5 Signs That Your SEO Company is Hurting Your Rankings

Implementing an SEO strategy is easily one of the best decisions you can make.

Higher rankings mean more targeted traffic to your landing pages.

And more traffic translates to increased sales for your business.

Make no mistake though, the digital landscape is more competitive than ever. It is no longer enough to simply have a website as your competitors will be doing everything they can to outrank it. This is where SEO comes in, a process that involves optimising various aspects of your site to increase rankings.

Google strives to deliver the most relevant results so engaging in any questionable tactics (e.g. keyword stuffing, link spamming, etc.) will result in a ranking penalty. Working with an agency can help your business navigate through the more complicated aspects of SEO. But you also need to be cautious as some agencies may not exactly have your best interests in mind.

Here we look at the warning signs that your SEO could be hurting your rankings rather than helping them.

1. They Do Not Provide Regular Updates

SEO can take months to start climbing in the search results. Sometimes it can take even longer depending on the keywords you target and how competitive your industry is. So there is no need to be alarmed if your pages are not ranking right away.

But during that time the agency you work with should have at least something to show for. Some examples may include:

  • Technical and content audit of your site
  • Analysis of your backlink profile
  • Optimised content for your site
  • Reports of any issues fixed

A good agency will keep you regularly updated throughout the entire you are with them. Something is definitely amiss if you need to contact them yourself for updates.

2. They Don’t Request Anything

Another sign of an inexperienced agency is if they don’t ask for anything.

Just as a remodelling contractor needs access to certain parts of a home, the same applies here. Optimising a site and fixing any technical issues all require access to your CMS as well as other logins such as your Google Analytics account. A good SEO agency will ask for this information as soon as you sign on with them so that they can get to work.

Be especially wary of any company that doesn’t request these details as they could be relying on questionable tactics increase your rankings such as building links from spammy sites. The agency you work with should ask for this information without you having to offer it.

3. Your Site Gets Hit With a Ranking Penalty

If your site is no longer ranking, it’s entirely possible that it was hit with a manual penalty.

This may occur if the agency you are working with uses questionable tactics such as building spammy links or stuffing your content with irrelevant keywords. One way to find out for sure is to log into your Google Search Console account:


If your site gets hit with a penalty a month or two after working an agency, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.

The good news is that penalties are not permanent. But keep in mind that it can take months or even years of work to recover from. Once all issues have been fixed and your site meets all quality guidelines, you can request another review of your site to be reconsidered.

4. Traffic Starts Dropping

If rankings drop then traffic will soon follow.

A sudden drop in traffic is another indication that your agency could be doing work that is actually hurting your rankings. This is why it is important to login to your Google Analytics account to check for any irregularities. A drop in traffic could due to any number of reasons.

Start by asking the agency what kind of off-site actions were performed. Then log into your Google Search Console account to see if manual actions have been taken against your site.

If the agency you are working with is engaging in any questionable tactics, it may be time to work with another provider. Just remember that anything from spammy link building to duplicating content can result in a ranking penalty and loss in revenue. Both scenarios are likely the last thing you want.

5. Increase in Suspicious Links

Links are one of the most important ranking factors.

But not all links are equal.

A link from an authoritative source in your industry will carry far more weight than a link from a blog post or forum. Some SEO agencies, in an attempt to quickly rank a site, will turn to questionable tactics and build low quality links to your pages. But these are exactly the kind of links that Google warns about on its Quality Guidelines page. As such they are likely to do more harm than good for your site.

You can look at your link profile by downloading your links from within Google Search Console. There are also other tools available such as ahrefs that even more details about your links. What you are looking for is two things:

  • Relevance: Links from relevant sources will always carry more weight than from irrelevant ones. Too many of the latter can trigger a ranking penalty and actually devalue your site.
  • Velocity: Building too many links at once is a major red flag especially for relatively new sites. There should be a steady progression of links to your site.

Building links used to be incredibly effective.

But too many of them at once from spammy sources will result in a ranking penalty. If you suspect such behaviour, show them to your SEO agency and ask about them. If they confirm the links were from their efforts you may need to take action yourself to remove them.


Some SEO agencies will make huge promises to secure your business.

But if you notice any of these signs it may be time to choose a different agency to work with. Don’t be afraid to walk away either. And if you are locked into a contract, it is in your best interest to get out of it even if it means paying an early termination fee.