The world of digital marketing is continuously changing, and what worked today will soon be old news, making it tough to stay on top of the latest trends and figure out what strategies will work best on different platforms. That’s where digital marketing companies come in. To help you find your perfect match, we’ve made a list of the industry’s top agencies, along with tips on what to look for when hiring one and the right questions to ask before you do so.
What to Look for in Digital Marketing Companies
Now that we’ve given you a list of the industry’s best companies, it’s time to take a closer look into what makes an agency stand out. While most digital marketing outfits seem to be offering similar, or even identical services, you need to be sure that you will be getting good value for money. What follows are the key aspects that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff when you go through any list of digital marketing agencies.
Marketing agencies offer a wide range of services that fall within the digital landscape, from web design to content curation, social media marketing, and reporting. While your business may not need all of these, or you only want to hire a firm for a very specific project, the top digital marketing agencies will offer all or a combination of the following:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing
- Email marketing
- Video advertising
- Brand/digital strategy
- Website design and development
- App development
When choosing a digital marketing partner for your business, you must find out what services they provide to make sure they align with what you require. It’s pointless to choose one of the top digital marketing firms based on recommendations and reviews alone if they don’t offer the service/s you need. Also, note that some agencies specialize in one or more of these services, while others are jack-of-all-trades and offer some variation of these services to a certain degree.
Specialized or Full-Service Agencies
As mentioned above, different companies offer different services – some focus on a single specialized skill, for example, SEO. In contrast, others are full-service digital marketing agencies that have experienced team members that handle a wide range of services. You have to find the best fit for your business.
Depending on your needs, a highly specialized agency may be the best option if you already have other aspects of digital marketing covered. However, if your needs are more varied, or you’re not sure what you need in terms of digital marketing, then a full-service agency will be able to help you with strategies, implementation, and reporting.
Case Studies, Client Testimonials, and Reports
Ask to see examples of the previous work of the online marketing company. When you visit their website (which you should do in the early stages of the decision-making process), you should check out the case studies and client testimonials section, which will give you a good idea not only if this company will be able to fulfill your needs but also about its credibility. If these are not available on the website, request them from the agency. Check to see if the projects done previously align with your own needs and brand vision. Is their work innovative and exciting? Also, ask for previous reports, which should be data-led and demonstrate the ability of the online marketing agency to deliver real results.
Their Current Methods
Digital marketing techniques can change at a drop of a hat. Updates to features and algorithms can happen without notice and can severely affect your digital marketing efforts. Google’s algorithms and ranking factors have been known to bring the most experienced strategist to their knees. Platforms like Google, Amazon, Bing, and Facebook roll out updates constantly.
That’s why, when choosing an internet marketing company, try to establish their current methods and if they are aware and open to any recent changes. That said, you will need some kind of familiarity with digital marketing news. Stay up to date yourself by subscribing to newsletters about SEO, social media, PPC, and the like, including favorites like Search Engine Journal, Social Media Examiner, and Content Marketing Institute, among others.
A company’s leadership style determines its day-to-day processes and overall business philosophies. Hiring an agency, especially one of the best online marketing companies, means your buying into their leadership’s ideas, way of thinking, and practices. Suss out how well the agency understands the digital marketing landscape and where it is moving. It’s safe to say that digital marketing today and in two years’ time will be completely different.
Do they stick to one plan, or are they open to changes and innovations? Find out who the CEO of the company is and do some research. Check their LinkedIn profiles or see if they have been featured anywhere online as a thought-leader in the industry. An active, forward-thinking CEO will want to make his professional presence felt online.
A Strong & Diverse Team
Most of the best digital marketing companies are made up of various teams of diverse talents and expertise that take care of different objectives, especially in the case of full-service agencies. Some will be focused on content, while others will be strategists, designers, coders, and more. Check if the team is featured online – a good agency will be proud of its talents and happily boast about their diverse backgrounds and expertise on its website. The team should be multi-disciplined, with members experts in their respective fields.
Website & Online Presence
A good digital marketing firm should have a user-friendly, visually pleasing, and up-to-date website. If the internet marketing agency is using good SEO practices (which they should), you should be able to find them easily online by searching for digital marketing services combined with a location. Look at their website – is it modern and engaging? Is it attractive and user-friendly? Does it have an active blog? What about responsive design and intuitive navigation? Is it professional and friendly? Consider all these elements before deciding to use a marketing agency.
Communication & Reporting
Communication between you and the agency should be open and frequent. In terms of reporting, the digital marketing company should be able to give you updates whenever you require it. Communication and reporting will vary from client to client – some will require more regular updates than others.
Remember that most digital marketing efforts take time to really see results, so asking for a daily update or report will not be necessary, and is unlikely to be appreciated. Give your digital marketing partner the time and space required to develop and implement their strategies and request weekly updates and monthly reporting. That said, the team should be available during working hours should you have any questions or requirements in between.
Tools of the Trade
Many of the best digital marketing agencies are equipped with the latest tools and software to get the job done. They also have the experience and technical know-how to use them to their full potential. Inquire about what project management system they use and how they measure performance. There are many tools out there that used analytics to measure content and SEO performance, but experts should be able to analyze and make suggestions outside of what the data says.
