Nearly 10 years ago I built my house. I decided to be the general contractor on my own and learned that, at the time of the housing bubble, there were really only two requirements to be a contractor. First, you had to have a truck. Second, you had to have a dog.
In the nearly nine years that Tribute Media has been a web agency (web development, web design, web marketing, etc.), we have seen so many agencies come and go. In fact, most of the agencies that were around when we started are now out of business. Even some that we thought were stellar competitors have gone away.
We've seen many start and almost as many end in the last nine years. It feels that the only qualification to starting an agency (social, SEO, web design) is that you have to have a computer and lost your job.
Now, before you get offended that I might be talking to you, that's actually exactly how I got started. I lost my job and had a computer. I just also happened to be pretty good at what I do as evidenced by the fact that we have built a very effective agency working internationally.
One of the most common tactics of a new agency is to immediately bad mouth the old competitors in the market. This is true of any industry, and it usually starts with the new kid on the block trying to prove how cool he is at understanding how the new is better than the old.
In our space, there are three very common areas in which experienced agencies are being attacked. I figure I should share with you why you should think twice about considering the new guy first.
I put this first because I see this one the most often. The claim usually says something like, "You can just do a simple Google search for 'this particular term', and you'll see that we rank in the number one spot. Your current agency doesn't show up until the 3rd page so therefore we are better."
Oh, there are so many things wrong with this claim but the biggest issue is that it's a clear demonstration of a lack of understanding of business, objectives and your current agency.
Search engine rankings happen in two ways:
It's not an effective measure because I can just give you a term that I rank for that they don't. Of the millions and millions of term possibilities, this is a pretty easy metric to fake.
For years we have heard agencies use this claim. "It's just a numbers game. If you get more traffic to your site, you'll get more business." I've had to combat this claim so many times over the years that I'm almost to the point where I'm done combatting it.
Years ago, as I started a sales career, I had a sales manager say that sales was just a numbers game. He said, "The more people you talk to the more people you sell. So, if you want to sell more, you just talk to more people."
It was a great platitude, but I quickly realized how stupid it was.
Think of it this way. If I spend eight hours talking to people and want to double my income, then I just need to talk to people 16 hours a day.
This is where the adage comes in that you should "work smarter and not harder."
Any search engine optimization provider should be able to get you rankings for a wide variety of terms. That's not hard. If they can't, then they should get out of the business fast. The real question is, "Can they get you rankings for terms that actually drive traffic?"
But, the more important follow-up question to that is, "Can they get rankings for traffic that will drive the right kind of traffic that will actually do something on your site?"
You see, search engine optimization's purpose is to increase your search rankings and only indirectly generates more traffic. If done properly, you increase your chances of getting more traffic but when you perform SEO for the sake of SEO, you will never increase traffic.
This is the biggest misnomer in any sales environment. And, if you aren't thinking of your website as a sales enablement tool then you are truly misunderstanding your website's real purpose.
See my sales example above. Getting more traffic doesn't necessarily yield more business. If your website sucks, people will leave. They will tolerate a good, non-mobile site more than a bad mobile site.
Your agency can get all the traffic your site can handle through AdWords, paid social and even SEO, but if your landing pages aren't optimized and your site's navigation is confusing, none of that will matter.
What does this really mean? The reality is that web marketing is so much more than one or two tactics. As long as your agency only thinks of marketing as "Let's just do this one thing and you'll get more business" you are looking at the wrong agency.
But, it also means, that if you have a new agency coming to knock on your door (even if it's Tribute Media), don't just assume that your current agency is doing a bad job. Start with the assumption that you may not have given your current agency the opportunity to do their job well.
Contrary to the opinions of the uninitiated in the web marketing world, it's not all about rankings. Rankings are a start, but if you stop there, you are missing out on a larger world of success.