What to Look For in a Digital Marketing Agency

19 / January 2016,

What to Look For in a Digital Marketing Agency

3 Things to Look For in a Digital Marketing Agency

When you run a business, making the decision to leave your Internet marketing campaign in the hands of experts represents an important step toward improved results. After all, you have enough on your plate actually running a company. The time and effort required to keep up with marketing strategies, much less actually employ them, can be overwhelming. Working with people whose sole focus is marketing online can yield dividends in time, website traffic, and sales.

But how do you know you are working with the right digital marketing agency? Many claim they have the right solution for you, and most have some insight and experience that could serve you. Still, the difference between a decent agency and a great one can make the difference between a site that gives you a modest bump and one that helps you surpass your sales expectations.

The best agency will not be the same for everyone. Your business is different from any other, and you will find the personality with which you mesh best may differ dramatically from what works for someone else. You need to take the time to meet with different firms and determine for yourself who makes you the most comfortable.

Even so, some qualities should always stand out, whatever your business or personality. A digital marketing agency should maintain certain standards that are crucial for allowing you to succeed over time. In particular, you should consider three areas necessary when you seek out a marketing agency.

1. Knowledge of Current SEO

digital marketing experts pictureThe most obvious factor to seek out is ability. You want a digital marketing firm that understands how SEO works in general, and how to apply it to build you a better website. While this is obvious, figuring out whether the company you are considering gets it on the level you need can be challenging. When you ask a company whether it is good, the answer will always be yes. An SEO company that cannot deliver will never tell you that, and in many cases may not even know what it doesn’t know. You must do some investigation to figure out whom you can trust with your site.

One place to begin is looking at a marketing firm’s own website. Do you like the way their site is set up for their business? It may not be the design you would choose for your own company, but it should make sense for the business they are in. After all, if a company can’t market itself, expecting it to do better for you is a stretch. You need someone who understands how the website should work to attract traffic and customers, and you should start with what they do for themselves.

You do need to look beyond site rankings for this element. An older, more established company gains a search rank boost from its longevity, even if it isn’t the best. Rankings matter, of course, but should not be the determining factor. Instead, look at how the company presents itself. Does it provide a good design and solid content? Does it use in-site links to allow easy navigation? Can you find what you are looking for without too much hassle? All of this affects a website’s performance in search rankings, and you should look with a critical eye when you examine a marketing firm’s site.

Next, you need to take time to talk to those with whom you may want to work. A marketing company that speaks solely in buzzwords may rely more on surface than on substance. The company you hire will communicate for you through your website. You should require that company to be able to deliver clear information to your potential customers. If someone cannot do this for you in explaining what they will do for you, then to assume it will be different when they represent you becomes naïve at best.

In that conversation, the firm should be able to lay out a multiple approach to solving your marketing concerns. SEO at its best contains a broad approach, one that includes content, design, and off-page strategies to take your business to the next level. Listen carefully as you go; if a company cannot clearly inform you about how it will use on-page and off-page strategies to help you build your brand, you should consider looking elsewhere.
Finally, process should only be part of the puzzle. A company may have information on how SEO works, and how different marketing techniques can help websites increase their site rankings. All of this is important, but before you select a marketing firm, you should have a firm sense that those with whom you want to work can make those techniques work for you. How does the SEO approach help deliver results for your business, where you work? No matter how interconnected the Internet has made our world, you still have a uniquely situated business that represents something different from what anyone else provides. Your successes and your challenges come in different forms, and a one size fits all solution might not work for you.

The firm you choose should have processes and a set of solutions it is prepared to deliver. At a bare minimum, a company should be able to deliver excellent content that fits within an excellent design. It should be able to direct traffic to you through links and organic search engine optimization. But it should also reach beyond mere competence and be able to deliver a broad-based approach that is tailored to your company’s needs.


2. Responsiveness and Flexibility

digital marketing company pictureOf course, before anyone can deliver results that you need, they must first understand what your needs actually are. Before you hire a digital marketing firm, you need to be comfortable with its ability not only to talk a good game, but to listen. You have your own story to tell, and that story should drive the focus of your campaign. If a firm has a pre-packaged approach that doesn’t fit who you are and what you do, that firm will not provide the campaign that is best for you.

When a firm listens first, the whole feel of the relationship changes. Marketing firms that fail as listeners tend to do the same thing every time, without regard to your specific needs. They build an approach for someone else, create content based on what they think about your industry, and put together a company profile for you that does little to distinguish why a customer should choose you over one of your competitors.

In contrast, a firm that truly pays attention will take the time to fully understand not only what your business does, but who you are. Your Internet presence should reflect your values, your identity as an entity unlike any other in the market. For a marketing firm that has not been a part of that to not only tell your story but convince others to buy in, it needs to begin by coming inside, by focusing on what you want your customers to understand. Rather than laying out what sounds good, the firm can then respond to your ideas and your needs with solutions that make others want to come in, too.

