When considering all of the currently available advertising mediums, digital marketing agencies are still relatively new to the game, and the industry is one that is characterised by dynamic changes and bursts of growth here and there, especially with regards to new firms. Having said that, there are local and online agencies sprouting up everywhere, which means you need to take extra care to make the correct decision when choosing one that is right for you and your business. So to help you along, Digital Search Group UK brings you some of the more hard hitting questions that you can ask any prospective SEO or digital advertising firm to help you get a better idea of the environment they operate in, their attitude towards their clients and their ability to deliver a service that will undoubtedly benefit you.
1. What do you specialise in?
This may seem like a silly question, but when you’re asking it, you don’t want the answer to be something like ‘well… digital marketing of course.’ Yes we know that, that’s why you’re a digital marketing agency, and that’s why I’m here speaking to you.
What you really want to know when you ask this is, where do the strengths lie in their services? Do they offer web-design, SEO services, content creation and social media promotion? Not every agency offers all of these services, nor do they necessarily need to. The services you will require depend largely on how established your brand already is, and the nature of the campaign you are running.
If you need to start a campaign from scratch, then you will need something all inclusive; but if you need specific work done, then finding an agency that specialises in that field will get you better results.
2. How do you track the results of your efforts?
An amazing plan can go completely wrong if it is not being measured correctly, and this applies to that of your marketing campaign in a big way. A good agency needs to be able to report back to their customers about the success of their campaign with regards to keyword rankings, a client’s current search visibility, their domain rank, a website’s bounce rate, current costs per click, and conversion rates.
Having this information available allows not only for the evaluation of a campaign, but can point to any problems it might be facing, which can be rectified before they completely undermine your marketing efforts. Consistent feedback is necessary to allow for much needed changes where things are not working out in your strategy. So you want an agency that takes this seriously.
3. What can you tell me about the team I will be working with?
And make no mistake, you will be working with them. The success of your marketing campaign will have a lot to do with the individuals who are working on it, as well as how the team functions as a whole.
You will likely be in weekly contact with SEO administrators, social media and content managers who could either be very easy to work with, or downright incompetent or difficult, which depending on how things go, can make or break your experience and your campaign.
Since each part of the whole is important, you should try and get some background knowledge on the members of the team who would be working on your campaign.
4. What about your own marketing campaign has been successful?
This one throws a little curve ball at the agency in question because it requires them to discuss the nuances of their own campaign, but it is a very important question to ask. You probably want to avoid signing any contracts with a marketing agency that doesn’t have enough confidence in their own work to use it for themselves.
The agency should be able to speak confidently about the areas of their campaign that have been most successful and they should be able to tell you why. You don’t need to expect a flawless campaign from them however, since it should be understandable that they pay more attention to their clients’ campaigns than their own, but it should definitely be up to par if you are going to trust them with yours.
This brings us to a very good follow-up question to ask…
5. What are the troublesome areas in your campaign?
When asking this question, be careful not to use accusatory or negative words like ‘failed’, ‘gone wrong’ and ‘weaknesses’. You’re not trying to catch them out here.
What you are trying to find out with this question is a little something about the agency’s ability to spot problematic areas in a campaign, and strategise a means of ironing them out. No campaign, and certainly no agency is without its problematic areas, what you should be more concerned with is their ability to handle those issues effectively, even if that just means prioritising them.
If an agency is adamant that they have no weaknesses, they are lying. What they are actually saying is that they are reluctant to share them with you; which should seriously hoist a red flag. Also be careful of those typical ‘job interview’ type answers to this question, you know the type. Ones like “our biggest weakness is that we pay too much attention to details and work far too hard.” Please, no one falls for that rubbish anymore.
6. What is your experience in marketing my industry?
A bad answer to this question would be something like “SEO is SEO, and it works the same way no matter who you do it for.”
A good digital marketing agency should understand that each industry, and indeed each company has its own specific set of nuances which change the way SEO should be approached in each case, even if it is only on a minor level.
Of course, if the agency hasn’t had all that much experience with your field, that is not necessarily a problem, in fact it can help to give your campaign a fresh perspective. While plentiful experience in your line of business is preferable, you should take care not to overlook the agency’s ability to adapt. For adaptation can be far more effective than clear cut experience, but only in the right creative hands.
7. Will you offer me a unique service, as opposed to that offered to your other clients?
This sounds like a loaded question, one where you’re asking for extra special treatment, but it isn’t. This question ties in with the one above. That is to say that their answer will give you a chance to evaluate the agency’s approach to your campaign.
A lot of agencies think that they can stick to some kind of fool proof strategy template that works for every client, but this simply is not the case. Every campaign needs to be handled in light of its own unique challenges which can come up as a result of the industry, the location of the business and their target audience. When it comes to effective SEO, there is simply no room for generic plans.
8. How many campaigns will you manage in addition to mine?
You would think that a more favourable answer to this question would be something like “plenty of them, that’s what gives us our experience!” But this isn’t necessarily the case. When it comes to much larger agencies that have the man power to handle a staggering number of clients, then this answer is acceptable. But be careful when it comes to newer, smaller firms.
Many new agencies are going through a boom, attracting scores of new clients daily, which is a good sign with regards to their own marketing efforts. But if they are taking on work faster than they are expanding, then there is a good chance that they won’t have the capacity to give your campaign the time and effort that it deserves, or indeed that you pay for.
You want the answer to this question to be one that gives you confidence that your campaign will be given enough attention, and not slip through the cracks because the agency is inundated with work.
9. How can they align themselves with your company’s philosophy?
When it comes to marketing in any form, your company needs to put its best foot forward, which means that it needs to stay true to its identity, goals, mission and philosophies. That means that you need an agency who works in tandem with these variables, or at the very least, can adapt their efforts to stay in line with yours.
Ideally you want to find an agency that is on the same page as your business. That way you can trust them to give your target audience relevant and helpful content that is not misleading or shady in anyway, in order to help protect your business’s image.
10. What is expected of you?
You might think that you would prefer the answer to this to be “nothing at all, we’ll handle everything,” but this is not the case.
You need to be working very closely with the team that is handling your campaign if you want it to fit your business’s image, since working with a marketing agency is a two way street. You need to make your goals clear, your budget tangible, and your expectations known. Also, supplying them with information that can help them better communicate your company’s image will make things go more smoothly; information like your business’s philosophy, your competitors and your analytics details will give them plenty to work with when fleshing out your campaign.
These ten questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding out more about the agencies you want to work with. Since the list is by no means extensive, it is also a good idea to jot down some of your own questions and thoughts that you feel might give you more clarity. Which questions do you feel are the most important to ask a prospective agency? We would love to hear from you so why not place them in the comments section below?
Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of UK online marketing agency, Digital Search Group, which specialises in smart internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.