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How to Choose The Right Digital Marketing Agency

Deciding to hire a digital marketing agency is easy. 

The hard part is deciding which digital marketing agency to hire. 

In today’s world, anyone with an internet connection can create a website and start offering services as an entrepreneur. The barriers to entry are slim to none. 

Which… is what makes choosing the right digital marketing agency so tricky. 

However, I know a few things that can help simplify the decision-making process. In this article, I cover what to look for, things to avoid, how to make the most of your digital marketing agency, and my top recommendations. 

But first, let’s start at the beginning. 

Know your goals and desired outcomes

Every business is different, as is every digital marketing agency. 

Digital marketing agencies usually specialize in one or two areas. And while many of them are “full-service,” they typically prefer projects within their specialty.

So the first step in choosing the right digital marketing agency is understanding your goals and what you hope to achieve by working with one. 

It may be easier to break this down into deliverables, the goal of those deliverables, and the outcome you hope to achieve. Knowing these things helps you communicate what you wish to get out of the project. 

And when an agency knows what you’re looking for, they know whether they can actually help you without wasting anyone’s time. 

Here are some examples to get your wheels turning. 

Example #1:

Pretend you want to hire an agency to help you develop a content marketing system. You ultimately want a blog that continuously runs on autopilot with no work required by you. 

  • Deliverable: a fully-managed content marketing plan, strategy, and system
  • Goal: attract more of the right visitors to your website with high-quality content
  • End result: a blog 100% managed by someone else

From there, you can start looking for companies that fit the bill because you know exactly what you’re looking for and how to communicate your desired outcomes.

Example #2:

Maybe you’re interested in creating a series of marketing videos you can use on social media and your website, but you don’t know how to do it or where to start. 

You also want someone to coach you through the process. 

  • Deliverable: a series of on-brand marketing videos and matching visual assets
  • Goal: communicate your new offer in a fun and engaging way for your audience
  • End result: a finished product and the know-how required to do it on your own

Now, you can actively look for digital marketing agencies that are willing to coach you through it. Coaching is more hands-on, so not all video marketing agencies can do this. 

But because you know what you want, you can find the right fit for you. 

Imagine the disappointment of hiring someone and realizing they can’t or won’t give you what you were really looking for. 

This is why it’s essential to pinpoint your goals and desired outcomes before doing anything else. 

7 characteristics that make a great digital marketing agency

Now you know what your goals and desired outcomes are. So, it’s time to talk about what makes excellent digital marketing agencies… great. 

So, look for these characteristics as you go through the process of deciding who you want to work with. They’ll help you vet out top-notch service providers from those who say they’re the best without proof to back it up. 

Let’s dive in!

1. A sizable portfolio and/or list of past clients

Smart digital marketing agencies are proud of who they work with and the work they do. Furthermore, they typically display their partnerships for the world to see. 

You don’t necessarily have to know who their past clients are (bonus points if you do). But if you can’t find a list of previous clients or examples of their work, that may mean they haven’t worked with anyone. 

Which… is fine if you’re on a budget. But not okay if you’re looking for the best of the best. 

That said, some types of services aren’t easy to display, like content marketing and SEO. So, agencies specializing in those areas may not be able to showcase their work in a portfolio. 

However, a client list is a good indication of their experience. 

Neil Patel Digital Social Proof

Note: with services like graphic design or website development, you should see a well-put-together showcase of the type of work they do. If you can’t find any examples, move on to a service provider with a portfolio that matches your expectations.

2. Experienced and specialized team members

Regardless of the type of services you’re after, it’s essential to make sure the agency you hire has the right team-members to suit your project. 

For example, you wouldn’t hire someone to design a logo if they don’t have a graphic designer. 

Look through their about page to see if they list their team members there. 

And if not, LinkedIn is also a great place to look. Start by searching for the agency. 

Then click “People” to see a list of everyone who works there. 

Note: this typically won’t show you any freelancers or contractors they work with, so it’s not always 100% indicative of who’s on their team. 

Furthermore, some of their team members may not be on Linkedin at all. 

But this is an excellent place to start. You can always ask questions during your consultation if you aren’t sure. 

3. Social proof and a strong industry reputation

Social proof, like testimonials and previous client reviews, can give you deep insight into what working with that agency is like.

Furthermore, smart marketers understand the importance of displaying social proof on their website. So, if you can’t find any, they may not have any previous clients, or they may not understand the industry as well as you’d like them to. 

