Top Red Flags to Look Out for When Choosing a Digital Agency

Red Flag

You’re starting a new business and you know you need digital marketing. But it’s all so overwhelming, confusing, and expensive. 

So when you find out about an agency that will take care of EVERYTHING– social media, paid search, ratings, and a bunch of other stuff you vaguely (maybe?) have heard of, that sounds great. Even better, the nice salesperson guarantees results and you’ll be getting it all for one low price. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Based on actual examples we have heard from business owners, here are some red flags to look out for:

  1. You can never get a hold of anyone. Once the contract is signed, that friendly salesperson is gone and now you have to fend for yourself trying to get answers to any of your questions. When you finally reach someone, it’s an overworked support person in another country, who has no idea at all about your business except that you should be spending more money.
  2. You have no idea how much is actually being spent on the ads. The one price for everything seems simple, it means you have no idea if 75% of that monthly fee is spent on actual Google search ads, or if it’s only 7.5%
  3. They don’t respond to any of your requests even when you do get a hold of them. You see your new landing page and notice that your business’ phone number is wrong by one digit. You let them know and assume they have changed it. Except that next month, you see the number is still wrong. They finally change it and promise you a refund- which you do not get- because see #1.
  4. They aren’t tracking results correctly. Without accurate data, you can’t make accurate decisions. So unless the agency is tracking things you actually care about (like people calling you) it’s impossible for Google, the agency, or you to figure out what’s working. By the way, if the number is being tracked, it should have a dynamic number (which instantly and seamlessly forwards to your business number)  on the landing page, not a static one.
  5. They do not understand your business or why you are unique. Yes, it was great that they could get your campaigns up so quickly and all you had to do was sign a contract. You figure (hope) they probably thoroughly read your website. And did a bunch of research on your industry and they know how to make The Digital Magic happen. The salesperson said so!  A good agency will discuss in-depth with you about what makes your business/product unique, what your brand is, who your best customers are, and who your competitors are. This takes time and the agency actually giving a…hoot.
  6. They don’t explain anything so you can understand it.  We have a client who said about their former agency, “When they would ask what questions I had, I was so confused by the automated report they gave me, that I couldn’t even figure out what to ask.” For agencies like this, it’s done purposely. By you not knowing what to ask, it keeps you in the dark and they don’t have to interact with you.
  7. You are being charged additional fees for every conversion.  A potential client kept asking us how much we charge per conversion and we initially had a hard time understanding what she was asking. It turns out that her agency not only charged a management fee, they also charged additional fees for every form filled out on the site and phone call (aka conversions). While that initially can sound OK (paying for leads), that’s what the management fee is for. Plus– what are the quality of these leads? Is it a bunch of overseas people/bots filling out forms and sticking you with a surprisingly large extra fee each month?
  8. They offer guarantees that don’t mean anything.  They may say they guarantee results. What kind of results? The number of times the ad was shown? That you’ll get a certain number of leads? (what kind of leads?) And if they don’t deliver, do you get a full refund? Dig into what they are actually guaranteeing.
  9. You don’t own any of the URLs of the landing pages. Landing pages (the page the user lands on when they click your ad) can be great as long as they are under the subdomain of your website. The problem is when the agency creates a completely separate URL from yours. It’s confusing for your brand, it’s draining traffic from your website, Google does not like a different URL with the exact same content, and worst of all, if you leave the agency, they will hold that landing page and URL as ransom.
  10. You don’t own any of the accounts. Once again, they do this on purpose. By them owning the accounts (Google Search, Facebook Advertising, Microsoft Ads, etc), you can’t look into what’s going on in your accounts or give read-only access to a more reputable agency to look under the hood and see what a poor job they are doing. Plus, like the URLs, they can hold onto the accounts as a ransom. Nice?

So before signing a contract with an agency for a price that seems too good to be true, be sure to review the red flags.

Got more questions?