At dapa we’re fed up of hearing horror stories from current and potential clients about other agencies excuses, lack of understanding or just damn right greed.
SEO is our passion, it’s all we do, it’s our 100% focus and we like to think that we’re in a position to comment based on huge experience, millions of pounds of investment and being down ‘n dirty with Google every day for a decade.
So we’ve put together a list, a bible if you like of the things we hear all the time, the things that really grate on us, we literally get angry about hearing this stuff.
We’re irritated because many of the culprits have a decent client base who probably hear the same stuff too, we don’t like seeing people being taken advantage of.
Believe it or not, there isn’t a guide on how to do SEO that is 100% accurate.
Everything you’ll read online about the processes and tactics are based on theory, practice and experience.
Google doesn’t like people manipulating their index, they want to know they’re giving their customer the best result based on an algorithm evolved over many years.
If they were to tell us what that algorithm was looking for, we’d all be able to manipulate much easier.
Remember that all the way through this guide.
Lie 1: We always follow Google guidelines
Google doesn’t like SEO or those who do it, anyone that tells you that they follow Google Guidelines is lying.
Think about it, the whole reason it’s here and the great wealth it’s created is based solely on delivering the right answer to the searcher.
Naturally if your website isn’t ranking already, it probably isn’t the right answer, if it was Google would already rank it well.
Once you’ve done the on-site basics, ran your business for a while and your website still isn’t ranking, anything else is manipulating Google and that obviously goes against the guidelines.
As soon as you start manually building links, you’re in breach of the very guidelines many agencies claim to abide by.
Lie 2: We’re SEO experts
This isn’t broad-brush but many agencies, definitely the majority sell SEO as an add-on because of it’s recurring incomes and demand, not because they are good at it or even understand the process.
The real bug bare here for us is when agencies sell SEO but can’t rank their own website in their location, I mean come on guys.
You wouldn’t hire an electrician who lived in cave.
Lie 3: These links will get you banned
Links are very close to my heart so this one really gets on my wick.
Typically, during a tendering process, transition between one agency to another or when a new agency isn’t performing they start to look for excuses.
‘Bad back-links’ is one of the most common to feature.
The principal is in fact sound and the foundations can be found in what Google will tell (seeing a pattern yet?) but in reality it’s flawed, without experience dealing with links SEO agencies and clients may be scared by this process.
Reason being, if a selection of bad links was all that was needed to get a ban or penalty in Google then we’d be ranking number 1 for ‘loans’ and ‘Ferrari’ – all we’d have to do would be build a few poor quality links right? Wrong.
In reality having a few bad links isn’t a good thing but it also isn’t a problem worth losing sleep over, it takes a few seconds to disavow them.
Beware though, we’ve seen several websites lose rankings straight after removing links they believed were detrimental.
Experience here is key, but if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
If your website is ranking in Google at all with these links, leave them.
Lie 4: Your keyword densities are not right
Keyword densities are very important, if you’re trying to rank in 2005.
Historically following percentages to the letter was a great way of fooling Google to rank your website, now though it’s obsolete.
SEO is as much about constructing pages that make sense to the reader, if that is done properly you’re on the right path.
Lie 5: Don’t build too many links
This is a BIG part of many SEO agencies pitch and something that has its foundations in honesty but in reality is false.
It falls again to a lack of education and experience in dealing with links on a daily basis and paying too much attention to what Google tells you.
Links are a sign of growth, a vote that your website is getting exposure, it’s being liked and people in the market are paying attention to it.
What do you think happens when a new brand, product, software, app or website comes out that is brilliant, when it goes viral?
It gets loads of attention, people love it and share it to their friends, creating hundreds, thousands or even millions of links overnight.
Some agencies will have you believe that this is spam, building too many links too quickly. Is that going to get you banned? Of course not.
Creating this hub of information around your website is vital and the only time when building too many links is an issue is when you stop doing it.
Whether you build 10, 100 or 10,000 links per month is fine, just keep it up, stay consistent and Google’s little robots will assume it’s an emerging product.
Lie 6: We’re sorry Google changed the goal posts
If only I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this used.
Most of us in dapa have actually been forced to used this an excuse in previous positions when it wasn’t the truth, including myself.
What’s happened here is the agency is doing things it shouldn’t be, usually link building in ways that are frowned upon.
Google then releases an update to crack down on the things that SEO’s have been getting away with, then your business website drops like a stone overnight.
For the 50+ years of experience we have here SEO has always been heading in the same way, it’s constantly been moving towards creating the right results for the searcher, It’s Google’s only job so why wouldn’t it go down that path.
If you’re website has sound on-site foundations and is link building in a way that a business in your position should be, then you have nothing to worry about.
But if you’re a local gardener and have built 10,000 links on sites hosted in Russia, you might have an issue.
Lie 7: You can’t do your own SEO
Regardless of what many agencies will tell you SEO isn’t that difficult, to be honest it gets easier with every update, but it is more resource heavy.
Pre 2010 you could rank for semi competitive keywords or locally with a few hours work per month, now though it’s much more time-heavy as you have to factor in things content writing.