Besides positive reviews, negative or neutral reviews can also shine a light on areas that agency struggles with to get a clear understanding of their work. 

Lastly, you can search for in-depth reviews on Google to see what others in the industry (and their past clients) say about their experiences with the agency. 

4. Similar core values and company culture

Take a moment to revisit your company’s core values and culture.

Why? Because it’s crucial to work with a digital marketing agency that values the same things and operates in a similar environment. 

Doing so ensures they mesh and work well with your team. Ultimately, an agency is an extension of your business. Choosing an agency with the right values and culture is just as important as considering the quality of their work. 

The last thing you want is the stress of working with a group of people who don’t value the same things or operate in the same way. 

Look at the words and phrases an agency uses to describe what they do. Does this align with your core values and the results you expect to see? 

If not, move on to an agency that feels like a better fit. 

5. A well-designed website

Your website is like a cozy entryway that makes the right people feel welcome. 

The best digital marketers know how essential a well-designed website is. So, if they’re not executing internal projects well, why would you expect them to deliver something better for yours? 

This is especially true if they offer website development or design services. 

So, look through their website and listen to your instincts. 

If it doesn’t feel right or appears low-quality, you’re better off moving on to an agency that values good design and delivering exceptional user experiences

6. They don’t make outlandish promises

The type of results an agency promises on their website is a strong indication of how well they understand the industry. 

For example, anyone claiming to fast track your way to the number one spot on Google doesn’t know that SEO is both a long-term and short-term marketing strategy. Or that it requires continuous work to maintain. 

So, that’s probably not someone you should hire to help optimize your website. 

Pay close attention to the claims and promises they make. 

Make sure they align with what you know about the industry. And remember outlandish or seemingly impossible promises are a huge red flag. 

Stick to digital marketing agencies that offer transparency and realistic promises. 

7. And they’re easy to get in touch with

The best digital marketing agencies make it as easy as possible for potential clients to get in touch with them. 

Navigating their website shouldn’t feel like a maze,

In a perfect world, their contact information isn’t more than one click away regardless of what page you’re on. And they provide a clear call to action, so you know what to do next.

Furthermore, your first step should be painfully clear. Do they want you to schedule a consultation? Maybe you’re supposed to fill out a contact form for more information or a custom quote. 

If it isn’t obvious or you’re struggling to figure out how things work, consider choosing a digital marketing agency that simplifies the process. 

How to work with a digital marketing agency

There are quite a few things you can do as a client to maximize your results and get the most out of your strategic partnership with a digital marketing agency. 

Doing these things helps set the stage for effective and successful collaboration through every phase of the project.

Prepare your team and do your homework

It’s essential to have everyone on the same page. So, have a meeting with your team and let them know the extent of your new project or partnership with plenty of time to get ready for it. 

If you owe the agency anything, be sure to spend time on it and do it well. They need to learn the ins and outs of your business, and this is your chance to put it all out on the table. 

This sets the precedence for the rest of the project, so don’t rush to get it done. 

Understand the scope, process, and timeline

Before the project starts, make sure every person with a stake in it agrees on the scope and timeline before moving forward. This is just as much your job as it is your agency’s. 

Furthermore, most digital marketing projects go through these four phases:

  1. Discovery and research
  2. Project planning
  3. Execution
  4. Review, results, and offboarding

Layout the details of each step with your team and agency so everything is crystal clear before the project begins. 

Don’t expect a hands-off experience

The best digital marketing projects are highly collaborative. 

Furthermore, your input, thoughts, and ideas help move the project forward in the right direction to match your desired outcomes. 

Some agencies and projects are more collaborative than others. So make sure you understand what they need from you throughout the entire project. 

It may help to have a dedicated point of contact and a team or team member ready to manage the project. Having someone readily available helps ensure you’re not holding things up on your end. 

Be ready to forfeit control

It’s important to remember that the agency you hired is excellent at what it does, and you hired them for a reason — their expertise. 

This means giving them complete control over certain aspects of the project to let them do what they do best. It’s also important to listen to what they say. 

If they have a reason for doing things a certain way, remind yourself they’re the experts. 

You don’t necessarily have to agree, but it’s worth keeping an open mind. 

Ask questions

If you’ve never worked with a digital marketing agency before, you will see and experience a lot of new things. 

And it’s completely normal if you don’t understand everything that’s happening. 

The best thing to do is ask questions.

