If you’re an online brand looking for the right digital agency to help you take your ecommerce business to the next level—to build your brand presence and entice customers into your website, you need to know what to look for in a digital advertising agency. Because not all agencies are created equal, let discuss what you need to know before you sign on the dotted line.
Digital Agency Table Stakes
What should any digital agency worth their salt need to have to even be considered? These are the handful of skills you should expect from an agency with the ability to really help you:
Good people: It probably goes without saying, but you need an agency with people you can work with. I’m convinced that business is very personal. In other words, it doesn't really matter how great the agency's reputation is if they don’t have the people your team can work with. Make sure you have a chance to meet the team you’ll be working with. And here’s a little inside baseball for you. Your budget will often determine whether or not you get to work with the “A” team or one of the junior teams. Make sure you find an agency that is the size that will give you their best work and not assign your account to their junior team members.
SEO expertise: They need to help you know how to position your messaging in a way the search engines will reward. What keywords are your potential customers using to find you, or your competition, so you’re the brand that will show up in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Position) higher than your competitors. Did you know that the #1 ranking in Google search earns 39.6% of the CTR (Click Through Rate)? Position #2 comes in at 18.4%, position #3 comes in at 10.1%, and it goes down from there. According to Dave Chaffey, writing for SmartInsights, “Savvy marketers understand that establishing a strong organic ranking for your content runs rings around CTRs for paid ads!” In other words, if your digital agency can’t get you on the first page, you aren’t going to be seen by people looking for exactly what you have to offer even if you're doing a lot of paid advertising.
Content creation expertise: If you don’t have inhouse content creation capability, you need an agency with the expertise to create content that will speak to your audience and the search engines so your potential customers will find what they’re looking for. And, there’s a big difference between experience and expertise. You need to know who is going to be creating your content and what makes them content experts—what’s more, subject matter expertise in your industry is incredibly important. Without that, the nuances of your industry will get lost in superficial language that won’t instill confidence in your brand.
Competitive analytics: You need an agency that can dive into Google Analytics (among other tools) to understand the keywords and data of your competitors so you can see what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and come up with a plan to help you do it better.
Your analytics: You need to do the same deep dive into your own website to make sure you understand how your website is doing. You need to be doing a regular site audit of your site to make sure everything is running properly. Make sure your on-page SEO is working for you, you don’t have any page errors, and that your content is fresh and up to date. There’s a lot that can go wrong over the course of a few weeks or months, you need to stay on top of it to keep traffic coming to your site.
Paid advertising expertise: PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising is the bread and butter of a lot of ecommerce brands. Make sure the agency you choose has the expertise to help you build a paid strategy too. By the way, a good organic strategy and a good paid strategy work together to build synergies that will improve performance in both.
Execution: Make sure to hire an agency that can execute. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak with current or former clients to learn more about how they execute. If they aren’t willing to introduce you to their customers, maybe it isn’t the right choice.
How do they tackle problems? You need an agency that is quick to identify potential problems and effectively offer solutions.
Billing: Make sure they are transparent in what they bill for. It’s really easy to get nickel-and-dimed for things you didn’t know you were paying for.
How to pick the right digital agency for your brand
Now that you know what the cost of admission is for any digital agency you might be looking for, how do you pick the right agency for you? Here are a handful of things the Digital Marketing Institute calls out to help you make the right choice:
Define your goals and objectives: Make sure you know what you want the agency to do and what you think winning looks like. If you can’t define what winning looks like to you, your agency won’t be able to do it either.
Do your research! You will have a lot of decisions to make in your search. Make sure you visit with at least two or three agencies before you make a choice. You want to make sure you don’t jump at the first agency you speak with. If they’re the right choice, you’ll know after you talk to another agency or three. Make sure you see samples (and results) and can talk to current or previous clients.
Make sure the agency is up to date: The digital marketing world is always changing. What worked a year or two ago might not work now. Google is regularly updating their algorithms so you want to make sure you have an agency that understands what’s happening today. The same is true for all the social media platforms you may be advertising on.
Ask for their fields of specialization, portfolio, and references: Do they understand your industry and can they give you advice that will be specifically relevant to your audience? You want to see a portfolio of work that is specific to your business.
The final word
If you know what you need and can articulate what success looks like, you’ll be more likely to find an agency partner that will be able to help you achieve your marketing goals. Just remember, hiring an agency is only the first step. Meteoric results don’t happen overnight.