Posted on July 7, 2020 - By Cathy Pedrayes
As digital marketing changes, and becomes more complex, it can be hard to stay on top of what your website provider is actually doing for you. Are they truly serving the needs of your business? Are they helping you grow? With both technology and consumer behavior constantly changing, marketing can quickly become a game of catch-up, leading many businesses in our industry to rely on what their marketing agencies tell them about their digital presence.
To help you truly understand the service you are getting, here are a few important questions to ask of your current digital marketing agency, or one you are considering hiring.
In that first pitch meeting, a marketing agency may promise you full management of your company’s website and digital presence, but is that what they will actually deliver? Each area of digital marketing, whether it’s social media, search engine optimization or paid media requires a tremendous amount of expertise—and labor. Unless an agency has the talent to perform those individual functions, it is unlikely they will successfully fulfill your needs. You would probably not consider sending your customer service representative out on a truck to deliver your fuel; similarly, your agency should not be using your account manager to deliver your social media content. A team of specialists with unique knowledge of the energy industry is the key to your digital success.
Having the right person leading the team is as important as knowing how the work is getting done. Is your account being serviced by a marketing expert who understands your business? How often are you in touch with them? Do they regularly review your overall marketing objectives and discuss the role your website and social media are contributing to your success? If there is no regular review of your digital presence and progress, chances are what you once thought was a full-service marketing agency may actually be nothing more than a web-hosting service.
Your marketing agency is an extension of your business. They have to know your market well and have a team of SEO experts, graphic designers, copywriters, web developers, social media specialists, account managers and more who each use their skill set to help you stand out from the competition. These departments are key components to growing your business and they’re also fields that are constantly evolving. You need an agency that can keep up with all of it.
For most fuel business owners, social media as a marketing tool is a mystery. The relationship between your company and your customers and prospects can be enhanced—or destroyed—by your social media strategy. So how do you know if your Facebook page is on the right track? The answer is likely in your metrics. Your digital marketing agency should be able to tell you much more than how many followers you have. Metrics like reach and engagement are key performance indicators of the success of your social media strategy.
Reach is defined as the number of people who see your posts or ads, and engagement is the number of people who interact with those posts by hitting the like button, writing their own comments (we call that user-generated content) or sharing your post within their own network— the most coveted of all engagements. These two values are interconnected. Without reach, nobody will see your post, and without engagement, the Facebook algorithm will limit your reach. Only social media specialists who stay on top of their trade by reading journals, attending ongoing trainings, consulting regularly with experts at Facebook or other platforms and staying abreast of trends within the retail energy industry will be able to deliver the level of service your business deserves.
This is a question where you’ll find many fuel marketing companies scrambling for the right answer. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key component of your website’s growth and ultimately the growth of your business.
The purpose of a search engine is to find answers. When a potential customer types a query into a search engine, such as “boiler repair near me,” the search engine will crawl the internet looking for content that matches that user’s search. Then it will index that content and rank it by relevance. Because this is all done by a robot in less than one second, you need an expert on your team who can help direct that robot to your site for the appropriate searches. This will affect the quality of the traffic to your site, the volume of traffic and how your business appears in organic search results.
If this all sounds techy, it’s because it is—VERY much so. SEO involves everything from how you write the content for your website to back-end coding. It includes the authority of the content, title tags, meta descriptions, best practices for domain names and more. And, like most technology, it’s constantly evolving based on search engine algorithm changes. In 2018, Google reported over 3,000 improvements to its search. Without someone on your team monitoring how these improvements are interacting with your website and addressing areas of concern, your website may not perform to its full potential. It won’t matter how great the website looks or how much you spent on it; if you don’t have an SEO expert, you’re losing business. And worse, you won’t even know this is the case without an SEO audit.
Your digital marketing agency should optimize every aspect of your site based on SEO data. The agency should also send you monthly reporting on your site’s performance.
As a cost-saving measure, rather than build custom sites, many digital marketing agencies use templates. While they might both look nice on the outside, some key differences distinguish them from one another.
A custom-built website takes SEO best practices into consideration during your site’s design phase, and in turn, custom sites often perform better than templates in search engine rankings. They also allow you to customize branding features on your website such as fonts, colors, and logos, all of which are often limited by templates. With a custom-built website, you can expect to be involved in the creative process from the beginning. You’ll weigh in on the design, the copy, the images and more. You’ll be able to work with your agency until the site best reflects your brand, services, company culture and values. In addition, a custom-built website can grow with you as your business grows. It will be easy for your agency to scale the site in order to include new functions or content. Overall, a custom site is built with longevity in mind and with a user-friendly experience as a goal. Custom-built sites undergo extensive testing for compatibility, across hundreds of devices.
Templates may be a cost-effective solution for blog websites, however, for a customer-facing business website, this approach is not ideal. Here’s why: Many templates have built-in functions that you may or may not need but can ultimately lower your site’s performance. This is problematic because according to a 2018 Google study, 53% of mobile users will leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Another study found that 79% of shoppers reported they would not return to purchase from a laggy website—proof that there are no second chances.
In addition to unwanted functions bogging down your site, templates are also not updated regularly. As a result, when underlying software like WordPress is updated, the website can crash or underperform. They’re also more susceptible to hacking.
Ultimately, it is a better business decision to have a custom website built from the ground up. Having a site set up from a template saves money, but a website that lacks in functionality will hurt your customers’ experience and can cost you more than you saved in lost business opportunities.
With a custom site, current and potential customers will have an easier time finding your business and they’ll get more out of their online experience once they reach your site.
The business impact of customer reviews is undeniable. Studies indicate that 97% of customers say reviews factor into their buying decisions, so if your website doesn’t feature customer reviews, you’re potentially losing business.
Online reviews are trusted just as much as referrals from friends, so it’s important that your marketing agency manages your online reputation. This means you need to have a strategy to ask for reviews as well as for responding to customers. With this approach, customers will see that you value their feedback. In addition, Google rewards businesses that have reviews. According to Google’s My Business Help Page, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
While it’s helpful to have Google showcase your reviews when a customer is searching for your location, what about other platforms where people can leave reviews? With websites like Facebook, The Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List and Yahoo all available to customers, is there a way to monitor and respond to all of these reviews from one place? The answer is yes, and this is something your marketing agency should be doing for you.
This may seem like a silly question. You may say to yourself, “Of course I’ll have an account manager,” but are you sure about that? Don’t assume that because you’re signing on with an agency, you’ll have an experienced account manager.
Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for companies to assign accounts to interns. While interns bring a ton of value, their time at the digital marketing agency you’ve hired is limited and it’s likely their knowledge of the energy and HVAC industry is limited as well. You want an experienced account manager driving your digital strategy, for both planning and execution. You want someone who will proactively reach out when they see opportunities for your business to grow. You’re busy running your business, and their job should be running your digital marketing strategy.
If your digital marketing agency has the right answers to all of these questions, you’re in a great position to grow your business.