How to Choose an Internet Marketing and SEO Company: Avoid Getting Ripped Off

In this week’s Surge Session, we address how to choose the best digital marketing agency for your business, what to look for in a marketing company, and how to make sure that whoever you hire is actually doing the job that they’re supposed to do. We get a lot of requests from clients, even prospects, who come to us and say, “I’m working with this agency. It’s been 12 months, but I don’t see any results.” They are seeking us out because they’ve had a bad experience with an existing marketing company. They don’t really know a specific path of what they should look for in a marketing agency.

Choosing an Internet Marketing Company: First Steps to Take before Making a Decision

What is the first thing people should look for or ask when they’re looking for outsourcing any marketing initiatives that they have?

The first thing is to self-educate. You have to know what digital marketing is and what falls into the realm of digital marketing before you actually go and start to look for an agency. Oftentimes, these clients that come to us from an existing agency. Whenever you have a client that’s knowledgeable, who does their own homework before going out and trying to find an agency, they know what they’re looking for. As far as what to look for in a marketing company, does that marketing agency have experience in my industry? Do they work with similar companies? That’s probably one of the most important things, the industry relevance of that agency, and then their service offerings. What is it exactly that I need? If I don’t know, can they consult me? Do they have the ability to consult me?

The problem is most people don’t know what these services entail. Most business owners just want to increase business. They want more leads or they want more eCommerce sales. Those are two sectors that we pay attention to and we work with. We work with B2B companies and generate leads. We also work with eCommerce companies and increase their conversions, traffic, and sales.

The first rule is if you get an email from a Gmail, Yahoo or a Hotmail account saying, “Hey, my name is Michael. I can rank you higher for keywords.” If they haven’t shared their company name or if there’s no phone number, don’t work with these guys. Any legitimate marketing company is not going to send you an email and say, “Outsource business to us.” They’re going to have a better call to action.

Just to give you an understanding of how Optimum 7 does it, is we’ll identify a client that we want to work with and we’ll do an advanced review with a screencast. We dissect their website and their strategy and see where there is room for improvement. What are they doing on social media? What are they spending on Google AdWords and paid search? Based on these factors, we’ll do a detailed screencast for 15 to 20 minutes. And then we’ll send them InMail on LinkedIn.

Anytime you get an email from somebody saying, “Hey, we do marketing. We can rank your keywords higher. And we can get you leads.” I would be very wary of those types of requests.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

Before we talk about pricing: make sure their website is visible. There’s a tool called SpyFu. Go to SpyFu and if their name is abc.com, plug it in and see if they can practice what they preach. Somebody who says they can do SEO better be visible for their own company on Google.

The second important thing when considering how to find a digital agency is to make sure they have a legitimate phone number and a legitimate address. Look at that address on Google Maps. We’ve seen examples of our clients coming to us with an offer from another agency and we look at the address and it’s an empty lot.

As far as pricing goes, we know that we’re not the most expensive nor are we the cheapest. There are many services we offer. We do content marketing/SEO, Paid Search, AdWords, Facebook, and about a dozen others. For the time being, we will focus on paid search and organic search as they are some of the fastest ways for you to start getting leads and start increasing business.

So, from an SEO standpoint if I am paying $500 a month for an SEO service, what would you tell me? You’re throwing your money out the window. Why? SEO requires a lot of man-hours. Content is the main driver behind SEO. There is a basic groundwork and a foundation that you need to lay down before implementing a strategy.

We have over 100 checklists for any time we’re gonna start an operation. If the website is on Wix, we can not do SEO for it. If your eCommerce site is on WooCommerce or PrestaShop and if you don’t have an internal IT department I can’t do content marketing.

Going back to the pricing, $500 with everything being said, how much content do you actually think you can pump out a month for just $500? And the content cannot be 200-300 words. There’s no way; $500 just simply isn’t enough.

How Much Should You be Paying an Internet Marketing Company?

At Optimum 7, we know we’re not the most expensive agency. For a local client that’s trying to rank or get leads from a specific city, our prices start around $2000 a month. But it goes all the way to $25,000 a month based on how big they are, what countries they want to target, how advanced their content needs to be, how many pieces of content they need to write, how much authority we need to build, etc. This is all for just for SEO.

On average, if you’re a small size business doing anywhere from half a million dollars to five million dollars, pricing is going to be four or five thousand dollars. If anything less than that, I would look at the core deliverables. What are they really charging you? Content and optimizations need to be there. Any marketing company that gives you a set amount of keywords they will try and rank you for, if they are limiting the keywords to 15, 20 keywords or 100 keywords, get rid of them fast because there’s no way to limit keywords, they should not be limiting how many keywords they’re gonna rank.

I would say stay away from agencies that have pre-packaged pricing plans with cookie cutter strategies. No two businesses are exactly the same. That would be a red flag. If you are a company who sells security systems, my price might be $5,000 a month. But if you sell mortgages with the same deliverables my price is gonna be $20,000 a month because that medium is incredibly competitive. It has to do with the competitiveness of the business.

Pricing wise, if you’re a local business you’re looking at a few thousand dollars a month. If you’re a more established business doing three to five million dollars you’re looking at an average of $5000-$6000. We have eCommerce companies that we work within very competitive markets. Anytime you’re eCommerce and selling a household appliance, you’re competing with Amazon, Walmart, Jet so the price is going to be higher.

