So, you hired an SEO company.

But the results are not as good as you were expecting.

Some of the most common questions we get at SEOptimer are:

“How can I know if my SEO company is good or bad?”

“Is my SEO company doing the right things for my site?”

“I hired an SEO company but my traffic is not increasing. Why?”

Search Engine Optimization isn't rocket science. Even if you're totally new to the SEO world, you can check in on things and know if the company is helping or hurting your site.

It’s time to stop wondering if you’ve chosen the right company to outsource your SEO to or not.

In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know about working and selecting a reliable SEO company or freelancer.

The truth is, many SEO companies are bad. That’s the reason why numerous companies went bankrupt after the release of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm.

No wonder. SEO’s reputation is now stained thanks to SEO experts stuck in 2008, using outdated and black-hat SEO techniques. Here’s what Google’s autosuggest shows for the entry “SEO is”:


If you’ve recently done a similar search in Google, I have to tell you something.

No, SEO is not dead, it’s not bullshit and it's not a waste of time.

For as long as search engines will exist, there will always be a way to optimize your site to rank higher.

SEO is only dead for those who are placing hundreds of spammy links, stuffing keywords and  writing thin, poor-quality content.

If your SEO company is doing little to nothing for your site, you might have the feeling that SEO is a waste of time and especially money right now. That's fair enough.

Nonetheless, that’s not true.

It might only signal that it’s time to fire your current SEO company and choose one that’s doing something productive instead.

Below you’ll find the most common warning signs that your current SEO company is not as good as they say they are.

8 Signs That an SEO Company Might Hurt Your Site

If it’s the first time you're outsourcing your SEO, it would be useful to learn a few basic things about Search Engine Optimization. 

During the negotiations, you can show them that you're not clueless and you have some idea of how things work. You can start by reading this introduction to SEO and linkbuilding here.

Apart from the basics, you should also be aware of red flags—warning signs that you're not dealing with a good SEO company.

Without any further ado, here are the red flags that should make you run far, far away from an SEO company.

1. Promises Links Based on PageRank

Google PageRank

Whenever you hear an SEO company mention that they'll build “X backlinks from PR2+ sites,” run as fast and far as you can.

Google ditched Toolbar PageRank almost four years ago, making it completely unreliable. You'll see sites that say PR0 that are now PR6 after years of toil, and pages that say PR6 but have plummeted down to PR0 due to neglect.

Yes, PageRank does still exist and is factored into SEO on some level—it's basically just a measurement that depends on Domain Authority and Trust Flow, so you can rely on those measurements instead.

Fact of the matter is, it's hard to tell exactly where any page is at in terms of PageRank. As of today, they still haven’t removed it from the toolbar, but the fact that remains that it hasn't been updated for the last four years.

Google recently mentioned that they'll remove it completely at some point, to avoid having people being confused about it.

Nevertheless, ignore SEOs that make useless promises based on PageRank.

2. Mass Directory Submissions, Article Submissions, Automated Blog Comments and Social Bookmarking

Google Link Guidelines

In the case that you're promised “100+ powerful directory submissions,” run!

Same goes for mass article submissions—they're nearly guaranteed to have spun content, bad linking and spammy comments. All these links are the definition of what Google calls “spam.”

Having such links to your site will put you at risk of getting a penalty. And trust me, a Google penalty's a thing that's often complicated to remove, not to mention that you’ve wasted money on a company that was using dangerous techniques.

These can destroy your site's SEO, so always stay away from links that are violating Google’s guidelines. And stay away from SEO companies that seem to promise too much content, as they'll likely deliver quantity at the expense of quality.

3. They Guarantee a #1 Ranking for Your Primary Keywords

What do you think you should do if they promise that you’ll rank in a particular position for your keywords?

That’s right. Run!

Beware of SEOs that claim to have a special relationship with Google or promise to submit your site with a higher priority. Google has its URL where you can submit your site, and any other advertisement is false.

Google URL tool

No one can guarantee where you’ll rank for your keywords. Yes, it might sound discouraging, but that’s the truth. SEO isn't all about the number of links you have. If your competitor has 100 links, it doesn’t mean that you’ll outrank them once you have 101 links.

Google uses more than 200 ranking factors, making it impossible to guarantee that you’ll rank in a particular position. There are many things you can do to improve your overall performance in Google, but those who make other false claims are only trying to scam you.

You can’t blame the customer for wanting to rank first for its keywords, everyone wants that. However, an SEO company that make false promises prove that they would do anything to get the client on board. That includes lying.

4. You Were Approached by Your SEO Company with a Spammy Email

Spam is everywhere. Because they can’t rank high in search engines, most bad SEO companies or freelancers can’t get clients organically from Google.

What do they do instead?

Simple. They send thousands of spammy emails out of the blue, in hopes to fool a beginner.

The definition of email spam is sending unsolicited messages to people who haven’t opted in. What techniques do you think these guys will use to optimize your site? Yes, you guessed right. More spam.

Not surprisingly, even Google gets such emails:


5. They're Asking You to Link to Their Site or Other Sites

You shouldn't agree to work with companies that are suggesting you to link back to their site in the footer or sidebar widgets.

To some extent, that's standard practice these days. Especially for web designers, who want to showcase their work.

