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How to Weed Out Bad Marketing Agencies

How to Weed Out Bad Marketing Agencies
Article Cliff Notes

If you don’t know any better, marketers WILL take advantage of you.

If an agency can’t answer basic questions about their strategies, give them a pass.

The right marketing agency will take you both to the top. The wrong one will steal your cash and watch your business sink.

It seems like I get a sales pitch about online marketing on a daily basis. That’s pretty ironic considering I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years.

I can’t even imagine how many emails and propositions high-level marketing managers and directors must get constantly.

With all of the companies offering a marketing product, how can anyone know which one to pick?

This blog post will walk you through the questions you should be asking when trying to find the right marketing company.

More accurately, these are the questions you need to ask to weed out the BAD agencies (and there are a lot).

1. What exactly will be done for my campaign and how will it be reported?

SEO companies have been dodging this question for years.

They’re going to tell you that their product is proprietary, and they can’t give specifics on what’s going to be done. What that really means is that they have a very low-quality product, and they don’t want to show you their exact work.

If you hear this kind of response, run.

Companies have never been big on giving accurate reports. You’re definitely going to want an outfit that gives you real-time data about the actions being completed for your campaign. Don’t just settle for broad, monthly updates.

Trust what they do, not what they say.

If you’re a marketing manager or director, finding the right marketing team can mean the difference between you being a hero or a goat.

You need to make sure you’re choosing a company that’s going to make you look good, not just your company.

Solution: It’s absolutely critical you vet the agencies you’re thinking of hiring.

We highly recommend getting very specific samples of each of the work items they’re proposing. And if you’re a national brand, stay away from the following:

  • Blog network submissions
  • Social bookmarks
  • Blog comment links
  • Syndicated article submissions

Get real-time reporting about the actions being completed for you website. This will give you the opportunity to see what’s being done, and determine if that work is up to your standards. Make sure they employ the smartest search marketing strategies this side of the Mississippi!

2. What is your link-building strategy?

Link-building has turned into the most dangerous tactic for a website’s organic search presence.

Google used to say that a link couldn’t hurt your website’s ranking. This caused 99% of the SEO practitioners to abuse links and try to game Google’s system.

You need to be very careful with hiring an outside agency to build your offsite authority. We guarantee you that most SEO agencies aren’t going to be very concerned with the negative effects their work might have on your brand.

Ask some very specific questions about the work that will be done for your campaign. Link-building is going to be part of pretty much every digital marketing company’s fulfillment.


  1. Use of anchor text: In my opinion, the use of too much exact-match anchor text has always been the basis of how Google determines penalties. Our recommendation is to ask very specific questions about how the agency is going to use anchor text. If they’re going to use a lot of exact-match anchor text, take it as a sign to run the other way.
  2. Link-Building Sources: Link-building networks have traditionally been one of the easiest ways to game Google’s system. This is a way to get a large quantity of links on different Class C IP Addresses. Nowadays, this is the easiest way to get hit by a penalty. If you ever hear anything about the use of a blog network, you’re gonna want to find a different vendor.
  3. Use of social media: SEO companies are deathly afraid of how social media affects organic rankings. Social media is extremely hard to scale and is a nightmare for most marketing companies. If you hear that social media has nothing to do with and will never mean anything to organic rankings, you need to find an agency who actually knows what they’re doing.

Solution: Links have always been a core part of Google’s ranking algorithm. The sustainable way to generate high-quality links is by creating superstar content. This can either be posted on your blog or offered as a guest post.

The bottom line? It’s time to start adding value to the Internet. If you can do that, the links will come.

3. What is your content marketing strategy?

Content marketing is the foundation of a long-term, successful online marketing campaign.

But content marketing isn’t just the solution to ranking well for 3 or 4 keywords. Instead, it’s a way for you to build up your reputation as a leader in your industry.

Solution: Content marketing is the answer. This is the way to build up your social media presence and show Google you deserve top placement. If you’re dealing with a Google penalty—like 50% of the people we talk to on a daily basis—this is the way to bring back your organic traffic.

Beware Internet marketing scams—send us just $39.99 and we’ll tell you all about them.

We’ve seen that Google penalties work on a page-by-page basis rather than at the domain level. What that means is you can get other pages to rank for your important keywords.

Many people we talk to have seen a significant drop in traffic on their homepage and a few other top landing pages. Rather than trying to keep building links to those few pages, we need to expand your index.

Getting started with effective content marketing will mean you expand your organic footprint and start becoming a thought leader in your industry.

Having a high quality blog is the start to leveraging content marketing. We highly recommend you spend the time designing a fantastic blog that will be the hub of your growth marketing efforts.

4. What are the success metrics of the campaign?

Having the right success metrics for your online marketing campaign gives you the ability to hold your provider to their word. If you ever run across an agency that counts the number of links or page rank as the success metric, you need to look elsewhere.

Most reputable agencies will use keyword rankings as the core success metric of a campaign. However, you need to be very careful with this kind of analysis.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

— Peter Drucker

How does your brand benefit by ranking with keywords that get very little to no search volume?

We agree that search volume is a means to an end, but it doesn’t always signal real success to your business.

Solution: What is the real goal of your website and online marketing efforts?

We would say the goal is to increase your online visibility and increase revenue.

If that is the real goal, what would be the most important metrics?

We would say traffic and new conversions would be a much better way to evaluate success.

Ignore the Posers

As a business professional, skepticism of marketing agencies is crucial.

Marketing firms are adept at pulling the wool over their customers’ eyes and hiding their shady tactics until it’s too late, and your check has already been cashed.

But the Wild West days of gaming Google and “Churnalism” are officially over. Find a provider that treats your business with respect, or you’re better off doing this whole online marketing thing yourself.


I'm Sam, and I'm the founder of Klicker. My mission has always been to understand what separates the 1% of winning businesses from the 99% who never see results online. Klicker is my attempt to share these findings and organize a system to push a select few of those 99% into the 1%.

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