3 SEO Agency Red Flags

An interesting topic came up this week on Twitter. How many businesses out there have paid an agency to run your marketing campaign? Probably a lot, right! Part of their “services” are to create a website, setup your Google Analytics tagging or tracking. Perhaps they created your website for what you thought was a “great deal” cost wise compared to other similar vendors. Hint: Nothing comes cheap! Maybe they said, “Yeah, we have are own reporting tools we use (free Google Analytics) and will set that up for you when we start.”


“If you like wool over your eyes, read no further”

What you don’t know, until you’re ready to part ways with this consultant or agency, is that they may own YOU. Your analytics data, your content management software, your campaign history, all of those things you use to run your business could be gone (unless you increase your contract with them for next year). Below are some red flags when talking to an agency or consultant that could signal problems down the road.

1. “We use our own CMS software to run your site”

In some cases, if you have no way of creating or installing CMS software, you may have no other option but to hire this agency to manage your site. If that’s the case, make sure you have in writing that you own the rights to your own website if the two of you part ways. Make sure that you will have hosting access to the new site. Most websites today are hosted virtually, so your site shouldn’t be sitting on a server somewhere in the agency’s back office. If it is, that could be a red flag!


If they don’t mention any kind of CMS software, that could also be a red flag. Say two years down the road you decide to hire a developer in-house, that developer may have no clue how to run your site. A custom built site can have many unknown bugs just waiting to be uncovered by your new programmer. That programmer may take months to figure out how to add pages or update sections of the website in a timely manner.

A popular free and open CMS is not always the best choice, but it can be beneficial when you decide to part ways.

2. “We have our own (unnamed) analytics package”

There are a handful of really good web analytics packages out there on the market. Unfortunately, none of the free ones are as good as Google Analytics! So when I hear an agency say they have their own tracking tool that they use for all clients, I can usually call B.S. Especially if I can see their Google Analytics tracking tag in the source code. (Whoops, I found it. True story!)

Make sure you have access to your analytics reports when you first start your campaign. Any consultant or agency worth their salt will provide clients with basic “read” access to these reports. Also make sure they are tracking what is important to your business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled up a clients analytics only to find they have no e-commerce tracking or goals configured correctly. They may not even have their website tagged right.

3. You don’t have a login to Google Adwords

If you hired an agency to run a Google AdWords PPC campaign, but don’t have access to your account, that’s a red flag. I can understand why an agency would want to keep clients from changing bids or accidentally changing settings. I tend to follow the path of full transparency. If everything is transparent, the client has no reason to suspect that you’re not doing what you claim or are trying to hide results.

I hope that you haven’t been the victim of these agency tactics designed to retain clients. Many times the agency is fully aware of whats in their control and uses it to their advantage. Make sure you have your ducks in a row next time you go looking for a marketing partner! If the SEO agency you found is super affordable and sounds too good to be true, it probably is.