SMX East - Finding and Succeeding With a Search Marketing Agency - Brian Harnish
SMX East 2012
by Brian Harnish
Internet Marketing Specialist
Finding An Agency Can Be a Daunting Task
For the Small Business Owner
SEO has expanded and has become a larger industry than ever before.
It can be dauntingly difficult when there are more agencies out there
competing for your business. But, it can be easy when you ask the right
How do you choose an agency?
What type of agency should you go for?
Should you bring SEO in-house instead?
What common information do agencies need?
How do you discuss a comprehensive SEO plan with an agency?
How do you become most effective with your agency?
How to Choose an Agency
Requirements for best results
Choose an agency that aligns with your goals.
Choose an agency that aligns with your general business
Find an agency that practices white hat, sound SEO techniques.
Find an agency that will tell it to you straight and doesn’t sugar-
They also need to back up their experience, skills and
knowledge with real world results.
What Type of Agency?
Do you need a larger agency or smaller
- Larger agency works well for smaller sites. They
tend to have a one size fits all approach to their
marketing services. Some situations, such as
constant internal link building that can tip off SERP
spam filters, can arise from having a larger agency
do your SEO.
- Smaller agencies have less clients (but not less
talent) and tend to be able to offer better, more
custom marketing campaigns and are well suited
- for medium small business websites.
When Should You Go In-
Most agencies are limited to 2-20
keywords depending on the market
you’re going after.
• Do you want to go after 600 keywords?
• Do you have a much larger, competitive market to
• Do you have the budget for it?
Why Hire an In-House
You have complete control over your
- You can set the goals, the requirements for
success, the metrics you wish to measure, and
hold yourself and your team accountable for your
website marketing success.
- Going in-house typically means changes and
updates can be done much faster than through
- Anything custom you want, you can accomplish
with in-house SEO.
Should you choose an agency, how you communicate
with them is most important.
- Communicating changes
- Communicating goals, strategy, and updates
- Communicating your expectations
- Ensuring timely delivery of execution of certain marketing
- Building rapport with your SEO specialist is especially
- They will be more apt to do special, custom things for
you because you’re they’re favorite client.
Different People, Different
Different professions communicate
Depending on the agency, IT is mostly concerned with servers and
keeping things running. They couldn’t care less about SEO but
tend to understand its importance.
Coders are the backbone of the website. They build things from
the ground up.
Designers are concerned with User Experience, graphics,
developing a pleasing website presence that is attractive
Marketing is where your services will primarily be based, and your
SEO specialist is here. You will end up communicating with
marketing more so than any of these other specialists.
What if you are not happy with your agency?
We have all reached a certain point where the agency has
outgrown our needs and we need to move on to achieve
better results. How do you identify that you are not happy?
○ They are not providing the results they once did.
○ At first when they got your money it was all smiles and delivering things on time,
but sadly that has gone by the wayside.
○ They are not keeping up with Google updates and instead continue to utilize
old, out of date methods for SEO.
○ The last one is most important. Part of an SEO’s job is to make sure that they
are up to date on all of the latest search engine algorithm updates, that they are
able to adapt to them, and still deliver stellar results.
○ If these are not happening, and they don’t know what Penguin or Panda are,
then it’s probably time to consider finding another agency that does know their
What Can You Expect Working With An
Working with an agency instead of doing the work
yourself can be a good thing.
A good agency will keep you up to date on everything
going on with your marketing campaign, and provide
custom services rather than a one size fits all
You don’t have to learn constantly, and can instead
focus on things you want to do.
Results won’t happen overnight. It takes consistent
efforts to achieve top, SUSTAINABLE rankings and
an online presence.
To get the best results, you want to give the agency
everything you know about your business, your
products, your services, your customers, the
keywords you want to target, your goals, everything.
Providing the Agency With the Proper
There is certain information the agency will need in order to
move forward with your marketing campaign.
○ All applicable logins if you’re doing a custom site (hosting login, domain name
registrar login, FTP). If you don’t feel comfortable with this, at least ensure that
you have all the files in a format that you will be able to easily upload and install
without much additional execution on your part.
○ Information for Local SEO (your business address, exact business name, DBA
statements, Google Places accounts, Yahoo, Bing accounts, Yelp accounts,
other review accounts)
○ Information for PPC (all keywords you’re currently target, your current PPC
expenditures, your PPC goals, your Google/Yahoo/Bing PPC account logins)
○ If you don’t provide enough information, your agency will not be able to move
forward with your marketing initiatives.
○ The agency will typically tell you their requirements but in order for your
campaign to be successful, you should provide them with as much information
I Need To Switch Domain Names – What
Info Do I Need To Provide?
○ Of course, your registrar’s login info.
○ Whether or not you host E-Mail with it. This is
important – if you host email through your registrar
and your agency doesn’t know, your email will go
down when you switch domain names. Something
called MX records for email need to be updated
prior to the switch to prevent any email downtime.
○ All related login info
- FTP info
- Webmaster tools login info
- Any additional account info
- Any Bing, Yahoo, MSN, and link building account
Discussing a Proper SEO Plan with Your
One size fits all approaches are the worst.
They don’t allow for all the different variations that
can occur in a marketing campaign.
If you really want to dominate a market, you want to
discuss an SEO plan that will remain competitive.
SEO has grown and with the demand for services,
it’s no longer competitive to update your website
once a month and leave it at that.
You need constant weekly (minimum) updates to stay
ahead of your competition.
Your competition will be doing everything they can to
get ahead, and that includes updates more often
than what had been recommended in the past.
SEO Myths & Scams
There are some extremely good agencies, and there are
some very bad ones.
The worst will use all types of myths & scams at their
disposal hook you, as well as prevent you from going with a
Some of the common ones include:
○ We’ll get you results (rankings) in 24 hours.
○ It takes months and months to get results (when you’re asking them three
months into the campaign why there are no results yet).
○ It costs thousands of dollars to get results (to get you to buy more additional
services you typically don’t need).
○ LSI – Latent Semantic Indexing – No major search engine uses this. When an
agency pitches LSI, RUN far far away.
○ We can’t provide you a listing of all the links we built. Chances are they haven’t
really built anything valuable, and will use this as a smoke screen.
○ You can’t go after other areas in your marketing campaign.
Duplicate Content Scams
You won’t face scams in just SEO either. There are plenty of
duplicate content scams to part you from your money. They
require the utmost of discrimination to find.
○ The “replacing regular characters with exact replacement in cyrillic text scam.
This has become relatively widespread lately. This scam won’t show up in dup
content detecting software like copyscape, so it’s relatively easy to perpetuate.
How it works: they use the exact letter in cyrillic that appears like an exact letter
in the normal alphabet when they submit their content. In addition, the content
won’t even be found on Google when it uses foreign characters.
○ To beat this scam if you suspect someone is doing it, is to type the text
physically into Google or Copyscape, rather than copying & pasting it.
○ They use a spinner, submitting gibberish. This is relatively easy to spot, so
reading the content you should notice some words are out of place and the
content doesn’t flow. These are two signs that someone used spinner software
to randomly generate the articles without re-writing them.
Finding and succeeding with an agency doesn’t
have to be difficult.
By practicing sound business thinking and
combining it with at least basic online marketing
knowledge, you will be able to choose an agency
that best fits your needs.
You will then be able to participate in reaping the
profits from a very successful marketing