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Red Flags: Signs You’re Dealing With A Sketchy SEO Agency

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, choosing the right SEO agency can be a make-or-break decision for your business.

A reputable agency can elevate your online presence, but a sketchy one can lead you down a dark alley of broken promises and wasted resources. In this blog post, we highlight the red flags indicating you might be dealing with a questionable SEO agency. Buckle up as we navigate the terrain of unrealistic promises, lack of transparency, and other warning signs that should have you hitting the brakes.

Key Takeaways:

  • It's essential to be cautious when choosing an SEO agency. Understanding the red flags can save your business from costly mistakes and wasted efforts.
  • Unreliable SEO agencies often operate in secrecy, offer instant results, and use black-hat SEO techniques. Recognizing these practices can shield your business from harmful SEO strategies.
  • Reliable SEO agencies are transparent, provide realistic timelines for results, employ white-hat SEO techniques, and are willing to educate their clients about their methods.
  • Learning to question SEO agencies about their practices can empower businesses to make informed decisions and engage with agencies that genuinely contribute to their growth.
  • A healthy relationship with an SEO agency is characterized by mutual respect, open communication, and a shared vision for the business's success.

Unrealistic Promises and Guarantees

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sketchy SEO agencies often lure clients in with promises of immediate top rankings or guaranteed spikes in traffic. The reality is SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Genuine agencies provide realistic expectations, understanding that the digital climb takes time and strategic effort. So, if an agency sells you the dream without the roadmap, consider it a crimson flag waving in the digital breeze.

Lack of Transparency

In any healthy relationship, transparency is vital; the same applies to your partnership with an SEO agency. If they're reluctant to reveal the specifics of their strategies or are dancing around questions about your campaign's progress, it's time to raise an eyebrow. A reputable agency should be an open book, keeping you in the loop with clear and concise communication. After all, trust is built on transparency. For example, this is precisely what ClickSlice does, which is why clients rave about their services. They’re a bespoke SEO agency in London that has won awards and has a very experienced team that keeps you in the loop. 

Black-Hat SEO Techniques

Picture this: A secret agent sneaking around in the shadows. While that might make for a thrilling movie plot, it's a nightmare for your website. Sketchy SEO agencies often use black-hat techniques, like stuffing keywords unnaturally into content or buying links to boost rankings artificially. The consequences? Penalties from search engines and a tarnished online reputation. If your agency operates in the digital shadows, it's time to rethink your alliance.

Overemphasis on Low Prices

In the world of SEO, you get what you pay for. If an agency promises miracles at a fraction of the cost of reputable competitors, it's time to exercise caution. Quality SEO requires expertise, time, and effort, all of which come at a price. Hidden fees or unexpected costs could turn that seemingly sweet deal into a bitter pill. Remember, your digital presence is an investment, not a discount bin purchase.

Poor Communication and Availability

Have you ever sent a message into the digital void only to hear crickets in response? Sketchy SEO agencies are notorious for their communication breakdowns. If you need help to reach your agency or are experiencing delays in updates on your campaign's performance, it's a glaring red flag. Effective communication is the glue that holds your partnership together, and a lack thereof can unravel even the most well-laid plans.

No Clear Reporting and Analytics

In the realm of SEO, data is your guiding light. A trustworthy agency provides detailed reports on the performance of your campaign, explaining key performance indicators and outlining areas for improvement. If your agency is shying away from analytics or can't offer insights into your website's progress, it's a sign that they might be operating in the dark without a flashlight. Your SEO journey should be well-lit and guided by data, not guesswork.

Lack of Industry Knowledge and Experience

SEO is a complex dance; you want a partner who knows the steps. Sketchy agencies often need more industry knowledge to navigate the ever-evolving world of digital marketing. Whether it's inexperienced team members or a high turnover rate, these are warning signs that your agency might be stumbling in the digital dance. A solid track record and a seasoned team assure a partner who knows the moves.

Unwillingness to Provide References or Case Studies

If an agency hesitates to share client testimonials, success stories, or references, it's time to raise your guard. Genuine agencies are proud to showcase their achievements and the positive impact they've had on their clients. If your potential partner keeps their cards close to their chest, it signals that those cards might not be a winning hand.

Why You Do Not Want a Contract with an SEO Agency

Imagine this scenario. You’ve found an SEO agency that promises quick and promising results.  You’ll be number one on Google before you know it. All that’s left to do is sign the contract. It’s detailed at six months long. Of course, since they say their team’s the best, what’s left to lose? Well, the answer is a lot of money and time.

Know that long-term contracts with SEO agencies are red flags. It means your business is tied in and must pay the team for that time. This applies even when they’re not delivering the results they promise. Let’s take a closer look at why you don’t want a contract and should choose SEO agencies that offer flexibility.

To Encourage Continuous Hard Work

When an SEO agency has to present results monthly to clients, they will work harder to achieve them. This is compared to those that tie you in for an extended contract, and they know they can take their time. They know you can walk if they don’t show progress in a month. Therefore, not having a contract ensures teams don’t become lazy or complacent. They’ve got to continue to deliver what they say they will.

Avoid Financial Strain

Imagine the worst-case scenario. You hire an SEO agency and don’t like working with them. There’s no movement on Google, the team is unpleasant, and their prices are high. You want to walk away and find another SEO agency. This is easy when you don’t have a contract. You don’t have to continue paying for a service you no longer like or want.

Allows Adaptability

Businesses are still determining what the future holds. You could run into financial difficulties and have to make cuts. But, if you’re committed to a long-term contract with an SEO agency, you’ve got no way out of paying this bill. This is why it’s recommended to have no contract at all. It’s a way to safeguard your business’s future and ensure that you’re adaptable to any situation that comes your way.


Now that we've navigated the minefield of red flags, the next move is yours. Choosing an SEO agency is a critical decision that requires diligence and discernment. Your online presence is too valuable to be entrusted to a sketchy partner. So, armed with the knowledge of these warning signs, choose wisely. A reputable agency is your digital ally, propelling your business to new heights online.

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