Unfortunately, there are some SEO agencies out there who don’t play fair, employing illicit techniques in an attempt to manipulate search engines. SEO companies that uses ‘black-hat’ techniques can cause serious damage to your online presence, avoid them at all costs.

In efforts to stem out unethical SEO companies, Google has provided an agenda to follow when interviewing and selecting an SEO provider.

These are the steps Google recommends brands take when choosing an SEO company:

  1. Conduct a two-way interview – Ask relevant questions to ensure they’re sincerely interested in you and the success of your business.
  2. Check their references – The agency should offer you a list of clients willing to talk to you about their experience. If they can’t offer this, you should be cautious.
  3. Request an audit – A reliable SEO agency does their homework, a simple initial audit should be free. Request for an audit on your website, identifying any potential website issues and how they suggest to improve them, as well as what impact these changes are estimated to have on your digital campaign.
  4. Decide if you want to hire – Discuss with other decision makers within your business whether they think this agency is a good choice. Before deciding on an SEO agency, make sure all internal stakeholders are on board.

In addition to the hiring process recommendations, here are a few useful insights on SEO basics as well as common misconceptions.

  1. “SEO is not black magic” – SEO isn’t magic and it won’t work overnight. If an agency is promising instant rankings, avoid them, as they’re likely to be practicing bad SEO – this could cause irreversible long term damage to your domain and could greatly affect your digital standing with Google.
  2. SEO suggestions should align with Google best practices – Ask the SEO company to corroborate their strategy recommendations with supporting documents from Google (e.g. an article from their help centre, a Googler response in their forum or a video).
  3. Good SEO aims to improve the searchers’ entire experience – Recommended changes should aim to not only create a search-friendly site, but also a overall user-friendly site.
  4. Quality SEOs will be genuinely invested in your business – They will be interested in learning about your business from a holistic standpoint and genuinely care about your business goals, customers and other existing marketing efforts.
  5. Good SEO takes time – Allow four months to a year before you expect to start seeing real search results from strategy implementation. There are a lot of components in a good SEO strategy, and unfortunately, no magic tricks to make them work faster.
  6. An SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website – Investing in a user-friendly website will significantly help every SEO strategy implemented. You can’t build a home without a solid foundation.