This becomes even more critical when you realize that the work of SEO does not end with the creation of a website. On page SEO includes focused content, linking, keyword research, and design, all of which require time and energy. But the content should build and continue over time, introducing fresh ideas and concepts regularly to keep readers coming back and keep your search rankings climbing. Your site needs to continue to grow, to stay relevant. This means responding to new information and new trends in the local economy and in the market. It means seizing opportunities and taking on new challenges, reacting to changes and building out on the knowledge and understanding you have.

But keeping up with on page delivery is only part of the puzzle. Your outreach should represent just as large a part of your digital marketing efforts. Social media and online marketplaces and review sites can provide tremendous opportunity for your business to grow. To take advantage, your digital marketing firm should combine a proactive and reactive approach. Your company should be reaching out proactively, both building its social media presence and ensuring online listing information remains accurate. It should also seek connections with trade groups and industry leaders so you can capitalize on their influence among your customers.

In addition, the firm should know that industry trends change, sometimes in a heartbeat. Responding to what happens is crucial, and it requires a flexibility to adjust to change over time. Someone with whom it makes sense to align today from a marketing perspective may do something one day that changes the entire dynamic. A business that offers services complementary to yours may fold, or a key new piece of technology may change the way everyone in your industry does something. If a firm gets trapped in its own inertia, you may take years to recover from the ground shifting under you.

No matter what your industry is or how stable the world around you may seem, change comes to us all at some point. Your marketing agency needs to remain nimble through it all, and to respond in a way that helps keep you from falling behind. When you find a firm that listens and responds, that adjusts its approach to deliver on your unique needs, you can get a sense of how well it will adjust to new and changing information more generally. This will help your company stay on top over time, and find creative ways to continue to grow your business even when everyone else starts to fall behind.


3. Consistent Delivery of Results

digital marketing pictureResponding to change can make a huge difference in your quest for growth through Internet marketing. But a fully reactive approach can cause its own problems. Part of the reason you choose to work with a digital marketing agency is to rely on the expertise of those who make marketing their business. You need someone who takes the time to understand your business model, but you also need to be able to depend on the firm you choose to know more than you and be able to deliver results in a professional manner.

In the world of SEO, the phrase “content is king” has become ubiquitous and almost cliché. That said, it becomes more true with every tweak of a search algorithm. You need to rely on excellent content, delivered consistently and on time, in a way that remains both unique and relevant to your website and business model. The more you keep fresh content coming to your site, the higher your search rank will be. And if you keep creating new information, you will keep your customers coming back for more, leading both to higher traffic and higher conversions.

To make this happen, though, you sometimes need your marketing agency to grab the reins. When you have an agency that takes the time from the beginning to understand you, that agency builds up an expertise not only in marketing, but in your business. Once that happens, a firm can make content suggestions, based on its own industry research and on how you can set yourself apart from others who are out there. It can continue to deliver great content over time, content that remains relevant to your business and keeps coming back to telling your story in innovative, interesting ways.

In addition to the content itself, the firm should be able to create pathways that make sense to deliver that content with a greater reach over time. A process for building up a website sets the table; approaching what the best website is for you in a flexible manner does not take away the importance of understanding how to build out content, how to decide when to go live, or how to drive toward a set deadline for delivering material. A great digital marketing firm lets the details shape the process, but keeps the process intact.

This distinction grows even more important when you consider off-page marketing. Building links through social media marketing and outreach efforts requires a rigorous approach even as it requires flexibility. Over time, you can create a powerful mechanism to keep your site traffic growing. Further, as you build more links from outside of your site, particularly coming from trade groups and other sources with strong reputations, your search rank will build even more.

To make all of this happen, though, you need a consistent, dedicated marketing agency that does not stop working when you sign off on your approval for website construction. SEO may have a starting point, but it does not have an endpoint. You must keep building content and finding new ways to bring people to the information you provide. You must keep driving ahead with your efforts to both improve your search rankings and maintain the gains you achieve. And for this to happen, you need to find a digital marketing agency that operates not at arm’s length, but as a trusted partner and advisor over time.


Working with 1st in SEO

At 1st in SEO, we know everyone needs something different. We strive to listen first, and take the time to understand your business: how you started and why, what you hope to achieve, and what stumbling blocks you have encountered along the way. We want to know your story, because that is the story we will tell for you. We will tell it well, delivering high-quality, unique, relevant content that brings in the readers you want to attract. We adapt to change, even while we apply rigorous processes and learnings to bring you the results you want.

Working with 1st in SEO means working over time with a partner you can rely on. We will not only create or revamp your website, but we will monitor results and report to you over time. We want to lift your site rankings, with an eye always on the point of bringing you real customers who will help your business grow. And we will keep bringing those results for as long as you choose to work with us.

Don’t leave your Internet marketing strategy to just anyone. Contact 1st in SEO to get started today.

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