If you are a business owner chances are you get approached by numerous online marketing firms on a monthly, weekly or maybe even daily basis. The majority of these often being SEO firms trying to offer their internet marketing packages. At Directive Consulting, we represent a decent amount of business owners. From speaking to our own clients, we have found that many of these SEO companies that approach them make them feel uneasy. The sales representatives describe their services by using a bunch of complex and techy words while trying to offer more expensive packages. When a sales representative is speaking an unheard of language, skepticism is inevitable. Our clients know they need online marketing, but they have a hard time trusting a random sales man from a random company that is calling them on a random phone number.
Do you feel the same way? I do not blame you.
So if you cannot keep up with the “techy lingo” and do not understand the logistics of online marketing, then how are you going to know the value of the service you are purchasing? It’s like bringing a butter knife to a gunfight.
This guide is for business owners and managers who are considering to purchase an internet marketing package, or re-considering the one they currently have. It will give you investigative questions and key features to recognize when determining the value of your Internet marketing package.
3 Indicators of a Valuable Internet Marketing Package
Now, an internet marketing package does not always entail all of these features, and one that does them exceptionally is going to cost a pretty penny. Moz provides a good reference point for what to expect when purchasing only SEO services. Monthly retainers are the most common form of pricing and they typically range from $251-$500/month (13.8%) and for the larger businesses $2,501-$5,000/month (11.3%).
If the internet marketing package exceeds the industry standard it may raise concerns. On the other hand, suspicion should be raised if a company offers a full package at a very low price. Performing these services takes a significant amount of skill and time. One thing that SEO companies are known for is over-promising! Not every company performs these services effectively because they are focused on scaling, not value. Here is a list of investigation questions to find the value of the your internet marketing package.
1. Search Engine Marketing: The clues to a complete package
Search Engine Optimization has been the topic of discussion in internet marketing for years now, and it will continue to be the topic of discussion for many years to come. This is true for one reason. Inbound Marketing is king! Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself. That is why the majority of internet marketing companies are going to approach you with SEO services.
SEO is definitely something that every business needs. There is only one problem. Google is constantly changing the ranking method, and like every great chef they prefer to keep their recipe for ranking a secret. This has led many business owners uneducated, and many internet marketing companies outdated. Google only provides the “don’t do’s” when it comes to ranking tactics. With ranking factors being uncertain, Internet marketing companies are only left with the opinion of experts. Make sure the company you are considering to hire is constantly following the experts in the SEO industry. Here are three clues to help you investigate the value of the internet marketing package.
Proof of Good Link Building
From what the experts say, link building holds a substantial weight for ranking factors. This has led many SEO companies to perform poor linking schemes for their clients. Make sure that you are not purchasing an internet marketing package that includes poor linking schemes. This can put your website at risk.
Many companies use link blasting tools such as Senuke that provide your website with 1000 of links in minutes. This tactic will definitely drive your website to one of the top three spots on Google…..well at least for a couple months. Then Google will penalize your website and you won’t even rank for your domain name. Good link building takes a lot of time and resources. If a company is promising thousands or even hundreds of links, that should raise some suspicion.
1. Where are you getting the links from?
Now that Google has cracked down on poor linking schemes, internet marketers have turned to guest blogging to gain links. However, since January 2014, Matt Cutts shared that Google has made strict guidelines about this tactic as well. Links must be relevant to the industry of the business that the website is representing.
2. What will you be promoting on my website to gain those links?
If the online marketing company is getting links for your website through guest blogging, then it must be promoting something. Guest blogging is only effective if you are providing something unique on your website that other people in your industry are going to find valuable. Typically marketers promote articles, but it can be anything that provides value. For instance, Portent does a very good job at providing its users with a creative tool. It provides a keyword title generator that Content Marketers find very handy, and they would not mind sharing the link.
3. How many local directories will my website be listed on?
Local Directories are not just a medium for customers to find you. They are a free link for your website. The more the better. Here is a list of 45 free local directories.
4. Will I still own the links if I exterminate my services?
Many companies do not build natural links. Once you leave their services, all your links disappear. This also applies to local directories.
If you are looking for true link building, then be ready to pay a pretty penny. It requires building relationships with online leaders in your company’s industry. If a company is offering high volume links at a low price it should raise an immediate flag that they are a “Black Hat” SEO company. These companies will create problems for you in the future.
Proof of a Good Keyword Strategy
If a company lets you choose your own keywords, that is an automatic red flag. Keywords need to have research done, or you will be wasting your efforts. Keyword research is done through special software, expertise, and intuiton. For more information on the history and the proper implementation take a look at “Is a Keyword Strategy Important for SEO.”
5. What is the local search volume and keyword competitiveness of each of my keywords?
There is no point in ranking for keywords that nobody is looking for. Furthermore, there is no point in trying to rank for a keyword that is competitive to a level where it is nearly impossible for your website to rank for.
6. What type of long-tail keywords are you trying to rank for?
Long-tail keywords are very effective in generating better leads for your website because they take into account the intent of the searcher. Take a look at “Is a Keyword Strategy Important for SEO” for more information.
