By Adrian Cruce

Today, local search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to the success of many businesses – almost half of all searches on Google (46%) are for local information. As more and more people use mobile devices to search for services and products, local business owners have had to customize their websites to focus on local rankings. But you have to be careful not to hire a bad local SEO agency without realizing it.

Unfortunately, due to the popularity and importance of local search engine optimization, dishonest SEO scammers also benefit. There are numerous fraudulent local SEO companies out there trying to rip off small businesses.

If you want to protect your business from fraud, watch out for the following warning signs.

The red flags that you hired a bad local SEO agency

1. Lack of communication

An honest local SEO company wants to work with you while developing a strategy that will produce results. A dishonest company will do just the opposite. If you can’t get in touch with anyone in your local SEO agency, or if they keep evading your questions, this is a warning sign. The same thing can be said if you are passed around the office over and over and speak to different people every time you call her.

Dishonest agencies want as little contact with you as possible. They know that the more they talk, the more likely you’ll find out they don’t know what they are doing.

2. No reports were generated

An honest SEO company will send you reports detailing all the work they have done. However, if you don’t get reports and only get excuses for asking questions about the work done, there is a pretty good chance that:

  • No work was done.
  • The work done used shady practices such as the use of private blog networks.

For any type of SEO, there should be a lot of available data on one report. The more complete the report, the more likely the agency is legitimate and doing a great job.

3. No real local SEO work

Many SEO agencies have renamed themselves as Local SEO Agencies but continue to do the same job that they would for general SEO. They can generate reports, but their reports do not include specific local work.

Take a restaurant as an example. A restaurant wants people in the area to eat at their location, which involves certain local SEO strategies. However, if the SEO agency is targeting all of the country or areas that are not served by the restaurant, the work will not give good results.

Carefully analyze the reports you get from your SEO company. Check the backlinks. If they aren’t targeting your local market, that’s a red flag.

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4. Number one guaranteed

Just like normal SEO work, if you see a guarantee that your website will be number 1 on local searches for a keyword is actually a scam. This is because it is practically impossible to give this guarantee.

The search algorithm used by Google is very fluid. Updates happen all the time, and there’s always a chance one of them could affect placement. Also, some keywords are a lot easier to rate than others.

Although the local SEO scene is still relatively new and many local retailers haven’t claimed a Google My Business listing, the competition is already very high. Nobody can guarantee a number one rank.

Always look at the campaign strategy used by the local SEO company. Any mention of a number one ranking is a big red flag that the agency is dishonest.

5. Bad leads

You’re building a website because you want leads. However, not all traffic is created equal. If you’re getting leads from a different service area than the one you’re serving, the SEO company is most likely doing a terrible job.

Search engine optimization can be very good at generating leads, but it will only do so if done correctly.

For example, if you run a car repair business, an agency might write an article titled “Top Signs Your Car Is Broken”. This article could attract traffic from anywhere in the world. Some people may even fill out the contact form or get in touch without realizing that your business is not close by.

While you might get some bad leads from a different location than where you’re waiting, most of the leads must be from the service area. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean the agency is dishonest, but it can be a red flag that the agency is incompetent when it comes to local SEO.

6. Promise a certain number of links

High quality backlinks are always important to a site. However, this doesn’t mean that getting a large number of links is a good thing. In fact, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

For example, if you are promised 100 backlinks a week, the methods by which you will get them may be seedy. The best SEO agencies don’t promise a specific number of links. They will try to get as many as needed, always keeping in mind the current status of your website so as not to create too many.

If a local SEO company promises you a lot of links but never talks about strategy or never talks about link types, it is most likely a scam.

Protect your business from a bad local SEO agency

The best thing you can do when working with a local SEO agency is to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the easier it is to find out if the pros are honest. Remember, it is ultimately your business and you are responsible for the work on your website.

RELATED: Video SEO: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Videos for Search Engines

About the author

Contribution by: Adrian Cruce

Adrian Cruce is a very experienced marketer who specializes in out-of-the-box campaigns and ethical SEO practices.

Company: SEO Canberra
Website: www.seocompanycanberra.com.au
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.