How do you know if you need a new SEO content provider? Whether you’re currently working with an SEO content provider that you think isn’t doing their job well, or you’re looking for one to work with, this article will explain several warning signs 🚩to watch out for.
There are multiple providers of SEO content writing services—digital marketing agencies, content marketing agencies, content writing agencies, consultants, and more.
Unfortunately, charlatans are everywhere in the world of SEO. There are thousands upon thousands of agencies providing “expert” SEO content that’s supposedly going to get you to the #1 spot in Google. But can they actually deliver on their promise?
These providers will hate this article, but I’m not writing it for them, I’m writing it for you, so you get the best results and experience possible.
Here are the ten warning signs that should raise a red flag, and signal that it’s time to break up with your SEO content provider.
1. They “guarantee” first page results
There is a process for planning, writing, and publishing content that increases the probability of it ranking on the first page of Google search results. With that said, search engine positioning involves far too many factors to guarantee first-page rankings.
For example, a large website that has already established topical authority in its niche is going to have an easier time ranking well for competitive keywords. At the same time, a new website without authority will have a more difficult time ranking, even for less competitive keywords.
Other factors such as algorithm changes must also be taken into account. Therefore, making a broad blanket statement that one can “guarantee” rankings is incredibly naive. Even if they are guaranteeing you a spot on the first page, it’s important to keep in mind that search results constantly fluctuate. So, is their guarantee based on the fact that your page may jump to position #10 for 2 hours, and therefore has “achieved” first page rankings?
SEO success with content is a slow process that takes time and consistent effort. With time, you’ll get results, but specific results are never guaranteed. Watch out for companies that make promises that seem too good to be true.
Creating good SEO content requires SEO specialists who understand the process of doing keyword research, experienced writers, and in many cases, a person to oversee the process to manage the team and ensure that objectives are met, and deliverables are sent on time. This all takes time and money.
If you’re expecting to achieve first-page rankings by posting a handful of cheap $20 articles and then forgetting about them, you’re going to be disappointed. Increasing your organic traffic from 50 views per month to 10,000 or more, for example, takes months, if not years. It requires consistent content creation, monitoring, and planning. So, you can expect to pay thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars over the course of months and years, to get the kind of results you’re probably looking for.
SEO isn’t cheap; at least, good SEO isn’t. SEO has the potential to provide massive returns. If you stay consistent with it, it will pay for itself, and then some.
3. All they talk about is keywords
Yes, keywords are an important part of SEO content—they’re essential. Understanding how often keywords are searched for, what their search intent is, and how this relates to the objectives of the business are all very important factors to consider. However, what matters most with SEO content is the content itself.
- Is it written with authority?
- Is it factually accurate?
- Is it fulfilling the search intent?
- Is it engaging?
- Is it free of errors?
- Is it written with the right tone?
Keyword research is a small part; I would say 20%, of what actually matters when creating and publishing SEO content that gets results. So, with that in mind, if you’re working with an agency that isn’t actually focused on content quality as the priority, and is instead obsessed with overstuffing keywords into an article to achieve an arbitrary “SEO score” and “keyword density,” then it’s time to pack your bags and take a trip—far away from them.
4. Poor communication
Communication isn’t specifically related to SEO content per se, but good communication is the key to any successful business relationship, including one with SEO content firms. If you’re sending emails only to be ignored, or receiving automated emails from an account manager who simply doesn’t care about your concerns after you’ve paid $10,000 upfront, then it’s time to leave.
An agency exhibiting poor communication is going to leave you feeling confused, disrespected, and angry. You must find an agency that not only understands the intricacies of SEO and how to create exceptional content, but they must also be excellent communicators willing to hop on a call with you when you’re worried or have questions.
Speed of replies is also important. Aim to find an agency that respects you as a person, your time, and treats you as a priority, even if you’re not their highest paying or most high-profile client.
5. They don’t practice what they preach
This is a big one that is often overlooked. How many SEO agencies or content marketing agencies are there? Thousands, if not tens of thousands. How many of them promise “SEO optimized content that gets to the top of Google”? How many of them promise they have “expert SEO specialists” and “skilled writers.” Pretty much every single one.
Now, if you go into some of the best SEO tools, such as Ahrefs and Semrush, and enter the URL of the agency in question, are they actually getting organic traffic? Do they consistently publish content that’s engaging, well-written, and is helping them achieve higher rankings and more organic traffic on their own industry topics, month over month, and year after year?
Surprisingly, the answer is typically no. The MAJORITY of SEO and content companies have half-assed blogs that receive little to no traffic. You’d think if they truly believed in the power of SEO content to increase traffic and generate leads and sales, they would be practicing what they preach because they’re good at it.
Before you work with an agency, look at their own content, and better yet, use an SEO tool to assess their own progress. If a company isn’t getting results for themselves, they’re probably not that great at getting results for their clients too (most of the time, not always).
6. They have no client results to share
Reviews are important. We all want to see positive reviews from the companies we buy from, but how about results from clients they’ve worked with? If you ask your current agency or a new agency you’re considering working with to show previous results they’ve gotten for clients, can they actually show you this? If the answer is no, then you’ve got a problem.
Suppose you’re going to be investing considerable amounts of capital into SEO content over a six-month or twelve-month campaign. In that case, it’s important to actually verify that the SEO content provider you’re considering working with has walked the talk before, not only for themselves but for clients, ideally in the same industry as yours and in similar scenarios as you. If they can’t produce evidence of results, then this is a huge red flag and is generally an indicator they won’t deliver for you either.
