- Abe Thusoo
After having spent your time and money on a link building campaign with what you thought was a reputable agency, you learn that their black hat methods have actually harmed your domain - you’ve dropped substantially in the SERP rankings, and wasted significant time and money in the process. So, now what? How do you trust your website to SEO agencies again, while also ensuring that you don’t fall into the same traps that you did previously? How do you distinguish the low-quality link farmers from the experts? Rebuilding the authority of your domain won’t necessarily be easy, but by keeping an eye out for a few key warning signs, you’ll be better equipped to find a reputable and trustworthy agency to handle your domain in the future.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
As you browse through the multitudes of agencies online, you’re confounded by how much the prices vary. But it’s important to keep in mind that with any SEO effort (as with most services and products, really), you truly do get what you pay for. When you come upon an agency advertising the ability to undercut their competitors by significant price points, your suspicions should immediately be aroused. If this agency can afford to undercut their competitors, it means they are cutting costs in areas that more reputable agencies never would - which will ultimately be at your expense. Choosing such an agency will not only cause you to lose traction with your preliminary link building efforts, but once your domain’s authority has been compromised the effects will ripple afterwards as well - it will take time, effort, and money to repair the damage. Google’s crawlers are continuously combing through the internet and indexing backlinks as they go. If your profile is riddled with these subpar links, you’ll be penalized for the hasty decision that you’ve made by going with a cheaper option. Trust your gut, and make sure that the next time around, you don’t settle for less. It costs money to make money - this is true of most services, and is especially true of SEO.
KNOWLEDGE IS KEY
If you are properly filtering prospective agencies, you will surely have questions about the potential partnership and the services that they can provide for you. When you speak with them, are they knowledgeable about larger SEO trends as well as the best strategy for your domain? Are they able to answer your questions without reciting rehearsed lines? If not, this should immediately be a warning sign. It likely means that they don’t have the ability to create a catered plan for your domain, as they simply don’t have the knowledge to do so. Likewise, if you aren’t even able to get on the phone with them, simply do not give them your business - this often means they are spammy, outsourced link farms who will contribute no value to your domain.
No valuable SEO effort will be a one-size-fits-all package - each and every domain requires a comprehensive and customized approach in order to achieve successful results. If your potential SEO agency doesn’t understand this - run. Any genuine SEO agency will ensure that they are studying industry trends and conducting comparative analyses specifically relevant to your domain even before creating a strategy, such as proactively seeking unexploited potential keywords, markets, and target audiences. Ideally, they should be using your dollars effectively to compete with domains in your industry. If they are unable to create custom-catered strategies based on the specific needs of your domain, then they simply don’t know enough about SEO to give you any meaningful results. Or, even worse, they just don’t care to.
NETWORK IS NECESSARY
Before deciding to work with an agency, inquire about their publication network to see if they have the outreach capabilities necessary to expand your authority. While the quality of your content is surely of the utmost importance, without a good network to support that content your link building efforts will be stunted. Ensure that the agency has affiliations with high-quality stand-alone publications, as opposed to using a private blog network (PBN) whose links have no intrinsic value.
When inquiring about their network, don’t just trust their assurances. Request references or examples of past work in order to verify the context in which your links will be placed. Any agency can promise quality, but without being able to verify the network that they publish within, you’ll never truly know whether your domain is being linked to low quality or high quality sites.
If the prospective agency has been able to meet your expectations up until this point, there’s one additional request to make before you agree to their services. Are they able to provide a reasonable timeline of completion or, at the very least, an expectation of when you will see results? You should know what to anticipate for your campaign before it even begins. You’ll want to make sure that the agency has their ducks in a row, and is prepared to take on your project before you commit to their services.
Similarly, inquire about live reporting or an update dashboard where you can monitor the progress of your campaign. Is there an established method by which you can track the DA of the publication you are being published on, as well as view the links once they go live? You’ll want to be sure that you’re able to keep tabs on what sites you’re being published on, as well as the quality of the content being produced. Should you ever run into an issue where their work doesn’t align with your expectations, you’ll have the information necessary to correct these issues. You’ll also want to be guaranteed the life of your links - if they get removed at any time, will the agency refund your money or replace these links? The lifetime of your links should absolutely be guaranteed, whether it’s indefinitely or for a specified number of years. Regarding any of these details, you don’t want to work with an agency that will leave you in the dark - especially not after your previous experience with an untrustworthy SEO. The more transparent they are willing to be with you, the more you can let down your guard and get started on making progress.
CORRECT PREVIOUS DAMAGE
Now that you’ve found an agency worthy of working on your domain, you’ll want to take pause and assess your next steps before moving forward. You can put all of your time, money, and effort into turning over a new leaf and beginning anew with another link building agency, but without taking the proper precaution to undo the damage of the previous agency, your new efforts will prove just as useless. There are services that can aid you in repairing previous domain damage, such as performing a Toxic Link Analysis and removing all irrelevant and harmful backlinks. These preliminary services are effective enough to often produce a jump in the SERP ratings even before you begin your new link building efforts.
Of course, it’s frustrating to have to spend your time and money on rebuilding your damaged domain. But with the knowledge you now possess about SEO best practices, with some careful consideration and prior research your next link building endeavor should undoubtedly be a success.