3 questions to ask before hiring a web advertising company

Know the right questions to ask a web advertising company

Hiring a reputable Internet Advertising company for your small business  may seem like an easy task.  There are many choices out there when it comes to website marketing, search optimization and search marketing companies.  Unfortunately the decision to hire a reputable company to handle your online advertising is not as easy as it may seem.  In many cases, small business owners choose internet advertising based upon convenience, rather than diligent research, which can have unintended consequences down the road.  Don’t become a victim of a company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

One thing to remember is that many of the large internet advertising companies want you for the long term. So their mission, and how they build their advertising campaigns are designed to make you fear and feel “non-advertising” pain if you ever decide to leave them.

Below are 3 questions you should ask any internet advertising company before considering doing business with them.

1.) Are you going to work on my actual website url (address)?

This is a very important question to ask because many internet marketing companies do not promote your “real” website address across the internet.  Instead they will advertise a website they create, with content they create, and will spread this “not real” website address across the internet…and it will spread like a virus. They often will do this because they will place tracking code and phone numbers on the website and listings they create to take credit for the phone calls, clicks and other activity created on these websites, and listings, which seems fair.

The problem with this – The problem with this is that major search engines like Google, Bing, & Yahoo look for some very key factors when deciding what type of results they return on the first page of their search engines, for keywords your business should be found for.

Some of the biggest factors these search engines look for are consistency of information from multiple sources across the internet. If you as a business owner try to tell one of these search engines that your website address is www.localbiz.com, but the company you hired is telling them your website address is www.localbizportland.com, which source will the search engine believe? What happens is you end up splitting traffic between two websites, confusing the search engines and your customers, and unintentionally creating twice as much work for yourself.

What happens if you decide to cancel this company’s service?  You will likely lose out on all of this traffic completely, and be left with an expensive mess to fix when it comes to cleaning up the wrong information that has been spread across the web.

When deciding on a web advertising company, doesn’t it make sense to hire a company that will actually work on your website, not one they create for you, that you’ll never own or have rights to?

Real Scenario:

City Ranked Media recently had to help one of our customers that was caught in this exact situation.  This customer had over 2,000 listings with wrong information about their business, including a tracked phone line the SEO company owned.

When this customer cancelled their service, this SEO company re-pointed their tracked phone line to one of this customers competitors, in the same market.

2.) Are you going to use a call tracking line on local citation websites?tracked phone lines internet advertising company

Again, just as above, many of these companies will use call tracking phone numbers across local citation websites to once again show their customers that they can make their phones ring, not a bad thing right?  Unfortunately in many cases this will actually hurt your website rankings.

The problem with this – The problem with this is once again the major search engines look for uniformity across the net on key pieces of information regarding your business.  Information such as website address, phone number, and physical address are key factors to getting your business to rank for the keywords you want at the local level.  Another unintended consequence; if you decide to not continue doing business with this company, who will correct these phone numbers that have been placed all over the internet?

Even changing 250 wrong listings can cost a lot for a small business to fix.  Take the following real life example of a small business owner that hired City Ranked Media to fix the exact same situation.

Real Scenario:

250 wrong phone listings across the web. Average 30 minutes to claim each listing, and correct wrong phone numbers. Discounted $25 per hour SEO service to complete. Total time invested = 75 hours. Total cost to fix = $1.875.00.

3.) How Long Is The Web Advertising Contract?

This is an important question.  Many internet advertising companies out there today insist on locking their clients into year long (or sometimes longer) advertising contracts.  This should throw an immediate red flag to any small business.  The thinking here is that many small businesses are used to buying they’re advertising in year long increments…most have done it for years with other forms of advertising.

The problem with this – The problem with this is that any internet advertising company should be able to show a business owner that their advertising efforts are making progress and working inside of 6 months, so the question would be, why would they want to lock you into a year long contract?  Want to know the answer?  It can differ from company to company, but usually the same things ring true from company to company, and we’ve outlined them below.

