So I’ve woken up, got dressed and headed to work. It’s a challenge sometimes, just to do that, but I have to. I earn enough to pay our way, take the kids to the hot pools and maybe even treat ourselves to the movies every now and then. As an employee, it’s not always that smooth a ride, but it’s smooth enough that I can fairly well predict that next week will be the same hours and the same money for the same bills and some of the same treats. As a business owner, the ride can be quite a lot wilder than that.
You’d possibly dreamed up a great concept, put together a plan, scraped together some funding by risking your family home or got enough people to believe in your dreams that they invested their cash. However you got it all off the ground, you probably took a risk. Not too many businesses come without some kind of risk factor, an investment, and a fair bit of ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ kind of faith. The last thing you want to do is add more complications into the mix, but sometimes you have to put your faith into others to supply expertise or professional services without really knowing if those providers have any real clue themselves or in fact give a damn. You take another risk. More often than not, the individual you’re investing your trust in is probably an employee. You know, like I said: with a much more predictable future, a smoother income stream than yours and not too many risks. Are they ever going to be invested into your dream? Probably not. Would the owner of that business be prepared to take a hit if things didn’t work out for you? Equally unlikely. Your business is not their dream.
But it really should be. (But that’s a whole different article than this one).
Now let’s say you hired a professional digital marketing agency to take care of all that side of the business because you just didn’t know where to start. OK, so trust is one of those risks, right? Well it’s not one you should take lightly.
If you’ve started a business that needs and online presence to generate leads or income, then you’ve got a fairly steep learning curve: websites, integrations, inventory management, Google optimisation, digital advertising, social media, jargon and more jargon. If learning that stuff isn’t part of year dream, I can understand, but it should be. Do you have to do it all yourself? Not really, but definitely some. How much should you know about? A lot, but not everything. You need to know enough to know when someone is not being honest with you about it or that you can tell when it is being done well.
Do due diligence.
Digital marketing agencies bombard us every day with ridiculous offers of Google Page 1 Rank in poor English. By the time the local telemarketer calls you, you’ve heard from 5 other agencies on the same day offering what on the surface seems to be the same thing. My employer uses telemarketers, and I take my hat off to my workmates with that job. Not everyone can tolerate being told rudely to naff off on every second call. Fair enough, you’re fed up with hearing from people like us. But I think you should spend a little extra time considering what we’ve got to say.
As an organic digital marketing specialists, there are several things we think you need to know to keep us and everyone else in the industry honest:
1. The “Google Page 1 or it’s free” guarantee is almost always a scam. Yes, I used the word SCAM. No digital marketing agency wants to do work for you for free, so whenever one offers you a guarantee like this you should either assume they are doing no work for you, or they know a way to make you agree they’ve fulfilled the guarantee. The first option is simple. The second option is most likely one where they force you to select keyword phrases to optimise your website for, some of which are almost never searched. It’s fairly easy to get Google page 1 rank for a relatively unused keyword phrase. Try searching for “confectionery based circus skills” in Google. I rank #1 in the world for this. Great news because I juggle marshmellows, right? OK so this is a very silly example and you’d dismiss it as non-sense anyway, because it indeed is. Try the search anyway though, and you’ll see that I DO in fact rank #1 in the world. But how about “seo specialists auckland”? Sound like a great keyword phrase to you for an SEO specialist located in Auckland? Not so great actually. I rank #1 in organic search, plus listing A on Google Maps for this search – i.e. my website appears twice organically in both top positions in Google, yet this delivers no business for us. What? #1 delivers no business? Well, it’s true, probably because all the people searching this (and there are just 3 per month) are just some of my competitors checking to see where they rank so that they can tell you honestly that they rank on page 1 themselves. Not all #1 rank positions have any value to you as a business owner. There are plenty of examples where your website can achieve #1 rank easily but never deliver business, and I can demonstrate that to you in a matter of minutes. I can even do it via Reiki Therapy, never touching your website if you like! I’ll be happy to show you how this scam works. True experts know they can guarantee nothing in this field.
I hope you never take the risk of investing in getting ranked in Google without having proof that your keyword selection can deliver results, and anyway, your campaign should never be about rank.
2. Every “digital marketing expert” that lives up to their name will be happy to demonstrate or explain everything they are going to do for you. This is because they are experts at digital marketing and you are not. They are safe in the knowledge that what they know is highly complex and took them years to learn and you won’t be able to do the same in a matter of a few explanations. Plus, believe it or not, they’ll need your help to execute the plan, because you’re the expert source of knowledge about your business, not them. You’ll leave the expert work to experts, and step up to do your part in that. You won’t steal their knowledge and then do it yourself because you’re busy doing what you do best. So the advice to you around this is: only hire a digital marketing expert that will take the time to explain their work to you in more than a few sentences. If you’re not getting an execution plan for your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign or they don’t provide a full explanation of strategies and make a collaborative effort with you, then you’re either being duped or you’re not paying enough for your campaign. Don’t be cheap. True experts deserve good pay. If you pay peanuts, don’t be surprised you got monkeys. The flip side is that if you pay good money, expect good service.
3. Always ask “why” and “what does this mean”. SEO, like I mentioned, is complex. If you’re getting a regular update report from your digital marketing expert, insist on an explanation and be prepared to pay for their time to explain it. Pretty pie charts and upward-pointing green arrows are completely useless unless you can extract meaningful data or impact on business results from it. Little green arrows that point upwards don’t help you pay your bills or take your beautiful wife out to dinner. You are in business to make more money. That’s why you hired the digital marketing expert: to help deliver more business, right? Or was it just for the vanity of being able to say “we rank number 1”? Perhaps sometimes it is about that, and if it is, be honest about it. If you hired the expert to deliver business results, be aware that extra website traffic is worthless if it doesn’t result in the planned increase in conversions. Sometimes, successful campaigns even drive total website traffic numbers down.
Most monthly reporting I have seen from other agencies is useless without interpretation that is seldom ever supplied. Two of the most complex reporting tools available in this field are Google Analytics and Google Search Console but neither provide interpretive analysis. Both of those tools are free to use and provide you with lots of outstanding data, graphs, charts, diagrams, statistics. You don’t need a pretty report from your SEO company if you like to bamboozle your directors with green arrows, just show them these two data sources – but they will mean absolutely nothing. If you’d rather pay me a monthly fee to show you green arrows though, feel free, but we get excited by business results, not arrows. Is your current provider motivated the same way?
So to summarise:
• Don’t chase rainbows by hiring someone offering worthless guarantees. SEO guarantees are almost always scams.
• Don’t hire anyone that isn’t prepared to tell you their strategy and has to involve you in the process. You are an expert in your own business and they are experts in theirs.
• Get explanations for all results or new strategies, every step of the way (and pay for it). The only thing that matters is business results. If they (or you) are fixated on rank – it’s probably just your vanity they’re appealing to. Or if they just show you pie charts and arrows, they are hoping you’ve forgotten why you are in business in the first place.
If you’re not paying attention to these points and rely on your website to deliver business, you’re taking unnecessary risks and you could lose. Everything.