the search engine’s terms of service) involve paying for backlinks or engaging in link exchanges that lack genuine value beyond manipulating search rankings. Many search engines, including Google, penalise sites that employ such tactics. If your site has high keyword rankings and attracts significant traffic, the penalties can be even more severe due to your position in search engine results.

Overpromising leads to underdelivering

Have you met with a company that promised you guaranteed rankings? If so, avoid them! This is because agencies that make such promises often engage in Black Hat techniques, which involve intentionally manipulating search engine indexes to achieve higher SERP rankings. These practices, outlined in Google’s quality guidelines, include generating content solely to manipulate search rankings, participating in paid link schemes, and implementing sneaky redirects to display different content to search engines.

Although these unethical SEO techniques may temporarily improve your Google ranking, they put your website at risk of being flagged. Reputable SEO companies prioritise setting realistic expectations in terms of performance and scope instead of promising rankings. It is important to understand that building a strong online reputation takes time and to be cautious of any agencies claiming otherwise.

Content is Queen, not King

While great content is crucial, it is not the only determinant of good SEO. If an agency claims otherwise, it should raise concerns. An effective organic strategy involves a range of different elements, including blog content creation, on-page optimisation, off-page optimisation, keyword research and mapping, technical SEO optimisation, link building, and more.

However, content of course still plays a significant role in SEO, so it is essential that the content you invest in meets your standards and keeps your target audience in mind. When considering a potential SEO company, it is important to inquire about their approach to content writing and whether they outsource it. Reviewing examples of their produced content can also provide further insights. 

Seek SEO Specialists – Not Website Developers

Your business may employ a web developer who excels in creating visually appealing websites but lacks an understanding and implementation of SEO techniques. Even if developers possess a certain level of SEO knowledge, they shouldn’t substitute for technical SEO professionals. An SEO professional possesses comprehensive knowledge of what your website requires to achieve success. They understand the marketing standpoint as well as the intricacies of the backend.

Building a website involves many technical aspects that greatly affect its SEO. It’s crucial to set up your website correctly to improve its design’s effectiveness and avoid penalties due to technical problems.

SEO Tools Do(n’t) Set Agencies Apart

Placing too much emphasis on an agency’s use of SEO tools as a primary differentiator may lead potential customers to choose the wrong agency. While using tools is common practice for all agencies, the real distinction lies in the expertise of the individuals who use these tools; how to interpret the data, and implement necessary optimisations. All SEO agencies, including those at the enterprise level, have access to research, tracking, and management tools that aim to deliver positive results.

True expertise in serving clients is marked by an approach that is not tied to specific tools but rather selects tools based on the unique requirements of each project. An agency’s true strength comes from the proficiency of its staff, not the tools they use. When companies rely on their tools to stand out, it usually means they don’t have highly skilled staff to set them apart. Similarly, claims of exclusive proprietary tools are often just generic reporting software available to anyone. Therefore, potential customers should be cautious of agencies that emphasise their tools as their primary advantage and should prioritise finding an agency with a proven track record and experience in SEO.

Communication & Transparency

Ask for reports

Monitoring progress is the buzzword we are looking for here. While it may not be feasible for your SEO agency to notify you of every new traffic generated, regular status reports should be provided at least once a month. These reports will allow you to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Even in cases where there is a decline in traffic and conversions, a reputable SEO agency will keep you updated and present you with a plan to address the issue.

Verify the data 

If your SEO company claims to have achieved a 200 per cent increase in organic traffic, a 50 per cent increase in conversion rates, and 100 backlinks since you hired them, it is crucial to seek concrete evidence to verify these claims. Without verifiable data, you will be unable to assess whether these figures are inflated, or not.

A transparent and reputable agency will readily explain its processes to its clients, even though SEO can be a complex undertaking. They need to assist you in understanding their strategies and the rationale behind them.

Customer-centric solutions

An effective SEO strategy should be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of each business it serves. What may have driven traffic to a neighbouring recipe blog may not necessarily bring the same results for a pet grooming website. This is attributed to the complexity of the SEO process and the unique characteristics of each website and each business. 

Pricing Model

Investing in a quality digital marketing agency is essential for achieving significant results in SEO. It is important to carefully compare the costs of different agencies, as those offering significantly lower prices should be approached with caution.

While search engine optimisation may require a significant investment, it is a crucial ongoing process of any effective marketing strategy. The return on investment from properly executed SEO should more than compensate for the cost of the services. Choosing a cheaper option in an attempt to save money will only lead to unsatisfactory results and financial losses, which is harmful to any company or business.



SEO is a highly effective strategy in web development and digital marketing, as it can significantly impact the visibility and success of a business. With over 90% of online sessions starting with a search engine query and the majority of users never going beyond the first page of results, it is crucial for businesses to prioritise SEO as the foundation of their digital marketing strategy. As SEO is an ever-evolving discipline, it is essential to partner with an award-winning digital marketing agency like e-CBD. Our team of experts adheres to industry best practices but also continually adapts its approach to ensure optimal results for your business. To gain further insights into our comprehensive SEO services and to begin your journey towards increased online visibility and success, please contact us on (07) 5531 3810 or send us an online enquiry.


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Acknowledgement of Country

We respectfully acknowledge the people of the Yugambeh language region, the traditional owners of the land on which we stand, and pay our respect to their elders past and present, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who now live in the local area.

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