The equation is simple. It’s the more competitive your industry is, the more competitive your market is, the more and better quality content you need to produce. When it comes to more content and higher quality, that’s what’s going to drive the price up.

When you speak to this agency are you speaking to a salesperson or are you speaking to an owner or a partner? And when you speak to them are they just trying to sell you or do they really understand your business and what kind of an execution they need to do for you? That’s very important.

What Questions Should I Ask an Internet Marketing and SEO Company? | KPIs and Execution Schedules

Let’s talk about the execution and consulting part of this. We say, “What do you really make money on? What do you really need to be visible for? Show us your analytics for the past six months.”

The last thing I would say is talk about the execution schedules. When you are trying to start and when they give you a pricing, we say the deliverables need to be set, but you expect an execution schedule, correct. What would that entail?

What you want starting off is a granular execution schedule that leads into a more automated approach. I want to know by end of week one of signing this new agency: where I’m going to be at and what’s gonna be done. Is it just a matter of implementing everything that needs to be implemented in order to set up my tracking? Is it establishing what keywords I’m trying to target? I want to know week by week execution at least for the first month of what I can expect to be done. And as well as establishing what my KPIs are gonna be.

KPI. Let’s define it for everybody. What’s a KPI? KPI is a key performance indicator, how do you know if you’re getting value from the agency that you hire. What are some KPIs we would look at? For example, if you know that your average monthly traffic is about 10,000 visitors and you know that for every 10,000 visitors you are converting maybe 5%, which is a pretty decent conversion rate. I know I can now set a KPI saying that if it took me X amount of months to get to 10,000 visitors, by this month I want to be at this amount of visitors because I know that I’m gonna see this increase in profit, these KPIs, increase in organic traffic, in leads or in sales. Obviously, you would do a comparison. Last 90 days compared to last year.

Should I Sign a Contract When Using an Outside Digital Marketing Agency?

Does it make sense to talk about organic and then we’ll talk briefly about what Paid Search pricing is like. When I’m dealing with an agency and I’m going to sign a contract, they’re requiring me a 12-month contract for SEO. Do you think that makes sense? I would say it does, 12 months because we know SEO’s a long game.

Do you advise for business owners out there to sign a contract? I would say don’t sign a contract. The reason being from a business owners’ standpoint they should not sign a contract and be stuck with a company for 12 months you don’t know how it’s going to perform. What we usually say to our prospects is, “You don’t have to sign a contract with us, but sign a contract with yourself because this it’s going to take at least four to six months for you to start seeing results.”

I want to set the expectation right from the beginning because a lot of times you get a client that will say, “Oh, okay.” As many times as you try to beat them over the head with “it’s gonna take at least eight months to actually start to see any results,” come month three they’re blowing up your email. A contract will kind of put them in a sense “well, there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to let this company do their job. They know what they’re doing.”

There’s a thin line in setting expectations. Do you set expectations on a piece of paper because they signed it and you forced them? Or do you set expectations in terms of communicating with them effectively? One thing is don’t be a crazy client and blow up the phone on a daily basis. You have to let the agency work. And again, the best way to track results is to track through KPIs and weekly or monthly meetings.

How to Pick a Digital Marketing Agency: Paid Search, Metrics, and Pricing

Let’s talk about the pricing of Paid Search. The most important metric is what’s your monthly budget? Let’s say my monthly budget on Google AdWords and Facebook is $5,000. What are the metrics that I’m looking at that I should hold the agency accountable? And then we’ll talk about what the agency should be charging.

The most important metric is your CPA. What is a CPA? Cost per acquisition. How much money I am spending to get a lead or to get a sale. That is the most important KPI when it comes to Paid Search. You need to set that expectation with the agency. As well as the agency should know. If you have a product that has a price point of $10, there’s no way you’re gonna make money on Google AdWords when you’re spending three, four dollars a click.

We reject a lot of clients because they either have a low budget or their average order volume/ average order amount is $30. CPA is the most important metric. We don’t accept clients if we don’t think that they’re gonna make money.

In terms of pricing. The agency charges a setup fee to set up all the ads, landing pages, campaigns. Then the average that they charge for maintenance is about 20% to 30% of the ad spend. If you’re spending $5,000 a month we usually charge 20 to 30%. That money goes to the agency so they can manage your CPAs, look at your data, and optimize your campaigns on a weekly basis. That’s it with the pricing. There are a lot of services that we offer, but these are the main two people are confused about.

To recap, make sure that it’s a legitimate business. Make sure you’re speaking to a legitimate person. When it’s marketing we’re not a fan of outsourcing to a country that English is not the primary language. Please don’t outsource your SEO to Ukraine, India, or Pakistan. Nothing against people in those countries. We work with Ukrainian and Indian developers. But when you’re talking about your marketing and content, the English needs to be impeccable and the strategy needs to be really good. We’ve seen that most of these outsource companies do not perform well.

Lastly, stay away from cookie-cutter strategies. Make sure that you have a tailored execution plan for your business. And stay away from anybody who says they can show you results in under three months. Results take time. We need data for results. There are no shortcuts when it comes to this. It’s way too competitive.

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