Category Archives for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Experts Share Red Flags To Watch Out For When Selecting An SEO Agency

Selecting the right SEO agency for your business can be a tough decision. With so many agencies to choose from, it can be difficult to spot the real experts from the ones who could end up having your website traveling in wrong direction.

So many agencies claim to be search engine marketing specialists, so how do you know if you’re picking the right one?

We spoke with six SEO experts to find out what you should be looking for in a good agency, and what should immediately raise a red flag

Will Craig
Managing Director
Digital Impact

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

WILL: Before you hire a SEO agency be very aware of how transparent they are with their strategies. A lack of transparency is a glaring red flag. If they try to complicate terms and throw out jargon to depict SEO and the work they do as some mystifying procedure that only experts understand - they are throwing you off the scent.

Legitimate and reliable SEO agencies will share with you a detailed strategy for how they plan to reach your goals. Whether that be boosting traffic, gaining backlinks or converting customers they should have a comprehensive plan in place that they can talk through with you including best practices and proven tracked results.

Disreputable and borderline shady agencies might use improper practices such as “Black HAT SEO techniques” including content spinning, keyword stuffing, spam emails and buying backlinks. Not only will this severely damage your business reputation but can get you penalized by Google and have your entire website shut down.

So avoid any agencies that are reluctant to share their strategies, and even more so with agencies that have no results or non-existent reporting. Look instead for candid, reputable agencies that have a wealth of knowledge to share and the reports and case studies to back this up.

Kent Lewis

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO Agency?

KENT: Education. On the most basic front, an SEM vendor should add value by educating you, the client, by sharing its knowledge of SEO strategies, tactics, technologies and trends.

Feedback. Do they provide input on future iterations of client products and services, based on experience and feedback collected from customers online?

Strategy. If you're the type of company that is always looking for that edge and is open to input from vendor partners, you should look for unsolicited advice from your SEO vendor, beyond organic search strategy.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

KENT: Price. If the vendor in question provides a budget that feels low, especially compared to competitive bids, it probably is. Be wary of aggressive pricing that manifests in different ways: a junior team with little experience or oversight that will under-perform, offshoring to another country that isn’t vested in your business and provides questionable quality output, poor executive management or sales team decisions that lead to an unprofitable and therefore unsustainable engagement.

Rebecca Caldwell
SEO Strategist
Mash Media

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO agency? 

REBECCA: As with any new relationship, you should hire an agency that aligns with your own company's ethics, vision and ensure they are a good fit with you and your staff. Engaging an agency is like hiring a new employee and of course you would want to make sure that you can talk to them as equals, and you are both on the same page as far as your marketing strategies.

Technical knowledge and case studies attesting to their success for other clients is also important, once you know that you are comfortable with them as a marketing partner, you must then vet their expertise.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

REBECCA: The number one red flag is a guarantee of rankings in X amount of time. I know many SEO agencies that offer guarantees, but not as far as "this keyword" to X position in 2 months. I would run for the hills. SEO is an ongoing project and the time it takes to get results is largely out of the hands of the SEO professional. 

Questions I would ask are:

1. What is the search volume of the keyword you are promising to rank me for? - Many times, yes it can be easy to rank for something no one cares about, and so what if you are number one for a keyword no one searches for? 

2. Do you outsource any of your work? Do they leave strategy decisions to someone in a non english speaking country? I have seen many times where the point of the SEO strategy was missed and the client's website has ended up being keyword stuffed and bad forum based links were built to it, reducing it's reputation.

Garrett Smith
Pitch + Pivot

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO agency? 

GARRETT: When looking to hire an SEO agency you want to see proven results and a well developed plan for you. An SEO agency should be able to prove that they have worked with other companies before and increased their search rankings. Ask them to show you their prior results. Along with previous results you will want to see a plan of action tailored for your business. Do they understand what keywords/phrases to target, do they know the competitive landscape, and do they have actions ready to go to complete this plan.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

GARRETT: As for red flags that you should be on the look for when hiring an SEO agency, I would suggest staying away from companies with enormous promises. When an SEO agency says they are going to get you to the number search result for all your keywords/phrases within a short time period, I would be skeptical. For an agency to promise that within a highly competitive space is poor business. SEO is competitive and can't be fulfilled in that exact way. Avoid agencies that are selling you the dream and focus on the ones that are selling you a plan and a business relationship to naturally grow your search rankings. 

Trenton Miller

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

Trenton: SSL/HTTPS. Check the SEO Agency’s website. Does it redirect to https by default? Does it include a secure connection? SSL/HTTPS is basically mandatory in 2018, and if they don’t implement this on their own website, I’d suggest ignoring them completely. That is a dead giveaway that they are out-of-touch with current SEO trends.

