What to look for in a search marketing agency

Organizational and cultural fit.

There are a lot of search marketing agencies out there. And, putting our competitive natures aside, there is a lot of good talent spread throughout. Often it is not the competencies of the search marketers themselves, but the culture of the agency that will determine if they are a good fit for your company.

Because of the nature of search marketing, virtually all agencies share characteristics. The difference comes in the mix of things such as reliance on bid management automation, reporting tools, processes and procedures, newbies vs highly experienced staff, and media partner relationships. Where companies put their focus directs where their culture goes, or their culture drives their focus, depending on the agency. Even this nuance says a lot about the fit.

Price based agency

Some client companies are price driven. There is a culture of tough negotiation and getting the cost for everything to the bare minimum. There are some search marketing agencies that thrive in this environment. Some characteristics include very regimented processes, standardized reporting and a heavy reliance on automation to offset a higher mix of newbies vs experienced search marketers. Essentially these are good for marketers who are purely price driven and don’t need / want high touch search management.

Cutting edge agency

I’ve seen clients who are heavily focused on being cutting edge. They like the bragging rights that come with always being the first to try new technologies, be in all the betas, and blog about how they were “there first”. Search agencies that do this well tend to be larger, often combined with other digital marketing capabilities, have a lower dependence on automation and standardization. You’ll typically find a higher mix of more experienced search marketers vs newbies. Generally, these elements have a higher price tag, but that comes with the ‘cutting edge’ search marketing label. For some brands this is a great fit.

Performance focused agency

Performance based search marketing agencies focus in on maximizing a client’s goals for each dollar spent. We didn’t say ROI because some companies can’t directly measure it. But, they do have goals that are important such as leads, content consumption, engagement, sharing etc. While the ideal is to measure direct ROI, the inability to do that does not preclude these companies from setting goals and optimizing their search marketing accordingly. These agencies tend to be more balanced in their approach because optimizing programs depends on the nuances of the programs; they can’t be too rigid yet they need the capacity to focus. They test into new areas (usually a predefined portion of the budget) and keep what works, trash what doesn’t. Often this is where knowing what to do when search marketing best practices aren’t working and how to integrate that with automation tools comes into play. Clients who can or want to start setting goals and developing reporting to guide decisions (not just fill up in boxes) work well with these agencies.

Starting down the right search path

For those looking for a search marketing partner, the trick in all of this is to be honest with your assesment of your own company. Too often, we’ve seen companies say they are performance based yet negotiated for a price point that simply cannot support the mix of talent to do that. Or, they’ll say they are performance based, but then constantly push for the new stuff (ie, unproven). Not properly managed, new stuff blows up performance based search marketing programs. As companies seek a new search marketing agency, they first need to prioritize their own objectives. One isn’t better than the other, but they all require different approaches and most agencies are simply better suited for one versus the others.

So, what kind of search marketing agency is Fanatically Digital?

  • We focus on our clients’ program performance.
  • We use bid automation and reporting software to help manage the daily flow of search efficiently.
  • We employee search marketing experts to oversee programs and develop recommendations to make them more effective.
  • We implement Google Analytics to provide nuanced understanding of users activities.
  • Our reports are developed for each client to focus on the key elements of their program so we can, together, make well informed decisions.

We offer our clients the option to be deeply involved with access to our own project management tools so they can (if they desire) know exactly where we are in our program management and optimization processes.

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