Every business survives and thrives on brand building, lead generation, and sales.

However, not all businesses can afford to manage an in-house digital marketing team and in many cases, they shouldn’t.

This is where digital marketing agencies come in; they help small business owners achieve their marketing goals cost-effectively. When you hire an agency, you’re usually contracting with a team of specialists that would be cost prohibitive to onboard internally. For example, many agencies like ours have someone on staff who spent decades just studying how to optimize TV ads or doing off-page SEO.

And those are just two of many narrowly focused specialties in digital marketing.

So unless your business is marketing, you’re probably going to get better results for your money by hiring an agency.

Speaking from experience though, not all agencies are created equal. And this begs the question at the top of your mind right now: How to evaluate a digital marketing agency? 🤔

What qualities should a digital marketing agency have to help your business thrive in this competitive atmosphere? How do you know you’re getting the service you expect at the prices you’re paying month over month?

a cartoon of a shark jumping out of moneyIt can be stressful, but let’s talk about it in detail to help set your mind at ease. I’m going to be brutally honest throughout this article because I’ve spent the last 10 years doing my very best at Webology to provide agency services that actually deliver an ROI, and our sales team often has to go up against companies that are complete sharks.

There are dishonest ‘churn-and-burn‘ agencies that are just out to rip people off and I’m going to help you avoid them. I’m tired of hearing stories from clients who paid tens of thousands of dollars for work that was never done by the last agency. I think its time to clean up our industry and I’m hoping this article will contribute to that in some small way. So keep reading and you’ll be equipped to evaluate agency services properly.

How to Evaluate a Digital Marketing Agency?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to selecting the right digital marketing agency for your business needs.a group of people looking at a target

Evaluate Your Goals First

A digital marketing agency can only help you if you have a clear path to follow.

What is it that you want them to achieve for you?

For instance, do you want to increase your brand’s social media following?

Or, maybe you want to generate more conversions. If that’s the goal, do you want your agency to focus on lead generation or sales?

You can further break your goal down by creating a plan for the next 3 months, 6 months, or a year.

Defining a clear marketing goal helps you start your partnership on the right foot. But what do you do if you’re completely unsure about defining your goals? That’s where it may make sense to approach an agency specialized in strategy first. They can help you understand your business better and figure out what goals are realistic for you to achieve. Agencies like Move Digital Group specialize in this and can even help you evaluate the performance of the team implementing your strategy.

Once you know your strategy and goals, it’s time to start agency shopping to find the perfect fit.

Examine Their ExpertiseA representation of a gauge measuring skill levels

Digital marketing is a broad industry, encompassing:

  • SEO
  • SEA
  • SMM
  • Email Marketing
  • And More

So how do you match an agency’s expertise to your needs? Your goal could be to generate more leads through search engine optimization and not invest in pay-per-click ads.

One approach would be to align your needs with an agency’s expertise in a particular area of digital marketing. You can do this by checking out their service pages on their website to see what they are most interested in promoting. These are most likely going to be the services they are best at.

The other one would be to hire an agency that takes care of everything from click to conversion. If you do that, make sure they have a large enough team so that no one person is responsible for too much. It’s important to remember that things like SEO and PPC may be similar, but they are completely different disciplines and you need an expert in each one to see the best results.

Lead Gen Agencies

Let’s say your goal is lead generation. Your agency can help you get more leads with a well-rounded strategy.

The strategy can include anything from paid ads to social media content. When selecting platforms for paid advertising, your agency should have a clear understanding of your target audience and which platforms they are most active on. This will ensure that your ads are being seen by the right people.

Look at Their Portfolio

look at their digital marketing portfolio

Another important step in evaluating a digital marketing agency is looking at its past work. It can include:

  • Projects
  • Case studies
  • Client Results

However, only look at case studies related to your industry. For instance, if you want your agency to design, optimize, and manage your finance business website, look for their projects in that domain. I picked finance as an example because there are many regulatory compliance concerns around content in that space, and you don’t want to be constantly telling your agency what they can and can’t say on your website. You need someone who knows marketing and also knows your industry well.

If you want help with lead generation, see if they’ve helped similar businesses generate more leads.

Note that if an agency has only worked with large corporations, they might not know the challenges of a small business owner. It may also be the case where an agency’s not a great fit for your large or mid-sized corporation because they’re used to working for very small businesses. Find the perfect match for your business by considering the agency’s experience and portfolio, but also their size and target market.

Client Reviews and Testimonials are the Keya thumb up and stars on a red background

When it comes to evaluating a digital marketing agency, there’s nothing more powerful than reviews from past clients.

