7 Signs Your SEO Agency Isn’t Working for You

Do you wonder whether you’re really getting your money’s worth from your search engine optimization agency? It’s one of the biggest concerns with contracting any agency. These seven signs will help you determine if your SEO agency is really working for you or just collecting its monthly fee.

7 Signs Your SEO Agency Isn’t Working

Repetition without action. Can you do what your agency recommends? When an agency says the same thing over and over without helping you find a way to implement something, you’re paying for nothing. Performance can’t possibly improve based on something your agency has done if you haven’t made a change on or off your site to improve performance.

It sounds obvious, but a surprising number of companies pay for SEO that doesn’t get implemented. This is a tricky one, because the implementation is in your hands and most times the agency really isn’t to blame that the recommendations can’t be implemented. Examine the situation honestly — the problem is most likely not the agency.

It sounds obvious, but a surprising number of companies pay for SEO that doesn’t get implemented.

However, even if the most impactful recommendations can’t be implemented, there’s always something you can do. Your agency should — assuming it is paid to do so — offer you other smaller solutions to implement. The recommendations will likely not be as impactful, but they should offer some benefit that can be achieved. Even smaller performance improvements are better than standing still!

Decreasing deliverables. Did you receive a lot of recommendations when the engagement started and now you’re down to a regular call and performance reports? And do the reports actually tell you anything or do you just look at pretty charts? Assuming you’ve paid for more than regular performance reporting, your agency needs to be bringing you actions not just explanations.

Everything is a mystery. Can your SEO agency explain the major performance changes — plus or minus 10 percent in a given month — or is everything “just algorithmic?” It’s hard to explain small fluctuations because they do tend to be the search engines flexing their algorithms. But larger changes in performance happen for a reason, especially when the changes result in a new level — higher or lower.

An agency with the proper amount of access to data and insight into the changes happening on a site — and the proper amount of funding — should be able to sleuth out the likely cause and effect.

All talk, no walk. Does your agency speak exclusively in SEO jargon? If it doesn’t explain complex issues in plain language, you can’t be expected to understand what to do with the information. Worse than that, some agencies speak in jargon because that’s the extent of their knowledge. It could be a sign that they’re getting their information from others in the industry, as opposed to having real working knowledge of how to create and implement working search marketing strategies.

All preach, no teach. Is your agency willing to take the time to teach you about SEO? If you don’t understand why an action is necessary, there’s no way you can sell it internally to the rest of your organization to get it implemented. You pay them for the right to understand not just what you should do, but why you need to do it.

There’s a balance: You shouldn’t expect a full day of SEO training if you haven’t contracted for training, but you most definitely need to understand the what, why, and how of the actions your agency is recommending you take.

No news. Do you frequently read about SEO news and updates before your agency brings them to your attention? Assuming you’re contracted with your agency to the level that they’ve pledged to be your one source of SEO knowledge, it should be bringing the news to your doorstep.

For example, have you read of an algorithm update or a lack of an update, or a new and improved SEO technique? If you’re paying for that level of service, your agency should be informing you of those developments. Make sure you’re getting it.

No chemistry or bad chemistry. Do you just not like working with your agency contacts? Have they alienated a member of your team? It happens. If you detest working with your agency partner, or someone you need to work with refuses to take the agency’s recommendations, try asking for a new representative. It’s less disruptive than seeking an entirely new agency, and faster as well. It will be an awkward conversation, but remember that one person does not make an agency. A new representative can also help to shake things up and bring fresh ideas.


These seven signs can help you examine your agency relationship to determine if it’s time to seek more. Just remember that the level you’re willing to pay determines the service level you can expect. You may not be contracted with your agency at a high enough level to expect a lot of training, or many deliverables, or regular news updates. Don’t judge your agency based on unfair criteria. Have a discussion. Give your agency reps a chance to tell you if they offer that service at your contracted rate.

If the problem is more fundamental, such as lack of explanation or chemistry, give your agency a chance to remedy the situation.

Finding a new agency is disruptive in that it takes time before you’ll be implementing any new recommendations. There is time to screen, interview, and choose; time for the agency to review, audit, and recommend; time to implement and time for the performance enhancements to occur. If you can fix your agency relationship, do.

But if you can’t fix, make a clean break and find a new SEO partner that will serve your needs better.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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