  • They need time to spread a call tracking line across the web – As we mentioned above, one of the thing that many of these companies will do is spread a call tracking line across local citation websites.  This exercise does not happen overnight, and can take many months to complete as it’s up to the search engines when they will index these listings.  A long advertising contract gives these companies time to ramp these listings up to garner “tracked” phone calls for their customers to show them perceived value in their service.
  • More impressive phone call statistics – Which sounds better to you – 200 calls for the year, or 16 calls per month?  When it comes time to renew your advertising after a year, you can bet they will talk about the 200 calls they drove, and not the 16 call monthly average.  Why?  Chances are you didn’t work with this company on a monthly basis reviewing your phone calls to determine the real value of what was driven.  And even if this company sent you reports, chances are you were busy running your business and didn’t get a chance to review these phone calls.  So a perceived fear can be built based upon what “might have” come from those calls.  Often small business owners will renew this type of advertising based upon figures alone.
  • It’s all in the magic of their software – Search engine rankings are not achieved by using software – don’t ever let anyone fool you into believing that. There are software programs out there that can aide an SEO company in tracking results and rankings, making it easier to to streamline certain processes, but that’s where SEO software ends. True ethically done search engine optimization is done by hand, it takes skill and an understanding of what factors the search engines look at when determining where a website will land in their index. Companies claiming that they have developed magic software or claiming they have some special relationship with the search engines are not being honest.

Ethically Done Search Engine Optimization

An ethical SEO company should be able to explain, in detail, everything they will be doing to help your website and business rank better with the search engines.

Real Scenario:

City Ranked Media worked with a small business that was being pressured to renew this same type of advertising.  After diving into the provided reports, and going over the phone calls and people that contacted this company over the course of the year, we learned a few things:

  • The third party advertising company was driving phone calls & website conversions at a rate of $44.23 each
  • This advertising company was advertising/buying the clients business name on many websites, essentially taking credit for calls from the clients current customers

The Outcome – Once due diligence had be completed on the third party advertising, the client was able to conclude that they were:

  1. Paying $44.23 per call with this third party advertising company, of which approximately 40% were from current clients of the customer
  2. They were paying less than $22.00 per call on their own search marketing program

The Result

The customer decided to cancel the third party advertising and reinvest those funds into their own search engine marketing program.  As a result of this change, the client saw an increase of 22 calls per month on average from their search marketing, which was 6 more calls per month than they were receiving from their prior marketing company.  An even bigger result was that less than 10% of these calls were from the customers current clients, meaning there was a 30% increase in new prospects.

Is your Small Business Website and SEO Strategy Forward Thinking?

I want to cover a topic I think many small business owners rarely think about, the viability, and scale-ability of their current advertising efforts for the future. In times past, for many small business owners, thinking about the future of their advertising was as simple as knowing what ad size they wanted to purchase in the next edition of the local yellow pages, or perhaps the next ad they ran in the newspaper. Unfortunately, this type of thinking does not, and will not translate into a successful and long term internet marketing strategy.

Why internet marketing is different than older forms of advertising

When it came to older forms of advertising such as yellow pages, direct mail, and newspapers, shelf life was limited, and research options for consumers were even more limited. Ad positions were determined by factors such as who was willing to pay more for their ads, how long they had advertised in that particular medium, and the frequency they advertised. Fast forward from those times years back, and you get to 2015, the age where consumers rely on online mediums to make buying decisions.

Unlike times past, search engine rankings are not determined by who pays the most, but instead businesses are graded and ranked by who does the best. If you think about all the different options out there when it comes to online properties to use when making buying decisions, search engines like Google have become experts in delivering the results their users want. Search engines rely on people coming back to their properties to use them over and over again. If they lose users, they lose market share, if they lose market share, then they lose revenues generated by advertising platforms such as pay per click.

The wrong way to think about internet advertising when it comes to hiring a SEO Company

Can’t you just get my website ranked for the keywords I want, then I stop paying?

We here at City Ranked get asked this at least once a week, if not more, and sure we’d love this to be the case, but unfortunately it’s just not the way that quality internet marketing works. Rankings on major search Choosing an SEO Comapny in Vancouver WA can be confusingengines are highly sought after, as they can equal new customers and business growth. Competition for first page rankings is fierce, and there’s always someone looking to take the top position on these searches.