7. How many keywords are you providing me?
If the company offers 1000s of keywords right off the bat, then that is a clear indication of keyword jamming. This practice has been outdated for over a decade now. Google has made this very clear. Also, if a company is offering your website 1000’s of keywords then it clearly indicates that they have not done any keyword research.
8. How are you integrating these keywords into the website?
Keywords are not effective if they are not placed correctly on the website. At Directive Consulting, we call this “the vertical.” It is called the vertical because it represents the keyword placement from the top to bottom on each page/posts on the website. It includes the URL, Title, H1, H2, Body, and Alt Tags (media description.) For more information check out the “The Basics of Search Engine Friendly Design & Development.”
9. How are you actively promoting these keywords into my website?
“Keyword Strategies are just a one time deal. Once they are effectively placed, just roll the dice, sit back, and relax.” Well that is not true, but it is something that many SEO companies want you to believe. Keywords for Optimization is a continual process and it requires internet marketers to stay very active. The company should actively be gathering rankable keywords through research and placing them in either articles, posts, or videos on a weekly basis.
Do not go with a company that cannot provide answers to these questions. These are the basics of SEO practices, and they should be included in every internet marketing package.
Proof of a Thorough Website Audit
Make sure the internet marketing package includes an audit of your website. When it comes to SEO, an audit is not special…it is mandatory. The companies that do not perform them are leaving out one of the most essential steps in SEO: internal optimization. Here are some investigative questions to confirm a thorough audit.
10. What is my website’s average load time?
A website’s load time is crucial to SEO, user experience, and conversion rates. The faster the website the higher Google places it on the ranking scale. Also, loading time affects conversion rates. Take a look at “How To Increase Conversion Rates By 8.47% Without Changing Your Website.” The load time should be under 5.0 seconds. If your website has a high load time, then the SEO expert should know how to fix the issue.
11. Do I have a sitemap?
The online marketing company better be able to answer this question. Having a sitemap is absolutely necessary. Sitemaps help Google crawl the pages on your website in order to classify the content that you have displayed. Without a sitemap Google may skip important information on your pages like “keywords.” Also, features can be set with your sitemap telling Google which pages you deem more important.
12. How are my robot.txt?
Now that you have sitemaps on your website, the robot.txt indicate the location of these sitemaps to the bots that are crawling your information for search engines. They also indicate which areas of the website not to crawl. Excluding useless information helps the bots to do their job quicker.
13. How well are my URL’s, Titles, H1’s, H2’s, and Alt Tags structured?
As stated in the keyword investigative questions, internet marketing companies must align “the vertical” with your keywords. All your website’s URL’s need to have clean titles while including a keyword.
Keyword: “car repair orange county”
Bad URL: http://www.british4x4.net/British%204×4%20Services.html
Clean URL: http://www.british4x4.net/car-repair-orange-county-services
14. Do I need to change my meta-descriptions?
Since 2009, Google has not used meta descriptions as a ranking factor. Do not let SEO companies fool you by telling you otherwise. On the other hand, do not disregard meta descriptions all together. Basically, meta descriptions provide a chance for companies to display an ad for that particular post or page. Here are a few meta description tactics to make sure the SEO company is doing their job.
The meta descriptions should be between 150-160 characters long. If it goes over then it will show ellipsis. Ellipsis make your ad look unintentional.
Arrow 1. shows that the main meta description has no ellipsis, and it has displayed a clear description of what Directive Consulting provides.
Arrow 2. shows a great meta description technique to make your company look bigger, and take up a larger space on the search results.
Search Query: “Online Marketing Solutions”
Meta Descriptions do pull results when searchers are using advanced operators to match meta descriptions. Search Engines bold the keywords that match the search query. This helps searchers know that your website will answer their search query.
These questions will empower you to do a thorough investigation of the Search Engine Marketing Package that you are considering. In addition, do not choose an internet marketing package that does not include monthly Analytic Reports. Take a look at the investigative questions for Google Analytic reports for further information.
*Tip: A sales representative may make empty promises over the phone. Ask the sales representative for a small list of companies they currently operate in your area. You can use those companies to evaluate the quality of work the online marketing company provides.
2. Email Campaign: The clues to a complete package
Email Marketing is the second largest contributor to driving traffic to websites in 2014. Marketing firms often will include email campaigns in their Internet marketing packages.
Your Expert Resources for Email Marketing:
1. Are you providing me with leads?
Typically, they will not provide this. Most email marketing packages will only develop, design, and manage a campaign around your contacts. If you are looking for an email campaign that provides the leads for you check out our “Lead Generation Program.”
2. How should I deliver my email contacts?
They should be able to give you instructions on how to import all your contacts from your email provider. By all contacts, I mean anyone you have ever emailed and anyone who has ever emailed you. For instructions look at resource 1.
3. What links are you providing on the email?
There are three necessary links the email marketing package needs to provide on the email: website, phone number, and social media. They also need to display your website or phone number in a call to action button. A call to action is often the point of the email so make sure they display the button in a clear position for the potential client to make the click.
