Every once in awhile we come across people or situations which just make us shake our heads. This happens a lot in SEO.

Sometimes it is Google, but usually it is just some absurd player in the space. But, as we shake our heads (and smirk a bit), we have to remind ourselves that, as ridiculous as this people may seem to those within the industry, for people earnestly looking for help, these people can be a real detriment. So, I thought it might be a good idea to put together some warning signs. For the bragards.

1) I have exclusive knowledge..
Sure, we all puff our feathers, and if we are proud about our work, we will showcase it. But there is another level that should trigger a red flag.

When an SEO claims that they are the only one show knows “the truth”, its a problem. The reality is, there are a lot of good SEO shops out there. So, when someone tells you they are the only one who knows the truth, or the secret, they are full of crap.

Often, you will hear these types of people say that they figured it out, but Google won’t admit the truth. As for other SEOs that say their “secret” is nothing, they dismiss them as ignorant, or drinking the Google Kool-aid. By and large, there is no secret to SEO. Like any profession, good practitioners must by educated, continue to keep up with the industry and, above all, be passionate about the field.

2) I’ve been in it since the start.
in and of itself, this is not a bad thing,as long as they have kept pace. This one is kind of an extension of the first, in that these folks usually hold on to some concept that has long since fallen by the wayside. I have even (recently) seen SEOs who claimed to have identified the “secret” in 1998, and still tout it as what makes them better.

if you have kept in touch with SEO, even at the most basic level, you know that things have changed a lot. And tend to do so often. Anyone who quotes credentials from multiple years back had better also have recent experience to show that they are keeping pace… As long as that recent experience is not based on a “secret.”

3) Look at this (one) keyword I optimized.
This is one of my favorites, because it is transparently un-applicable to most clients. I have seen optimization claims for keywords that, literally, no one else believes is important, and the ranking was still only third. Third is great if there is competition, but when no one else is trying, that is not so good. Especially when they have been doing it for many years on the same keyword.

the other issue with this is that no two industries are the same. To show that a person knows their stuff, their success should be spread across multiple industries.

What to look for

As I mentioned, there are many good SEO shops out there,and finding the right one usually has less to do with are the “a good SOE” than are they “a good fit.”

Ensure that they are a good SEO. Testimonials and references are important, but also the credentials of the people. See about seminars attended, blogs written, articles published. Get a sense of what the company invests in keeping the people up to speed in the industry. When you’re comfortable that they are real, then it is about the fit.

Good fit has more to do with you, as a firm looking for an SEO partner, being honest with yourself as it does about the agency or company you choose. Once you know what you really want in a partner agency, then you can start with the real criteria in selecting a partner. Some things to think about:

a) How much communication do you need? Think about the constituents within your company and the way they look for information. Some variations might be: basic monthly updates to ad hoc requests for information; one on one phone calls to group meetings; on core product group to multiple product group owners. Different agencies work better in certain scenarios ( their sales folks will tell you they can do it all).

b) How dynamic is your industry or company? This is tough, because we all want to think of ourselves and our companies as dynamic. But very few really are. This answer will guide the nature of your relationship. Slow and steady vs sporadic and hectic. This impacts results, benchmarks and focus.

c) How much technical control do you have? I have seen many engagements go through rough waters because the client underestimated the difficulty of getting changes made to the site. Different agencies have different capabilities with regard to technology and helping customers through changes. But, you have to be very clear about the situation. It affects scope as well as resources assignments. If there is scope creep beyond the available resources of the agency, bad things start to happen.

d) Your cultural uniqueness… What about your culture requires a certain type of partnership?

By outlining these things first, you will have a better chance at seeing if the references and case studies of any given agency are relevant to your needs.