5 Questions That Will Save Your Business from an Online Disaster

If you are the owner of a business, you are certainly bombarded with online marketing propositions. These could be coming through your LinkedIn profile, Gmail, or social networks.

If you've taken the time to listen to the sales spiels, the message is usually just about the same: “If you give us four to six months, we will have your website ranking for all the strategic keywords in your vertical.” Often business owners fall for this pitch and perhaps even initially see great progress at first, only to then be disappointed with a massive drop in performance.

If you've had this experience, you're no different from millions of other business owners. The truth is the Internet has turned into the most powerful and important marketing channel of our time.

This demand for increased online visibility has bred a massive industry of subpar marketing companies that sell you on promises, but fail to deliver. Before 2012, there wasn't much harm that could come from these low quality outfits. The worst they could do was never get your site the visibility it needed to turn a big return. However, after Google released the first Penguin update, that all changed.

We want to give you a few tips on how you can evaluate whether the inbound marketing agency you're considering is a wise choice. Asking the following questions will give you direct insight as to what you're purchasing and whether you are getting bang for your buck.

1. Is Incorrect Link Building Damaging Your Brand? 4 Warning Signs

Link building is hands down the tactic that can cause the most damage to your brand in the least amount of time. This is the item 99% of SEO companies build their product around.

This can be really tricky because having a strong linking profile is still extremely important for ranking in Google. Anything that can give a website a boost in the organic results will be exploited by online marketing agencies for the foreseeable future. That means you're going to need to protect yourself.
Below are the 4 warning signs you're in with the wrong outfit.
– Company Not Showing You Exact URLs of Work

– Only Targeting Narrow Set of Terms

– Ratio of Exact Match Anchor Text

– Posting Content to Junk Websites

2. Are you Getting Bad Advice about Your Content? 4 Differentiators to Consider

The copy your brand publishes on its own blog is the single most important thing you can do for an effective online marketing strategy. The thing to remember here is quality is definitely more valuable than quantity.

We've seen that consistently adding content to your root domain balances out any link acquisition efforts you may be doing. If you think about it, this principle makes complete sense:

If you have a site that's been static for 5 years, then all of a sudden it starts getting tons of inbound links, it looks like you engaged with an SEO company. However, if you have a site that starts producing a bunch of awesome content, which is getting shared in the social media networks, it makes sense that there are a bunch of new links.

Below are a few differentiators to watch out for:
Quantity vs. Quality:
If you’re being told that the search engines are looking for websites that publish as much content as possible and that quality of the writing isn't really that important, you aren’t working with the right people. Reliable and helpful content is a must.

Links vs. Content on Your Own Domain:

If you’re being sold on the idea that it’s not really that important to publish the content on your own domain, if the content is being linked to your site, then you need to watch out.
Copyright Infringement vs. Original Work:
Some companies cut corners by copying content from other websites to publish to your blog. Not only is this typically copyright infringement, which carries with it legal risks, but also copied content is not likely to add value to your site.

Raw Content vs. Organized Design:

Inexperienced marketers may say, “Don’t worry about the design or format of the blog posts. These are really only meant for the search engines.” Industry experts will tell you that planned, thoughtfully organized design will be pleasing to your visitors in both appearance and content, and keep them coming back to your site.

3. Is The Marketing Agency Hiding Poor Quality Work? 3 Red Herrings to Watch for

Since the dawn of online marketing there has been a customer complaint about the level of transparency. There are some classic lines I've heard for years that are a direct tipoff of something wrong:


“Our fulfillment is proprietary, so we can't show you any specifics.”

Exact URLs Unavailable:

“We're more than happy to show you the kinds of work, but we're not allowed to show the exact URLs.”


“We're under contract to not show any live work from current clients.”

Whether you are in a pre- or post- sales situation, you should demand to see exact URLs of finished work. If the agency gives you any kind of pushback on this requirement, you should run the other way.

Any company worth their salt will be more than happy to show you specific examples of all their work items. They will also be proactive for showing you all of the exact URLs from all of the completed action items in your fulfillment package.

4. Are You Committing to An Inferior Marketing Company? 3 Excuses Inferior Companies Hide Behind

 SEO companies have been trying to bully clients into signing long contracts for years. I think this is an automatic sign that the company isn't confident they are going to get results for your campaign. Below are a few things you might hear when talking to a sales rep.

Upfront Cost Excuse:

“The only reason we put a contract in place is there are a lot of upfront costs with our fulfillment.”
Time Justification
“We only put a contract in place so the campaign has the time needed to see any significant improvement.”
Loss Leader Pitch
“This contract is a way to protect ourselves. We actually lose money on the campaign till the start of the 4th month.”

Service companies shouldn't have contracts. If they provide value, customers will want to stick with their brand. These kinds of agreements are ways businesses with low quality offerings are able to stay in business.

5. How Do I Find Great Marketing Companies? Look for Those Who Practice What They Preach

This is the hands down most important way you can judge the quality of the online marketing agency. If you really look at the Internet marketing industry, you will find 80% to 90% of the websites don't practice the majority of what they preach.

Here are the most important things you need to evaluate and the tools you'll use to get it done.

  • How well are they doing their own content marketing?
  • How often do they post to their blog?
  • How well is the blog content written?
  • Do the topics of the blog post look engaging and relevant?
  • How impressive is their website's design and other corporate marketing material?
  • Does it look modern and up-to-date?
  • Are they giving away eBooks and other downloadable material?
  • How does their website rank for strategic terms within their vertical?
  • How powerful is their linking profile?
  • Does the website have a high amount of domain authority?
  • Does the website have a good ratio of anchor text?
  • Is the website consistently adding new backlinks?
  • How active is the company in relevant social media networks?
  • Do they have an active social media following?
  • Does it look like their website content is being shared in strategic networks?
  • Do the profiles look professional and up-to-date?

In conclusion, having a high level of online visibility has ever been more important to both large and small businesses alike. Online marketing has become a lucrative industry that takes advantage of billions of website owners a year. You need to educate yourself so you don't become another company exploited by the next SEO agency.


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Written by:
Jonathan Wickham has been in the online marketing industry for over 7 years. He is the founder and CEO of Digital Flavor Enterprises. It has quickly become one of the fastest growing content marketing agencies in the nation. You can read more of his writing by visiting DF’s blog at www.digitalflavor.com/blog.
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