How closely have you evaluated the work your digital agency is doing? Does their work add value and achieve results toward improving your bottom line, or could they be hurting your brand, online reputation or search engine performance?
Do you know how to tell?
Let’s run through the bad and the good tactics, to give you the toolset to become a better judge of performance. Feel free to ask your agency if they are using any of the below methods.
If you’ve noticed your digital consultancy exercising any of the following, you should consider the negative impact it could have had on your business.
Google has become very clever over the years in how they decide which content is relevant to your query. However, keywords still matter to a large degree, and some practitioners still engage in keyword stuffing. This is the act of repeatedly adding keywords into a web page, with the express intent of manipulating search rankings, where the words do not fit into the normal contextual flow of the content. If your agency thinks this is a good idea, then give them a second thought.
Content is the bread and butter of Google search. They like unique content. It gives them something to show to their audience. If you plagiarise or steal content, Google will notice, even if on a small scale. Additionally, if someone notices that you’ve used their content without permission, they can report you to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and force you to unpublish the work. In the industry we call it ‘duplicate content’.
You can use CopyScape’s tool to find other websites where your content is present, and SiteLiner to find multiple text duplicates of content within your own site, a situation which is less criminal, but also discouraged for the purposes of SEO. Another related tactic is to publish lots of thinly populated pages, in order to widen reach and game the search engines. This is also probably going to have a negative outcome if used in your search ranking strategy.
Another factor that Google has and will always use to gauge the quality of your content, is links. By links, we mean the hyperlinked text that takes you to another web page when clicked. Links act as a vote of confidence toward your page. If your content is worth linking to, then it probably has some credibility. Google, in its learned wisdom, has grown very astute at telling if the links pointing at your site are legitimate, or just mass-produced to deceive search engines.
The telltale sign to look for, is if your agency has acquired many links to your site from random blog comments, not-so-relevant “guest posts”, via contextually shallow link exchanges (mutual links), and from general web directories (which typically are thin on relevant content).
Paying for links is strictly forbidden by Google. Your site will be penalised if you are found out. If you look at your domain from inside Google Search Console, there is a tab where you can view the links that point to your website. You must have a Google account, and may have to register & verify your website to see the data.
Reporting is a critical function in digital optimisation. It informs the practitioner of performance ups and downs, and indicates areas of strength and weakness, where to focus on improvement or resolve issues.
A good agency should offer data & insights into year on year & quarterly performance, as opposed to just month-to-month. Conversions – the meaningful actions that your customers take – should be tracked properly, and insights & recommendations provided how to maximise this metric.
Goals, both hard and soft, should be defined and separated in reporting. Keyword ranking performance reports should aid you and your agency in making sure that your visibility in search is maximised, and driving organic traffic, conversions, leads & business.
Producing unique and useful content is paramount to being found online. The best way to attract relevant visitors and backlinks to your website is to earn them, by producing high quality, tailored content.
Does your agency recommend, or produce content that is aligned with your goals, or the goals and pain-points of your audience? Is this content appropriately accessible to visitors and search engines, and shared to the best choice of social channels, and readable on all devices?
Building links to your website should be done with great care and consideration, ensuring the best kinds of links are targeted. Quality, relevance, diversity and authority will always trump quantity.
Local search optimisation is not a factor to ignore, as local has become integral in search. Where your potential customer is searching from, plays a huge role in which content is shown to them, and ultimately whether they can find you. Make sure your local presence is optimised, and not hurting your situation via incorrectly published company information, or that visitor sentiment isn’t influenced by poor reviews.
Paid search, namely Google AdWords, is another consideration. There are good and bad practices, and you don’t want to be the victim of a fly-by-night practitioner.
Your billing should be very clear in how it works: the agencies management fee should be separate from Google’s advertising budget. For Google’s charges, you should also be able to choose between manual billing (prepaid, usually via electronic transfer), and automatic billing (post-paid, usually requiring a credit card to be logged into Google’s system).
In both cases, you should have full control and choice over how much is budgeted towards your ads. A good agency will carefully test a variety of ad types & channels, such as search ads, display ads, re-marketing and merchant (shopping) ads, to determine which channels work best for your needs.
So, how does your digital provider rate against the above points? Answer our Bullshittometer survey to score your agencies performance.