However, it's not so standard for SEO companies, and it's not standard to note that someone has done SEO for you on your site—that's you're own business, and you shouldn't be disclosing that publicly.

The poor-quality SEO companies out there are asking clients to write on their site something like “ does SEO for this site.”

Also, avoid companies that want to do link exchanges.

6. Your SEO Company is Secretive About What They're Doing

If you have doubts or questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Your SEO company is responsible for explaining the strategies and techniques they'll use for your site.

If they're very secretive and don’t want to provide details about their previous achievements, their on-page SEO tactics or the types of links they're building, you should avoid working with them.

When you hire an SEO company, you must have an excellent relationship with them because their work can influence your business future in an either positive or negative way.

They must provide weekly or monthly reports on what they've done for your site and tell you about the plan for the coming period. Companies that don’t send detailed reports on progress probably have something to hide.

7. Your SEO Company has a Blog Network and Builds Low-quality Links


Often, we’ve seen clients being scammed by companies that were creating very low-quality links from unrelated sites because the customer had no idea how to decide if a backlink is good or bad.

If your SEO company owns a blog network and adds links to your site, get rid of them as soon as possible—and ask them to remove those links on the way out.

8. The Content They Write is not for People, but for Search Engines

Your site’s content should be user-friendly and addressed to the reader. Keyword stuffing can get your site penalized.

It’s important that they do keyword research before writing an article, but make sure they don’t over-optimize your posts.

Is Your SEO Company Helping or Killing Your Website? 6 Ways to Find Out

Just because you're outsourcing SEO to someone who's more experienced, this doesn’t mean you should trust them entirely or think that you have no responsibilities.

In case that they fail to deliver results, or even worse, get your site penalized, you’ll be left with a site that’s performing worse than it was at the beginning.

That’s why your responsibility never ends, even if you're outsourcing search engine optimization.

To determine if your SEO company is doing the right things, you need to use an SEO tool to keep track of several KPIs. This small added investment can save you a world of hurt later on.

One of the best tools to measure the success of your SEO campaigns is SEOptimer. You can use the tool to perform SEO audits, track keyword rankings in Google and determine the quality of the links your SEO company is building.

Here’s how to know if your SEO company is worth keeping or if you should fire them.

1. Monitor Your Site’s Organic Traffic

When you hire an SEO company, one of the most important KPIs to measure is the organic traffic growth.

If the traffic you get from Google or other search engines is increasing over the course of months, most likely they're doing a good job of optimizing your site. In case your site hasn't improved, or even worse, the traffic has declined, ask for some explanations.

In Google Analytics, you can see at a glance how the organic traffic is evolving and also compare it with the average keyword position in Google.


Note that you have to connect your domain with Google Analytics to get more insights about your site.

2. Monitor Your Keyword Rankings in Google

If you have a list of keywords for which you want your site to rank higher, you can add them to your SEOptimer account and see where your site is currently ranking for them.

In case you don’t have a list of keywords, ask your SEO company to provide a report with the suggested keywords that should bring more traffic.

The tool will automatically check your keyword rankings every seven days. It's rare that an SEO company provides such frequent updates on the keyword positions, so it’s best to use a tool to measure the most critical KPIs like this on your own.

keyword tracking

3. Check How Often You're Getting New Backlinks

In your SEOptimer dashboard, by clicking on the Backlink Monitoring tab, you’ll get to see a visual representation of the dates when your site has earned new links.

If there are no huge spikes in the number of links you got on a specific day and they all look naturally earned, that’s a good sign.

4. See Bad Backlinks at a Glance

Because the quality of your site’s backlinks is vital, you should always analyze if the links your SEO company is building are good or not. With SEOptimer, you can do this with ease.

To sort your links and find all your bad links, you can use the filters. Here's a guide on how you can identify your bad links.

It’s always recommended to keep an eye on all the links your SEO company is building because in some cases they might not show you everything. They're probably aware that those links are bad.

SEOptimer  automatically checks when your site gets new links, every three days and when it finds any new ones, it will add them to your account. Also, it sends weekly SEO reports with the progress of your site.

Compare these reports with the ones your SEO company is sending and see if they're telling the truth or lying to you. (If you see some discrepancy, you don't need to immediately assume someone is lying, but now you can ask about it and get the full story.)

5. Check How Many of the Links are Dofollow or Nofollow

Dofollow links are the ones that will influence your rankings in Google while nofollow can be useful only for sending traffic.

If your SEO company is presenting to you the links that they've built, but these are nofollow, ask for an explanation about why they spent time building those links.

In the Backlink Monitoring section, you can see a graphic distribution of all your links, as shown below.

backlink changes

6. Check if Your SEO Company is Over-optimizing Your Site

Over-optimization can usually lead to serious problems, like a Google penalty.

To avoid such problems, make sure that the links your SEO company is building don’t have an over-optimized anchor text or they don’t create links only to your homepage.

Check your anchor text distribution on your Backlink Research or Backlink Monitoring page.

anchor text

The most popular anchor texts should be a combination of your brand names and site URL.


Not all SEO companies are good.

That’s why you should always have doubts and concerns about trusting them.

If you're already spending hundreds of dollars on a monthly contract, it would be nice if you could add a few extra bucks to keep track of your SEO progress.

It will help you understand if your company is doing the right things for your site and know what’s working best for SEO.