Signs You Hired A Dishonest Digital Marketing Agency

Open Google and do the classic search “digital marketing agencies near me”. There is a pretty good possibility you will see dozens, or even hundreds if you live in a large city. As always with a service provider, most of these agencies simply want to take advantage of you or are just very bad at their job.

The big problem is you will only realize you hired a bad digital marketing agency after spending a lot of time and money. And the truth is many do not even realize it.

When you first start working with one of these digital marketing agencies, you will hear many promises. And the truth is promises never actually stop. You will be guaranteed several different things, great rankings, sales, and more. But, those promises will never become reality.

And you lost money. And time.

And you will lose even more because you will have to look for another digital marketing agency. And then, maybe another one if you choose incorrectly again.

I worked for several digital marketing agencies. And with even more. And not all of them were great. Some of them were truly horrible, dishonest, and masters at deceiving clients. Staying away form them can be tricky, but not impossible.

Here are some signs to help you spot the dishonest marketing agencies. I will divide them into 2 categories: signs to watch out for before hiring and signs to watch out for after hiring.

4 Signs You Will Hire A Dishonest Digital Marketing Agency

Keep in mind that prevention is always better, in close to anything that could go wrong in life. Basically, if you avoid hiring bad digital marketing agencies, it is simply better. You do not lose money. You do not lose time. So, look out for the following signs.

Making Really Big Promises

“Hire us and you will have rank 1 in Google Search for all your keywords”

“Hire us and you will grow your Facebook followers by 1000% in 10 days”

In marketing, promises are just that. Promises. Honest digital marketing agencies will never tell you how much they will be able to help you when you discuss contracts with them. Marketers need to know your current situation, your goals, and much more.

As a simple rule of thumb, wait some time until you sign any contract. Compare deals and wait until you can see the promises for what they are.

Lack Of Customer Testimonials Or References

This one is a little tricky because the problem is not what many tell you. There is a pretty good chance you heard that a lack of customer testimonials or references means the digital marketing agency is a bad one. After all, if nobody can vouch for them, why hire them?

The problem is that anyone can create fake testimonials these days. And most people cannot spot the fake ones from the true ones.

The trick with customer testimonials and references is to look for testimonials you can verify. You can do this by actually getting in touch with the customers who wrote the reviews but you can never be too sure if what you are told is true or not. Third party websites that allow reviews are also not as great as some will tell you. They can be tricked and even those reviews can be false.

Generally speaking, when you see that most of the reviews are negative, it is usually a sign that the digital marketing agency is not great. It is rare for other digital marketing agencies to create fake negative reviews since this would require too many resources that would be better used somewhere else. But, it is possible even negative reviews are fake.

The bottom line with references, customer testimonials, and reviews is to take them with a pinch of salt. Do not assume what you see is correct and instead, try to look for things that signal the review is a genuine one. For instance, a real review tends to focus on both negatives and positives. Seeing something like this gives you information that you can most likely trust about the work done by the agency.

A Free Email Address

Nowadays, a digital marketing company without an email address associated with a domain is the standard. Free email addresses are a sign of a bad online presence, a lack of professionalism, and an amateur company. Simply put, when you are contacted by a representative of an agency and you see a free email address, it is better to look somewhere else.

The only situation in which this does not really apply is when you work with a freelance digital marketer. In this case, the use of a free email address is more than enough. But, a digital marketing agency needs to have a unique email address, not an address like

The Agency Services Too Many Clients

There are so many digital marketing agencies out there that take on all the clients they can get. I once met a woman who was working for an agency and was serving 15 clients at the same time. This is just way too much and it is close to impossible to do good work when you have to deal with so many clients. Work quality automatically goes down and even customer relationships suffer.

When you see that the agency you hire looks overwhelmed and the people you talk to are overworked, it is better to look for another firm, one that focuses on as many clients as it can handle. You deserve full attention.

5 Signs You Hired A Dishonest Digital Marketing Agency

The signs I mentioned above are difficult to spot for most business owners. This is a really important thing to highlight because when people are dishonest, they know how to trick you. As a result, in most cases, you can only figure out something is wrong when you already worked with an agency for some time.

