Should I Hire an SEO Company Just Because They Have a Big Staff?

The one common factor I seem to be seeing lately in examining companies looking to move forward with an SEO campaign is that they have been burned by a previous company. Yet, they still believe in the process and still hire me on despite the problems that they have encountered with previous SEO company Ontario practices.

This is encouraging in that it suggests 2 things in my opinion.

1) It appears that these company owners that need good marketing still believe that digital marketing is the way forward in the foreseeable future.

2) It seems to me that other forms of marketing are losing their ability to attract new customers for business in many cases.

The other thing that occurs to me is how many of my competitors have very inferior skills and practices and this is easy to determine after a quick examination with SEO software tools such as Ahrefs and My 2 favourite SEO tools.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, or trying to boast of my superior SEO skills, let me set the record straight.  I will use a current example to make my point.

I recently received a referral from one of my current clients. They have been with me about a year now and they came from a bad experience with another company previously. We have achieved some really good results over the last year and so they felt compelled to tell another fellow about what I had done for them and so I gained a new client.

The new client is in the HVAC industry. HVAC is very competitive and so I knew I would have to bring my best game to “this round”. It all started out with a friendly phone call where the owner expressed his concerns with moving forward with SEO since he had been burned in his last experience.

Seems to be a pattern here!

We spoke on the phone for a good 45 minutes and I tried to get as much information as I could regarding this persons’ pain surrounding their business and its need to find a reliable marketing strategy for growth.  It’s important that we try to understand and listen to business owners because there is a lot we can learn from them especially in the early phase of the relationship.

What I learned is that they had previously spent over $25,000 on a search marketing campaign and felt that they had received zero results.  I knew I was going to have to really dig in and have a hard look at what had happened over the last year so as soon as I got off the phone I opened up my SEO tool suite and went to work trying to get to the bottom of their dilemma.

Oddly enough, it only took me a few minutes to see what the problem was. I opened the Site Explorer section of Ahrefs and had a quick look at the company link profile thinking I would find a lot of poorly constructed anchor text or one of the other common SEO mistakes that we often see from companies that practice out of date SEO techniques.

To my amazement, it was nothing of the sort. It was a complete lack of link building that seemed to be the problem and not the methodology that was at fault. I know it’s popular in certain SEO circles nowadays to say that link building is dead but I can assure you that I am privy to some very top testing info that says otherwise and my own personal experience suggests otherwise as well.

So here is a company that spent $25,000 and I could literally count the number of links that were built to his site in 10 months without taking my shoes off. ( That’s less than 10 for you who didn’t get the joke )

I could barely believe that this was the case. It meant that the guy paid for nothing or next to nothing. I do over-the-shoulder videos and walk potential client through a bit of a behind the scenes peek at what goes on in the SEO world since I am very aware how little people understand what it is that we do and I know how uncomfortable it must be to give someone thousands of dollars of their hard earned money to a process that they can barely conceive of.

I basically showed this fellow how he had been almost forgotten over a nearly year long time frame and assured him that a company on this high of a budget should have at least built 100 new links to the website during that time frame at that budget.

I got the usual response in our next face to face meeting that I often get from my patented over-the-shoulder on screen SEO videos. He said that “ he never felt so knowledgeable and comfortable with investing in the SEO process as he did now”.

This is a little tip for those of you who might stumble across this article who happen to be in the SEO game or even the social media or Google ads game. Do over-the-shoulder in screen video for your potential clients. I have gotten more positive feedback from them then I could have ever imagined. They really help people get comfortable betting on you to help them.

Back to the story.

Once this fellow had signed on as a client, I got access to his WordPress back-end and began to work on his on page SEO. Then I noticed something really terrible about the previous company’s work.  In WordPress we have the ability to have several menus. Menus show up as the navigation that we see on a website usually represented as a bar with boxes that contain words like “about us”, “areas served”, “privacy policy” and the key elements about our business.  These separate sections may also contain “drop-downs” with other sub-headings with further information on separate pages of our site.Wordpress Menu

I thought something was odd about the menu because it did not seem to contain all of the proper pages that I saw while I was just looking around initially doing a quick overview of the site’s content.  There didn’t seem to be enough individual drop-down sections to represent all of the individual pages I saw while scoping things out.

website navigation dropdown

I was right. The previous company had the wrong menu selected and so what this meant is that there was no way for a person visiting their site or for that matter, there was no way for Google to find, almost 60% of the pages on the website.  This is hard to believe since the previous company was not some fly-by-night outfit. They were apparently a very large digital media firm.