4. Does the email marketing package integrate with Google Analytics?
Now that you confirmed that the email campaign includes a link to your website, it must integrate with Google Analytics. This will help you track the traffic you are driving to your website from your emails.
5. What time are you sending the email campaign?
Market research shows that you should send your email campaign during the day between 2:00pm-4:00pm.
6. How often are you sending the emails out?
You do not want to come across as spammy. It is recommend that they do not send more than one email a week (besides a follow up.) At the same time they need to stay consistent. They should at least send two emails a month. For further information look at resource 1.
7. Do you provide me with reports?
This is a must! Reports are important because they show the success of the email campaign. The Email Marketing package should provide the following: Opened/ Forwarded/ Bounced/ Unsubscribed/ Click-Through. Marketing Emails have an average “Open” rate between 15% and 25%.
8. Do they perform a follow-up?
Now that you know that the email marketing package provides reports on who opens the emails, it is time to do a follow-up. This is crucial to conversion rates. The individuals who open the email have shown interest in your product/service and the you need to reach out to them once again. This can be done in several ways: Direct Mail, Phone Call, or second Email. Typically, online firms send another email to do the follow-up. They should be able to set a feature to automate the second email.
9. How are you going to personalize my email to its respondents?
Images never fail to engage the reader right off the bat. If you think that works, personalization works even better. It will increase your open rates tremendously. The email campaign must utilize the subject title to let your clients know that you know who they are. The subject title may include something about the geographical area that you are targeting or service you provided them in the past. Secondly, the clients name must be used in the welcome message.
*Tip: Ask for a sample email that they have used for a campaign before. See if they used these features in their campaign. Take a look at resource 2 for examples of successful email campaigns.
3. Google Analytic Reports: The clues to a complete package
Every Internet marketing package needs to include Google Analytics reports!! Google Analytics is the only way to keep online marketers accountable for the work they have done. In digital marketing we call this Marketing Attribution. It pulls everything together. Google Analytics displays what online marketing channels are leading users to your website and what those users are doing when they get there. Not using Google Analytics is like shooting in the dark and hoping that you hit your target. Even though your internet marketing package will include Google Analytics, I encourage you to learn it yourself. The resource below will give you instructions.
Expert Resource: “Marketing Attribution Guide to Save You Time and Money”
1. Do you send monthly analytic reports on a dashboard?
Typically, analytic reports are placed in a dashboard. The dashboard is meant to highlight all the important data into one place. It makes looking at online progress more convenient for clients. However, dashboards also give the online marketing firm the opportunity to manipulate the data they display. The following questions will help ensure they are not doing so.
2. Do you set the dashboard according to impressions, clicks, or conversions?
It does not matter what they choose. It is just important to keep in mind that impressions are often not as valuable as clicks, and clicks are often not as valuable as conversions.
3. Do you display “Top-Channels?”
“Top-Channels” show you what online channels are driving traffic to your website (Email, Organic, Social, Direct, Referral.) This is important information because it displays what channels are bringing you the most results. It gives you insight on where to allocate your marketing budget. For instance, if “Social” is not bringing my website traffic then I may want to use my “Social” budget towards something that is.
4. Do you Display “Top-Sources?”
“Top-Sources” go even deeper by displaying the online sources that are driving traffic to your website (Yelp, Facebook, www.referralwebsite.com.) A specific source within a channel may be driving the majority of your traffic.
5. Do you display “Top Queries?”
Knowing your “Top Queries” gives you insight into what keywords are bringing your website the most traffic. Providing this is important because it indicates whether the marketing firm has created an effect keyword strategy.
*Tip: You do this by linking your Google Analytics with your Google Webmaster Tools.
6. Do you Display “Top Landing Pages?”
Knowing your “Top Landing Pages” gives you insight into what pages are driving traffic. This is good information to know for the same reasons as above.
7. What will my “Goals” be for my “Conversion Rate?”
If your dashboard says something similar to “Value from SEO” or “Value from Marketing Company” , it means that they have set goal(s) for your website. Your website’s conversions are based on the goals that have been set. Typically, for a service business, the most common goal is the “Contact Page.” The purpose of the website is to have consumers call the business, so that is the goal. Conversions are the most valuable action to receive in Analytics. It is important to ask, “what are those goals and what value have you set them at?”
8. Do you analyze the “Behavior” on the website?
Behavior analyzes the actions the user takes when interacting with the website. What pages are the users staying on and what pages are they bouncing from. This information enables website enhancement by giving insight into which pages need improvement.
9. Do you integrate Offline Marketing channels into Google Analytics?
It is not common that an internet marketing package includes offline integration. If they do, that is a great. If they do not, here is a tool that you can give them to do so.
Put on your deerstalkers and grab your magnifying glasses! You are now ready to investigate your first internet marketing package.
If you are intending to shop around for a while, make sure to bookmark this page. It is a good resource to have in your back pocket when you are in contact with an internet marketing firm.