Signs it’s Time to Fire Your SEO Agency

Lauren Reilly

  | Published on  

May 22, 2024

Building a business is like building a house: you need a strong, sturdy foundation.

But what happens when you find a crack in your foundation?

Maybe that “crack” is a traffic slowdown, or the fact that your website hasn’t brought in a lead or customer in months. Whatever it may be, the culprit could be the content and marketing strategy your SEO agency has cooked up for you.

Don’t worry though, you still have time to patch things up.

The good news is that you have found the crack in your business. But now you have to take action and consider whether or not to fire your SEO agency. 

This is a crucial decision for the future of your business, so let’s discuss when it's time to fire your agency and, if so, how. 

Should you fire your SEO agency? 6 warning signs

First, you need to make sure that it’s the right time to switch agencies. Here are six warning signs that it’s not all in your head and you need to change your SEO agency:

  • They lack transparency
  • They focus on the wrong priorities 
  • You’re ranking for the wrong keywords
  • They aren’t generating leads
  • Your strategy is faulty
  • Little or no ROI

Let’s walk through each of these

Lacks transparency 

We’ve worked with many clients who weren’t satisfied with their previous agency, and a lack of transparency is usually their top complaint (in addition to a lack of results).

An effective and professional SEO agency should update you regularly on their progress and initiatives. They also need to be quick to answer any questions you may have either in person, by email, or on the phone. 

If your agency is not providing you with detailed reports or clear lines for communication, then it leads to a breakdown in trust. Once this happens, it’s hard to recover the relationship. Remember, it is your business and you have a right to know your SEO campaign.

Focusing on the wrong priorities

Busy work doesn’t make the dream work. 

We’ve read through many SEO proposals that amount to little more than busy work to keep the team occupied and justify high prices as opposed to actually working on things that move the needle for their clients. If your agency recommends things like:

  • Obsessing over domain authority
  • Over-optimizing meta descriptions (Google re-writes most of these)
  • Setting meta keywords (these went out of fashion a decade ago)
  • Upcharging for monthly audits (not needed except for technical or complex websites)
  • Publishing 500-word blog posts “just because”

Then run FAR away. 

Be wary of SEO agencies that might charge for “work” that doesn’t help you get leads or customers. These are easy tasks for an agency to implement and up-charge you, but from experience they rarely (never) generate an ROI. 

Ranking for useless keywords 

Similarly, if your SEO agency is patting themselves on the back for keyword rankings that aren’t helping your business grow or bringing in valuable traffic, run away.

We all know that ranking for keywords is a key piece of SEO - but you need to rank for the right terms.

Bad agencies may focus on vanity metrics like keyword rankings while ignoring more important things like traffic to key pages on your site and conversions. They’ll charge for the “busy work” of creating content to target keywords that may not be tied to your goals, generate no ROI, or are so niche that even though you rank for them they generate little to no traffic. 

Once again, be wary of charges for “busy work” here. Many lower-quality agencies will charge for their inputs while not focusing on generating the outcomes your business needs to survive and thrive.

Not generating leads 

Your SEO agency might be helping you get traffic to your website, but traffic is nothing without leads. 

Yes, SEO takes time. For most of our clients, it generally takes 1- 6 months depending on the age of the site, and speed of publishing content. During that time, we work with relentless focus on generating valuable traffic and leads in order to justify SEO as a channel. If your SEO agency is satisfied with a trickle of traffic to your site, or not concerned with traffic that does not convert, then it’s time to make a change. 

Not all traffic will convert into leads, but it’s your SEO agency’s job to provide you with tangible results to create a lead-generating pipeline for your website. 

Good SEO will help you yield a positive ROI. But without leads, you have to wonder whether your SEO agency is worth your money.

Faulty, outdated strategy

SEO is so much more competitive than it used to be, so it’s going to take a lot more than a content calendar to use it as a channel to grow your business. 

Successful SEO all comes down to strategy. But your strategy will crumble if your SEO agency is using inexperienced or outdated SEO practices, like:

  • Letting their keyword research tool do the thinking for them
  • Copying competitors word for word
  • Relying on backlinks to make up for bad content
  • Thinking “subscribe to our blog” is a good lead magnet

These practices might have worked in the early days of the web, but they just don’t work nowadays. 

If your SEO agency thinks a keyword list is a content strategy, then it’s probably time to make a switch to an agency that thinks more strategically (check out our SEO strategy guide for an in-depth look at our approach!).

How do you fire an SEO agency?

If your SEO agency identifies with one or more of the warning signs above, you need to fire your agency.