Getting to the top of search engines, and staying there takes hard dedicated work, and it gets harder every year as more and more small businesses compete for the very same keywords you want to rank for.

The search engines judge your business all the time

You may not know it, but the search engines are keeping track of your business, every day. The search engines, especially Google have become very good at understanding consumer needs and wants, then matches them up to businesses that meet their needs and wants. Google delivers personalized search results for virtually every person that regularly uses their search engine. Google has been able to deliver these personalized results because they’ve become experts in understanding information provided to them through a variety of sources.

Search engines like Google judge and grade virtually every business on the internet. This grading system, also commonly referred to as a Search Engine Algorithm is the tool they use.

Search engines change their algorithmsSEO changes for 2015 and into the future

The determining factors on how a business ranks for top keywords is nothing more than a mathematical equation fed by hundreds of inputs to determine specific rankings delivered by the search engines. These algorithms are being changed all the time to improve search results, and keep up with consumer demands. Businesses that are serious about generating leads from the internet over the long term will need to keep up on these changes and the ever changing landscape online to remain competitive.

Understanding SEO, Web Design, and Internet Marketing for the Future

Whether you decide that outsourcing your efforts or keeping them in house is the right thing for your business, the same thing will be true for both situations, forward thinking. With changes in search engine algorithms, and the consumer driven demand for changes online, one thing is certain; change will occur. This change is happening right now, and companies are stepping up to meet the demands of the new consumer. Everyday companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and many others are delivering goods and services once reserved for the small business segment. Have they infiltrated your business vertical? It will only be a matter of time before someone figures it out.

Understanding how to anticipate, adapt, and maximize return with these changes will be the key to ongoing and successful small business advertising online, well into the future. Those businesses that make continually smarter decisions now will position themselves as the competitor to beat well into the future as long as these marketing exercises are completed regularly and adapted to meet the ever changing demands of the consumer. Businesses that are willing to take calculated and educated risks with their marketing stand to become the trail blazers of the future, and the new game to beat in their specific business segment.

The risk of the “wait and see” approach to Internet Marketing & SEO

The concept of “first to market” with ideas is no greater than it is now. Those that wait and follow the crowd when it comes to blazing their own path online will always be just that, followers, and as such, never leaders online. Sure when it comes to internet marketing and rankings, there are always areas to exploit to help your business grow, but being behind the times, and playing catch up to a game that should have been started long ago is no position any business wants to be in. So when deciding on a viable, long term internet marketing strategy, small business owners need to determine the viability and growth potential of their strategy for long term success.

Determining if your SEO & Internet Marketing Strategy is Future Viable

No one can tell the future, but savvy internet marketers can certainly see which direction it’s going. Do you understand how your target audience is changing? Are you taking advantage of technological advances in your industry? Are you keeping your website and marketing up to date with these changes, and changes in your business? If not, you’re missing the boat, and your competition is doing exactly what you’re not.

Understanding what your customers want, how to engage them (and I’m not talking about a phone call), and how to turn someone that’s shopping into a customer. These are all paramount exercises for a small business owner to complete when it comes to completing an honest assessment of their online marketing.

Are you really dealing with an SEO expert?

The 10 warning signs that the person you’re talking to is not an SEO expert.

In this day and age it’s pretty easy to come across someone who claims they are an SEO Expert.  As a small business owner you are no doubt contacted by several people every week via phone or email claiming they can rocket your business to the front of the pack for mere dollars per month.  So the question here is: with all these people claiming they can do the same thing, who is telling the truth, and who is selling SEO snake oil?Continue reading

Measuring The Effectiveness of Your SEO and PPC Campaigns

The Basics of measuring your marketing efforts

How to measure the effectiveness of your SEO and PPC efforts

seo and ppc measure effectivness with analytics portland oregon vancouver washington

When it comes to measuring your own SEO and PPC efforts, or perhaps you’re trying to measure your outsourced efforts, understanding what metrics to measure can be a difficult task.  The sheer amount of data that can be presented through programs such as Google AdWords or Google Analytics can make just about anyone’s eyes glaze over.  For business owners, reports like these often take a back seat to more important business functions.  So a question that we often get is how to effectively benchmark an SEO and/or PPC campaign for effectiveness, and when do you know its time to make a change?Continue reading

What kind of website are you really buying, and why should you care

Drag & Drop Websites – WYSIWYG website programs are they worth it?

