How to Choose an Online Marketing Firm That Delivers “The Goods”

January 18, 2012 6:50 pm

20 Key questions and considerations to help you decide how to pick the right search marketing firm, or decide it’s time to tell your current online marketing firm to pack sand.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a barrier to entry when it comes to search marketing. Anyone with internet access that can also speak and walk erect (somewhat) can claim to be an online marketing specialist. Sadly, this means there’s a lot of really bad online marketing firms out there that are performing “trial and error” tactics on your dollar, employing the use of shady strategies, using a one-size-fits all approach, or simply have a take the money and run mentality. Sure, many of them cost less. But so does McDonalds when compared to Morton’s.

Before you hire (or fire) a search marketing firm, here are 20 great questions/considerations:

  1. Has the search marketing firm demonstrated they understand your business model, B2B, B2C, or Both? Can they demonstrate relevant experience though case studies or references?
  2. Have they asked you to clearly articulate the desired results of the search marketing program (lead generation, awareness, credibility, etc.)?
  3. Is their proposed solution customized to your business and goals, or does it seem like a boxed “one size fits all” solution?
  4. Have they discussed a creation of a keyword set early on in the conversation; one that includes both short and long tail strategies?
  5. What are their capabilities with respect to social media programs? Are they proposing a social media strategy that is realistic and tailored to your business?
  6. Is the Online Marketing firm a one-trick pony, or are they coming to the table with a suite of integrated online solutions?
  7. Are they relying on black hat SEO tactics that will run the risk of getting you banned, such as keyword stuffing, keyword high jacking, hidden text, cloaking, link or content farms, etc.? If the proposed solution gives you a funny feeling, it’s probably not a good idea. Probe the search firm more on their ethics.
  8. Have they looked at your navigation style and site map from the viewer’s perspective? Or do they just want to jump right into search? Remember: action does not always mean progress.
  9. If they propose a new site design, have they effectively explained the rationale and potential benefits? (image enhancement, easier to manage, improved SEO potential, better optimized for conversions, etc.)
  10. How does the online marketing firm evaluate your online competition?
  11. Have they explained their approach to link building?
  12. Have they addressed landing page creation as part of the conversion optimization strategy?
  13. Ask their position on META data, and if title tags and page descriptions are still valuable considerations as part of search engine optimization.
  14. What’s their content deployment strategy? How is content created and deployed? What’s the process and who is doing the work? If it seems like your online marketing firm is both charging you a lot of money AND giving you a lot of homework, something’s out of balance.
  15. Ask the online marketing firm if paid search or pay per click will be part of the program, and how to best incorporate it.
  16. Have you asked about their reporting structure? Have you asked to see sample reporting?
  17. Are they too focused on the numbers and metrics? Remember, at the end of the day, you are using online marketing to connect with human beings. That shouldn’t be lost on you, or your search firm.
  18. Is online video a part of their recommendation? Ask why or why not.
  19. Is there good chemistry? Are they speaking in language you can understand? Is your head about to explode 20 minutes into the first meeting?
  20. Are you clear as to what they are doing on a month to month basis? Remember, it’s OK to ask questions. It’s even OK to ask the same questions over, in case you forgot the previous answer. Think of it as a client-side perk.

A good online marketing partner will drive substantial new business opportunities and visibility to your brand and organization. Whether you choose to give us a call, or go with someone else, I hope these questions help you make the best choice, and best use of your online marketing investment. Actually, that last line is a little bit of BS. I think you know I want you to call.

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About The Author

We specialize in b2b, supporting the clients who are the "The Brands Behind the Brands." These are the supply chain partners of brands, either in Tier 1 or Tier 2 positions, who drive value through the delivery of goods, services and technologies. We enjoy blogging about all things related to Branding, Marketing, Inbound, Tradeshows, etc... And we're always happy to talk about any ideas you may have that might Get You To Your NEXT!