Maybe you don’t know why they chose this color over that one. Or there’s a piece of data you don’t get. Perhaps someone said something that doesn’t make sense to you. 

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing. However, asking about the things you’re unsure of is an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn more. It also helps clear up any uncertainties. 

How to find the right digital marketing agency for you

There are countless “full-service” agencies offering every type of service you can imagine under one roof. Which… sounds great, but I don’t recommend hiring them. 

Why? It makes more sense when you think about other industries. 

Example #1: Would you rather hire a general contractor or a custom porch specialist to build a custom-fit back deck for your house? The specialist, right? 

Example #2: Who do you see when you have specific medical issues that need attention? A specialist for that particular problem. Or you get referred to one by your general care physician. 

The best digital marketing agencies excel at one or two things with their other services being add-ons or secondary options. 

So, choose a niched digital marketing agency specializing in the types of services you’re looking for to get the best results and the most bang for your buck. 

The 6 top digital marketing agencies

Now you know what to look for and how to choose the right digital marketing agency for your next project. To help you get started, these are my top agency recommendations for different types of projects.

1. Neil Patel Digital — Best for SEO and content marketing

Neil Patel Digital is a holistic digital marketing agency specializing in content marketing and SEO for brands interested in disrupting their industry. 

Our goal is to change the way brands think about the content they produce. 

And we also care about helping that content get the attention it deserves

Our team of highly-skilled content marketers and SEO experts are equipped with my tried-and-tested digital marketing strategies to help your business deliver the right types of content… at the right time. 

Neil Patel Digital Hero

2. Storm Brain — Best for social media marketing and advertising

Storm Brain specializes in helping brands of all sizes generate more leads and leverage social media through organic and paid campaigns. 

They go the extra mile by looking at clients through the lens of an audience member to help craft and deliver long-term experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. 

3. Action Rocket — Best for email marketing campaigns

From workshops and online courses to full-scale email campaign creation services, Action Rocket is a go-to expert for all things email marketing

Their team specializes in email strategy, design, and coding so you don’t have to worry about planning your campaigns or designing them. 

Plus, you can rest easy knowing your email code aligns with today’s best practices. 

4. Pop Video — Best for visual content marketing

Pop Video is a visual content marketing agency specializing in video and visual content marketing as well as matching visual assets for digital brands of all sizes. 

They understand the importance of deep collaboration between clients and their team, which is why they call themselves video partners… not video producers

At Pop Video, they consider themselves an extension of your team that works in parallel to supply iterative content for every step of the customer journey. 

5. Mad Mind — Best for eCommerce brand design

Online stores and eCommerce businesses deal with different challenges. So, you need a digital marketing agency who things differently to help you overcome those roadblocks. 

The Mad Mind team understands the importance of visual brand and product development from the look of your website and social media profiles to the intricate details of product packaging. 

6. Cubicle Ninjas — Best for branding and website/app development

In a perfect world, your website is your #1 salesman. But it’s no secret we aren’t all be web developers with a keen eye for design. 

But that’s why we hire experts, right?

Cubicle Ninjas is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom app and website development. They use modern design, humor, creative thinking, and the latest technologies to create excellent customer experiences

The best digital marketing agency is an extension of your team

Every project, big or small, deserves the attention of a true industry expert. However, choosing the right digital marketing agency often feels overwhelming. 

With tens of thousands of agencies to choose from, that’s no surprise.

But now you know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to prepare your team. Use the tips and characteristics we talked about next time you’re on the hunt for a niched digital marketing agency ready to bring your ideas to life. 

What do you consider before hiring a digital marketing agency? 

The post How to Choose The Right Digital Marketing Agency appeared first on Neil Patel.

New comment by amitpatex in "Ask HN: Who wants to be hired? (May 2020)"

Location: Ahemdabad, India

Remote: Only

Willing to relocate: No

Technologies: Ruby on Rails


Email: amitsavani [a] gmail

I am developer for about 14 years. I love writing software and teach how to write good software, passionate about creating web apps using Ruby on Rails. Carrying entrepreneurial bug that make me restless.

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The Future of Ubersuggest

* Please read the whole post, I have some good news at the bottom, but it won’t make sense unless you read the whole post.

Do you know why I got into SEO?

Not many people know this, but I grew up in middle-class America, and I wanted a better life for me and my parents.

When I was 16 years old, I worked at a theme park called Knotts Berry Farm where I picked up trash, cleaned restrooms, and swept up vomit every single day.

I didn’t mind it because that’s life and I needed the money.

