If you’re reading this post it’s because you’re looking to hire an agency to help you with your website, SEO, advertising, or other digital marketing efforts. (If you’re just reading this for leisure then you’ve got some weird hobbies, but whatever floats your boat!)
You already know that:
- It’s hard to assess and hire an agency you can trust. You may have even been burned in the past. It’s unfortunate, but some SEO agencies give the rest a bad name.
- Digital marketing is a big investment with big returns when done properly. You’ve seen how a great internet presence or website leads to huge success for other businesses, so you want that as well.
- Some salespeople are willing to make promises they can’t keep to close the deal. So, of course, you should be discerning.
Having worked in the industry for many years and for several agencies, I’ve seen a lot. Now, I want my experiences to benefit more than just myself and my fellow professionals.
Because I enjoy helping people, especially small business owners, I have always had my client’s best interest in mind. In this post, you’re my client. And I will help you assess an agency and evaluate proposals by detecting red flags and asking the right questions.
By the end of this 7 minute read you’ll be ready to hire the right one.
Be on the look-out for these red flags (and look for their opposites):
They promise everything you inquire about very quickly.
A quality agency knows not to make promises they cannot keep and they also know that every situation is unique. They should be carefully considering your needs and requests and be asking a lot of questions to thoroughly evaluate and understand the situation before promising a solution.
They primarily focus on one service.
For example, they do development but not SEO.
An agency like this may not understand how the different pieces of the digital marketing puzzle work together and act synergistically. They may make biased decisions that help their area of expertise while detracting from other areas (i.e. a beautiful site visually that Google doesn’t like and does not lead to sales). Proceed with caution here, or ensure that they can and will work hand in hand with another agency who specializes in the complementary services.
They don’t talk about being an extension of your team.
Or about working alongside other firms you’ve hired. Ideally, you want to hire a partner. As such the agency should act as an extension of your internal team and any other external teams you work with. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Aggressive/pushy sales tactics, or a quick sales timeline.
If they don’t want you to take the time to evaluate everything or research their company and are trying to get you to sign on quickly, this should make you concerned.
One size fits all approach or canned offerings.
Standard contract language is one thing, but offering highly simplified packages that are essentially the same for every customer is an indication that you will not get the personalized service and attention needed to make a digital campaign successful. Make sure they customize their services to your needs.
They don’t put an emphasis on their team.
A strong agency is only as strong as its people. If they are focusing more on the services and not as much on their staff then this may be an indication of high turnover or simply a lack of company focus on attracting and training the best people.
When discussing SEO, they promise rankings.
Or they guarantee a certain number of backlinks.
Run! Far, far away.
In the video below, our own Eddie Bluff explains:
Questions to Ask
1) Do you have any references?
Or, may I speak to any of your current customers? This one is self-evident and requires no explanation.
2) What is your approach to SEO?
In this response, you want to hear phrases like “user experience,” “qualified traffic,” “conversion rate,” and “semantic search.” Beware of emphasis on things like “keyword density,” “domain authority,” and “rankings.”
3) What is your development approach?
You want to hear a thorough response that focuses on a well-defined and scientific process. Typically, that means starting with an evaluation of needs/requirements, then a wireframe, then a design/mockup, and then the development.
4) Do you have any case studies?
If they can show you real-world examples of helping clients with a similar situation as you then that is a big plus. Even better if this is the reference they can give you (first question above).
5) Can you provide Buyer Personas?
Buyer Personas are probably THE KEY element to ANY digital marketing campaign or development project (I mention them in all my blog posts for a reason). If they don’t offer this as a service then that means they don’t understand that last sentence, so don’t even bother dealing with them.
You don’t have to buy the service if your organization has already established your Personas, but an agency that does not prioritize this is not worth hiring.
6) Are you a Google Partner?
If they do not hold Google AdWords and Analytic certifications then that is a red flag. If they are a high-level Google Partner then that means they are trusted by, and will receive support from, the biggest force in the digital world.
7) How long have you been in business? How long have you been in digital?
If they are new to the agency world, do you really want to be their experiment? A business that has been around awhile is more likely to have established effective processes. That said, they also need to be up to date on current best practices in the digital marketing world (which you’ll be able to figure out by watching out for the red flags above and asking these seven questions).
Be Confident In Your Choice
With this information in hand, you’re armed and ready to hire the right agency to help your business solve its unique challenges. Good luck!
Of course, if after hearing all this fantastic information you’d also like to talk to us (I think we’re a pretty great agency), then simply email me with the form below. I am happy to help in any way that I can.