It's not easy to decide on a digital marketing agency. Keep these red flags in mind to make sure you hire the right one for your business.
Finding a great digital marketing agency to work with can be challenging. It’s difficult enough to find an agency that delivers results, but you also have to deal with combating bots, ad fraud, and inaccurate marketing.
After spending several years in the digital marketing industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, I started a pay-per-click (PPC) marketing agency called Level Up Digital that helps clients avoid ad fraud and get real, measurable results from their online marketing campaigns.
PPC management companies help businesses drive real results from their online marketing campaigns.
What I’ve found is that many agencies aren’t focused on avoiding ad fraud, and in some instances, actually profit more at the sake of their own client’s marketing budget.
Consider these red flags when searching for a digital marketing agency and ensure that your company partners with a reputable agency.
Avoid Digital Advertising Fraud
Digital advertising fraud is a major issue. Fake sites, apps, and bots cost advertisers billions of dollars a year. It is crucial to be aware of these issues when looking for a new digital marketing agency for your company.
For example, Lotame, one of the world’s largest advertising networks, recently discovered that 400 million of its user profiles were bots.
In fact, Lotame CEO Andy Monfried estimated that 40% of all web traffic is fictional. Bots profit from fraudulent web traffic at a cost to clients and agency.
Make sure that your agency is aware of the state of digital advertising fraud and ask them what they are doing to help their clients avoid it. Understanding what ad fraud is and how it may impact your advertising can help you avoid working with the wrong partner.
Watch out for Digital Advertising Agency Fraud
While agencies should always act in the best interest of their clients, some actually profit from deceiving their clients. One such method is for agencies to purchase media on behalf of their clients, but pocket the remainder of their clients' media budget.
To illustrate this, think of spending one hundred dollars on advertising with an agency. Say 20% of this money goes to the agency fee, and you are aware of it when you sign the contract and agree to pay the fee in exchange for the services they offer.
You would probably expect the remaining $80 to go directly to buying ads.
Unfortunately, some agencies pocket an additional hidden fee on the media (some go as high as 60%) and now your actual budget is down to $32, with the agency pocketing an additional fee of $48.
Who would pay such a fee? Few would if they knew it was coming, but these agencies hide the fees. To notice, you have to either have access to the raw advertising data or compare costs such as CPC (cost-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) to industry benchmarks. If you are paying a $10 CPM when the industry benchmark is $3, you’re probably getting ripped off.
By hiding the actual amount spent on advertising, and including a fee as part of the campaign budget, clients end up spending less on advertising and unknowingly pay higher agency fees.
Marketing Attribution Challenges
Companies interested in working with a digital marketing agency should understand how marketing attribution works. Marketing attribution is the method in which you measure and attribute the results of your campaigns.
Most advertising platforms don’t communicate with each other, so marketing attribution can become complicated. It can be difficult to know how to best assign credit from one channel to another. The platforms do not have multi-touch attribution which means a conversion reported on Google could also be double-counted in your Facebook Ads campaign.
Some agencies will try to claim credit for successes they didn’t create. In doing so, they unfairly portray their marketing campaigns as far more successful than they actually are. Be wary of an agency report claiming 4000% returns and no actual noticeable increase in sales, and always have a clear understanding with an agency about how their marketing attribution is measured.
Protect Yourself From Digital Marketing Fraud
To protect your company and ensure you are getting the best results from your marketing dollars while working with an agency, make sure to do each of the following:
- Request Platform Access: If you are working with an agency and don’t have direct access to the advertising platforms they use, request it.
- Quiz Them on Media Mark-up: Ask them what their media mark-up is: How much of the budget is going to media and how much are you paying in additional fees? If an agency seems nervous or evasive about this question, it’s time to find someone else to partner with.
- Ask for Detailed Reporting: Ask for in-depth reporting that goes beyond impressions, clicks, and conversions. Ask for detailed information on which advertisements ran across different websites and audiences.
- Track Marketing Metrics: Track all metrics as closely as possible, use UTM tags, and consider using a marketing attribution platform if you’ve made a large enough investment.
- Advertise on Google and Facebook: Google and Facebook have a virtual duopoly on digital marketing, as over 57% of advertising dollars are spent on these two platforms. Facebook and Google both attempt to prevent fraud on their digital advertising platforms and have invested heavily in AI and in fraud detection specialists who review and audit advertising to find patterns that may be fraudulent activity.
- Take Note of Reviews: Use Clutch to read reviews from the digital agency's current and former clients.
- Ask for References: Ask the agency for references and call or email them to understand how the agency interfaces with clients and whether their services are recommended.
With an understanding of the digital marketing industry and these tips, you will be more likely to find a suitable agency to work with and to receive the best return possible on your advertising dollars.
Hire the Right Digital Marketing Agency
Finding the right digital marketing agency is never easy, but it should be simpler now that you know the major red flags to look for. Remember the red flags and your agency will be more likely to partner with a reputable agency.