The Dance of Finding an Internet Marketing Partner

By Scott Orth

For most companies, small and large, Internet Marketing (typically referred to as Search Engine Marketing or SEM) has become the most important aspect of their marketing plan and of their business livelihood in general.

So how do you ensure you’ve got the right agency on your side?  Besides the most obvious; check references, here are a few guidelines that will help you find the right dance…uh…Internet Marketing partner:

1) Check out their moves. The partner you choose should have all the moves, and be able to dance to a variety of music.  They should have a working knowledge of all components of Search Engine Marketing, including organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-Click (PPC), link building, Social Media Marketing (SMM), and conversion (sale or lead) enhancement experience.

There is so much interplay between the various disciplines of SEM that if you choose an agency that is not well-rounded and well-versed in all the components, you run the risk of being inefficient with your dollars and missing out on many cross-functional opportunities.  For example, if your agency is only focusing on your PPC campaign, then you miss out on all the long-term effects of Search Engine Optimization and ranking organically in the top search engine results.

The latest trends in user behavior suggest that most people searching online do their research through organic search listings, but then make an actual purchase through PPC.  If you are only engaged in one of these channels, you may be losing out on a great deal of sales.

2) Daily practice ensures a great performance. Dedication turns a social hip hopper into a competitive pro.  Look for an agency that is dedicated to Search Engine Marketing.  Dedication means that the agency has committed expert resources to this service offering and that the people working on your project will be focused on your overall business, marketing, and sales goals.

Internet Marketing is a constantly changing field, with new research and market modifications monthly, if not weekly.  Ask if they have a dedicated Internet Marketing team.  What do they do to stay on top of the industry changes?  Why do they think Internet Marketing is important?

3) They can optimize, but can they tango? They may have some decent moves, but when it comes down to it, do they know the dance?  How much do they know outside of SEM?  Do they have experience effectively tying Internet Marketing strategies and methods into a web site that meets your business goals?

Learn about the agency’s experience working with web designers and developers.  Do they understand how to interact with your developer or internal IT team, or your marketing department?  Are their recommendations in step with web development best practices and usability trends?  Best case scenario – your agency will have all of these disciplines in house; offering you the best in single source marketing methods.

4) An intimate dance builds the fire. You want a trust worthy partner that will dance close and build the heat.  Meet with the agency in person, or at the very least converse on the phone.   Do they explain things in a way that makes sense to you and helps you truly understand what their services offer?  Are they excited to help you learn about Internet marketing?  Do they make an effort to get to know your company and your industry?  Will they be there when you need it?

5) Back that thang up – the bottom line. They may know how to get down and “drop it like it’s hot”; but will they really deliver in the end?  As you are getting to know the agency, make sure they’re focused on your business goals.  Are they interested in learning about other aspects of your business?  Be wary of any agency that talks only about “getting you a #1 ranking”.  While it’s great to rank well on the search engines, no one can guarantee a position, and there is much more to succeeding online than a top search ranking.