If you’re facing the task of choosing your next digital marketing agency, we certainly don’t envy the challenge that’s ahead of you!

We regularly speak with businesses that are looking for a new digital partner following a bad relationship with a previous agency. After hearing so many stories of agencies overpromising and underdelivering, it leaves us wondering… why does this keep happening in our industry?

Demand is high

Even if COVID-19 never darkened our doorsteps, businesses would still be shifting their focus toward digital solutions. It’s simply the world we live in today, and to survive in it, you need to be able to compete on the digital front. Digital marketing is now an essential service that virtually every business needs.

Everyone is an ‘expert’

The industry has been flooded with hot start ups and fresh freelancers all looking to make their mark. With no regulations or licenses required to promote yourself as a digital marketing specialist, it can be difficult to identify who are the amateurs versus who’s the real deal.

It’s all relative

When engaging someone to help your business, there’s usually some form of physical exchange where you’ll either receive a product or a service that provides a tangible result. In digital marketing, it’s not so black and white. While there’s a reliance on data and statistics to demonstrate performance, it’s the interpretation of the numbers and the context in which these are framed where the waters start to get a little murky.

What is good digital marketing?

Without having a deep understanding of digital marketing, it can be hard to gauge the quality of work being completed for your business. The catch-22 is, if you have the skills to know good digital marketing when you see it, you probably don’t need to engage an agency in the first place.

We understand that the process of finding the right digital marketing agency can be a bit like navigating a minefield. To help make your journey a little bit easier, we’ve put together our top tips on what to look for in a potential digital partner.

Types of digital marketing agencies

When reviewing the Google search results for ‘digital marketing agency’, you’ll quickly discover that most companies out there fall into one of three categories. There are offshore providers, local agencies that use offshore resources and local agencies that complete all of their digital marketing activities in-house.

Offshore providers

You’ve probably received multiple communications from overseas SEOs promising page 1 rankings or pay nothing. For as little as $50 per month, you may experience a spike in rankings in the short term.

At face value, it may seem like a deal worth considering, but it’s important to not be lured in by the cheap prices. From our experience, these companies aren’t interested in delivering lasting results or following best practice. Instead, they tend to use tactics such as low-quality backlinks and blog articles that may cause more harm than good. While their costs may be low, the price your business ultimately pays could be much higher.

Local agencies, offshore labour

On paper, this model makes a lot of sense. You’ll have a local contact that you can speak with who uses low priced overseas labour to complete a higher volume of work at a lower cost.

In reality, it very rarely works out how you would expect. Even though you have a middleman to advocate for you and communicate with the offshore team, we’ve seen too many examples where the work lacks the level of attention to detail and dedication that local specialists can provide.

Local agencies, local work

There are a handful of digital marketing agencies in Perth who are able to manage all of their own work using in-house staff. While there are always exceptions, locally trained specialists are more likely to follow agency processes, delivering greater quality control and ultimately better results for your business.

Of course, quality digital marketing does come with a price tag, and local agencies that locally produce their work will inevitably have higher labour costs. Using a local agency is no guarantee of return on investment, but it’s more likely they will have a team who will understand your business and deliver a meaningful impact.

Avoid agency pitfalls

On top of weighing up cost versus quality, there are a few red flags you can watch out for when deciding which agency will be the right fit for your business. Here are our top 6 pitfalls to avoid.

Lock-In contracts

One of the biggest regrets we hear from potential clients is becoming locked into a contract. Many digital marketing agencies will ask you to sign a 12 or even 24-month contract to engage in their services. Imagine being several months or even a year into a digital marketing contract with no clarity on what’s being done for your business. During that time, the relationship could deteriorate, and you could end up stuck with an agency that’s providing you with a low standard of work. No matter which agency you choose, make sure you’re able to walk away should things not work out.

Narrow skillset

Before today’s broad spectrum of digital marketing channels were developed, there was only SEO. Most agencies that started out in the early 90s were solely SEO companies, but in the years since, it has become clear that SEO must be supported by other forms of digital marketing to be truly effective.

Good SEO goes hand in hand with web development, hosting, copywriting and design, but many SEOs are hamstrung by a lack of experience in one or more of these areas. It’s very important to work with an agency that has the capability to manage your SEO as well as your website to ensure they’re able to implement any tasks or fixes that may be required, otherwise you could end up left in the lurch.

Digital marketing packages

It’s very common for SEO to be sold as a package that includes a certain number of keywords, blog articles, backlinks, reports and more. While it may all seem above board, fulfilling set quotas isn’t necessarily the most effective way to approach digital marketing. For instance, you could purchase 50 backlinks for $1 or have 5 blog articles written for $10, but these activities won’t achieve meaningful results.

As SEO cannot be reduced to a simple formula, there is little to be gained from packaging it as a templated checklist of tasks. Search engine optimisation is a complex process that must be tailored to suit the unique needs of your website. If you are going to get maximum value from your agency, you need a service that is designed to fulfil your specific objectives.

No track-record

As we’ve mentioned, it’s never been easier to start up a digital marketing company. Be sure to do your research and ensure you are engaging an agency with a track record for success. Much like how you would vet a job candidate before hiring them to become part of your team, ask to speak with referees, review past projects and get examples of how they have delivered results for businesses in the past.

No strategy

Keyword ranking is not a strategy. By ranking well in Google, you are not automatically guaranteed to generate enquiries, leads or revenue. To be successful in digital marketing, it’s important to define your objectives and develop a logical plan that will determine the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Before you commit to any form of SEO, be clear on your end goal and ensure your agency has a strategy in place to help you get there.

Industry-specific agencies

Many companies fall into the trap of thinking they need an agency with lots of experience in their industry. The truth is, a good agency will be able to apply the same set of digital marketing skills and knowledge to any type of business. While experience is important, selecting from industry specific agencies will only limit your potential choices.

Where to from here?

If you’re looking for a digital marketing agency that’s going to look after your business, why not come to Distl for a chat. You can meet our team and have a tour of our office to see whether we’re the right agency for you.

Get in touch with us today.

Ryan Wilson

Marketing Team Lead