Well is your digital agency selling you snake oil?

 No way I hear you say… But how do you know? – I mean really know?

Do you have the knowledge to measure the effectiveness of your digital agency?

It is a sad fact that many of us put our trust in digital or web ‘experts’ who convince us to part with our hard earned cash in return for online promotional services that end up falling woefully short of what was promised.

To make matters worse, it is commonplace for both the initial proposal and the subsequent monthly (or quarterly) reports to be so technical as to be utterly useless as a real input to management decision making.

Take pay per click or pay per view advertising for example. Most reports from such ‘experts’ focus on this mysterious thing called click-thru. (Or Click-Through if you are not American). – But what is click-thru?

In simple terms, click-thru is the statistic that is counted when someone sees your online paid advertising link when searching for something (hopefully similar to what you are advertising) online (probably with Google), and clicks the link to open up the page which usually then takes them to your website or to another landing page.

 Many of the aforementioned web ‘experts’ will focus most of their energy on researching the ‘best’ search terms and will convince you to buy ads that fit with – or that are the same as – those terms and phrases. – They will tell you “it’s all about driving traffic to your site”.  

Now let’s just think about this for a minute.

In fact, let’s go back in time to the days before the Internet and let’s pretend you owned a new specialist retail shop in a decent sized town. You decide that the first order of business is to let everyone know you are there and open for business. – So you advertise in the local paper, put up posters all over town, put leaflets under windscreen wipers and through letterboxes. – And people start coming to your shop. – So far so good. – Has your advertising campaign been successful? – Yes it has, provided the objective was simply to create awareness and drive foot-fall.

BUT, has the money you have spent been worthwhile? – In other words, did you get a return on your investment? – Did people engage with you? – did they buy things? – Did you make money?

Now let’s get back to your digital ‘experts’. – Firstly, buying ads using really popular key words can be really expensive. – Hoping for page one ad listing for your product using super-popular but ‘vanilla’ search terms can work if you are a big well-known brand but can be totally counter-productive for the smaller (or niche) business.

You should also be aware that how people search for things has changed. – People rarely search using single ‘key’ words nowadays, they typically search using full phrases (many of which are written as questions). So why spend lots of money on key words where you are competing with all the big guys with huge budgets? – You should focus on linking your business niche with what a quality customer would search for.

To simplify: If you are a plumbing company in Watford that specializes in Bathrooms, then you might want people to ideally search using the following phrase: ‘bathroom specialist plumbers in Watford’. This will attract the right sort of traffic and give you a better chance of engaging with them. – As opposed to paying a fortune for keywords like ‘plumber’ or ‘bathroom’.

So the message is that of course you need traffic, BUT you need the right type of traffic. – Relevant traffic that is going to give you a better chance of engaging with them.

Back to your digital ‘experts’ then… Volume of traffic is only part of the success equation. The traffic needs to be relevant. – The higher the relevance, the higher the quality. The higher the quality, the more likely they are to engage. If they engage you get to find out who they are and finally have a chance to convert them to paying customers.

It doesn’t matter if you have a million click-thru’s (apart from the fact that you will need pockets as deep as Coca-Cola’s), if they don’t engage with you, you will never know who they are…. And they will not buy.

Your digital guys may tell you it’s your fault and try to convince you to re-do your marketing messages or your web site, or expand your campaign, or change your key words, or that ‘these things always take time (and money) to get it right’.

 WRONG! You have hired them to deliver the results that YOU define. – NOT TRAFIC… REVENUE STUPID!

They will bury you in reports showing that they have done their job well and have driven lots of traffic to you and that it’s your fault if that traffic does not turn into revenue. (Good luck trying to decipher some of the metrics and graphical analysis in the reports).

 Well maybe you should look at your site etc … BUT ask yourself the question: ‘Why am I spending money on online advertising at all?’ – Your probable answer is ‘To find more customers or sell more stuff’. – The real answer is TO MAKE MONEY.

If your digital ‘experts’ are not prepared to take responsibility for the commercial results of the campaign, then you need to question whether they are indeed ‘experts’ or are actually good old fashioned peddlers of SNAKE OIL.

And maybe fire them. 

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About the author

Steve Woods

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I am passionate about helping businesses to grow.

Brand equity comes from delivering high quality products and services to satisfied customers.

Delight your customers and you grow your brand.

Smart Digital Marketing


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