This year we decided it was time to bring SEO in-house. Last year we hired an internet marketing company to optimize our website, and we were unhappy with their performance. After several meetings and a frustrating lack of improvement, we decided it was time to fire our SEO company.
What went wrong
On Friday we called to break the news.
By Monday the SEO company used their access to our Google My Business account to delete all photos associated with the account – even the logo. Several were stock photos uploaded by the company, but some were photos I had personally uploaded.
They pulled down a testimonial video they made for us. Fortunately, it was a stock video that won’t be missed.
Worst of all, they took down disabled the Yoast SEO plugin, which took down our sitemap. When Google crawlers visited the website and looked for the sitemap, all they got was a 404 “page not found” error. From all I can tell, this could have had major effects on our organic search rankings after a full month.
When I called to get an explanation, they said this was a normal part of the “exit process”. The changes were required to protect their “proprietary information” (like the Yoast SEO plugin, apparently). The manager I spoke with wouldn’t say what changes were made, but reiterated that this is standard operating procedure.
What you can do
In the grand scheme of things, these were little problems, and we were fortunate enough to catch them early. You may not be so lucky.
If you’re thinking it’s time to fire your SEO company, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Read your entire contract. Ours required us to provide notice of termination 2 months before the renewal date. This could have become a problem if they attempted to enforce these terms.
- Send a Termination of Contract letter. You can find sample formats online. Send it through Certified Mail. This provides you with evidence that you’ve canceled the contract, so that it’s harder for them to play dumb later.
- Ask for specifics (even if they refuse to provide them). Don’t assume that they’ll alert you to changes they’ve made.
- Change your passwords. This will prevent them from accessing your accounts and causing damage.
- Have your new SEO plan ready. Even if you keep them out of your accounts, their internal processes may negatively affect your rankings. Don’t count on termination periods to keep them honest: be ready to hand off to your new SEO company or take over yourself.
- Prepare to lose ranking. Try to make the switch when you can ride out the changes in your organic rankings. It may take several months for them to recover. You may need to invest in some other lead sources or just ride out the storm.
Thankfully, not every experience with an SEO company will end up like mine. There are some great companies who take good care of their customers. However, stories like this are not uncommon. Whether you’re switching SEO companies or you’ve decided to do your own search engine optimization, be alert for shenanigans that could affect your website rankings.