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The Cheeky Monkey Media Blog

A few words from the apes, monkeys, and various primates that make up the Cheeky Monkey Super Squad.


4 Things to Avoid when Choosing an SEO Agency

Notes from the Trail: September 17, 2014

I found an interesting article about SEO today on the Digital Journal, “Signs of an SEO Scam” (you can read it here). I don’t know if the tactics they mention are scams in the traditional sense, but it does have some helpful tips on what to avoid when picking an SEO company.

On the surface, I was really interested in reading the post – many of us in the web and online marketing industry spend hours trying to either convince potential customers that our services are reliable and effective, or simply trying to help them avoid the shysters that reinforce the notion that SEO is a joke.  

Overall, the article mentions these “signs of an SEO scam”:

1) Guarantees of “First Page of Google”

2) “Paid Advertising Sales”

3) The “Insider Knowledge” ploy

4) Manual submissions.

First Pagers

If a company claims they can get you to the first page of Google (especially in a short period of time), they’re full of crap. Yes – I really did just write “full of crap” on a professional blog. It’s crass, but true in this case. Getting sites to rank on Google, and especially getting them to the first page takes a lot of work, strategy, planning, and execution. If there really was a “get to page 1 quick” solution, every marketing company would be doing it. Instead, we legitimate marketers are working with clients on content development, keyword identification, and leveraging social media. The shysters are busy fooling people into believing they can deliver.


Paid advertising is an interesting point. There are a lot of companies offering paid advertisement services – basically, you buy ad space on directories or other similar sites, and you’re supposed to reap the benefits. It’s true, people should be very cautious of this method. While having your site listed on reputable directories like the Yellow Pages, etc. can be helpful, it’s not really an SEO tactic designed to bring lasting results. It’s fine while you’re paying for it, but once the cheques stop, so does the magic. Worse still, if you are doing paid advertising but putting your dollars into non-reputable or unknown sites, you’re basically throwing money away.  


Insider knowledge is a funny one, and this article does a good job explaining why. Basically, no single person at Google knows everything about their search algorithms, so it’s pretty tough to know for certain what criteria the search engine is actually cataloging and ranking. Honestly, if it takes a whole team of people at Google to know it, how can any external agency be in the know? At best, agency marketers have the experience and insight to understand the tactics and methods that tend to bring positive results. That said, any marketer claiming to know the secret sauce is pretty much blowing smoke.

Link Zombies

Manual submissions are similar in a sense to paid advertising – you post your site link to directories, blogs, search engines, etc. in an effort to generate backlinks. This method was really effective until about 2 years ago (you may have heard SEO marketers complaining about the ‘Penguin Update’). These days, manual submissions that are done improperly can actually do your search ranking more harm than good, and should always be done by a reputable agency. That said, while backlinks are still very important to your SEO strategy, their spot on the priority list is starting to drop.

Overall, this article raises some very good points about finding an SEO partner. Based on my experience, I find that the easiest way to realize a bad SEO marketer is to question them on how they go about their business. If they can’t answer you directly, claim to have a ‘secret solution’, or confuse you with a lot of tech speak and jargon, it’s likely there’s something a little wrong.

In the meantime, don’t fall into the trap of believing all marketers are scammers. There is a great deal of expertise out there, working hard to help clients get the most from their strategies. The key is avoiding the ones that can’t tell you how. 

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