Some of these services are actually OK and can produce good quality work if monitored for quality control. In fact there are a very small handful of SEO fulfillment companies that do exceptional work, but the vast majority are low-quality chop shops.
Unfortunately, there are far too many SEO chop shops out there. Either through ignorance or laziness, these firms will stagnate your company’s marketing efforts faster than you can say Google.
It takes a lot of work to create good SEO marketing. And it’s not the kind of work that happens behind-the-scenes.
A good SEO firm will include you in every aspect of the work that it does, because the work the firm does relies heavily on your input.
To create good SEO, you need to create good content on your website that targets your customers and promotes your company where they exist online (e.g., forums).
If an SEO firm isn’t working non-stop with you to discover who your target customers are, what they care about and what they want to read, it’s not doing its job correctly.
Also, if a firm is acting as if SEO happens in a vacuum and is conjured out of thin air like magic, it’s deceiving you. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it’s not magic at all.
In fact, good SEO is based on very quantifiable data. You create a strategy, implement the strategy and then measure how the strategy works.
Basically, the SEO firm runs the analytics (usually Google Analytics) and shows you the numbers so you can see what works and what doesn’t. You alter strategy based on the numbers the SEO firm shows you. That’s it, in a nutshell.
Analytics, by Themselves, Aren’t SEO
An analytics report merely shows the results of whatever content marketing and paid advertising strategies you have in place. It’s not SEO all by itself.
It takes all of 30 seconds to run an analytics report and not that much longer to analyze what the report tells you.
It’s true, an SEO firm can spend a lot of time running many different reports, but it doesn’t change the fact that running reports is only a small part of what SEO is.
Reports help guide you in your efforts, nothing more. So if all you’re getting from an SEO firm is reports, you’re not getting everything you need.
Magic Won’t Happen
There are different ways an SEO firm can be incompetent, but they all basically boil down to ignorance of how SEO really works.
For example, a real-life firm that shall remain nameless invested a lot of money in white-labeling a social media management tool to provide its clients with SEO marketing services.
The firm licensed Sendible and used it to re-promote whatever social media activity the company’s customers were doing. Basically, if one of the firm’s customers tweeted a sale or promotion, the firm re-tweeted it to followers online.
The idea was to spread the reach of tweets (and Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram posts) beyond what the customers could. The firm began doing it as a free service and was planning to offer it as a paid service eventually.
Until a marketing and SEO consultant pointed out that the firm didn’t have any followers on its social media accounts. In fact, the firm didn’t even have social media accounts for some of the social media sites it wanted to post on.
When a customer tweeted to its 4,000 followers, the firm re-tweeted to its 47 followers. And this was supposed to add value—enough value that the firm would charge its customers for the service.
Yet there was no value. The firm’s owner somehow thought that if you send social media posts out into the world, magic would happen and the word would spread. But it doesn’t work that way. Luckily, the firm never got around to charging customers for the service.
I don’t blame clients for signing up for these harmful services any more than I blame myself if I get ripped off by an auto mechanic. It’s the service provider who is at fault. But as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
If you want to avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous or behind-the-times SEO firms, which likely make up the greater portion of the industry, you have to get educated about online marketing, at least to some degree.
Basic Lack of Understanding
An incompetent SEO firm will likely to do nothing for you or bring your current marketing efforts to a grinding halt. Either way, you’re not getting any return on your investment.
If an SEO firm can’t explain to you exactly how it’ll boost traffic to your site—in a way you clearly understand—look elsewhere. If an SEO firm doesn’t ask a bunch of questions to understand your business, look elsewhere.