I keep hearing horror stories about SEO companies ripping off the very people they are meant to help. While there are some excellent search companies out there dedicated to helping customers and going above and beyond, there are others who, like cowboy builders, want to take the cash and run. This can often leave the client out of pocket but also unsure of who to turn to for help when something of this nature happens.
When I attended SES London some six or so years ago, I remember hearing the story of a charity who had paid an SEO firm five-figures and gotten nothing for it. Whether this was their perception or reality is always difficult to know but it left them thinking the whole industry was crooked. I continued to hear of agencies charging for Google Analytics (free), purporting to run PPC with no proof of any spend and continued hearing of SEO companies taking money and doing nothing at all.
If this wasn’t bad enough, the shoddy work produced by some led to sites being dropped down the rankings or worse – banned. Link buying is one example of a practice that can harm the client as well as the agency and as recently as March 2011 I have heard of companies continuing to buy links in competitive, but not extremely so, verticals. JC Penny and Overstock are just two examples of companies harmed by blatant link manipulation.
How do you know if you choosing a good agency? With no industry body and anyone able to set themselves up as an SEO, how do you know that they are acting in your best interest and in a professional way? I gave a talk on just that (and how to survive the zombie apocalypse) at the London Affiliate Conference.