Welcome to our new series here at The Daily(ish) Advocate: Agencies Behaving Badly
Over the years we’ve seen ad agencies, web designers and freelancers doing things that would make Frank Abagnale blush.
(At least when he was doing the criminal things Leo portrayed in Catch Me If You Can. We’re assuming as an FBI agent, he’d want to nail these digital dirtbags.)
Anyhoo, as your Marketing Advocates, part of our job is to shine a light on these jackasses. We want to expose their unethical practices, so you can protect your business/website from their dastardly deeds.
Here’s our first story of an Agency Snake Oil Salesman (we call them ASOS) taking advantage of a business:
The wanker who owned this agency was a piece of work. He was hired by a “friend” (a biz owner we’ll call Ron) to help with his company’s website.
The agency owner charged Ron about $5,000 monthly for web hosting and SEO.
Ron wasn’t happy with how things were going and reached out to Clark (our resident SEO Nerd) to look things over.
One thing that immediately jumped out at Clark was the super high web hosting fees Ron was paying.
When Clark asked about them, the agency owner replied, “Oh, it’s for all the analytics and software packages we’re running on the site.“
Digging deeper, Clark realized this agency goon wasn’t so much nickel and diming Ron – so much as $50 and $100 bill-ing him.
The agency was charging $500 to $750 a month for various website tools, like Google Analytics and the Yoast SEO plugin… that are FREE!
He was charging $500 for hosting Ron’s site at WPEngine – an excellent choice for hosting, by the way – for a plan that costs about $40 a month.
Oh, and these outrageous fees didn’t even include making simple changes to the website.
Once Ron saw how badly he was getting hosed, he was understandably PO’d. He told his “friend” to take a hike.
As you might imagine, the agency guy didn’t like that so much. He threatened Ron and told him that, if he left, Ron’s website traffic was going to tank.
Which it did.
As soon as Ron stopped paying this agency clown, the website traffic dropped immediately.
Which led to Clark uncovering some other underhanded crap this agency was pulling.
Clark noticed the site’s keyword rankings didn’t drop when the ASOS got fired. Just the site’s traffic volume.
Which meant this agency jackass was sending some cheap paid traffic to the site, then claiming it was from his SEO efforts (we use that term loosely)!!
In fact, looking back at the Analytics, Clark could pinpoint precisely when this agency jerk took over because there was an immediate spike in site traffic.
Which, unfortunately, ain’t how SEO works.
You don’t sign up with an agency and have organic traffic just magically start flowing to your website. It takes months or longer for SEO efforts to kick in.
As for the SEO “work” the agency did, it was horrendous.
The site’s homepage had the title tag “Home – Brand Name,” which ain’t SEO (see this article for tips on title tags).
And the site had a bunch of foreign links, links from, umm, “adult” sites, and other spammy links from the ugly underbelly of the web.
It was so bad that SEMRush nearly had an aneurysm when Clark used it to do an SEO analysis of Ron’s site.
Clark usually doesn’t use the Google Disavow Tool because he doesn’t believe in it much. But, in this case, the link profile was so bad he disavowed a bunch of links pointing to Ron’s site.
So, yeah, this Agency Snake Oil Salesman was pulling a fast one on Ron.
- Overcharging him
- Making him pay for things that are free
- Claiming SEO traffic success that was anything but
- Damaging the site’s reputation by buying spammy links
Basically stealing money from Ron (again, his “friend”!!!) that Ron could have been investing more wisely in his business… or socking away for his kids’ college… or his retirement… or mortgage payments… or a whole host of other things.
It’s disgusting, and we’d love to call the agency out by name, but that’s not our style.
But we will share some key lessons so you can stop something like this from happening to your business.
1. Hosting should cost around $30 – $40 a month for most websites.
It costs more if you’ve got a large site with 1000s of products/pages, and it gets tons of traffic.
But generally, if you’re paying more than $40ish a month for hosting your average business website, take a close look at what you’re paying for. You might be getting hornswoggled.
2. A lot of the software you need for a website is free. Google Analytics. Many WordPress plugins. Basic Cloudflare services. If you’re paying for a bunch of extras for your site, find out what they are and why you need them.
3. A sudden spike in website traffic when you hire a new SEO firm is a big red flag. SEO takes time. Unless you get a big PR coup or have a so-shill media post go viral, expect traffic to rise gradually (and even in those cases, the spike will be short-lived).
4. Take a look at the title tags on your website. If they don’t include relevant keywords to your business, that’s another big red flag. That’s not the way reputable SEO firms handle things.
Hope you found this first installment of our “Agencies Behaving Badly” series helpful. And we hope it makes you a savvier consumer of online marketing services.
Unfortunately, we have no shortage of horror stories of how the ASOS of the world take advantage of businesses. So stay tuned for future installments.