5 warning signs of a disreputable digital marketing agency

Finding a digital marketing agency that’s right for you and your business isn’t easy.

In times of economic downturn particularly, how you invest your money is of the utmost concern.

Unfortunately digital marketing has its own share of questionable characters. If you get caught out by one, your investment and business could be at risk.

Disreputable digital marketing agencies are companies that use unethical or deceptive tactics to promote products or services online. These agencies may engage in a variety of practices that can harm businesses or consumers.

Examples of this include spamming, misrepresentation, and the use of fake reviews or testimonials.

In this article, we will explore five different tactics that disreputable digital marketing agencies might use. We will also explore the potential risks and consequences for businesses and consumers.



This is making false or misleading claims about a product or service in order to entice consumers to buy it. For example, a marketing agency might make false claims about the effectiveness of a product or the level of service provided by a company. 

A common type of misrepresentation is promising to gain a large amount of web traffic or social media following in a very short space of time. Often these are bought via bot-farms.

If your customers believe a false claim, purchase your service / product and then end up with something that they did not expect, they will obviously be dissatisfied. They are likely to leave negative reviews  of the product.

There is a lot of importance placed on honesty and integrity –  particularly to the younger generation. By misrepresenting your brand, you are at risk of being outed as misleading. You could also alienate a whole section of your customer base. In the worst of cases, you could even be subject to legal action.


Disreputable digital marketing agencies also use fake reviews or testimonials to promote products or services. This is creating or posting fake positive reviews or testimonials in an effort to make a product or service seem more attractive to potential customers. 

False reviews have a significant impact on the credibility and perceived quality of a product or service.

If a business receives a high number of false positive reviews, it will lead to overinflated ratings and unrealistic expectations for customers.

This can result in disappointment and mistrust when customers realise that the product or service does not live up to the high ratings it has received.

These false positive reviews can also lead to confusion and frustration for customers who are trying to make informed decisions about which products or services to purchase.

This undermines the trust that is essential for businesses to build with customers and, as a result, can have a negative impact on their reputation and bottom line.


Keyword stuffing is the act of cramming as many keywords as possible into a website’s content, meta tags or other areas in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. This practice is considered to be spammy and unethical.

While it might make your website appear higher in search results, it’s often not the case.

Most search engines have algorithms in place to detect and penalise websites that engage in this practice, much like those that detect fake followers. As a result, a website that utilises keyword stuffing may see a significant drop in its search engine rankings. It’s a poor SEO strategy that will harm a website’s performance and credibility. This is therefore leading to decreased visibility and traffic, and consequently, reduced revenue. 

Another issue with keyword stuffing is that when a website is packed with irrelevant or repetitive keywords. It can make the content difficult to read and understand. This could lead to a high bounce rate (i.e. the percentage of visitors who leave the website after only viewing one page) and low levels of engagement. 


Another tactic that agencies might be employing is the use of hidden fees / fine print in their contracts.

These can easily be missed and can result in businesses or consumers paying more than they expected for products or services.

It is common for them to advertise low upfront prices (the rule about it being too good to be true is generally accurate here!). They then charge additional fees for things like setup, account management or other services. These are often not being clearly disclosed. 

Some agencies also bundle a range of services together and present them as a single package. They don’t break down the costs of each individual service.

Automated billing is another danger area. Clients are often billed for products or services that are no longer being used, without their knowledge.

These types of disreputable agencies often won’t provide clear, itemised invoices. It makes it difficult for clients to understand exactly what they are being charged for. Thus, resulting in them paying for services they don’t need, or want.


This involves buying large email or SMS lists and sending unsolicited messages to a large number of people in an effort to promote a product or service on behalf of a client. 

If a digital marketing agency is sending these types of email on behalf of your business, there can be undesirable consequences. At best, spamming can be annoying and disruptive to recipients. It gives them an unfavourable impression of your brand. At worst, this damage to your reputation could mean you end up losing customers or being taken to court for data compliance issues.

How to avoid these pitfalls

      • Firstly- if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Whilst it might be appealing to sign up with an agency offering rock bottom prices, this usually comes back to bite you. Either through shoddy work, or add-on fees that end up costing you more than a proven reputable agency would have set you back in the first place. 

      • Research and vet potential agencies before signing anything. Check for reviews or testimonials from other businesses or consumers. Ask for references, case studies and data to support their claims. Review any contracts carefully to ensure that all fees and terms are fully stated.

      • Always review invoices carefully and ask for clarification if any charges are not clearly explained. If an agency is reluctant to discuss their pricing with you and is not open to questions about billing, this is a red flag.

      • Avoid agencies that use aggressive sales tactics. This is indicating that the agency is more interested in making a sale than in understanding your needs and developing a marketing plan that is right for you. 


    If you’re searching for a trustworthy and effective digital marketing agency, with a proven history of successful campaigns, you’re in luck. With Transparent Digital Services, you get exactly what it says on the tin: transparency. Trusted by some of the biggest names in retail and entertainment, we are all about honest communication and effective reporting. 

    Interested in booking a call with us? Contact us here.

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