From a lay persons stand point how does a technophobe director of a small company choose the right digital agency to promote their website? In such a competitive market with so many agencies to choose and all of them waxing lyrical about how good they are, where do you start?
There are so many bad stories and promises of returns on investment that never materialise, it’s unsurprising that such an important part of the internet marketing industry has an unenviably bad reputation (although in truth, perhaps not as bad as financial advisors or estate agents!)
If you follow the points below the outcome is more likely to be a positive one with good returns on investment. I used to be an Operations Director of an agency and I am transferring that knowledge into developing my own websites, so speak with a deal of authority. The main thing I would say is BE PATIENT. Success takes time and with the right agency you will achieve those results (although as with anything there is no guarantee).
- Ensure that your agency has a clearly defined mission statement and customer service approach that is in line with your own work ethics and that you personally have a good rapport with the directors and assigned account manager.
- Be clear about what are you trying to achieve from a campaign. Is it organic search engine prominence such as page 1 of Google, brand development, an increase in conversion (how many customers visit your website that either purchase goods or enquire)? This will help your agency cater the campaign according to those needs. They should be asking you those questions anyway!
- Do you need Social Media? It’s such a huge subject. My advice would be to take an interest and do your own personal research. There is so much that is being written about at the moment that it’s easy for a non technical person to research online and offline about such a huge subject. Try and attend independent seminars (those not run by an agency) if possible or alternatively a variety of agency seminars (although these will be biased). As with any other marketing campaign try and be specific about what you are trying to achieve as it is my view, that the vast majority of social media “buzz” at the moment is between agencies patting one another on the back. You could also kill two birds with one stone and use Facebook as a customer service tool.
- Your online promotion must be viewed as going hand in hand with your offline promotion and your digital agency should take an integrated approach or at the very least discuss your offline promotion campaigns with you so they know where their efforts fit, working with you to achieve the best possible outcome, discussing approaches and brainstorming ideas with you.
- Consider how you benchmark the agency and try and give them key result areas. They should not be fazed by this. However be realistic. Most campaigns take time to achieve and with the right agency if you give them time the results versus cost will be worthwhile.
- Consider and agree the type and format of reporting you need and how often this is required, but this should be what you need and can use as a company, not what the agency wants to provide.
- Ensure that your agency only use in house designers and developers. Go to their offices and chat to their staff. A lot of agencies outsource the majority of their work and this can cause delays and problems as nobody quite takes ownership of the project.
- Getting links to your website from other quality websites is still a large part of internet promotion (or SEO). Ask questions about how they go about achieving these links. As mentioned a lot of agencies outsource this to offshore companies with poor quality links that can be detrimental to your website. Nothing beats having an in house linking team working with you to achieve natural good quality links to your website.
- If your agency finds this one hard to swallow then they’re the wrong agency, but you should be looking for results: search engine ranking, visitors or conversions, but not the number of links which on its own is misleading. Ask why, where from, what quality rather than “how many”.
- Check your agencies financial status. You do not want them going bust halfway through a campaign.
- Take references and talk to their customers and when they give you client detail, ask for others as they won’t have given you poor ones, will they?
- Obviously cost is a big consideration but “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys” is the adage that springs to mind.
At the risk of repeating myself though, take time to find the right agency, ensure you have set and agreed achievable targets and a clear reporting structure, then BE PATIENT, it will take quite a while to get search engine prominence.