By Adrian Cruce
Nowadays, local search engine optimization (SEO) has become critical to the success of many businesses—almost half of all searches on Google (46%) are searching for local information. As more people use mobile devices to search for services and products, local business owners have had to adapt their websites to focus on local rankings. But you need to be careful you don’t hire a bad local SEO agency without realizing it.
Unfortunately, because of the popularity and importance of local search engine optimization, dishonest SEO scammers are “benefitting” too. There are numerous fraudulent local SEO companies out there that are out to rip off small businesses.
If you want to protect your business from getting scammed, here are warning signs to look out for.
The warning signs you hired a bad local SEO agency
1. Lack of communication
An honest local SEO company will want to work with you while creating a strategy that can get results; a dishonest company will do precisely the opposite. If you cannot get in touch with anyone at your local SEO agency or they keep dodging your questions, this is a warning sign. The exact same thing can be said if you keep getting passed around the office and talk to different people every time you call them.
Dishonest agencies want as little contact with you as possible. They know the more they talk, the higher likelihood you will figure out they don’t know what they’re doing.
2. No reports generated
An honest SEO company will send you reports showing all the work they’ve done. However, if you’re not getting reports and you’re only getting excuses when you ask questions about what work has been done, there is a pretty good possibility that:
- There’s been no work done.
- The work that was done used shady practices, like the use of private blog networks.
For any type of SEO, there should be a lot of available data to include in a report. The more complete the report, the more likely that the agency is legit and does great work.
3. No real local SEO work
Many SEO agencies have rebranded themselves as local SEO agencies, but continue to do the same work they would do for general SEO. They may generate reports, but there is no specific local work presented in their reports.
As an example, let’s think about a restaurant. A restaurant wants people in the local area to eat at their location, which involves certain local SEO strategies. However, if the SEO agency targets the entire country or areas that are not serviced by the restaurant, the work will not offer good results.
Carefully analyze the reports you receive from your SEO company. Check out the backlinks. If they do not target your local market, this is a red flag.
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4. Number one guarantees
Just like regular SEO work, if you see a guarantee that your site will be ranked number one in local search for any keyword, you are indeed looking at a scam attempt. This is because it is practically impossible to make this guarantee.
The search algorithm used by Google is very fluid. Updates happen all the time and there is always a possibility one of them will impact placements. Also, some keywords are much easier to rank than others.
Although the local SEO scene is still relatively new, and many local retailers have not claimed a Google My Business listing, the competition is already very high. Nobody can guarantee a number one rank.
Always look at the campaign strategy being used by the local SEO company. Any mention of a number one ranking is a huge red flag that the agency is dishonest.
5. Bad leads
You build a website because you want leads. However, not all traffic is equal. When you receive leads from a different service area than the one you serve, the SEO company is most likely doing a terrible job.
Search engine optimization can be very good about getting leads, but this is the case only when it’s done right.
For instance, if you run an auto repair business, an agency may write an article “Top Signs That Your Car Is Broken.” This article could attract traffic from anywhere in the world. Some people might even fill out the contact form or contact you, without even realizing that your business is not in their local area.
While of course you may get some bad leads from a different location than where you service, most leads need to come from the service area. When this does not happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agency is dishonest, but it can be a warning sign the agency is incompetent when it comes to local SEO.
6. Promise of a specific number of links
High-quality backlinks are always significant for a site. However, this does not mean that getting a large number of links is a good thing. In fact, it is usually a sign that something is wrong.
For instance, if you are promised 100 backlinks in a week, the practices used to get them might be shady. The best SEO agencies will not promise a specific number of links. They will try to get as many as are needed and will always take into account the current state of your website, with the purpose of not building too many.
If a local SEO company promises you many links, but never talks about a strategy or never discusses link types, it’s most likely a scam.
Protect your business from a bad local SEO agency
The best thing you can do when you work with a local SEO agency is to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the easier it is to figure out if the professionals are honest. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s your business and you are responsible for the work that is done on your website.