Choosing the right digital marketing agency can be a make or break decision in your business' success. This article by no means is a comprehensive guide to shortlisting an agency, I am just writing this piece to elucidate what I think I have gathered so far in my experience that companies should look for and expect from the digital marketing agency they hire. Below are the key points one should definitely look for before signing the contract.
1) Getting off the ground - For any digital marketing strategy to bear fruition, one has to take an "Attack from all sides" approach. Just focusing on one method such as SEO, PPC, Social Media won't work, it has to be the right mix of these strategies. For a startup, they should keep a tighter control on their PPC budget but at the same time, they have to realize that if they become too conservative with budget, then they will not get any meaningful data to guide their PPC efforts. Sporadic approach to handling PPC ads will almost certainly fail to achieve any meaningful results. One must be ready to plan and invest for at least a few weeks to get meaningful data from adwords. Similarly, for SEO, companies have to realistically set their expectations based on what kind of competition they are trying to displace on Google SERP. Stay away from any digital marketing agency that provides guarantees for ranking your website as no one apart from Google knows the exact formula.
2) Setting expectations - Most certainly, any company would invest in SEO to get ranked higher up in search results, but just delegating this task to digital marketing agency won't do the trick. Before inking the deal with a digital marketing company, you should always set the reporting structure in stone. Don't just focus on the ranking reports for your keywords, ask for more, get activity reports on a fortnightly basis and take pain to check where are the backlinks being gathered from, are these sources relevant, is anchor text for links diversified, is keyword density on all content pages optimal, does all website pages have unique and descriptive title and meta tags etc. Unless companies put real effort, digital marketing projects can quickly go away.
3) Foundation is most important - Needless to say, if the base for a digital marketing project is not up to the mark then any kind of effort won't bear desired results. Marketing managers should play an active part in deciding how and where digital marketing agencies will target their customers. This involves selecting the right social media channels for customer demographics, choosing the right domain name that reflects business & yet is easy to remember in order to establish brand recall, deciding which keywords will be targeted on various website pages, what kind of competition those keywords have & whether to target a long tail versions instead, which are the low hanging fruits for PPC & setting proper campaigns with one ad group targeting a specific landing page only, and which backlinking sources to target via content marketing. This step also involves allocating man-hours to each of the branches of digital marketing that we just mentioned.
4) Patience, patience, patience !!!! - After a company has decided to go on a specific path for their digital marketing efforts, they should continue in that direction for at least a couple months to see what is working and what is not. Especially in case of SEO, changing multiple variables of the strategy on a regular basis, will lead you nowhere as you will not be able to decipher what worked and what didn't. Google Analytics gives you a fantastic break down of visitor traffic behavior on your website and tells you which pages are doing great, and for what keywords. Track those landing pages where users are spending more time and replicate the success on less performing ones. See if you are getting maximum traffic from your desired target locations only and tweak your SEO efforts as you go forward.
Bottom line is that Digital marketing is not a rocket science and can be learned by anyone, but only those companies succeed in their online endeavors who are consistent in their efforts. In world of SEO patience and persistence pays off huge rewards. A company starting afresh, should use PPC to get leads in short run to get the ball rolling and keep putting efforts towards SEO. They can later cut down on PPC as more and more pages start to rank on SERP.