At 16, I realized I was too young to get a high paying job, so I did the next best thing… I started a business.

But making $5.75 an hour picking up trash wasn’t enough to market my business, though. The only solution that I could think of was SEO because if you put in the time and effort you can get the traffic for free.

It’s also the main reason I fell in love with it… it
gives the little guy a chance to compete with the big guys

And over the years I wanted to pay it forward and help out all of the entrepreneurs and small companies so they can do the same… succeed without having to spend a lot of money.

So, what did I do?

Well over the years, I’ve produced a ton of free content, videos, and guides that help entrepreneurs and marketers of all sizes succeed.

And in February 2017, I decided to take it to the next level by acquiring Ubersuggest for $120,000.

When I first bought it, I had the dream of creating an SEO tool that could compete with the big players that charged $100+ a month, but of course, offer it for free.

The developers that I had at that time estimated that I could do this for $30,000 to $45,000 a month. That was perfect as I had no issue losing that much money each month.

But as we got rolling and kept adding in more features, our
expenses continually climbed. Just look at what I spent in the last month…

I spent $89,930 on hosting so far in January with an estimated spend of $128,680 for February. But again, let’s stick with January…

My back-end development bill from Tryolabs was $47,885 for January.

My data feed from SEO Power Suite, Data For SEO, and Shared Count totaled $75,253 for January.

And of course, my front-end developers as well as my dev-ops team Netlabs, which ran me $22,700.

Then if you add on miscellaneous costs, such as support, design, and project management, I was out another $11,450.

All in all, I spent $247,218 during the month of January 2020.

Keep in mind that my costs are continually rising. As the tool gets more popular, it costs me more.

One of the big reasons for the server expenses is scrapers.

Believe it or not, a lot of companies are scraping our data and continually rotating up IPs and creating fake accounts, which increases our server expenses. Especially when you consider that they are researching vague SEO terms or domains that aren’t cached in our system.

Don’t feel bad for me

Now the purpose of this post wasn’t to make you feel bad or guilty (unless you are scraping me). I just wanted to be transparent about my situation.

Originally, I was hoping that I could convert a portion of the Ubersuggest customer base into agency clients but as we continually move upstream and work with bigger brands, the conversion rate from an Ubersuggest visitor to a paying consulting customer has been low.

As that didn’t work out the way I wanted, which I learned around 11 months ago, it became harder and harder for me to eat the costs as they continually grew and I didn’t have a way to pay for them other than to dip into my own savings.

So, I started searching for solutions, such as turning
Ubersuggest into a non-profit and raise money from foundations to help support
the cost. I tried that for 5 months and I didn’t gain much traction.

I also tried to see if I could get sponsors for the tool who would help cover the costs, but that didn’t work out well either. Instead, many of them offered to buy the company for millions of dollars (some in the 8 figures) but I didn’t want to sell it as I knew their goal would be to turn it into another $100-a-month tool, which didn’t sit well with me.

After running out of options, I had no choice but to make some changes to Ubersuggest (don’t worry it is not closing down). But you can guess what the changes are.

But don’t worry

First and foremost, my goal is still to give as much away for free as I can. Within Ubersuggest, you will still be able to do a lot for free…

Creating projects

You will always be able to create projects and track your rankings. And just like before you always have been limited on the number of keywords you can track and that, of course, is due to costs.

Keyword research

Within the app, you will still be able to see keyword research data.

You’ll see a chart with the latest few months’ traffic volume, data on mobile versus desktop search volume, demographic data, and even keyword recommendations.

And you can, of course, continually find new keywords to target.

Sure, some of the data is blocked, but did you know that
only 14.3% of people used to register for a free account to unlock that data.

In other words, most of you never even registered because the application shows you enough for free without needing to log in.

Content ideas

Similar to before, you can also see popular blog post suggestions for any given keyword.

You’ll also be able to see the top keywords a blog post
ranks for and the backlinks pointing to that URL.

Again, keep in mind the majority of you only looked at the
top 10 results as 14.3% of you registered for a free account to unlock more

Traffic Analyzer

You will still be able to look up any domain and get stats
on it.

Historical data is blocked, but you can see the last few
months which is enough for most of you.

You’ll also be able to see the top pages for any domain and the keywords that page ranks for as well as backlinks.

The same goes for the keywords any domain ranks for.

Some of the data is blocked, but just like before only 14.3%
of you registered to view that data. Which means 85.7% of you are happy with
the free data.