Some of the best tools for digital and web marketing firms include:
- Screaming Frog
- Sprout Social
- Google Analytics
Project management tools include:
Communication tools include:
- Skype for Business
The Promises They Make
There are some promises that digital marketing companies can and should keep, like honoring the terms of the contract, meeting deadlines, providing regular updates, and completing a project to specifications. That said, other promises can be considered a red flag. Avoid companies who make the following, unachievable promises or claims:
- Your site will reach position 1 or 0 in search results
- A ranking for a specific/competitive keyword
- Quick or immediate results
- Perfect SEO health for your site
- Specific open rates or click-through rates for emails
- Reaching a specified number of followers, likes, views or comments
- Achieving a specific domain authority
While all of these are certainly attainable, even the best digital marketing agencies cannot guarantee a 100% delivery of these types of results. What they should do is work towards achieving these goals using the best methods – they should not promise they can deliver an exact number or promise fast results. As a rule of thumb, a content marketing strategy can take between six to 12 months to show results, while SEO requires ongoing efforts. Open rates, click-through rates, page views, etc. depend on many factors and require constant testing and adjusting on behalf of the digital marketing companies.
Valuable KPIs & Metrics
In many cases, digital marketing efforts can be based on what is called ‘vanity’ metrics, i.e., the number of likes, followers, or page views you receive. While these numbers are important in the greater scheme of things, they don’t always translate directly to conversions. If your agency is delivering these ‘vanity’ results and nothing more, you should make sure that your conversions are also improving. The top online marketing companies should not be measuring results based on these metrics unless they can prove a healthy ROI.
The important KPIs or metrics a marketing agency should provide include:
- Number of unique visitors
- Time spent on site
- Bounce rate
- Cost per click
- Click-Through rate
Standing out From the Competition
The world of digital marketing is highly competitive, and there are hundreds of digital marketing firms around all offering the same services. But what makes one stand out from the crowd? Look for a company that provides something that others don’t. Question whether their approach and methodologies are better. Are they innovative and ahead of trends? Do they value open communication and transparency? Are they a passionate group of people with varied backgrounds and expertise? Are their methods current?
Digital marketing moves fast, but results are slow, and the top digital marketing agencies know it. It can also get very technical, so unless you have some kind of background in the field, you may not understand the processes. Does the agency do a good job of explaining the concepts and methodologies, guide you while still being open to your ideas and queries? These are important things to consider before signing a contract and making a long-term commitment to a digital marketing partner.
Tips For Hiring a Top Digital Marketing Agency
You should approach the process of hiring a digital firm with the same consideration it takes to hire an in-house team member. Digital marketing results take time, which implies a long-term working relationship. It is not a one-off task but will require ongoing efforts to see the best results. So, we have put together some handy tips to help you shortlist the top digital marketing agencies.
Define Your Goals & Objectives
Identify what you want to achieve through your digital marketing efforts and what role you want the agency to play. You must have a distinct vision, which you must express to the agency’s marketing team. A partnership goes both ways, so you must be open to the ideas and input of the internet marketing experts – that is why you are hiring an agency after all. Digital marketing is broad and encompasses many elements – you need to be clear on what you want and ask the experts for the best advice on how to get there.
Choose an Agency That Fits Your Business
If you’re a corporate business, you want a firm that has experience dealing with the industry. If you are a more informal company, find an agency that can match your style and thinking. Also, look for digital marketing agencies that understand your brand and what you want it to convey. Again, look at some of their previous work and their website to get a good idea of the ethos and culture of the agency and whether it suits your business.
Take the time to make sure that your desired web marketing firm has experience in your industry. If it does, dig deeper and query about past work, how it went, and what was challenging. If they do not have the experience, consider this a warning sign and move on. That said, a good marketer should be able to evaluate and analyze a specific industry and use that information to formulate an effective strategy, although it is safer and easier to go with a company that already has some experience under its belt.
Look for the Best Value, Not the Best Price
Cost should be a consideration when it comes to making a decision. It is important to remember that digital marketing is not cheap, especially if you opt for one of the top digital marketing companies. It is also ongoing, so you will need to budget for monthly payments to get the best results. That said, you should never go with the cheapest option because in most cases, you get what you pay for.
There is usually a reason for a low rate – perhaps the agency doesn’t have enough experience and is trying to build its client base. While it can be a good idea to go with a smaller agency looking to prove itself, a business that needs a specialized or full-service team should stick to the tried and tested digital marketing agencies, and this will come at a price. Consider the standard rates and go for a company that falls well within the industry standard. That said, should your resources allow it, you can still opt for a more expensive firm as long as they bring innovation to the table.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
Holding a meeting, whether in person or using video conferencing platforms, should be the first thing you do with the firms that were shortlisted. An initial consultation should be conducted before any contract is signed. During this meeting, you should ask a few important questions before making your final decision. These include:
- Can I see some campaign examples?
- Who are your previous clients?
- On average, how long do you keep clients?
- What are the company processes?
- How do they measure success?
- Who will be working on my account?
- Do you have an in-house team, or do you outsource talent?
- What team members will I be working with regularly?
Overall, it is recommended that you ask the digital marketing companies a series of questions to learn more about the processes, methodologies, and client service, among other things. Also, make sure to include questions that are related to your specific requirements.