Black-Hat/White-Hat. Take a bit of time to educate yourself on SEO and the difference between Black-Hat SEO and White-Hat SEO. Spending an hour reading through Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO will be time well spent in the long run. You don’t want to find yourself months later realizing you wasted plenty of time and money only to find yourself in a worse position than when you started because you unknowingly hired a black-hat SEO agency. For example, if they are trying to sell you backlinks, run for the hills! Instead, hire an agency that is selling you high-quality content in the form of blog posts 1,000-2,000 words each. They should also be talking about optimizing titles and descriptions, removing duplicate content, redirecting old URLs, and earning backlinks through quality content. Spending that an hour’s worth of time educating yourself will make you an informed consumer in the SEO world, and in the long run, you’l be glad you read up on the latest trends. After all, in the world of SEO, tactics that works 10, 5 or even 3 years ago may actually penalize you in 2018.

Blogging. Check the SEO Agency’s blog. Do they keep it up to date? Are they trying to establish themselves as an expert in the industry? If not, there are probably better alternatives out there. If they haven’t posted in over a year, keep shopping around. They likely don’t take their business as seriously as they should. Every good SEO knows keeping your website and your blog updated and active is a key ingredient in a well optimized website. Also check their social networks to see how well those are updated. Social media plays an important factor in SEO value, as Google looks at engagement such as Likes and Shares on social media networks.

Bill Leake
Apogee Results

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO Agency?

Bill: In my mind, instant “check your wallet, start backing up, and find a different agency” red flags include quite a few items, including not being able to supply references, preferably from FORMER clients (you learn a lot more about an agency during the break up process than during the dating ones, not asking you about access to Google Analytics or Google AdWords in the sales process (not asking this shows they don’t really understand how all these things can link together to create an optimal campaign), not having a clear link-building strategy laid out in their proposal (off-page is still the largest part of the Google algorithm, yet most SEO agencies still compulsively avoid this hard work), not having “easy exit” terms for you in their contract, not being able or willing to tell you specifically HOW they plan to help you (anyone deferring to “that’s our secret sauce” is a walk-way — you are the client) AND, finally, offering a rankings guarantee (counterintuitive, but classic sign of a low-end, low-skill provider)

Using SEO to Promote a Movie Launch at the Tribeca Film Festival

Using SEO to Promote a Movie Launch at the Tribeca Film Festival


Increase in Comments and Engagement on Official Trailer on Youtube

+9,335 Video Views in One Week before the US Premier

In this article, you'll learn from a real-world example how to get your video ranked higher on Youtube and your website ranked higher on Google using search engine optimization techniques (SEO). Want to know more about SEO for your video project? Leave us a comment!

"Website & Trailer Nowhere to be Seen..."

When emmy-award winning director Lana Wilson came to us just two weeks ahead of the Tribeca Film Festival and told us her film's official website and movie trailer were nowhere to be seen online, we knew we had an interesting challenge on our hands.

To make matters worse, the name of her film (The Departure) is similar to one that came out with the same name earlier this year, as well as the hit movie The Departed that came out in 2005. Search results on Google and Youtube showed results for each of those competitors, and nothing for the official movie.

PICTURED: Lana Wilson with her film's subject, Ittetsu Nemoto at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.

THE CHALLENGE: Get eyes on the official website and film trailer on youtube.

We targeted keywords related to the movie title, Lana Wilson, Ittetsu Nemoto and the Tribeca Film Festival. With only two weeks to the NYC premier, we needed to see improvement fast.

When we started, the official trailer wasn't anywhere to be found on Youtube. You can see results for the other movie by the same name, and for The Departed.

The official website, where viewers could watch the trailer and get tickets to the NYC premier, was also nowhere to be found on Google.


All search engines, whether it's Google or Youtube, use some kind of computer algorithm to decide what results to show when various keywords are searched on their platform. They want to show the user the best result, and get them the information they're looking for.

#1: Number of subscribers your channel has.

If your channel has lots of engaged subscribers, it's a good sign that you make good content. Building your subscriber base regularly by promoting your channel across multiple platforms (Facebook, on your website, etc) will help all of your videos rank higher.

With only two weeks until the film premiered, we didn't have time to grow the subscriber count of the account that published the official trailer for The Departure. Even though this is the most important metric to consider, it can definitely be bypassed if needed.

To build your subscriber base, there really is no "secret". Here's all it takes:

- Regularly create engaging, professional quality content. Use tools like Buzzsumo and Google trends to find topics that are trending and getting lots of engagement. 

