How to choose an agency & survive the zombie apocalypse


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When selecting and working with a search agency, sometimes it can be hard to know if that deal really is too good to be true. After having been called in a number of times to audit other SEO agencies work, I offered to speak on how to choose an agency well the first time. I also thought it would be helpful to cover how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse as the session was the last one on the last day :-)

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How to choose an agency & survive the zombie apocalypse

  1. 1. How To Choose An AgencyAnd avoid the coming zombie apocalypse
  2. 2. Who Am I? I do work at an agency (but I am not a zombie) Got on the Internet in 1986 at my school lab Working online with search since 1996 Paid & Natural Search – all aspects Worked in-house within e-Commerce, Publishing & High Tech At i-level worked with Orange, COI, NatWest/RBS, National Gallery, CIPD, Fidelity, GalaCoral, NBC Universal, Readers Digest, Bayer & more At Beyond have worked with Virgin Trains, Family Search, Amadeus, AMD, AmEx & more Chosen as a founding Modern Muse, contributed to a book on promoting websites, top finalist “Female Social Media Guru” (not yet awarded) One of the SEO Chicks ...and I blog at
  3. 3. How to Start...
  4. 4. How to Start... Establish what your goals are What level of help do you need How much do you know about search What is your budget and is the ROI worth it What level of competition is there Are your goals realistic given your budget Is there an internal champion for the work? Co-ordination between all agencies is a must
  5. 5. Guarantees – We Haz Sum Credit: Declan McCullagh
  6. 6. Guarantees – We Haz Sum No guarantees possible in natural search No “special relationship” possible for most search engines esp. Google Paid search can cost more than expected Paid Placement in Yahoo not a guarantee Social media exposure and fans no guarantee of conversion Yes, the DDA is important
  7. 7. What *IS* Possible Then?
  8. 8. What *IS* Possible Then? Adjusting on-site elements  Keyword analysis/research  Technical audit  Competitor/Gap/SWOT analysis  etc Link building through on-site baiting, competitions, advertorials/advertising, etc. Analytics-based intelligence & adjustments Lots... Just not special secret relationships
  9. 9. Link Farms
  10. 10. Link Farms Links built on farms are artificial Built too quickly results in penalty Profiling results in penalty Wrong kind of link results in a penalty This kind of building requires an extremely expert hand – look for recommendations from people already using service (i.e. LinkFish existing customers)
  11. 11. Expectations
  12. 12. Expectations What the agency might do What reports you can expect Link-buying issues Analytics Analysis Link analysis & reports – what you can do to check
  13. 13. How To Check An Agency Out NewMediaAge
  14. 14. How To Check An Agency Out Paid Search? Member of IAB, Google AdWords certification No official SEO industry body but do have SEMPO membership (voluntary) Check search results on name & social media on name Companies House in the UK, other business registration services through government elsewhere Due diligence Professional Indemnity Insurance Non-disclosure agreements Ask: Number of years in business, company turnover, staff levels, staff split, awards, etc
  15. 15. How To Check An Agency Out Case Studies Public visibility of staff Question methodology – not always possible to be transparent but lots  Things like level of reporting Client levels – do they have lots or few & are any long-term Escape clause – make sure you have one Input – if it is a retainer establish exactly what you are getting for your money Excellent resource from the IAB - encySelectionChecklist-UK-Final_2956.pdf
  16. 16. What Can I do If They ScrewUp?
  17. 17. What Can I do If They ScrewUp? How have they done so Can it be specifically traced to a change they made and Can it be rolled back and if so does it fix the “penalty”? If not, and it is traced to a specific change they made, and you can prove it, that’s what PI insurance is for Fraud = police involvement
  18. 18. But Remember...
  19. 19. QUESTIONS?
  20. 20. Judith LewisHead of SearchBeyond