Choosing the right digital marketing agency

For the average person, terms like 'SEO' and 'PPC' and 'link building' can be confusing and meaningless. But digital marketing is such a multi-faceted undertaking that it's important to know what you're getting. 
We've written before about the dangers of 'negative' SEO and why white hat SEO is so important, but how do you know which SEO agency is going to give you the best service?
The following is a list of things to look out for when shopping around for a digital marketing agency; those things that should set off alarm bells and send you running for the hills.

SEO Warning Signs

  • 'Search engine submission' - If you see a company offering to submit your website to dozens or even hundreds of search engines for £59.99, then run the other way. There are only really 2 or 3 search engines that matter now ('Google' after all is synonymous with 'search') and you can submit your own website to them for free anyway. Submission to a search engine does not guarantee you any rankings, so frankly you'd be better off setting fire to your money and using it to keep warm. With a correctly design website, a good navigation structure, an XML sitemap and robots.txt file, plus a few external links, Google will soon find their way to and around your site all by themselves.
  • 'Cheap' SEO - you get what you pay for. If a price looks too good to be true it usually is. The less you spend, the less return on investment you'll see as the chances are the agency will either be cowboys or spending barely any time each month on your website. Of course, that's not to say that spending lots of money each month guarantees you results - you need to be sure you know what you are getting for your money.
  • Fast rankings - companies that promise to get you to 'the top of Google' in a matter of days (or weeks) are misleading you from the off. There is no 'get rich quick' scheme when it comes to organic search engine rankings. If you want fast results you need Pay Per Click Advertising, otherwise it can take months to see good results in the organic listings. And no one can make any guarantees. The only way they could possibly get results like that are through black hat practices which would see your site banned from the search rankings in the future and thus potentially destroy your business before it's even properly started on the web. The other trick is they'll promise to get you to the top for keyword they choose - i.e. those with no competition and no search volume that will be easy to rank for like 'fluxcapacitor cleaning pipes'.
  • 'Relationship with Google' - if an agency or marketing company tells you they have a 'special' relationship with Google, they are lying. No one has a special relationship with Google whereby they can influence the search rankings with a wink and a nudge. Similarly, someone who claims to know all of Google's secrets on how they judge the rankings is equally misleading you. No one knows all the answers definitively, except Google and they're not going to tell you because you'll just abuse it to get your site about someone else's'. There are over 200 factors in Google's search algorithms. We don't claim to know them all, but we have the experience to be able to tell you what works and what doesn't and we keep up with the changes in the industry so we can help your website from falling.
  • Thousands of links through 'trusted' networks - these sort of schemes involve low prices for automated links in so-called 'trusted' networks. Basically though, they link spam, comment spam, poor directory listings and low-quality links that are likely to do more harm than good. Avoid like the plague. Natural links are the best quality and we can advise on how to get them.

At the end of the day, you want to choose a digital marketing agency that's open and honest, with a transparent reporting process that lets you keep an eye on where your money is being spent and the results being achieved because of it.