Insight into why operators and affiliates should beware of outsourcing online marketing campaigns to agencies.

THE TITLE IS a bold statement indeed and it doesn’t just relate to SEO agencies; it applies to the fundamentals of the agency model itself. Having worked in a couple of the largest online marketing agencies, there are a few things I know about them.

As such, I think it’s worth sharing my thoughts on why both operators and affiliates in particular should be careful when hiring a traditional agency to deliver an online marketing strategy whether it’s SEO, PPC, online PR, mobile, design, conversion optimisation or any discipline for that matter.

The model is fundamentally flawed and for this reason I always advise my friends within this industry to avoid agencies at all cost.

Based on my experience, I’ll walk through the first four major problems with most if not all search marketing agencies, and continue with the final three in the next issue.

1) Vendor lock-in - aggressive client retention

Great for the agency, really bad for the client. Did you read your contract carefiilly? Do you know who owns your PPC account and related quality score? Do you get true 100 percent visibility on your link building campaign? I’ve heard it argued that zero visibility is the industry standard and that zero visibility is there to protect the client and the webmasters from leaked data. I’ve also heard it said that this is now becoming the standard objection handler within many agencies to stop clients in their tracks when it comes to the ‘link ownership’ question.

A friend of mine told me of one client who commented that their CFO had raised concerns and demanded link data. The client argued that she was paying for the link building and should own the link data. He looked at her straight in the eyes and responded with: “You pay us to put you (and keep you) in position one, right?” She responded with a nod. He continued, “The links are the tool we used to get you and keep you there, right? When you booked your last holiday, did you demand rights to own the plane? Of course not. Well, this is the same thing. Those links are the tool we use to get you and keep you in the top position.”

I’m told that this client never raised the question again. The fact was that he knew full well that the real reason he didn’t want to disclose the link data was so that if the client ever, for any reason, chose to disengage with the agency they would, within a matter of days, call the client’s competitors or the agency acting on behalf of the competitor and offer their backlinks at a knock down price. Ethics aside, this is good business for agencies and is becoming an increasingly popular way of working. With such a lot of money changes hands, any agencies who practice this approach can earn a fortune. Such activity makes moving up the NMA charts a walk in the park, particularly if link rich iGaming clients make up the core business. Any client finding themselves on the receiving end of this will be going nowhere. The agency knows it and the client knows it.

NOTE: Never engage unless you’re assured 100 percent true visibility of links.

2) Faking full service - jack of all trades, master of one!

Rarely do agencies specialise in all aspects of online marketing. Sure, your dedicated sales person (account manager) will constantly try to cross-sell you a panda busting blog strategy, mobile app, online PR and whatever else the client services director is being measured on pimping, and rightly so; their bonuses are based on these sales targets.

Does it mean it will be beneficial to your campaign and revenue? More importantly, is your SEO agency best suited to delivering these ancillary services? I doubt it.

I’ve worked in an agency in the past where the Head of Mobile was chosen from within the company based on who responded to an email asking the employees: “Who has an interest in mobile technology and would they like to take the role of Head of Mobile” and I’ve lost count of the times I was sent to wax lyrically about social media to a client the moment said client had shown an interest - what do I know about Social Media, I’m an iGaming link builder and I’m good at it.

Building dream teams is about taking the right blend of specialised knowledge and experience as well as complementary skills and, most importantly, passion.

NOTE: Do you have the right people working on your campaign?

3) Talent retention - you can’t keep a good man down.

Another massive flaw with the agency model is that the best talent always leaves. If they’re good they will be head hunted or go independent. After all, there’s money to be made and a lifestyle to build. All the most talented people I know move on without exception. Sometimes I’m shocked by some of the moves within the SEO industry. Sure you get old timers who’ve been with the company since it was started, but they’re rarely talented and often happened upon the job by being in the right place at the right time; their skills were (at the time) sufficient. I’m talking about true raw talent, the likes of which bring a step change to a business, turning it around, driving innovation and passion. No amount of token share options are
going to keep these guys on board, and here’s why...

The barrier to entry in becoming an independent SEO or any search marketing practitioner is zero. Many of the so-called ‘fakers’ have developed what appears to be quite credible standings within the industry - buyers beware.

With talent leaving so rapidly, 1 say with confidence, that if you’re lucky enough to have a decent agency SEO working on your campaign and your campaign performance is strong, your SEO is probably already in discussions with his next paymaster or building his independent status on the side, after hours.

NOTE: Who will be running your campaign six months from now?

4) Joined-up thinking - building walls not bridges

Does your right arm know what your left leg is doing? This is another important reason why traditional agencies are unable to deliver excellence. Heads of Department rarely talk to each other about specific campaigns. They have too many clients to worry about and cannot afford the time to get bogged down in the specifics. Cross¬agency collaboration is even worse. At best, the cultural ‘them and us’ dynamic is too strong to foster collaboration; at worst, the agency may have developed an irrational phobia or even hatred toward a competing agency. Either way, you can be sure that your SEO isn’t talking to your

PPC guy and your campaign will fail to fully leverage the natural integration points.

At first, getting everyone involved with a campaign to play nicely looked set to prove tricky. It became clear that this challenge required an entirely new business structure. Once solved, this issue turns on it’s head - the structure we came up with to eliminate these issues go further still and achieves a dynamic which I never imagined would be possible, it’s based on shared objectives and client centricity and unparalleled professional respect.

NOTE: Ensure all key people are working in harmony towards a shared objective.

We shall cover the final three nails in the marketing agency coffin in part two of this series.

• Follow your instincts when hiring expertise
• Don’t believe the hype!
printer friendly LAN_NEWS_24email to someone
  Login to rate

You must be logged in to make comments on this site - please log in, or if you are not registered click here to signup