Whether you’re looking for a marketing agency, or you have a long standing relationship with one, it’s helpful to ask them questions. You’ll want to gauge how knowledgeable they are and if they are a good fit for your business. It’s also helpful to find out what kind of ongoing relationship you can expect from the agency. How involved do you want them to be in your marketing?
I’m sure you’ve thought it would be helpful to know more about an agency you’re looking to hire, but you might not know what questions will best aid your search. This list will give you some important questions to take to prospective agencies. Use these questions to find the best deal and best fit for your company.
How long have you been an agency?
Although this is the first question, the answer is only kind of important. Obviously, you want to work with an established agency that has years of experience, but it’s up to you how important that is. All great agencies started sometime. It’s also interesting to know how and why they started their agency. That information can shed some light on how well they’ll fit with your business.
What certifications does your agency have?
Certifications do not mean that someone is skilled and knowledgeable. It means they are good at taking tests. However, an agency that isn’t certified can show a lack of professionality and commitment. If an agency is certified, it doesn’t mean they are good at what they do, but if an agency doesn’t have any certifications, it should be a big red flag.
How involved will your agency be in our marketing?
Some agencies work very little with the overall efforts of the client’s marketing. Others work more as a marketing partner and want to be involved in their client’s larger marketing discussions. Most agencies will allow their client to have some say of the level of involvement. You’ll need to decide how much involvement you’d like.
What will monthly communication look like?
This question follows the one before. Again, the amount of communication is a personal preference. Sebo Marketing has clients who want to have a lot of calls and in-person meetings every month. Others are more comfortable with a couple of emails and a monthly report. It is suspect if an agency isn’t willing to communicate their efforts throughout the month.
How do you handle monthly reports?
You are looking for the agencies normal practice when it comes to their monthly reports. Will they send a monthly report with the most important metrics? Will they give a summary of their efforts? Is the agency going to customize the report about what you care most? Will there be a call to accompany and discuss the report?
How will you measure success? How will I know what you’re doing is working?
Here’s a two-for-one question. Without a predetermined measure of success, it can be hard to know if an agency is actually benefiting your company. It’s important to decide what will determine if the agency is successful before the begin working for you. There might be hurdles that come up along the way that cause the goals to need to be adjusted. If the agency talks about changing the goal for success, make sure they can simply explain to you why it needs to change.
What are you going to do for SEO?
If the agency is performing search engine optimization, ask about their optimization process. Obviously, they can’t explain every aspect of SEO, but there is a lot they can tell you. They should at least address what on-page efforts and off-page efforts they are going to take.
How do you build links?
Link building is integral to most search engine optimization plan. Almost all agencies do it in one form or another. Not all agencies do it right. You want them to assure you that they are building quality links that will generate actual value for your site.
Do you have any Google ranking guarantees?
You may feel uncomfortable asking this because it’s kind of a trick question. If an agency says something like, “we guarantee that we can get these specific keywords from page 3 to page 1 in Google’s results within three months”, be very suspicious. SEO is about improving the trajectory of a website. It’s about doing best practices to improve the user experience and relevance. If an agency is giving specific guarantees, they are promising something they aren’t sure they can deliver (at least they shouldn’t be sure).
What does a month of paid advertising optimization look like?
No matter the platform, it’s important that an agency spend at least some time managing a paid marketing account every month. Clients, who’ve worked with other agencies, have come to Sebo with paid advertising accounts that haven’t had any meaningful changes for months. Too often, agencies will set up a Google Ads account, optimize it for a few months, and then only take cursory glances at it once a month. They do this all while charging the same amount. Don’t let your agency get away with this kind of practice.
What platforms for paid advertising do you commonly work on?
You need to make sure that the agency you are working with is comfortable on the platform that makes the most sense for your business. If you really want to focus on the paid Google advertising, but the agency has mostly worked on social media platforms, you may want to look at other agencies.
Can you explain the difference between the search network, the display network, and Google AdSense?
This is a good question to make sure the agency knows what they are talking about. This question is in reference to Google Ads, but you can change the question to be about other platforms or services. Just do a little research (just enough to learn some terms) into the platform you want to advertise on, and ask the agency about those terms. Perhaps the person you talk to will be able to sound knowledgeable even if they aren’t, but most of the time a question like this will highlight any potential gaps in the agency’s knowledge/skill.
Do you use any tool to enhance your paid advertising efforts?
There are a lot of tools that can improve optimization on a given platform. If you are a very large business that wants to spend tens of thousands on paid advertising, it might be helpful to seek out an agency that has tools to make the most of your large spend. If you are a smaller business with a limited spend, you may not want to work with an agency with a lot of third party tools. These agencies often charge more for their services.
You list a lot of services, which ones are you the most comfortable doing?
I’ve seen companies who have a list of services that looks like this:
- Website design
- Brand lift
- Citation cleanup
- Link building
- Social Media Marketing
- Content Writing
- Conversion Rate Optimization
The list sometimes goes well beyond this. I am sure there are a few agencies out there that can provide a good level of service for all of these offerings, but most agencies will be proficient in a few of them and passable at the rest. Don’t settle for subpar services. Choose an agency that is highly skilled at the services you need most.
Agencies also have partners. If you find an agency that is skilled in one service and they outsource the other services to skilled agencies, they could be a good option.
What services do you outsource?
Most agencies do some white labeling and outsourcing. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as the agency is upfront with their client. Know what your prospective agency partner does inhouse and what they outsource.
Who is handling the actual digital marketing work?
Just like you want to know what work is being outsourced, it’s nice to know who within the agency is doing your work. Most agencies have a client manager who is handling communication and strategy. Many agencies have a fulfillment team that handles the tasks of digital marketing. Figuring out how involved the person who manages your digital marketing with the actual month to month work, is helpful in deciding what structure of agency you’re most comfortable with.
Do you have a client we can talk to about your service?
Simply asking for a referral can give you the chance to find out what it’s like to partner with the agency. Obviously, the agency is going to refer you to one of their successful clients, but still, you’ll be able to determine more about how the ongoing relationship will work.
What is my expected cost for all digital marketing efforts?
There is a lot to digital marketing. There are usually costs outside the price of the agency. For example, an agency will charge for PPC optimization, but you also have monthly spend in the Google Ads account. You may be the agency $500 a month and Google $1000 a month. Make sure to get all these costs upfront before you begin working the agency.
What services, exactly, are provided in the cost?
When a price has been stated, ask what exact services will be provided with the cost. Sometimes agencies will charge for Google Ads account management, but that price doesn’t cover display advertising or conversion rate optimization. Before you pay anything, make sure you know all the services you are paying for.
Are there services that aren’t included but would be helpful?
This is a follow up to the previous question. If there are a lot of services the agency says would be helpful, realize they will likely try to upsell you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often, companies only have a small budget, so the agency will just pick the most important services. However, as a client, you don’t want consistent badgering to pay more for more services that aren’t necessary or you can’t afford.
What can I do on my end to improve our digital marketing efforts?
You don’t have to ask this question (of course), but the agency will love you for it. There are lots of ways you can help the agency better serve your marketing needs. Asking this helps them know you want to work with them and they will want to do their best work because of it.
The worst thing you can do when choosing a digital marketing agency is not to ask any questions. The above questions will help you get a feeling of how good the fit will be between you and the agency. Having a good fit is just as important as choosing a skilled agency.
If you’re looking for an agency now, fill out the form below, and ask Sebo the above questions. Let’s see if we’re a good fit!