If all goes well the Australian SEO industry may experience an SEO shakedown surrounding regulations and appropriate SEO standards. Small business advocate Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, is calling out the dark side of the SEO industry. She claims that many SEO consultants are “over-promising and under-delivering” while charging their clients unreasonable amounts of money for mediocre results (or in some cases, none at all). This is coming directly from the lack of SEO standards and regulations which are currently letting providers get away with anything.
Those of us in the SEO industry who are implementing strictly white-hat methods are welcoming the shakedown as it will target those who tend to make insane claims and rarely ever deliver. This is a type of standard regulation that has not yet been introduced into the SEO industry, but at the same time, the SEO industry is one of the most misunderstood or under-the-radar areas of marketing. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand what standards they should be looking for in SEO. Many don’t know how it works either and this is how contractors can so easily provide less than desirable services.
Compared to other common areas such as Social Media or Search Engine Marketing, you cannot see as much tangible work being executed which means you really just need to trust that the person providing your SEO is doing their job and following industry standards. For example, even business owners who are completely external to Social Media and SEM are still able to view ads that are running and see exactly where their money is going. Almost half of SEO can be boiled down to ‘unseen’ elements on a website that are large ranking factors such as schema markup, and page speed.
It’s so hard to know what to look for when it comes to SEO so we wanted to give you some tips and tricks for spotting a less than trustworthy SEO provider.
Spotting a Dodgy SEO Supplier Before You Sign the Contract
1. The person or agency you’re speaking to promises page 1 results within a month
It takes 2-6 weeks for Google to even notice that you’ve made any changes to your website so offering results within a month is simply not feasible. On top of that, you will have hundreds of keywords that your website could rank for and promising top position for all of those is just about impossible.
Another area to consider is location, something we touched on in our recent podcast. You may rank for a keyword in Brisbane, but ranking for that same keyword in America is completely different based on the location of your website and the keywords you are targeting.
Google now also considers your behaviour and will present you with slightly different search results depending on who you are. You may rank in the number 1 position for your most important keyword on your computer because you’ve visited your own website many times. Google will notice that and will be more likely to present you with your own site. This is much more likely to happen on the Chrome browser as it is owned by Google.
Alternatively, Google may also choose to not show you certain results because you’ve avoided clicking on them in the past. If you search a few times for your most important keywords and only ever click on competitors then Google will start showing your competitors ranking higher than yourself.
2. The person you are speaking to about SEO first reached out with a cold email containing vague claims about your website’s SEO
This is a common tactic that is used when sending bulk cold emails, these emails will often contain vague information and not explicitly state your company or your name. They will also not contain any relevant information on your site. Instead they will use general phrases such as ‘your content has not been keyword optimised’, ‘you have dropped in rankings’, or ‘your meta titles and descriptions have not been written’. These are scare tactics to make you jump into action to fix your SEO, when in fact they have sent this same email to hundreds of companies.
How do we know about these emails? You’d be surprised but even companies who provide SEO will receive emails from companies offering to sell us SEO. They’ve likely crawled the internet and pulled hundreds of emails associated with companies and sent out a bulk email to all of them without checking what the companies provide.
3. An unusually low service rate compared to the industry standard
Klyp is very open about our hourly rates and where that money is going. If you’ve noticed that your SEO provider is promising amazing results for $200 a month or less then this is a red flag. Of course contractors and freelancers will have a lower rate than an agency just due to overheads and bills, but when you think about a general hourly wage and weigh that up to what you are paying for, you can quickly start to notice how much time you’re paying for and if it’s possible to get results within that time period.
You cannot expect to pay for 2 hours a month and still reach page one and maintain results in the long term. We usually recommend 20 hours within the first couple of months to get the bulk of your on-page work completed, then 8-14 hours ongoing depending on your strategy. Think about it, could you get much done in your job with 2 hours each month?
Red flags for if you’re suspicious of your current SEO provider
1. Your overall conversion rate sky-rocketed after a few days
This is a good indication that your provider has added more goals or events to your website in order to capture more conversions. For example, if your business is selling a service, and your goals used to be based off of people who call or submit a contact form, then all of a sudden your goals are also including PDF downloads, time on site, and pages per session as extra goals, this will quickly beef up your results. This makes it appear as though you’ve been seeing fantastic improvements when really you’ve just been capturing more user behaviour.
To combat this, simply sit down with your SEO provider and have a chat as to where the events and goals are coming from and if it’s worth tracking those as closely. You may decide that you only want to generate more phone calls and so having PDF downloads as a conversion won’t be aligned with your business goals. We do need to clarify that this is not always a dodgy tactic, some companies value PDF downloads, time on site, and other metrics. But if you’ve never discussed this with your SEO, now’s the time.
2. Your SEO claims that they are building backlinks but never actually shows you where they are coming form
This is a pretty good sign that your links are being placed on dodgy websites in less than desirable articles. This may not always be the case, they may just not be informing you each time they achieve a new backlink but if your SEO provider ever avoids your request to know where your links are coming from then we would start to question the quality.
3. Overall lack of transparency
If your SEO provider is avoiding your calls, emails, and requests for meetings then this is a pretty bad sign in general. You should have an open line of communication with your SEO agency or contractor so that you can verify which keywords you’re targeting, where your backlinks are coming from and how their work is positively impacting your website. Do your own research but also ask questions when you need to get to the bottom of the matter. If your results have dropped more than 3 months in a row, you need to ask why. Your SEO provider should be able to sell you what has caused the drop.