insights

choosing a digital marketing partner 4 essential questions

choosing a digital marketing partner (be it a web agency or SEO support) is an important decision that all businesses, understandably, want to get right.

Over the years I’ve seen many instances where, had a business asked a simple question or two at the outset, it would have saved them a lot of time, money and pain in the long run.

1. will my website be built on a custom cms?

if your digital marketing partner is building you a new website, you’ll want to know what content management system (cms) they are building it on whether the cms is custom (i.e. built exclusively by your digital marketing partner).

while there might still be relevance in building on a custom cms if your site is highly technical and requires extensive customisation, they can be an unnecessary expense and commitment for relatively straightforward sites – here’s why:

more difficult (and more expensive) to make edits

with user-friendly, open-source platforms such as wordpress widely available these days it is now much easier for businesses to edit their own sites. this in turn not only gives businesses more control, but it also saves them money. many custom cms platforms can’t be easily edited by businesses and as such, changes (which can only be made by one agency) incur extra costs.

less easy to change supplier

if your cms (and therefore your website) is controlled by one agency it makes changing agency just about impossible. not only does this mean you can be paying disproportionately more than you would with another supplier, it also means if you are unsatisfied it can be very difficult to do anything about it without having to build an entirely new website.

reduced site longevity and cost effectiveness over time

unlike open-source cms platforms like wordpress, custom cms platforms are only updated and maintained by a single agency. this means that unless your agency is really on top of its game, the platform and your website can date quickly – meaning its shelf life may not be as long, reducing its cost effectiveness over time and making it more likely you’ll have to make another significant investment sooner rather than later.

key takeaway: ask your digital partner to explain whether your CMS is custom or open-source and for their reasons why.

2. who will keep control of my google analytics?

some agencies will set up google analytics for your site and fail to handover account control. remember, it is your legal responsibility to look after this data.

not only can withholding access to your account cause a total headache for your company, it can be used as a tactic to stop you switching suppliers. don’t let them hold you to ransom.

key takeaway: always make sure you have control of your Google Analytics account and give permissions to those who need access where necessary.

3. do you use black hat seo tactics?

trust can so easily be misplaced by well-meaning businesses when it comes to seo. unfortunately there are still too many agencies and freelancers out there liberally applying black hat tactics without their clients knowing.

why is this important? well, if your website uses black hat tactics (or those of its dubious cousin grey hat) and gets caught, it will be you and your site that will pay the price – from penalties lowering your search rankings to having your domain blacklisted altogether (trust me, i’ve seen it happen).

you don’t have to be an seo expert to ask your digital partner outright if they use black hat or grey hat seo tactics – and you absolutely should. and if they make you promises of any kind, especially if they seem too good to be true – let that be a red flag.

key takeaway: ask your digital partner outright if they use black hat or grey hat SEO tactics and be sceptical of any promises (especially outlandish ones) they make.

4. what types of links will be built to my website and how?

link-building and outreach is a common and really effective form of seo, however it can be really easy to fall into grey and black hat territory. make sure money or goods aren’t being exchanged for the links being built to your website.

in addition, if link building is driving traffic to your website or improving the keywords it is ranking for, be sure that it is driving quality traffic from quality sources to quality content.

recently i audited a website for a scottish business that, despite exclusively serving a local market, was (as a result of really bad link-building) driving almost all of its traffic from america. in this case the traffic (though it looked good in monthly reports) was highly irrelevant and negatively impacting bounce rates from listings on multiple poor quality index sites, making the highly reputable brand look less trustworthy.

key takeaway: ask your digital partner to show you exactly where they are building links to and to explain why they are relevant, good quality links to build.

still not sure about your prospective partner and looking for a comparative approach? let’s chat it through with a free 15 minute call – i’d be more than happy to help.

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