Remember that there are many honest digital marketers out there who simply cannot deliver great results. This brings us to the first sign the digital marketing agency you hired is dishonest.

Talking About Effort And Time Instead Of Results

When you talk to your marketer, be careful what they focus on. Do they reference results, or what they did do to get them? Believe it or not, most marketers out there got their experience in an agency as the agency was the one making a profit, not the clients.

You should ask as many questions as possible and actually listen to the answers. Do you notice that the marketer discusses the work done more than the results gained? If the marketer does not prove results, why hire them? And why keep working with them?

Not Presenting Numbers And Stats

Hopefully, you have weekly meetings or at least conversations with marketing managers that work on your account, on your campaigns. During these, pay attention to what the marketer wants to talk about.

Do not make the mistake of thinking marketing is all about being creative. Sure, there is creativity involved but that is not the work of the marketer. It is of the designer, the copywriter, so on, and so on. The work of the marketer is all about numbers. Creative components are only good for a marketing campaign if the numbers add up.

Marketers have to explain campaigns when they discuss them with clients and the explanation should be based on numbers. This means the marketer will have to tell you things like:

  • This campaign will reach its desired goals if the conversion rate is 2%.
  • Such a plan can only work when your email list was made out of 100,000 people, not 1,000 people.

The second example is of particular interest. Many business owners think that if they have a newsletter of X members, they will generate Y income through sales. In reality, the numbers that the business owners have in their heads are wrong. It is the job of the marketer to explain the real numbers. They have to say that some goals are unrealistic. And they have to do it with numbers, not with anything else.

PowerPoint Presentations Filled With Colors


PowerPoint presentations always look better with colors. But, there is a difference between a presentation that features too many colors and not much information and one that has an adequate use of colors and focuses on information.

Basically, whenever you see a lot of fluff, very cute animations, several animations, and way too many colors, there is a pretty good possibility the digital marketing agency is trying to rip you off.

The same goes for the presentations that are not done in PowerPoint but in any other program. And for those that just include limited content, like one word with an exclamation point.


If your company presents a report with a word like this on a page and nothing else, be careful! You might be taken advantage of.

Spreading Resources And Money In Many Places

Let’s say you are a huge company, with millions of dollars in your marketing budget. Even then, you cannot be properly present on all possible social media networks, and do everything that a marketer is capable of.

Check out the US Coca Cola website. Scroll down to reach the footer area. There are 4 social media channels present there, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Obviously, Coca Cola would have money to start and promote services on Tik Tok. But, it does not.

Dishonest marketers and bad marketers try to create as much content as possible and promote it wherever they can. The client can easily end up thinking that this is great since the business is promoted. In reality, it is not promoted well. This is especially the case for smaller businesses, with limited marketing budgets.

It is very difficult to optimize content when your resources are spread thin and you do not have enough information coming from your campaigns. And this is what happens when you try to promote your business everywhere.

Dishonest marketing agencies want to spread money in many places because:

  • This is what they learned and they do not know something else.
  • Transparency is reduced and it is more difficult to figure out why results do not appear.
  • Blame can be avoided or put on the product because of a lack of results.
  • Kickbacks appear from the places where they promote your business.

Promoting Banner Ads, Adroll, YouTube Ads, and Display Ads

You should never trust a marketer who tells you that these are great options for your business. Regardless of the business you run.

How many times did you skip ads on YouTube? Maybe you have a plugin that automatically removes them. Why would you believe someone else would do something different?

The only situation in which I let YouTube ads run is when I watch a video from a content creator I support. Because they make money. I do not watch the ad and I do not care what the ad says.

Google lets you quickly set up ads and it offers you a way to do it automatically. It also allows you to remove the ads you do not want to run. Trusting Google is a very bad idea. It will spend your budget on Display and YouTube ads. The bad marketers will actually tell you these are great ways to spread awareness. They are not.

As a rule of thumb, when you see the digital marketing agency promoting such ads, just look for someone else.

Final Thoughts

We all get tricked by some people or agencies. It is simply bound to happen. But, the signs above should help you at least figure out something is wrong.

And, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to trust your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, there is a pretty good possibility it is. Ask questions and actually listen to the answers.

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