Choosing the right SEO agency

why, what & how

Hiring a cheap SEO agency can be a huge waste of time and cost you £1,000’s and hiring a good (more expensive) SEO agency can make you £1,000’s in the future, but you don’t know how much until at least a year. Is it any wonder why choosing and managing your SEO agency is so confusing!

This guide will take you through how to spot a good SEO agency, what are the signs that you are working with a bad SEO agency, how you can reduce your overall monthly costs; and other great advice to dispel some of the SEO myths.

Who’s this guide for?

            Anyone who is considering an SEO campaign and needs insight into what’s involved and an understanding of the common problems and pitfalls to look out for.

So what is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

Search engine optimisation is a digitial marketing techic used to increase the amount of visitors to your website by making sure your website achieves a high ranking in the search engines (google, bing).

A search engine optimisation agency or company would be tasked with understanding which keywords your business should appear for in the rankings and then “optimising” your website to have your chosen keywords in all the right places to tell the search engine which keywords you want to appear for on which page.

Your search agency would also look to promote your business online, in the form of links from other websites, which in turn improves your rankings for your keywords as the search engines understands that your online business is an important company that people are talking about and recommending.

Keywords / keyphrases are the words that you would like to appear high for in the search engine.   For example if you were selling socks online, a keyword would be “socks” and a keyphrase would be “buy white cotton socks”.
Websites are built in a way to help the search engine (google, bing) understand your business better and specifically which keywords/keyphrases on your website should appear in certain search engine results.  This is called optimising.

An example of this would be the “title” which is an opportunity to write about what your web page is about and is a strong indicator to Google which keywords you should be ranked for.   You can see it at the top of every page of your website and is written in the code at the top of every page with <title>This is the description of your page</title>.

However, although I have explained it quite simply (I hope), the truth of the matter is that SEO is complicated because it is fundamentally about manipulating the search engines.

Whether its white hat, black hat, grey hat or any other kind of hat you can thinks off, you are looking to manipulate the search engines so that you can appear high in the rankings and get more visitors.

So why it is complicated?  Because you are trying to manipulate google, and google is big, powerful, smart and also doesn’t like being manipulated and can ban you altogether if they feel you are doing something they don’t like.

The six golden rules – before you hire an SEO agency

Before you hire an SEO Agency follow are 6 golden rules to avoid the pitfalls and problems that you could face to save your business time and money.


SEO Companies that sell “link bundles” are blackhat specialists and you could be penalised by google

If you ever go onto an SEO company website and see that the company clearly shows you how many links you get and for how much.  Then this is blackhat and you better know what you are doing.


Blackhat is not ALL bad as SEO is fundamentally about manipulating the search engine, just be aware that if you are buying links there is a possibility of google finding out and penalising your website.

The companies that get penalised by google are not the companies that do Blackhat, they are the companies that just do blackhat.

If you are going to do it, make sure the websites you choose have a high domain authority (website ranking score) and are relevant to your industry.  The moment the SEO company can no longer provide those two things you must stop using them.

Blackhat SEO is just a way of saying that you are not focusing on links to attract a human audience to your website; you are doing it to simply focus on your ranking in the search engines.

It’s blackhat because google & bing don’t want you to appear high in search engines by not attracting a human audience to your website, so most blackhat strategies do not obey search engine guidelines and therefore run the risk of being penalised.

Like a kilogram is a measurement of weight, domain authority is a measurement of how authoritative a website is to google.  Its ranking goes from 0-100 and anything over 40 DA is considered a good, solid website to link from.

Your SEO proposal can lie about your potential monthly traffic

Before you look at your SEO proposal in amazement at how high the monthly searches are and start thinking about how many sales you could make if you just appeared at the top, make sure that the data on your SEO proposal is not a lie, or at best a different version of the truth.


The problem with SEO proposals are that your monthly searches can be in either BROAD, PHRASE or EXACT.  Which have hugely difference numbers as they mean completely different things.

This example above shows that “BROAD” monthly searches for “what is SEO” is 11,100,000 when the PHASE number is actually 9,900 and the EXACT number is 2,400.  Meaning a swing difference of 11,976,000 between them all.

