If you receive a marketing proposal from a San Francisco SEO company and see any of the following, use the paper it was written on for your fire place.
As someone who’s been consistently improving rankings for clients the past 5 years, as well as teaching public classes on search marketing, these are all tactics I never try or preach.
(Read here for more info on SEO companies, specifically in the Sacramento area, and their downsides.)
1.“$500 monthly retainer packages are all you need”
The #1 most successful way to improve your search traffic is to create search optimized web pages and blog posts. How can any SEO company afford the mass amount of content needed on a $500 a month budget?
They can’t afford writers or sponsored posts. In fact, I’m not sure what service this SEO company can provide other than some limited on-page keyword updates each month. But that won’t make an impact.
Google’s updated algorithm heavily favors content depth and click through rates (you should be a/b testing your title tags using your search console data). In competitive markets, you’ll also need your brand and website to have plenty of backlinks and online citations.
All of this is an ongoing process requiring experts with experience. On top of that you should be having bi-monthly meetings to discuss progress and goals. All of this isn’t something that can be done on only $500 a month.
2. “Your rankings will improve dramatically in weeks”
Moz.com is the SEO industry’s greatest thought leader. They conduct massive studies to unwrap Google’s algorithm and to review what content is ranking on the first page.
So what’s their take on how long it will be before you see results? Check it out below.
Somewhere between 6-12 months will your traffic start to take off. However, I’ve been able to get great results in the 3-6 month range. (You can email me for case studies and examples.)
The bottom line is, any San Francisco SEO company telling you to expect greatness in weeks isn’t being honest or doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.
3. “We can add hundreds of links to your site in no time”
I’ve received a few emails from executives asking for my take on SEO proposals that they get. One of them really shocked me – a S.F. SEO agency said they could acquire 100-300 backlinks – each month!
If you see anything like this, run for the hills. Acquiring links isn’t some spammy thing you pay webmasters of crappy sites for. That will get you penalized severely by Google.
Baked into Google’s algorithm are ways to detect unusual spikes in link velocity – the rate at which you acquire links. Also baked in is a trust and quality score for every site they index. Given that it would be impossible to conduct the outreach necessary to acquire legitimate links from websites relevant to your product or service, you have to assume that the S.F. SEO company you’re working with is getting links from low quality websites.
Penalties from Google for acquiring links from low quality or spam sites result in your website completely being removed from search results. Not just page 1. You’ll be hard pressed to find your website on page 10. You will only rank for your brand name.
I’ve seen Google Analytics accounts of companies who were penalized and it looks like their web traffic literally fell off a cliff.
4. “We don’t need to create content to improve your rankings”
Let me ask you this – if you have a big list of high value keywords and a limited amount of web pages on your site, how can you rank for all of them?
Because the best practice for targeting a keyword phrase is to create a singular web page or blog post all about that query. If the search phrase people are typing in is, “summer vacation ideas” then an article like, “11 Summer Vacation Ideas Your Family Should Try” is a great way to improve your rankings for that query.
You need new web pages or blog posts each month to keep improving your chances of ranking on page 1. Furthermore this content should be link bait, meaning you can share it with other writers in your industry and see if they find it valuable enough to link to. If so, that will greatly help the article’s chances of getting on page 1.
5. “You need to sign a 12 month contract”
The SEO industry has a bad enough reputation – now they need to sound like AT&T? This is absurd. If your SEO team is crappy, you should be able to fire them at any time with no financial penalty.
Don’t get locked into any unnecessary contracts – find a San Francisco SEO company that has the confidence to take it 3 months at a time. They should be showing steady improvement. SEO is a long term process. But it shouldn’t take a full year to prove things are heading in the right direction.
6. “We make sure your content gets indexed”
I’ve got news for you – this happens automatically 99.9% of the time. Google is very good at indexing content all by itself. There’s nothing special a San Francisco SEO company is going to do to make it happen.
Technically, you or your SEO expert could use the “fetch as Google” tool in Search Console to get your new pages indexed right away. But this is literally a 10 second copy and paste job. You shouldn’t be paying for it.
You can even use a free sitemap generation tool online, upload the file to search console and that will guarantee Google indexes your site regularly, picking up on any key updates you make.
7. “We can’t show you how we’re going to improve your rankings because we’d be giving away our secrets”
This is another one that should have you running for the hills.
If you’re looking to sign a SEO services agreement, remember one word – transparency, transparency, transparency.
So much research has been done to measure the impact of on-page SEO, off-page SEO, click-thru-rates and social media’s impact on a web page’s ranking. And helpful companies like Moz even release studies each year with their best scientific analysis as to what variables are the most significant.
No one knows exactly what’s in Google’s algorithm or how much they weigh different variables. But SEO experts have a very strong idea and that’s how they’re able to get results.
Bottom line is, there is no secret sauce or secret process that a San Francisco SEO company could be hiding.
Google itself helps businesses and webmasters by releasing videos and blogs about the best practices for optimizing content. As a SEO expert I find it an obligation to show my work and how I’m improving or going to improve rankings. SEO companies should not be hiding things from their clients.
For a free review of your latest SEO proposal or current services agreement with an SEO company, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and good luck.