We always like to be truthful, and before you read this list and decide okay, I’m dumping my online marketing company, let’s be fair. Problems arise even with the best online marketing companies — campaigns are nearly always faced with delays, unforeseen issues, and things that go awry. How your agency (and you) handle these situations defines your ROI and if you have a bigger problem on your hands. So while we offer this list to help you gauge your Internet marketing company’s capabilities, sometimes it’s best not to make a hasty decision. Talk things out with your campaign manager and judge if he or she has a plan to make it right. If not, then it’s okay to exercise that 30 day out clause in your contract (you did get one of those, right?)
1) Faulty or false reporting
Some agencies think that their customers either don’t know how or won’t check up on the data that’s presented to them. You need to assign someone to check up on the weekly or monthly reporting from the agency. This doesn’t have to take a long time; a few short checks each month will help you keep an eye on the progress of the campaign.
Here are three simple checks you can perform each month to ensure that your online marketing company is providing data that reflects the progress of your campaign:
- a) When you receive a spreadsheet with a list of the links that your agency has procured for you, take a few moments to input a few of the links into your browser. Don’t look at the first 10-20 links, as unscrupulous agencies know that these are the ones that most people will likely check. Start in the middle and skip around the page. Check 5 or 6 links. Don’t spend too long on this; 5-10 minutes is enough. What you are looking for is a link to your site placed on a site that is totally irrelevant to your business niche. Don’t be too alarmed if you can’t find your company’s link on a page; many directories and sites take a long time to process link requests. You may wish to track this, however. If you notice that it takes longer than 90 days for a link request to be acted upon, tell your Internet marketing company that you want to discount the link, and have them source another one in its place.
- b) If you are receiving Google Analytics reports take a few minutes to check the information corresponding with the timeframes provided on the reports. Sometimes these can be out of sync or just plain fraudulent. Don’t get upset and cry fraud immediately if you find something wrong; sometimes your online marketing company may make a mistake; but do call it to the agency’s attention and watch to see if this issue happens again.
- c) This last part doesn’t have to do with fraud, but with faulty reasoning, and it might not be the agency’s fault. Perhaps the Internet marketing company has come to a conclusion based on data that might not tell the whole story. Sometimes your internal issues can affect tracking, such as if you took a website down or sold a subsidiary or did something on the client side and forgot to inform the agency. This can happen to anyone, but can cause reporting that might lead to inaccurate conclusions. This is why it’s important to keep the lines of communication open; alert your agency when changes happen at your business.
2) Poor communication
If you have to continually email and call your online marketing company asking for campaign updates, and you receive irregular or no response, then this is a huge red flag. It can mean anything from the agency absconding with your money to just plain incompetence.
One of the top reasons why clients switch online marketing agencies is poor communication. There is no reason to put up with this — it affects everything, including your ability to gauge if they are doing everything they said they would to keep your campaign moving forward. Without communication it is very difficult for you to check their work. Insist on at least weekly communication via email and a bi-weekly or monthly status conference call. If this cannot be achieved then it may be time to look for another online marketing company.
3) Poor strategy
Does the agency demonstrate an inability to follow through with a marketing plan? Even if it created one at campaign inception, does it stick to the plan? Unless there are good reasons for deviating from it, it’s the agency’s responsibility to keep the campaign on track.
For example, suppose you signed off on the marketing plan at campaign inception, but you keep hearing from your agency that delays have kept the campaign from reaching its first several milestones. Before you get upset, one type of delay that can cause this is a website development delay. Try to find out if delays are legitimate or if they are a smoke and mirrors story to cover up the agency’s lack of follow through. If it’s the latter, then a discussion with the campaign manager and even the online marketing company’s director may be in order.
4) Less than expert understanding of the nuances of the search engine landscape
This can be easy to spot — If you read about changes to Google’s search algorithm, or new features being rolled out by Twitter or Facebook that your agency is unaware of, ask them what the impact might be on your campaign. If your agency is unaware of these changes, it might not necessarily be a red flag; there are hundreds of updates to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms each year. What you do want to hear is your agency’s plan for your campaign in light of these changes.
If you hear about a punitive change to Google’s algorithm for poor links, for example, have your Internet marketing company do a link audit of your website (they may have already performed this when taking over your campaign). Have them tell you what steps they will take to remedy any past link issues. Whether you need a link cleanup or want to understand the latest content marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to go to your agency first to see what their take is on the subject. They don’t necessarily have to agree with prevailing wisdom, but it’s important that their approach is within the bounds of best practices.
5) Agency demonstrates inability to recover from a problem
The problem can take many forms; from a sudden traffic drop to a loss of search positions, to a drop in social media engagement. It is not unusual for issues to crop up in any online marketing campaign. The way your agency handles these and how it protects the growth of your campaign is the key.
If you should suddenly have much lower referral numbers from Google, your agency should have a plan to figure out the cause. Don’t worry if they cannot solve the issue rapidly; sometimes problems like this are indicators of a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed. As long as you can ensure that the problem was not caused by the agency and that they have a practical plan to solve it, then you are on the right track.
6) Cookie cutter campaigns
If there is ever a sign that an Internet marketing company doesn’t really care to deliver personalized service, it’s cookie cutter campaigns. The real danger here is that your monthly investment is never maximized; you’ll end up not being able to take advantage of opportunities to personalize and point the campaign to your particular audience.
Hopefully a discussion about customizing the campaign took place before you signed on with the agency. If not, you can still ask them to do this for you. If they balk, then that is a sign that you need to find a new marketing firm. They may say that the type of campaign you are asking for is not what you signed up for. This may be true; and if so, then it’s time for a discussion with your campaign manager or the agency director on how the campaign can be upgraded, if you need it to be.
7) Not providing promised deliverables in a timely manner
This is a huge problem that can slow down your campaign’s progress. Delays can happen even during the best of campaigns, but continuous problems of this kind cannot be tolerated. They can be grounds for dismissing the agency.
These 7 signs cover most of the things that can go wrong between a client and its online marketing company. At Organically Interactive we have often become the ‘go-to’ agency when clients are unhappy with prior firms. That makes us feel great and it’s a challenge that we relish every day. Talk to us about your unique needs. We promise we’ll delight you with an online campaign developed just for you.