The best way of getting an accurate figure is to speak to your SEO agency and ask for your estimated keyword traffic to be “EXACT” not “PHRASE” or “BROAD”.

EXACT is the number of people who type in the EXACT keyword or keyphrase into google on a monthly basis.  PHRASE is the number of times people type is close variations of your keyword or keyphrase and BROAD is the volume of ANY word or keyphrase.

Hiring an SEO agency might not even be worth it…yet?

Do you know that there are a number of companies that have never even used an SEO agency and have achieved great results in google?  In fact they see SEO agencies as a pointless entity.

But how do they do it?  They do it by actually calling up businesses they would want to be associated with online and ask politely if they can be included on their website to help with their promotion.

They sit down and research businesses that they feel there businesses would benefit from appearing on.  What a novel approach, they actually do proper marketing!  You see SEO can get so technical that your head could spin but it applies to the most simple of things.

Find great businesses to partner with, google will notice and will want to put their customers infront of your business; and google does that by moving you up the rankings.

So here is a list of times when hiring an SEO company to build links and promote your business might not even be worth it…yet

      1. Your competitors have done very little SEO and therefore hiring an SEO agency is not necessary
      2. Your keywords are not competitive enough
      3. You haven’t tried to find strategic business partnerships first
      4. You have not got a unique selling point (USP) or discount code that you would like to promote online yet
      5. You have not decided how your business can be a thought leader in your industry
A thought leader is someone who is considered the “go to” person in their industry for a specific field of expertise.

You may notice when hiring an SEO agency you are told that you need to create a lot of content.  This process can be very expensive, so to maximise the value of your content, you can specialise in being a thought leader and write engaging articles, views and opinions in your chosen field that not only can bring traffic in through SEO but can engage and entice your visitors into becoming potential customers.


Don’t fall for the private blog networks (PBN’s) line

If you are still building private blog networks to help with your link building then they have become way too expensive to manage and deliver less and less value for your rankings.

Most companies who business it was creating PBN’s for clients have stopped doing this mainly since 2012, as they realised that with the new google algorithm change, it became too difficult to manage and too expensive.
If you are still doing it then make sure that you add regular content and try and improve your systems to speed up your processes.

For businesses that want to gain a competitive advantage in google rankings, many created multiple PBN’s (industry specific websites for targeted keywords).  This could be between 1-400 websites that all point back to their main website making the company appear incredibly important and can also drive traffic to that website.
If you have a WordPress website go onto which will allow you to manage multiple WordPress websites in one dashboard.  It will allow you to update your website easier and the support is pretty great.

There is a difference between hiring a web design company and an SEO specialist

A web design agency who does ongoing SEO (in general) does not have an inhouse SEO specialist to work with, so will choose to outsource (otherwise known as white labelling).

As such web design companies universally offer the worst SEO service because they outsource their SEO to the cheapest “white label” service.  But they build pretty looking websites.

An SEO agency is about getting good rankings in Google and not about creating “beautiful things”.  They normally do their SEO in-house and will hopefully be able to offer a much more personalised service based around content creation and gaining links with trusted websites.

You can check by looking at the standard of website your online business appears on.  Think to yourself, “Will anyone be able to find this piece of content”?  Is this website a trusted source?  If you on a spammy website, you can always tell by the website your links appears on having no social media profile although claiming to be a huge website.  Big giveaway!

Don’t use Google to find cheap SEO services

The very worse way you can find cheap SEO services online is to type into google “cheap SEO services” or “affordable SEO services”.

The reason for this is because most of the companies who appear at the top of the search engine for those results only do so for 3 months and then they are banned from Google.

They are banned from google because they use “blackhat SEO” which allows them to the create thousands of links a month, which gets them to the top of google in a matter of weeks and then ultimately banned.

Please see below an example of the volume of links a current SEO company has built to achieve a top 3 position for a “cheap SEO” key phrase. 


Google tracks unethical link building patterns so any pattern similar to this will always be banned.

These companies then move the website across to another URL and repeat the practice.  They do this because people trust a high position in google, but never investigate whether that approach will later lead to them being banned.

Go onto and view your potential SEO agencies link building history.  If you see similar referring domain reports you will know that they are using very unethical practices.