Although it is not my usual routine, and it is nowhere in my agreement to do so, I went to work and spent about 6 hours fixing the whole structure of the website. I found content that was not finished. Loose “shortcodes” on pages that had not been utilized. And here is the funniest thing I found. ( if you can call what happened to this business funny by any stretch) When I went to the “Media Library” to fix all the “alt text” for the photos, I saw a whole bunch of photos that just didn’t seem to belong in a HVAC company’s photo library.  What these photos did look like was photos from a doctors website. And indeed they were. Over half of the library was pics from what appeared to be a dentists website. Upon further investigation it appeared that there were even pages on the site that were dedicated to things like” patients” “our doctors” and the like.Menu selector in WordPress

Unbelievable I thought to myself. You can Imagine the shock when, at the next client meeting, I showed him all of this stuff. Stunned does not do justice in describing the look on the man’s face.

It was at this point that I said that it seemed to me that what had really gone on with his last experience was less a matter of incompetence on a knowledge level and more a matter that he had just got lost in the shuffle of some big companies disorganization.  Let this be a lesson to the reader that just because a company boasts about how many people they have under their employ and how many offices they have nationwide they are only as good as their ability to keep track of their clients.

Digital marketing is a very rapidly expanding field and it is easy for a growing company to let their growing client base outrun their organizational skills and have a client get lost in the shuffle. I have gotten passed over before by prospective clients because I am an independent, and so for that reason, I don’t appear as impressive to some people. Rest assured though, you will never get lost or forgotten at my company because I have a more intimate awareness of every clients’ situation and simply can’t allow myself to take on more work than is realistically manageable.

Who needs the stress?

The moral of the story is make sure you don’t just hire a digital marketing firm because they have a lot of staff. Talk to someone at the company and do some due diligence.

Don’t have an expensive lesson like this poor guy did.

PS. He is in good hands now at least.

See the other part of this company story here

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Nick

    It makes me sad to think that he spent so much of his hard earned money that did nothing for him when it could have gone to spending more time with his family until he found you.

    1. Tom

      Fortunately, it’s a big company that has a big budget so the hit was tolerable. Still, it really made me want to go the extra mile for them and things have turned around dramatically for them in 6 months. More good things to come!

    1. Tom

      Thanks, Ocean One. I need to kick my butt and get hitting the keyboard more often.

  2. Digital Dynasty

    Tom way to make this an easily understandable lesson for any local business owner to learn from the mistakes of others. I totally agree and have many clients that went through similar situations with other SEO companies simply because they “seemed legit”. You’re right on the money with the examples you gave, too many honest business owners are getting burned and would be lucky to find someone that knows what they’re doing such as yourself.

  3. Bobby Mitchell

    It’s so frustrating when I get a client who is rightfully gunshy about hiring me as an SEO Agency. I feel their burn, I feel their pain when I tell them the last guy ripped you off. I do an over the shoulder for every potential client, I want them to understand what I see and how I see it. I also want them to understand what went wrong.
    99% of the time when I send over a video, free of charge, I get that client. I build trust, I’m transparent and I’m real.

  4. iias

    Hey Tom,
    That’s pretty tragic, at least he’s in good care with an SEO expert that will look after him and he won’t just be some file number lost in a disorganized company.
    keep up the great work!

  5. Determined Solutions SEO

    Great article Tom. It’s terrible that there are shady operators in this business, but it’s great that these folks found you.

    It’s no accident that working hard to provide lots of value to the clients you have, will lead to a lot more work through referrals. Good people get noticed. Your new client is in the right hands.

    1. Tom

      Those bad actors make it hard for those of us who actually care.

  6. Michael Picazo

    The size of an agency is of no relevance as to how much value they can provide to an individual small business. Often times small business owners are better off with a smaller Digital marketing agency’s services. A few reasons for this include: 1) A more personal relationship with the acting agent. 2) A more personalized approach to the marketing campaign. 3) Potential price breaks as smaller agencies have lower overhead. 4) Easier for client to contact the agent and gain feed back on their campaign.

    These are just a few reasons why working with a smaller agency could be more beneficial to a small business. Trust and proof of performance are of the utmost importance.

    1. Tom

      I happen to agree Micheal. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Bob

    That was a good read Tom – thanks for sharing your experience. I have had many similar experiences with apprehensive or “gun-shy” clients due to their previous dealings with inexperienced SEO’s. But once past that initial stage of signing on with me, I have found that retaining them is a piece of cake after they see the results I get them.

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