Finding someone to build your business a website these days is as easy as looking online, or waiting for one of the probably many calls your business gets from people claiming they can build your presence online for cheap.  Pricing for websites varies widely and so as a savvy business owner, you should question why so cheap or why so expensive, right?

Know the right questions to ask when buying a websitewebsite design portland oregon vancouver washington

Continue reading

Looking for a SEO company? 5 internet advertising myths debunked

So you’re in the market for an SEO Company?

For many small businesses, looking for a qualified local SEO Company can be a daunting task. There are many factors to look at when choosing an ethical internet marketing and web design company for your small business, and unfortunately all too often small business owners make decisions on web design and internet advertising based upon convenience rather than diligent research.Continue reading

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for beginners

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The process of setting up and maintaining a successful Search Engine Marketing campaign is a big job.  But with a little study, forethought,  goal setting, and measurement anyone can do it, and be relatively successful.

In this post I will cover the initial, high level steps to get your Search Engine Marketing campaign off to a solid start.  You can also visit Google Adwords for an extensive (75 modules when I took it) online training class that they offer.

Establish Your Goals

What do you want to accomplish with your Search Marketing strategy? What do you want your prospects to do when they find your website? Where are your customers geographically? These are just a few of the questions that we will ask to help you build and clearly define goals for your Search Marketing campaign.

A clear path, or sales funnel within your website should be defined.  Does your website communicate you value proposition to your prospects?  Does your website represent your company well?  Does it give a clear benefit to doing business with you?  Is your websites content engaging?  If the answer is no to any of the above, you may want to consider revamping your site before spending money to drive prospects to it.

Keyword Research, Selection and Tuning

Do you know what keywords people are searching when trying to find your business?  What keywords will make your phone ring?  Selecting the wrong keywords is probobly one of the biggest reasons Search Engine Marketing Campaigns fail.  Many PPC beginners will often go for “high volume” keywords, which often are extremely competitive and expensive, and may or may not achieve your desired results.  On the other hand, selecting keywords that get very little searches do little to move a small businesses sales forward.

There are many resources available for keyword research today.  In any case, at the very least every PPC marketer should use some sort of website analytics to measure how paid visitors are interacting with your website.

PPC Budget Management

Have you done your research on how competitive the keywords you want to buy are?  How big of a geographical area do you want to advertise to?  Have you allotted a sufficient monthly budget?  I have always used a simple calculation with my customers when coming up with a proposed monthly budget.  I call it the “5 Click Rule”.  The rule is pretty simple, you want me to get your phone to ring from highly qualified prospects, Google wants to serve your ad, we need to budget for a minimum of 5 clicks per day.  Let me explain further…

If your a Plumber serving the Portland, Oregon area, and you want to advertise to people in Google searching for “Plumbers Portland, Oregon”, and that keyword string costs $10 per click, we need to be prepared to spend $50 a day on Adwords.  If you want to advertise your services everyday, that is a monthly budget of $1500.  Now that’s not to say you will spend that much, as there are ways to be competitive on a lower budget, but if you want to really see the value of PPC, 5 people seeing your website, when they are looking for exactly what you do, should net you 1-2 calls per day.  What could the average Plumber make in extra sales if he had 30-60 new calls per month…I know it would be a lot more than $1500.

Lesson here is, if you’re going to venture into PPC, budget enough so it works.  Throwing $300 (or $10 a day), and getting your website 1 click extra isn’t going to do anything to move your sales needle.

Compelling Ads and Creative Development

Creating compelling ads, that get clicked on so your prospects can see your website can be a big challenge.  Many new PPC marketers will make the mistake of looking at their competition, and doing similar ads.  This will do nothing for you as it doesn’t differentiate your business at all from your competition.  Focus on what make your business different, and where you beat your competition.  Creating ads that show how you are different will get you much better click-throughs, than ads that say the same thing as everyone else.

Look for future posts from us that will dive deeper into Search Engine Marketing Tactics, Quality Score, Bid Management and more.

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