- Include a call to action at the end of every video you produce to tell the viewer what benefit they'll get out of subscribing. For example: "Don't miss our next video! Subscribe now to get our next video first."

#2: Number of video embeds and links.

When lots of trusted, authority websites link to and embed your video it shows Youtube that your video is popular and is more relevant to people searching for terms related to it.

We knew we had to focus our efforts on improving this metric in order to see results for The Departure. We made a list of every blog and media outlet that was covering the Tribeca Film Festival.

Next, we asked each writer to include a link and/or embed of the official trailer on Youtube in their piece.


#3: Quantity of long video views.

Youtube tracks the amount of time each viewer spends on your video. If they see your video is keeping people engaged for the entire length, that's a good sign that your content is interesting to viewers and will give you a boost in the search results.

#4: Comments & Likes

One of the ways Youtube can tell if your video is worth promoting higher in their search results, is by seeing how many people like and comment. The more activity you get, the better.

Comments and likes should happen naturally as people watch and hopefully enjoy your video. You can increase your chances of getting someone to like/comment by simply asking them to at the end of your video.

Asking people their opinion a controversial question related to your video helps (though since we didn't create the video, we had no control over that with the film).

A recent study that analyzed 1.3 Million Youtube Search Results Shows That the Number of Comments a Video Has Strongly Correlate to Higher Rank on Youtube.

#5: Optimize Youtube Video Title & Description

YouTube can't rank you for anything if they don't know what your video is about!

Your title should be less than 100 characters in length, including spaces and should focus on the main keywords you're targeting. We chose "The Departure - Official Theatrical Trailer 2017" because it covered all of the main keywords for this campaign.

You'll also want to write a detailed description of your video in the video description. Video descriptions on Youtube can be up to 5,000 in length before getting cut off, so make sure the most important information is available first.

EXAMPLE Youtube description for SEO

OPTIONAL STEP: Include a call to action in your description.

Since our main goal for the campaign with The Departure was to drive views of the trailer AND traffic to the official website, we made sure to include a clear call to action (CTA) for people interested in seeing the film ("SEE THE FILM").

Your CTA will be most effective if it is clear, simple and direct.

What are you promoting on Youtube?

Let us know what you're working on in the comments below!

3 Proven Methods to Get More Online Reviews (easy step-by-step guide)

3 Proven Methods to Get More Online Reviews
An easy step-by-step guide.

These days, getting 5-star reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Local and Facebook is absolutely essential to growing a local business. Those that are able to get more reviews enjoy a variety of business boosting benefits, like:

  • Getting Reviews Boosts Your Rank in Google...
    Recent research by MOZ shows that as much as 13% of your rank in local search is determined by the number of positive reviews. Considering Google's goal of showing its users the most relevant results for their query, it makes sense that they'd prioritize listings with high reviews from others.
  • Getting Reviews Boosts Your Conversion Rates and Sales...
    Recent research published on Semantic Scholar researched thousands of reviews on Amazon to find out what review characteristics had a positive impact on sales. They found that the quantity and content of the reviews were most important. Having lots of reviews, mentioning nice things about the product (regardless of the star rating provided) increases the number of people who go from being casual visitors into customers exponentially.

In this short article, you're going to learn the top 3 ways to ask for and get more customer positive online reviews than you've ever had before. This process is proven to work, and if you take the action steps included with each tip, you'll be blowing up on review sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google Local--and getting more business as a result!

Review Boosting Tip #1: Be a Customer Service FANATIC

Setting up a few simple processes for collecting reviews is by far the easiest and fastest way for you to grow your local business. The fact that you're here reading this article shows that you're already on step ahead of the competition. Most small business owners and their marketing teams focus so heavily on getting new customers through the door, that they forget how important it is to have a plan for what happens after the customer makes that first purchase!

Getting more positive reviews online starts with adopting a policy of customer service fanaticism​ at every level of your organization. You and everyone who works at your business should always be asking yourselves: "how can I excite, delight and satisfy our customers today?".

Get this right, and you'll find that customers will leave more reviews without you even asking them to. They'll be so thrilled with the amazing service you provide that they'll rant and rave to their friends about how awesome you are. Treat your customers right, and they'll become word of mouth marketers for you everywhere they go.

Happy customers spend more money, and stay loyal to the brands they love. By reducing your turnover rate, and increasing your customer lifetime value (the amount of money, on average, that a customer will spend with your business), you are making better use of the time and money you spend on other marketing methods.

Don't just think about it, BE about it!

Take action right now, and you'll be one step closer to growing your business.