SEO Analyzer

Not much has changed here, you can still analyze over 100 pages on your site and figure out which errors you have.

Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know the average site that goes through Ubersuggest only has 48 pages?

The median number of pages a site has in our system was similar at 43 pages.

And of course, there is the backlinks report, which now
shows new and lost links as well as historical link growth.

Similar to what I mentioned above, very few people really cared to see the blocked off information as only 14.3% of you registered.

My dream

My goal in life is to help people generate more traffic. And I believe Ubersuggest can get better results and give you a fighting chance.

I also want to continually make the tool better. For example, why can’t SEO be automated? If you can have self-driving cars, there is no reason why you can’t automate SEO through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

But with the rising expenses, I was left with 2 options… either shut the tool down (which isn’t an option for me) or figure out a way to cover my expenses.

In the long run, I can’t keep sustaining the loss of $247,218 a month forever, especially when that number is climbing (that’s roughly 3 million dollars a year).

My team and I came up with an interesting concept that we think is fair and hopefully, you won’t be upset about it.

Remember how I said only 14.3% of people register to view more data but 85.7% never register as they were happy with the free data?

Well, nothing will change for 85.7% of you.

As for the 14.3% who register to create projects and track keywords, you can still do that for free. But if you want to add more projects or track a lot more keywords, you can upgrade to a paid plan.

The same goes for keyword research. If you want to view even more data, you can pay for the blocked data. Or if you want to analyze thousands of pages on your site through the site audit, you can also upgrade.

Don’t worry though, I am still following my original

I promise to always keep Ubersuggest affordable (and mainly free). I decided to take the Netflix/Amazon approach and try to make the cost super affordable (as my goal is to only break-even).

On top of that, I made it a 7-day free trial.

You’ll also find that the pricing varies per country as my costs vary per country. In regions like India and Brazil when someone registers, creates a project and tracks keywords, my expenses are substantially lower than if someone from the United States registers and creates projects and tracks keywords.

The same goes for labor. My support team in India and other regions costs substantially less than the team in the United States or the United Kingdom.

If you also pay annually, you’ll get 2 months free so you can save even more money.

And as I mentioned above, I want to stick to the original mission, which is to help people generate more traffic without having to spend a lot of money.

There will always be a very generous free plan and I am hoping that I can break even by charging for a portion of the application.

What’s next?

Ubersuggest is going to continually get better.

To make things up to you, over the next month or two I am going to release a Chrome extension that will give you tons of insights for free. And of course, if you want a little bit more you can pay.

Here’s what the free extension will look like…

Whenever you perform a Google search you will be able to see
the volume for any search term in any major country. And if you click the “view
all” link you will see more data on that keyword.

You’ll also see the average domain score for any given
ranking page and the number of links you need to rank in the top 10.

As you scroll down and go through each of the ranking
results, you’ll see the domain score for each URL, social shares, and the
backlinks pointing to that search result.

You can even drill down and see the top links pointing to
each URL.

Now if you head over to the sidebar, you’ll see a list of
related keywords as well as data on the top 10 keyword recommendations.

If you scroll a bit more, you’ll see a graph that shows how many backlinks each result has so that way you can see how many backlinks again you roughly need to rank in the top 10.

At the very bottom of the search results, you’ll see data on related keywords.

As time goes on not only will you have the extension, but I
will continually add more and more features for free.


I’m sorry that I have to start covering my costs, but I hope
you understand at the same time.

From my projections, it will take me roughly 6 months to break even, so I am going to be out a decent amount of money over the next 6 months… but that’s life.

I am not looking to recuperate my original investment and I don’t mind that being a loss, but once I break even on a monthly basis I will continue to either open up more stuff for free or consider lowering the monthly pricing if possible.

Again, I am really sorry, but I hope you understand that it isn’t sustainable for me to spend $247,218 a month indefinitely.

I am open to hearing your thoughts or ideas. I also want to let you know I appreciate everything you have done to support Ubersuggest and my site.

The post The Future of Ubersuggest appeared first on Neil Patel.

New comment by thisismyswamp in "Ask HN: Who wants to be hired? (July 2019)"

Location: Lisbon, Portugal Remote: Yes Willing to relocate: For part of the year Technologies: Javascript (Node.js), Go, Python, Haskell, C, Java, and more Resume: I keep an up to date resume at Toptal: (you don’t have to hire me through them) Email: [email protected] Backend developer working a lot with Node.js, but also love Python …

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