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How to appoint the right Search Marketing agency

In the third instalment of a series of 'How To' pieces that aim to help provide insights on how marketers can source and hire appropriate agencies correctly, intermediary The Drum Recommends takes a look at what should be considered while seeking the right Search Marketing agency.


A search marketing agency is the epitome of a flexible friend.


With the landscape of search engine optimisation (SEO) notoriously changeable, it takes a crack team of SEO experts to stay abreast of the shifts – and on top of the most effective tools and techniques – in order to ensure the best results.


Whilst relatively still in its marketing infancy, SEO can seem like a secret set of intricate strategies to the uninitiated, but it is now among the ‘must have’ list of mainstream considerations for any business looking to push its visibility online and achieve maximum optimisation.


As is well understood, the more visible the brand to a search engine, the better the chances of being seen and, ultimately, improving customer engagement.


A search engine marketing agency is driven by data and can effect improvements in ROI by enhancing your campaigns and offering your business a suite of activities that focuses on making your website stand out from the crowd.


Google – king of the web

Google has long been recognised as the king of search engines and it is widely acknowledged that nailing the first page or even ranking number one is the aim of all businesses looking to succeed.


Worth noting is that recent stats suggest 75% of people will never scroll past the first page. It is therefore now considered imperative to employ the skills of those who make it their business to understand the dad-to-day finite details of SEO.


‘The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google search results’

Source: Unknown


Unsurprisingly, Google is now adding to the already complex dark arts of SEO with voice searches. In 2014, 41% of adults used voice search more than once a day and it is predicted that, by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice-activated.


Jason Hall, founder of FiveChannels, writing for The Drum, suggests that SEO marketers will need to get to grips with the differences in searches typed and vocally requested as well as the importance of targeting long tail keywords to reflect a more conversational-type search. Of course, we tend not to use shorthand when we speak.


As he explains: ‘Voice search makes this game more competitive because now all SEO and SEM marketers are aiming to have their content returned as the featured snippet that is displayed above the first organic result. The featured snippet typically displays the text from your site answering the question and an image.’


Whilst you don’t have to worry your head about such detail, it is important your search engine marketing agency does, so do have a read to get some background info on how SEO strategy will need to evolve in response to these shifts in trends.


If you build it, they will come

Arguably, search marketing agencies are only as good as the copy you’re pumping out and if your copy sucks, then there needs to be a rethink on your creative marketing and PR.


If a brand is creating interesting copy, then people are far more likely to read it, talk about it, link to it and cite it. Everyone wants to be top of the tree, but you have to deserve to be there.


And, as Jason Hall suggests, by including content on your website that answers every question your audience could ever potentially ask about the problems you solve as well as the products and services you offer, you are more likely to be viewed an authority on the subject by search engines and audiences alike – thanks to the wealth of knowledge they discover there.


Your PR should excite interest so, whilst your media should drive visibility, a search marketing agency can steer progress by boosting accessibility to you targeted audience, thereby increasing traffic to your website.


Getting intimate

Many suggest that at the heart of successful search engine marketing is a business in tune with its audience – which means any agency you choose has to be in tune with you. Upon this, they should develop a bespoke search engine strategy to suit your brand.


Tracking audience via their online habits, the devices they use, what they platforms they come from as well the times they search and how they search can build a picture of your typical customer.


A search engine marketing agency should also be able to assess how far into the customer journey they tread and enhance audience interactions to make them more meaningful.


Questions you may wish to ask include:

Are they up to date with current trends regarding search algorithms?
Do they track the habits of your customers and can they translate this to improve end results?
Do they understand your customer journey and where a user is in the decision-making process?
What signposts will they use to nurture them with the right message appropriate to their goals?
Do they understand how to enhance every mode of search experience to your advantage – voice, mobile, desktop, chat and so on?
If so, can they deliver device-specific optimisation?
Do they track behaviour by device, platform and environment?
Can they demonstrate successful longtail keyword mapping and optimisation and do they fine tune your marketing copy for you in response?
What examples do they have of successful audience growth – and over what period of time?
Can they focus on a service that generates the highest ROI?
Do they consider search seasonality?
Do they monitor competitors?
Do they drive hyper-local searches (important if physical footfall is key)?


A good search engine marketing agency will make your budget work for your brand by piecing together strategies to improve on what you already have.


Initially, this will require time to analyse keywords. This means evaluating the keywords you believe are important and then factoring in competitor keywords to determine to the most effective combination. Then, they will begin on-site optimisation.


In the end…

There is an order to your marketing strategy and it begins with content. Content should be unique (as near 100% plagiarism free as possible), fresh and engaging.


It also needs to be added to frequently, so do ensure you have a good PR agency that’s continually creating winning content – whether that is on your own website or elsewhere with links to other credible websites and platforms.  


The job of a search engine marketing agency is then to work hard and work smart to help establish your brand, creative credibility and build an audience. In essence, a hybrid approach to marketing should reap results – particularly if both are suitably tailored to raise your brand ‘voice’ and boost your visibility within your target market.

‘Need to know’ acronyms

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
  • SERP – Search Engine Results Page
  • PPC – Pay Per Click
  • CPC – Cost Per Click
  • GA – Google Analytics
  • CMS – Contact Management System
  • HTMP – Hyper Text Markup Language
  • CTA – Call To Action
  • CTR – Click Through Rate
  • BR – Bounce Rate
  • WOW, MOM, YOY – Week Over Week, Month Over Month and Year Over Year


If you're on the hunt for a Search Marketing agency, you can start your search here