Write down 5 ways you can excite, delight and satisfy your customers after they make their first purchase with you. Every customer wants to feel valued and cared for. Give your customers a personal touch, and show them that you're the kind of business owner that pays attention to details.

A nice personal note welcoming to your business, a small inexpensive but unique gift, or access to a private group on Facebook are all ways you can make new customers feel welcome in your community. Write down 5 things now, and implement them right away!

Review Boosting Tip #2: Automate Your Review Collection

You've probably heard the old adage "closed mouths don't get fed."

This is especially true when it comes to asking your customer​s for reviews. Your customers may love you, and be totally thrilled with the product or service you provide, but if you don't ask them for a review, how are they supposed to know you want one?

​The best way to collect reviews, with as little effort as possible, is to automate the process with email automation. For this, we recommend ActiveCampaign. Setting up review request emails in ActiveCampaign is quick and easy, and they integrate with many popular content management systems and payment platforms. Here's some best practices for setting up auto-emails...

  • Send the emails from a real person.
    Use your name, or your manager's name to send emails. Do this, and you'll get a huge increase in open rate, click through rate, and responses. People are naturally drawn to the names of real people. Sending from your business name is impersonal and will likely get passed over.
  • Make your email feel personal.
    Your automated emails should look almost exactly like non-automated emails. Use a variable to include your customers name (easy to do in most email marketing platforms), write a subject line that looks more like a personally written subject than the title of a newsletter ("how's it going?" rather than "We Need Your Help!"). Ideally, emails sent through automated campaigns should be virtually identical to those sent manually.
  • Schedule follow-up emails to non-openers.
    If someone missed your first email, make sure to add follow-up emails in your automation campaign. ActiveCampaign makes this easy to do. There are many reasons someone may have chosen not to open your first email, so experiment a little. Try changing the time or day of your next send; try changing the subject line; try changing the sender name. You can schedule as many follow-up emails as you'd like, so maybe add another level of follow-ups for those who miss the second email as well.
  • Make your customers feel like members of your community.
    Use inclusive language that shows your customer you appreciate them and that they're a part of your community or group of insiders. When your customer feels like part of your business, they'll have a vested interest in helping you grow.
  • Use psychology to prime the customer for a positive review.
    Speak in an upbeat, happy tone and use positive language in your email to prime the customer's brain for a positive response. You can also use language and ideas that support your brand messages--you'll see these brand messages start to appear in your reviews, which has a huge positive impact on reinforcing that image in the eyes of new customers.
  • Make it easy for your customers to review.
    Include direct links to the most popular review sites. We prefer Yelp, Google and Facebook (in that order). Almost every person you're likely to do business with will have at least one of those accounts.

    Don't just link to your Facebook page, link to the reviews tab on your Facebook page like this:

    Use the Google Review Link Generator to generate a link that automatically pops up the review box on your Google Local listing.
  • Keep your email clear, concise and simple.
    Get straight to the point, and make your communication crystal clear.

Keep the momentum going! DO THIS NOW.

Sign up for ActiveCampaign (it's free to start!) and set up a simple request for review email automation. First, you'll need to set up a live import from your customer management system (they support all major platforms). Next, you'll need to create an automation that sends the customer an email after they've had time to use your product or service.

For now, just send the one email automatically, and worry about adding follow-up emails later.

Example of a good review request email.

Take a look at this review request email that we set up for one of our local business clients.

This email gets them 5-7 reviews PER WEEK, and they're growing faster than ever before as a result. New visits are up, search engine ranking is up, and customer satisfaction is up!

Example of a good review request email.

Review Boosting Tip #3: Ask for Reviews in Person

This is one of the most simple, yet often overlooked ways to collect more reviews! Ask your customers when you see them. 

Don't just leave it up to chance, though. Set up a process where you or one of your employees asks customers after specific conditions are met. By taking a process-oriented approach to review collecting (rather than just doing it if you happen to remember, or when it's convenient), you'll collect more reviews and getting in the habit of asking will make it routine and easy.​

When is the best time to ask someone for a review? After they express satisfaction with your product or service, of course!​

Use a URL shortener like Tiny URL to shorten links to your review sites, and keep a stack of review request cards sitting somewhere you can easily grab one (standard business cards work fine). 

Never miss an opportunity to ask a customer how their experience was. If they say it was great, make sure to give them to thank them for being a customer, that you're glad they're a part of your community, and hand them the review request card to close the deal!

The important thing here is to be authentic. If you truly care, it will show, and the customer will respond positively.

One more task for you! Finish strong.

Design and print some review request cards to keep somewhere accessible. Create a process for when to hand the cards out, and a short script for how you should ask. By keeping the process consistent, you can gauge people's reaction to it and adjust as needed.