Customer reviews can help you understand the pros and cons of working with an agency, especially when they’re detailed.

Almost every digital marketing agency website has some positive reviews from past clients, so you want to check out third-party sites as well.

For instance, review their Google Business Profile page if they’re offering local digital marketing services.

Plus, try to find their video reviews and testimonials.

While they can be challenging to get, video reviews speak volumes.

And, when evaluating an agency’s reviews, focus on comments related to your marketing goals.

For instance, if you want to generate search engine traffic, see if any testimonial mentions traffic hikes. But you should also keep in mind that even though it is not legal or ethical, some agencies fake reviews. I’ve seen it done openly multiple times in my career, but I’m going to give you a tip to avoid hiring such an agency that works almost every time…

You Can’t (Easily) Fake a 5 Star Review Profile on Glassdoor!Lightbulb

If I was in the market to hire an agency today, one of my last steps would be to see what the employees have say on places like Indeed and Glassdoor. It’s easy to get fake 5 Star client reviews by asking friends and family to comment, even or just giving away something free in exchange for a review.

What’s not easy is keeping your employees happy with a positive work culture that fosters creativity, teamwork and innovation.

If the agency culture is one that promotes positive feedback and values employee satisfaction, then it’s likely that their Glassdoor profile will reflect this. On the other hand, if the agency has a toxic work environment with high turnover rates and disgruntled employees, this will also show in their Glassdoor reviews.

As a potential client, it’s important to do your research and read through employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor to get a better understanding of the agency culture. This gives you an unfiltered look at their ops and might be a good indicator on performance after the ink’s dry on your contract.

…and speaking of contracts, be very cautious with anyone unwilling to do a month-to-month engagement. This is especially true with SEO services because a lot of agencies know they can’t deliver results, so they lock people in for 6-12 months and basically steal from them.

Consider Their Pricing

Consider a marketing agency's pricing before investing

The goal of hiring a digital marketing agency is to generate more revenue for your business.

Before getting started with an agency’s services, make sure they’re not above your marketing budget.

Evaluate your budget and goals to make sure you’re not spending more than you should.

However, remember the golden rule of investing: You get what you pay for.

The goal shouldn’t be to find an agency that charges minimal rates for their services.ROI

Most agencies are cheap because they don’t have an experienced team. This means the results may not be what you expect.

You want to make sure they’re capable of helping you achieve your goals cost-effectively.

This is where investing some time and energy to evaluate an agency from different angles will help you out.

Note that digital marketing projects are generally not that straightforward, so you may not find a price tag for your needs on their website.

Most of the time, you’ll have to communicate your needs and get a custom quote.

For that, hopping on a quick call is the right way to go. For instance, Webology lets you schedule a free call to discuss your project needs.

Digital marketing agency Webology

Ask About Their Tracking and Reporting Processes

Tracking is as important as any other part of a digital marketing strategy.

It tells you whether your tactics are generating the desired outcomes.

Analytics give you insights into what’s working, allowing you to focus your efforts on high-performing strategies.

Moreover, when you’re working with an agency, you need to track their performance as well.

For instance, a 6-monthly report suggests that your agency was able to generate 30% more leads would be stellar. But earlier on in any digital campaign, there’s not going to be as much to go on because you need data first. Your agency should be checking in with small wins though by the end of the first month or so.

Here’s a perfect example I just shared with one of our clients at the end of month 1. At the time of writing, we’ve only invested 5-10 hours into their SEO work and it resulted in some big traffic gains early on for them:

a graph of growth in traffic measured by AHREFS

A good digital marketing agency will give you a detailed progress report every once in a while. The very best will produce wins like this from simple things others might overlook. In the case of the image above, all we did was go through about 100 existing pages and add internal links 🤣

So, an important question to ask is “What’s your reporting process?”. Plus, ask about the software platforms and tools they use to track and record progress.

For instance, Google Analytics is a great free option when it comes to measuring website performance.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Marketing Attribution

How to Evaluate a Digital Marketing Agency: Conclusion

Evaluating a digital marketing agency is a simple step-by-step process if you know what to look for.

Start by clearly defining your marketing goals if you haven’t already.

When you know where you want to go, you can better allocate your resources for the journey.

Here’s a recap of what to look for before working with a digital marketing agency:Recap

  • Evaluate their expertise
  • Look at their portfolio
  • Find their client reviews and testimonials
  • Study their pricing

An important part of business partnerships is developing an effective communication channel.

Communicate your short-term and long-term marketing goals to eradicate potential confusion down the road.

Want to generate more conversions for your business? Webology can help!

Schedule a free Call Today!