It seems like I get pitched about SEO on a daily basis. This is pretty ironic considering I have been in the industry for over 5 years. I can’t even imagine how many emails and propositions high-level marketing managers and directors must get on a weekly basis. Most of the pitches I get seem to originate with people connecting with me on LinkedIn, then after I accept, sending me some form email about their new online marketing company.

With all of the companies offering an online marketing product, how should anyone know which one to pick? This blog post will walk you through the questions you should be asking when trying to find the right vendor.

What Exactly Will Be Done for My Campaign and how will it be Reported?

SEO companies have been dodging this question for years. They are going to want to tell you that their product is proprietary, and they can’t give specifics on what’s going to be done. What that really means is they have a very low quality product, and they don’t want to show you the exact work. If you hear this kind of response, you are going to want to run.

SEO companies have never been big on giving accurate reports. You are going to definitely want to go with an outfit that gives your real time data about the actions being complete for the campaign. Don’t settle for just getting a monthly update that gives you very broad info about the work being done for your brand.

If you are a marketing manager or director, finding the right digital marketing provider can mean the difference between you being a hero or a goat. You need to make sure you are going with an outfit that is going to give you work you will be proud to show your boss.

Solution: It is absolutely critical you vent the agencies you are thinking of hiring to do your online marketing. We highly recommend getting very specific samples of each of the work items that are proposing. We highly recommend staying away from the following if you are a national brand:

Blog Network Submissions
Social Bookmarks
Blog Comment Links
Competitive Link Building
Syndicated Article Submissions

You are going to want to see real time reporting about the actions being completed for you website. This will give you the opportunity to see what’s being done and make a decision about if it is high quality.

What is Your Link Building Strategy?

Links building has turned into the most dangerous tactic for a website’s overall organic presence. Google used to say that a link couldn’t hurt your website’s presence. This caused 99% of the SEO practitioners to abuse links, and try to game Google’s system.

You need to be very careful with hiring an outside agency to build your offsite authority. We guarantee you most SEO agencies aren’t going to be very concerned with the negative effects their work might have on your overall brand.

Our recommendation is to ask some very specific questions about the work that will be done for your campaign. Link building is going to be part of pretty much every digital marketing company’s fulfillment. You need to know exactly what is going to be done.

Recommendation

Use of Anchor Text – In my opinion, the use of too much exact match anchor text has always been the basis of how Google determines to give a penalty. We wrote a huge blog post that talks all about the use of anchor text. You can see it here. Our recommendation is to ask very specific questions about how the agency is going to use anchor text. If they say they are going to get as much exact match anchor text, that is a great sign to run the other way.

Link Building Sources – Link building networks have traditionally been one of the easiest ways to game Google’s system. This is a way to get a large quantity of links on different Class C IP Addresses. Now days, this is the easiest way to get hit by a Penguin update. If you ever hear anything about

Use of Social Media – SEO companies are deathly afraid about how social media is going to play into obtaining organic rankings. Social media is extremely hard to scale and is a nightmare to most SEO companies. If you hear that social media has nothing and will never mean anything to organic rankings, you need to run the other way.

Solution: Links have always been a core part of Google’s ranking algorithm. The sustainable way to generate high quality links is from creating high quality content. This can either be posted on your blog or offered as a guest post. The bottom line is it is time to start adding value to the Internet. If you can do that, the links will come.

What Are Your Plans for Content Marketing?

Content marketing is quickly becoming the foundation to a long-term, successful online marketing campaign. We highly recommend asking in-depth questions about the agency’s opinion on inbound marketing. Content marketing isn’t necessarily the solution to ranking well for 3 or 4 keywords. Instead, it is a way for you to build up your reputation for being a leader in your industry.

Solution: Content marketing is the answer to your questions. This is the way to build up your social media presence and show Google you deserve top placement. If you are dealing with a Google penalty, like 50% of the people we talk to on a daily basis, this is the way to bring back your organic traffic. We have seen that Google penalties work on a page by page basis rather than a domain level issue. What that means is you can get other pages to rank for your important keywords. Many people we talk to have seen a significant drop in traffic on their homepage and a few other top landing pages. Rather than trying to keep building links to those few pages, you need to expand your index. Getting started with effective content marketing will mean you expand your organic footprint and begin to be an authority in your industry.

Having a high quality blog is the start to leveraging content marketing. We highly recommend you spend the time designing a fantastic blog that will be the hub of your inbound marketing efforts.

What are the Success Metrics of the Campaign?

Having the right success metrics for you online marketing campaign gives you the ability to hold your provider to accountability. If you ever run across an agency that counts the number of links or page rank as the success metric, you need to run the other way. Most reputable SEO agencies will use keyword rankings as the core success metric of a campaign. You need to be very careful with this kind of analysis. What benefit is it going to be to your brand if you are ranking for keywords that get very little to no search volume? We agree that search volume is a means to an end, but it does not signal success.

Solution: What is the real goal of your website and online marketing efforts? We would say the goal is to increase your online visibility and increase revenue. If that is the real goal, what would be the most important metrics? We would say traffic and new conversions would be a much better way to evaluate success.

There is no question the Internet is a powerful way to increase exposure and drive new sales. You need to make sure you are holding your provider to the right metrics. The old school days of gaming Google’s system are over. You need to be smart with finding a provider that will give you long-term results.

We are Digital Flavor, and we are here to take your marketing to the next level. If you are interested in a sustainable solution to your online marketing needs, we would love to talk to you.