None of the techniques SEO companies use are technically difficult, the majority require zero knowledge of elements like HTML, those that do are fairly simple or non-existent if you use a CMS like WordPress.
Generically speaking you could do your own SEO, with a bit of Googling you can find out the basics and a step by step plan.
At dapa we like to include the client in the campaign, so where resource allows we train internal staff to help us help them, this often lowers the monthly budgets needed and helps the campaign as a whole.
Lie 8: Directory links don’t work
Broadly speaking you’ll often hear SEO agencies telling you directory links don’t work.
This is another of those things that Google has told you not to do, but in reality there’s a good way and a bad way, do it the right way and they do work.
If you’re automating submissions to thousands of directories with no relevancy to your niche, then you’re on the black side of the hat.
But if you manually select niche-related directories, maybe based on your service, location or an industry body then these will help for sure.
Directory submissions are not a strategy in themselves, but as a part of a wider link building campaign are definitely an advantage.
Going back to Google’s view. If you were a new business in a location, what’s the first thing that business would be expected to do? Yep, get listed in the local rags, indexes and directories.
It makes sense, it’s what a ‘real’ business would be doing.
Lie 9: Comment links don’t work
Comment links are very similar to directories, there’s a wrong way and a right way and the specifics are very similar.
Basically if you’re automating comment links you’re doing it wrong.
But if you’re selecting articles, blogs, forums etc. that are relevant to your market, location or similar and you can provide a valuable answer that just happens to reference a blog on your website, everyone is a winner.
Again it makes sense to see a new business talking about themselves so why not replicate that as part of your link building, it also works VERY well.
Lie 10: We spend hours researching your market
Some agencies do spend quite a bit of time researching your market but the majority are more interested in how much money you can afford so base their proposal on that.
In modern SEO, budgets should be based on goals, the targets that both parties are happy to set, alongside a monthly cost that allows the SEO agency to put the required resource in to hit those targets based on their knowledge and experience.
Lie 11: Converting customers isn’t our problem
This one really grates on us too.
Our job as an SEO company is to help you get more business online, even though our skill is in rankings, we do that because it helps you get more business right?
You’re here reading this or calling us because you want to get more from your website, ranking is just a part of that journey.
Some agencies are hands off, they set targets for achieving a ranking and that’s it, it’s all they’re interested in and consider their job to be finished.
In our humble opinion we’re not happy if you’re not happy, so if we’re ranking really well and the traffic is coming in but not buying, you’re not going to be happy so we need to sort that.
Lie 12: We guarantee you’ll be number 1
Nothing in SEO is guaranteed.
That’s all you need to know really.
Any SEO firm who guarantees any rankings, whether it be number 1 or 10 is lying to you.
It is possible to have a good guess of where it would be possible to get based on experience and skill, it’s never guaranteed.
You’ll tend to find that if there is a guarantee it’s based on 1 keyword that won’t actually get you any business – ranking for “best cheap and local gardener in east Northampton” is not going to get you anywhere.
Lie 13: Our packages are great
Packages are for services that are solid, consistent and predictable.
Accountants for example, mortgage brokers, corporate events not SEO.
Search engines are the same but the difficulty varies by industry because of the competition involved in each.
For example, a package based on ‘x’ level of service might work in a small local cottage industry but isn’t going to get far if you’re taking on the meerkats and their insurance products.
The competition is greater both in volume and quality, there is no one-size-fits-all in SEO.
Each client has a particular goal, a target and each campaign is different so do not get drawn in to taking a package that may or may not have worked for others.
Lie 14: Everything is in house
At least half of the SEO companies you’ll find listed in Google will not actually be doing any SEO, they’ll be outsourcing to a white label partner.
Another 25% at least will be outsourcing a lot of the ‘doing’ bits to consultants or farms in Asia.
That doesn’t leave a lot and it’s hard to differentiate those who are legit.
Ask to see and meet their team, ask if they outsource any part of the work, ask who is doing what.
You’ll probably find that many outsource the bits they don’t understand or have the skills internally for, namely link building and content writing which can be difficult skills to hire or train.
Especially if you can’t do them yourself.
Lie 15: There’s extra charges for design or development work
This is a bit of an opinion piece really more than a lie but it’s something a lot of agencies are guilty of that really gets our goat up.
In our opinion SEO is everything that is needed to achieve results, website changes, landing pages, content, design tweaks etc that can help the SEO campaign work should be part and parcel with the campaign.
If an agency believes that a page needs to be built to help them achieve the goals that you’ve set, that’s their problem!
Lie 16: We work with Tesco & Starbucks
Hundreds of agencies within 100 miles of us will tell you they work with huge household brands.
Don’t be lured in to believe they do the SEO for Tesco, just because it’s on their website.
In 99% of cases the agency created a leaflet for the local franchisee but is passing off that they’re top of the tree.
It’s a sad thing really but just check out their credentials and ask them about the work they’ve done specifically in the world of SEO and ask for examples for you to check now.
You’re looking for rankings in competitive markets as a differentiator.
What to do next
After that you’ve probably realised one thing in particular, Google is about experiences and getting on and doing it, don’t listen to everything Google tells you and don’t listen to agencies if they mention any of the above.
Use the chat function on the right if you have any questions about the above.