Top Gun – The “elite” best of the best
Each year it seems like hundreds of new digital marketing companies spring up and then disappear. As business owners or internet managers or marketing directors, we see hundreds even thousands of e-mails in our inboxes and solicitations on LinkedIn each day promising everything from “Top Google Placement” to “High Lead Conversion” to “Social Media Optimization.” But how do you separate the hidden gold from the snake oil?
Hard Work – The only real guarantee
Beware the “guarantee!” This is the first sign of snake oil. In online marketing there are NO guarantee’s! Let me say that again, THERE ARE NO GUARANTEE’S! Professionals dealing in various online marketing strategies know this all too well. What we attempt to do is a form of manipulation:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – We attempt to create content and links in an effort to “manipulate” search engines to display a favorable result for our clients.
SMO (Social Media Optimization) – We attempt to create compelling content that people will find interesting or entertaining to “manipulate” popular opinion of a business, organization or person.
ORM (Online Reputation Management) – We attempt to create compelling, favorable, content in high volume in attempt to “manipulate” search engine results and public perception about a companies public face.
Theory – an “educated” guess
In the end what every online marketing company does is put into practice generally accepted theory about what works and what does not. It is important to remember that any way you slice it, its a gamble and as such, there can be NO guarantee’s. Instead, what you should look for is transparency. Ask to see what one month’s work looks like for an existing client. If this cannot be shown in it’s entirety because they don’t want to give up their “secret sauce” this should serve as a red flag. The real secret sauce is hard work and creating HUGE volumes of content and links.
For example, last month Wikimotive’s client, Woburn Toyota received the following work:
54 Classified postings
33 Press Release Submissions
31 SlideShare submissions
78 Social Bookmarks
18 ScribD pdf’s
25 Directory Submissions
31 Optimized Videos
That’s an average of 9 pages of content being created every day, every month or over 3,200 pages of content each year!
When it’s too good to be true
Another important part of the equation is the cost/value equation. Have you seen solicitations like this, “$199/month gets you top google placement!” or “microsites that convert as low as $399!”
If it sounds too good to be true it usually is. That’s not to say there aren’t deals to be had, but anyone charging less than $1,000/month that claims to provide a decent SEO strategy is just looking for a quick buck. Again, it takes hard work and lots of content. In my Woburn Toyota example above the cost for that monthly service is $1,500/month and is a top level Automotive SEO service for a car dealer. That is a LOT of content for $1,500 and that is what it takes to yield successful seo results. Taking a slower approach would take years to achieve similar results and by then, you could be out of business.
What is GREAT?
What makes a great online marketing partner? There are certainly a number of components that separate a good digital marketing company from a great one. But the top 3 components to look for are: Integrity, Transparency, and Leadership. Let’s break those down quickly:
Integrity (How to check)- This is pretty self explanatory, but instead of calling the #1 “poster child” client that the vendor gives as a reference, ask for 5-10 and take the top 3 right off the list. You already know they love them. Most companies only call 1 of the given referrals and its usually the referral that is most likely to give positive feedback. Call 3 or 4 and start at the bottom of the list and work your way up.
Transparency – We touched on this earlier in this article – Ask for proof. Remember, there is no secret sauce. If they’re doing something they wouldn’t want you to see it means 1 of 2 things: either they’re doing something that will likely not have longevity (Scary) or they’re not actually doing anything! (WORSE)
Many companies that use black hat techniques will say that professionals like myself warn against them because we don’t know about the secret sauce so we say it is bad. In reality these techniques are bad because they lack longevity. If you spend thousands of dollars with a company for months or even years only to find later that all the work that was done is now worthless, not only were you duped, but now you have to start from scratch again. While it is true that the search engine algorithms change over time they are still based on certain eternal principals and that is that content and links are the foundations of SEO. Black Hat SEO techniques are flash in the pan short cut techniques that can yield results quickly, but those results are temporary. If that what you are looking for all you need is a PPC budget! You can accomplish the same thing!
Leadership – I saved this for last because this is what will differentiate a vendor from a long term partner. More than just a company that does a job you need a company that is an industry leader. As I stated earlier most digital marketing strategies are based on theory, but who makes the theories? Industry thought leaders! People like Wikimotive’s President, Timothy Martell. People like PCG Digital Marketing’s CEO, Brian Pasch and people like TK Carsites JD Rucker.
What makes greatness is in the forging of the path. Each year we look at what will be important for businesses in the upcoming year and put our name’s and reputation’s on the line and forge the path that will lead to that successful strategy. While other companies “wait for the dust to settle” the leaders already have proven case studies on the next emerging trend for success.
For 2011 Wikimotive’s Timothy Martell throws down the gauntlet by indicating that ORM (Online Reputation Management) will be 2011’s game changing marketing component. Find out why in our next article!