Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

In SEO we trust – or do we? / Daniel Nolan, Managing Director, theEword

By Daniel Nolan, Managing Director, theEword

In the last two years, the number of British companies switching to digital marketing to promote their business has doubled.

However, despite the increase in demand for SEO services, there remains a significant gap in knowledge about this field and – perhaps more importantly – an atmosphere of mistrust around those purporting to be experts in it.

For marketers, the need for a solid SEO campaign goes without saying. It’s a vitally important part of the marketing mix; however, Google’s ever-changing search algorithms mean that it can be a full-time job simply keeping ahead of the curve.

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Because of this, many marketers turn to an SEO agency to bridge the knowledge gap. Over the past decade, as understanding of SEO has grown, so too has the number of agencies in the market. Sadly, however, not all of them are as good as their word. Consultants who use unethical ‘black hat’ tactics – such as comment spam and mass directory placements – have given the SEO industry a bad name and created distrust between professional digital marketing agencies and the businesses they advise.

At @theEword we’ve put a lot of time and effort into building a trustworthy brand. We’ve recently done some research into marketers’ understanding of SEO issues, and the results laid bare some of the opportunities for unethical agencies to take advantage. While four out of five were undertaking SEO activity, almost 20 per cent of the people we spoke to didn’t know their company’s keywords and were reliant on an agency to design and carry out their entire search strategy.

Soberingly for me, around 40 per cent of the marketers surveyed said they did not believe SEO agencies were trustworthy or transparent.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of agencies behaving less than admirably, there are a lot more who want to be open and transparent about SEO – great news both for marketers and search specialists.

So, how can marketers make sure that the agency they appoint will be the right one, and not one that will outsource backlink acquisition cheaply overseas while charging an astronomical day rate?

Well, there are a few key tips. I would advise any in-house team to spend half-an-hour swotting up on some of the latest developments in SEO and search before they meet an agency; this will allow you to ask insightful questions, understand the answers and, ultimately, reduce the chances of being unhappy with the service delivered.

A decent agency will always be willing to share case studies and client testimonials – and back these up with referral details – so don’t be afraid to ask.

From the very first communication, a good agency will be able to speak to you in plain English and explain campaigns and processes thoroughly. Don’t allow yourself to be flummoxed by buzzwords – if they can’t explain what they mean, then they probably don’t understand it fully themselves, and certainly won’t be able to execute it.

Future proofing is a key element of SEO, so a trustworthy and reputable agency will be able to advise you on what’s around the corner. For example, Google recently overhauled its organic search engine with the launch of the Hummingbird update, paving the way for what Google terms semantic search, so a good agency should be well underway with strategies designed to make the most of it long-term.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good agency will be transparent with everything from who the account team is to the amount on the monthly invoice!

SEO is a complicated and fast-moving area of marketing, but it doesn’t have to equal headaches and unease for marketers. Having agencies who you trust on-side will make your job that bit easier – so don’t fall for a sales spiel. Instead, do your research and build a relationship with an agency and team who have your best interests at heart.

Daniel joined theEword in 2008, and worked his way up from content writer to managing director. He had previously worked as a freelance journalist, writing for publications such as the NME, DJ Magazine, CityLife, Popjustice, the Manchester Evening News and clients including Umbro and HMPJ.

Due to the rapid expansion of the business, particularly in the content team, Dan was put in charge of managing the flow of content out to our clients, becoming managing editor – and taking over responsibility for quality control across our output – just a few months after starting. He was in charge of the content department as it quadrupled in size over the course of 18 months.

As managing editor, Dan introduced the values which are now upheld as a matter of course by our content team: namely, the production of well-written, engaging and informative website copy, highly optimised for search engine optimisation but also – more importantly – of the utmost value to readers. He also placed strict emphasis on quality, bringing in measures that would help to ensure theEword’s output would remain free of mistakes or inaccuracies


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