A few years back, a man told me “80% of SEOs don’t know SEO”. He found this quote amazing and truthful: words to live by. All I could think was “But… You are part of that 80%”.
This guy ran an SEO agency and was moderately successful. However, most of his tactics were low grade and black hat. Because of this, most of his long term clients were local businesses in fairly uncompetitive niches. This brings me to my first point.
Most Agencies Don’t Know They Suck
SEO is a fairly easy service to sell, because most businesses don’t know how to do it. They just know they need it. This gives agencies a lot of leeway in the services they provide. As long as they’ve shown any improvement at all, no matter how minuscule, even just once, they feel they’ve done their job. Their clients will keep paying them, because things are better than when they started – even if things haven’t continued to improve.
This aura of ignorance is the biggest problem. No one realizes there’s an issue, and because of that, it continues to grow. That’s not how it should be. SEO isn’t a “set it and forget it” service. It’s not an Excel sheet of links and rankings sent at the beginning of the month. It should be strategized differently for every business, because every single business is different.
Most Agencies Are Run by Business Men
I know that seems obvious, but what I mean is they’re usually not run by an SEO. They’re run by someone who’s great at running a business. SEO is an afterthought. Sadly, they’re typically money hungry as well. This always reminds me of the dragon guarding his gold in The Hobbit.
They concentrate more on hiring sales people, and on the ROI of their staff. They rarely look at how they can improve their SEO services to handle bigger, better clients. The assumption is that if it works on their local lawyer or doctor client, it’ll work with large businesses as well.
I am by no means trying to downplay local SEO, but doing SEO for one city is nowhere near the same complexity as working on a worldwide campaign. This brings me to the next issue.
Client Quantity Over Quality
A lot of agencies have several sales people that get paid damn well. This is fine. However, this also causes them to get a vast number of “easy clients” instead of larger, authoritative clients.
This causes a lack of dedication to each client, by both the agency owner and staff. When you have a bulk amount of lower budget clients, losing one isn’t a big deal. When you have fewer, higher paying clients, every client is important and shown proper attention.
Most Agencies Don’t Understand Social Media
This is one I’m constantly still shocked by. Pretty much every agency says they provide social services, but I rarely run into any that do it right. They’ll use services like Tweet Adder to gain meaningless followers, they’ll pay for retweets, they’ll pay for followers, etc. They’ll do everything except actually be social.
A lot of agencies will go as far as automating tweets or Facebook posts and never actually log into the accounts. This is pointless for building up a brand’s image. You need to communicate with your followers.
Most Agencies Have Awful Blogs
Their blog content will be basic and generic content with keyword focused titles. The sad part is this is usually all it takes to win over a client that doesn’t know SEO. All they see is a blog talking about SEO.
To the eye of another search marketer, it’s very obvious. There are typically no comments, social shares, etc. Either that or there will be an astronomically high and clearly fake amount of shares. This will ruin your potential to gain clients that are “SEO savvy”, which is the most important market in which to gain trust.
Most Agencies Are Terrified of Google Updates
This is probably the biggest signal that an agency sucks. If they’re terrified of Google updates, they’re probably doing something wrong.
If you’re not using shady or black hat tactics there’s little to fear from Google updates. They’re usually for the better and allow you to gain more visibility.
Most Agencies Won’t Last
SEO is growing and people from all industries are learning it. Most marketing fields are now looking for people with knowledge of SEO. This trend isn’t slowing down. Marketing directors are looking for agencies to help fill out some of the demand. Those guys are going to know if you’re any good or not.