Off-line to On-line: 5 Tips for Hiring an SEO or PPC Agency

Even with the advancements of digital marketing, social media and analytics, businesses are still hesitant in deciding what budget to allocate to an agency, how much to spend on a paid search campaign, how to measure results and so forth.  Along with the daunting task of deciding which strategy to use and how much to spend, they must also decide which agency will deliver for them.  This predicament is similar to wanting to buy a car without knowing how to drive.  You know a car would be great for helping you get to where you need to go, yet buying one without knowing how to drive means you’ll be left at point A wishing you would’ve just taken the bus (at least this way you would actually get to point B).  Here we find ourselves in an inevitable slump: we either decide to ditch the effort all together (continuing on our old, slow bus route as the competition speeds by), we try to drive the car and prey we don’t run ourselves into a pole OR we offer a random guy off the street a bunch of money to teach us to drive, only to find ourselves broke and in a ditch.

If you’re in this frustrating situation, don’t worry – several successful business struggle when going from offline to online.  Even businesses that have a website or e-commerce site that drives most of their revenue are still unaware of how to improve conversions and effectively increase their overall sales.  We had a hotel client who previous to coming to us didn’t realize his website’s “Cancel Reservation” button was larger than his “Book Now” button.  This has little to do with search rankings, but my point is that it pays to have someone on your side who can offer their fair share of “digital common sense”.

Your internet marketing company should ideally be the magic pill for all your digital marketing headaches.  We understand that you would never take a pill without first reading the drug label, so here’s some tips from our digital doctors to help you on your way.

1.       Does it make sense to do it yourself? 

  • If you don’t know what factors drive quality score and have no experience with a PPC campaign, you’re probably not suited to start one from scratch.  For what you could have spent on an SEM management fee at an agency, you will have wasted money and time in non-converting PPC campaigns. Similarly for SEO, the marketplace is ever changing and unless you plan on hiring a whole team of experts, this will lead to wasted time, money or even more harm done than good.  You could be attempting old SEO methods banned by Google which will help you earn digital demerits in Google’s eyes, taking you even farther from your intended goal.
  • Realize that you can save yourself the worry by choosing a team of experts while giving them bench marks to track success.  Doing everything yourself is not like changing your own gas versus going to Jiffy Lube (which can obviously be done through some online research or a book); attempting all your internet marketing in house for the first time would be more like trying to build an entire engine from scratch.

2.       Choosing an agency.  What questions should you ask?

  • Ask the agency to give examples of PPC, SEO or Social Media Marketing success stories.
    Here they will either start to glow or quickly change the subject and turn red.  If they are glowing, that means that they know how much value their company has brought to their customers.  They will be excited to give you examples of how they increased ROAS (return on ad spend) for their PPC clients.  For SEO, they may give you a search term and show you where one of their customers shows up in a Google search.  If they become silent or feed you the runaround, unless the person is totally new at the company, they are feeding you a heavy dose of B.S.
  • While we’re talking about success stories, here’s a quick one from IMI: We had a client who’s previous paid search campaign was only producing 60% return on ad spend… that means they were spending $100 to make $60 and this was with the help of an agency (we’re talking over $100,000 spent over the course of 2 months)…we’ll let you do the math, but 60% ROAS is not good and equals a significant amount of money lost. After choosing IMI we increased their ROAS to 500% AND reduced their overall PPC costs drastically. Shawiingggg!  
  • Do they have a list of references?
    At IMI clients and partners refer us their friends and colleagues who are looking to expand their business online.  There are numerous case studies that examine who we’ve worked with and what we’ve done for them.  Just because an agency has a list of logos on their website doesn’t mean they have done every and all online services for them.  Ask not only who they’ve worked with but what specifically they did for them. 
  • Are they really “experts”? 
    At IMI all you have to do is search our SEO director’s name and you will realize how passionate and experienced Benj is in the realm of SEO.  Not only did he write and preform an SEO song on YouTube, win awards in SEO and have a cult-like SEO following – he is constantly writing blogs and learning the new strategies to keep IMI along with our clients at the brink of technology.  Similarly, our SEM director Justin has been doing PPC since  Who’s that?  They are a company that was bought by Overture which was then bought by Yahoo, the first company to play in the field of paid search ever.  If the agency doesn’t have team leaders who eat, sleep and breathe their specialty, they will not take pride in proving success for your or your business either.

3.       How do I measure success?

  • Make sure the agency you choose provides regular reports and talks to you about analytics.
    Recently at a conference regarding sports marketing, I was surprised to hear over and over, “the internet is the wild wild west”.  Trying not to cringe, I wanted to be understanding (as not everyone grew up in the digital jungle gym in which I did).  The “wild wild west” when referring to digital marketing implies that the internet provides opportunities yet involves entering an uninhabited and dangerous world.  I happen to believe it’s the opposite.  Anyone who is not taking advantage of online opportunities is swimming across an ocean when their boat is docked, full of fuel and waiting for them 2 minutes away. This leads to my original point – analytics is the foundation of everything when considering online marketing tactics and ROI.  Every move your potential customer makes is track-able which means you can use analytics insights as clues before spending money online.  If you do not receive analytics reporting, check your analytics regularly, (or worse) not have analytics installed properly (or at all) – how do you know your customer, their habits and your company’s potential?

4.       How do I convince my CEO?

  • Have the agency do some research on your competitors
    One way to “help me help you” in convincing your CEO to give digital marketing a shot, is to give us a list of your top offline competitors.  The agency should be able to give you some insights as to what they are doing that your company is not.  Comparing where a competitor stands in the digital marketing space should help you convince your boss that if they don’t hop on the digital bandwagon, they will be missing out on cold hard cash which is being handed to your competitor who is moving forward with web marketing trends.

5.        How do I make sure I’m making the right decision?

  • If anyone comes in and gives you the whole kit and caboodle for a deal that is much lower than other bids you’ve received, this is a red flag.  If a company promises you the world, it’s likely they would be drowning without your business and will leave you wondering why you wasted your marketing budget in the first place.  Choosing the wrong agency can also lead to backtracking and not being able to convince the company to spend more money in online efforts.
  • Don’t go the “cheap route” just to save money.  In most cases this will cost you money in the long run and there won’t be enough budgets to show an impact.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions.  If the company becomes frustrated explaining their deliverables or methods, they are not likely invested in you or your business.
  • Respect honesty.  If an agency gives you suggestions, understand that they want to work with you but they can’t just snap their fingers and get everything on your checklist done in one month.  Online marketing is an ever changing, ever evolving landscape and those that embrace their agency counterpart will likely grow and thrive.


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