But how do you go about this? Let’s walk through 4 crucial steps to fire your agency effectively and professionally:

  1. Read your contract - Review your contract with the agency for the notice period, termination clauses, and what you will get back. Some companies may take your website and design it for other clients or charge you additional fees for canceling your contract.
  2. Know your reasons - Document your reasons for firing the SEO agency. You should cite proof of the agency’s poor performance, such as the signs to fire your agency listed above. 
  3. Contact your agency - Express your desire to leave and clearly state your reasons and your contract’s terms. Be prepared for the agency to try and win you back with lower prices, but don’t be fooled because you and your business deserve better. 
  4. Gather your data and materials - Gather anything the agency collected for your website, including website analytics and social media accounts. You must have access to all data, reports, and accounts to make your transition as smooth as possible.

What should you look for in an SEO agency?

If you’ve fired your agency, or are planning to, here’s what to look for in a new one.

Worried about making the wrong choice again? Don’t worry, follow this list and you’ll find a high-quality agency that can help you grow your business:

  • Puts your business and needs first
  • Provides consistent results
  • Focuses on ROI
  • Adapts and innovates
  • Communicates (clearly and often)

Puts your business and needs first   

Picking an SEO agency isn’t just a business transaction, it’s a relationship with a direct impact on your business’ success and growth. Because of this, you need to select an SEO agency that cares about growing your business as much as you do. 

This means that they will:

  • Prioritize work that grows your business
  • Take time to understand your business and customers
  • Demonstrate the ROI of their work
  • Always look for new opportunities to improve your business

Select an agency that cares about your business and is more committed to your success than they are to maximizing or justifying their retainer.

Provides consistent results 

SEO is a long game, which means consistency is key to growing over the long haul.

From experience, quick wins happen but they can be rare. Rather than hunt for the big payoff to double traffic in one month, we’d rather grow your traffic 10 - 20% every single month (which should allow you to triple your traffic in a year).

How do you find an agency that can generate consistent results? Look into their past clientele. The agency should show a proven track record of success, such as case studies. 

These case studies should detail how their SEO strategy positively impacted their clients with successful results. You will get insight into whether the agency has experience in SEO strategies relevant to your business. 

At Centori, our customer stories are a testament to our success. Read about how this video SaaS company, Narakeet, grew their traffic by 1000% (yes, you read that right) in 3 months without blogs or building links here (hey, I didn’t say quick wins don’t happen - just that they’re rare).

Focuses on ROI 

ROI is the most important thing, especially for small and early-stage businesses.

If you can’t demonstrate the return on something, then that’s a problem. That’s because ROI allows you to see:

  • Whether something is making a difference or not
  • What parts are generating the biggest return (working the most)
  • What parts aren’t generating a return at all (not working, needs to be cut)

Look for an agency that is relentlessly focused on generating a return and demonstrating the ROI of their efforts. If all they know how to show is traffic and rankings, chances are they don’t have much experience in making a positive impact on their clients. 

You can verify the agency’s ROI success through 1) testimonials and case studies where past clients report a positive impact on ROI and 2) a clear analysis and explanation of how their SEO strategy can generate positive ROI for your business.

Adapts and innovates  

Marketing trends change by the week (just look at the impact tools like ChatGPT can make). This means that SEO agencies have to be on top of new trends to help your website compete. Some ways that SEO agencies can demonstrate their readiness in SEO are:

  • Attending conferences related to SEO
  • Testing SEO assumptions and experiments 
  • Being a leader in the space 
  • Client reviews and testimonials 
  • Sharing insights through publications or webinars

Your SEO agency’s strategy should be uniquely adapted to you and your needs. However, the agency also needs to be able to innovate this strategy when the market calls for it.  

Clear communication 

Ever signed on with an agency only for them to go radio silent after the first few months? 

You’re not alone. 

At some SEO agencies, you might hand you off to an account manager who already has multiple clients. If your account manager is overloaded with work, chances are you will only hear from them once in a blue moon.

That’s why we do things differently at Centori. We don’t assign you to an account manager while the SEO work is done behind the scenes. Instead, you’ll work with a dedicated SEO strategist who takes the time to build a strategy designed to reach your goals. That strategist will have a hands-on role with managing your SEO strategy, and meet with you from month to month as well as chat via our Slack community.

Not happy with your SEO agency? Schedule a free strategy session

If you’re reading this post (or skipped ahead, we don’t judge) and feel like it may be time to take the switch but you’re not sure, then we’d love to help.

We’ve helped over a hundred ambitious companies over the years, so we’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to SEO and growth. If you’re up for it, we’d love to review your current SEO strategy with you and identify your best opportunities for growth. Click the button below to schedule a free strategy session and we’ll map out a plan to grow your business.

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