7. They understand SEO, but can’t write
Creating SEO content that gets results is a multifaceted process. It requires SEO specialists, content managers, and professional content writers. There are many SEO content firms out there that genuinely do understand what good SEO is. They’re able to perform keyword research, find keyword opportunities, and understand a good course of action. But, unfortunately, many of them don’t actually have the writers needed to write great content that performs.
For example, maybe your SEO content provider finds some keywords like “how to lose weight fast on metformin.” But then they have the article written by a random content writer from Fiverr, rather than a medical doctor or a PharmD who understands the nuances of the topic and how to communicate it well. So, as well as assessing a firm for SEO competency, be sure to read through samples they send you carefully and ask them questions about who actually writes the content they produce.
Questions to ask include:
- “Where are your writers from?”
- “What credentials do they have?”
- “Can we see writing samples?”
- “How do you vet your writers?”
8. They have bad reviews
When you are considering buying a product or service, what’s one of the first things you do? You look at reviews. Reviews are important to check out. Naturally, large companies with hundreds of reviews may have a few bad ones, but overall you really want to find a company that has at least a 90% positive average, with a minimum of 10-20 total reviews. I would also argue that you should seek to work with a company that has 90% plus positive reviews on websites like Glassdoor too. If their employees are happy, most likely, their team’s going to be producing the best work they can.
When it comes to SEO content providers specifically, check out review sources like Google reviews, Trustpilot, G2.com, Clutch, Goodfirms, and UpCity. These review sites should provide you with a general overview of the company’s customer satisfaction.
If the company is popular enough, try to type in “Company Name Reddit.” Since Reddit’s anonymous, it generally provides genuine no BS opinions about the company. Testimonials on their own site are great, sure, but it’s best to focus on third-party review sites as these are more accurate and less biased.
9. Your rankings and traffic drop
Listen, over the course of 12 months, it’s perfectly natural for your organic traffic and keywords you’re ranking for to fluctuate. If your impressions and clicks decrease on Google Search Console over a week, then no, you don’t have to fire your agency. This is a normal part of growing your organic traffic. Algorithmic changes happen and search engine positioning changes. However, over the course of a few months, if you’re finding that your rankings and traffic are dropping and aren’t actually improving, then this is a good time to question what your SEO content provider is actually doing.
In some cases, it’s not necessarily entirely their fault that progress isn’t occurring. For example, perhaps you’ve only opted to request one article per month, which isn’t really enough to move the needle, or perhaps a web designer on your team made a change on your website that had a negative effect on SEO. But given none of these scenarios are true, and you’ve seen no progress in months, or worse, decreased traffic, then you should reconsider using their services.
10. They don’t provide suggestions
Sometimes, an SEO content provider may not offer many suggestions because you, yourself, are an SEO director and understand SEO, and you just need them for the content creation itself. But, if you’re a marketing director or another position that may not be well-versed in SEO, then it’s important they guide you. For example, you may suggest a topic, and they let you know that, in fact, it’s not a good topic to target because it’s not frequently searched. They would likely suggest an alternative and explain their reasoning.
If you’re not an SEO expert, then it’s so important to work with a firm that’s able to step in with confidence to candidly advise you. Many will just write on any topic, just because you asked for it, so they get paid.
If you follow the advice above and work with agencies that have good reviews, have gotten results for others, and themselves, then in all likelihood, they’ll hopefully be providing you with good suggestions. Unlike bad SEO content providers, good ones understand that in the long term, your success is their success, even if a decision makes them less money in the short term.
5 Signs you’ve found a great SEO content partner
Now that we’ve covered red flags, let’s cover some signs you’re working with or have found a great provider.
1. They are excellent communicators
They reply quickly, they reply with clarity, they ask you questions and ease your concerns. Their priority is to ensure you understand everything clearly, and they over-communicate to ensure you’re happy and comfortable. Also, they’re open to constructive feedback (this is huge!).
2. Your rankings and traffic steadily increase
After consistently posting content for a few months, your rankings improve, your traffic increases, and the trend is consistently up (all for relevant keywords and the right target audience). Even better, you get more leads and sales as a result of the increase.
3. They have clear and consistent processes
A good SEO content provider has clear processes, e.g., keyword research -> content brief -> writing -> editing -> feedback -> revisions -> completion. Find a company to work with that has consistent, repeatable processes that they’re transparent about.
4. They write high-quality content
A good SEO content provider isn’t all about SEO. The most important thing is what is actually being written. Work with SEO content providers that hire subject matter experts that write well and with authority.
5. They set realistic expectations
Work with an SEO content firm that under-promises. A good firm will set realistic expectations, and while it might not sound as exciting as “first page rankings or your money back,” it’s more likely that they know what they’re doing and are going to get you results.
The Bottom Line
Your SEO content soulmate is out there waiting for you. Your traffic will steadily grow, your content will be factually accurate, engaging, and not just written for robots. You’ll also be communicating with a professional team that is consistent both with the results they help you achieve and the way they treat you.
If you’re working with a company that over-promises, isn’t getting you results, and isn’t open to feedback and communicating openly, then it may very well be time to reconsider your working relationship with them and find a new provider (like me 😉).
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