This is the next post in my series on how business owners can improve their business’ search performance. My last article discussed how to pick the best SEO company. It is important to pick a company that actually focuses on the build & structure of your website, and who will assist with an ongoing content creation strategy, as those are the activities which constitute legitimate search engine optimization. My last article also discussed red flags to consider when you are choosing a company to assist you. In this article I’m going to expand on that diatribe by discussing why you should avoid anyone who holds themselves out as an “SEO agency.” This is for one simple reason – such “agencies” tend to provide little to no value and actually run the risk of getting you in trouble with the search engines. This can leave you looking like this:

woman with hands up in frustration

While the scumbag sleazeball agency owner who sold you on their services winds up looking like this:

Dishonest salesperson

We are web developers who follow a legitimate route to doing well in search. If you have questions about our services, then contact us online or by telephone today.

Understanding why one should avoid “SEO agencies” requires an understanding of what constitutes real search engine optimization

I’ve discussed what constitutes real search engine optimization in these artices:

I won’t rehash those discussions at length here. It is important, however, to understand what constitutes real optimization in order to explain why the offerings of most agencies are not that. So let’s dive into an abbreviated explanation.

The goal of Google is to return websites in the search results which provide the most relevant information and a good user experience. The reason for this is simple. If you do a search for something, and they give you results which are irrelevant or offer a bad experience, then you’ll quit using Google over time. That would mean that there’s no potential for you to ever click on ads. So legitimate “optimization” means generating content that is relevant to the questions which people are typing into the ol’ Google Machine and making sure your site provides the type of experience described in the search engine’s webmaster guidelines. That really is it. A legit company will generate relevant content by determining what it is people are looking for and creating content to meet those requests. Tools we use in doing this include Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Trends. Second, search engines provide tools for measuring how well your site is meeting their user experience guidelines. These tools include Lighthouse, reports from the previously mentioned Search Console, and more. A report on this website’s performance, by Google’s standards, shows the following results (which we shared in one of our prior articles):

Google Lighthouse results

If someone says that they are going to help you with search engine optimization, but they aren’t working on the structure of your website or generating content, then they’re not doing the things which Google careas about.

Most “SEO agencies” aren’t helping your website meet the goals of the search engines & may get your site dropped

Many of the agencies you’ll come across won’t do anything that involves the build of your website or your ongoing content strategy – the things which Google cares about. Instead, they’ll engage in shady conduct such as trying to artificially gain links to your site, in an effort to make your site rank higher in search. For reasons that go beyond the scope of this article, it is important to understand that gaining links to your website, from other websites, can boost your search rankings. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this, however, and the conduct most people engage in will hurt more than it helps.

Most so-called agencies are engaging in schemes to get others to link back to your website. These schemes can include swapping links between websites, engaging in “link-wheeling,” etc. Of course, these agencies refer to these activities as “link building.” Here’s the official word from Google on this type of conduct (which can also be accessed at Google’s documentation on Link Schemes) :

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

They then go on to clearly state:

The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

  • Buying or selling links that pass┬áPageRank. This includes:
    • Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links
    • Exchanging goods or services for links
    • Sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.

When an agency states that they are going to build links to your website, what they are really talking about is the type of conduct which Google frowns upon. If the conduct is severe enough, then Google may drop your website from the search rankings altogether. At best, such conduct will likely see your site doing worse in search the next time Google updates its algorithms.

Why do “agencies” engage in this type of conduct? Simple. Generating high quality content and maintaining a website to Google’s standards is work – a four letter word which most people avoid. Unfortunately, in today’s world, many can make money by throwing around a lot of buzzwords such as “agency,” and “local SEO,” as well as “link-building,” etc. So, to make your life easier, avoid the “agencies” and instead hire a developer who will help you to meet the goals of the search engines, and who doesn’t describe their service through the use of buzzwords.

The big takeaway from this article should be that most agencies are engaging in conduct which Google frowns upon. This will, in turn, hurt your site over the long term.


When picking a company to help with your web performance, it’s crucial that you choose a developer who is considering what it is the search engines want and is then helping you to meet those standards. This is the approach we take at Modern Website Design and we are proud of how our customers’ websites perform in search. Contact us today to get started and please subscribe to our newsletter below.


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