Managing all components of a successful marketing strategy has become a juggling act in the 21st century. How can one organization possibly keep every ball in the air between social media management, e-mail marketing campaigns, and, especially, SEO? Hence, why hiring a content marketing agency is becoming the new norm with 73 percent of major organizations having someone manage their content marketing strategy.
Not every content marketing agency is created equal. Keep this in mind when you’re on the prowl to find that perfect match; the knight in shining armor who will boost your domain authority and organic traffic.
Here are six questions to ensure you evaluate a partner that will help deliver relevant, engaging content and a strategy built on data and insight:
What is your experience within our company’s industry?
If the content marketing agency has had previous clients within the industry, they will have a better understanding of what makes compelling content, access to thought leaders, and opportunities for guest blogging. Ultimately, these are all great advantages – when executed properly, these tactics can drive traffic to your blog and increase both your page and domain authority.
Industry knowledge doesn’t make or break a decision to hire – it’s just one of many factors to consider. If a client hasn’t had experience in the field, they should offer up some legitimate tools and data-driven strategies, providing insight into how they will have access to the industry or targeted audience. The demand for content is at an all-time high and quality ranks over quantity so their explanation is essential.
They should provide some insight into:
- What tools they are going to use to source guest bloggers for your content or secure guest blogging opportunities for your team on high ranking sites.
- How they will conduct keyword research within the industry, along with long-tail keywords, and potential seasonal keywords or topics.
- What tactics they’ll use to benchmark your content strategy against your competitors and the overall industry.
What is your organizational structure?
Organizational structure can impact communication styles, the growth of the content marketing agency, flexibility to change, and creativity. Remember you’re a customer: even though it may not be necessary for you to know how the sausage is made, you may regret not knowing after you purchase said sausage and take a bite. It’s best if you know up-front if you’re working with a flat vs. hierarchical organizational structure and ensure it’s in line with your company’s wants and needs. Familiarize yourself with pros and cons of each structure to see which glove fits best.
In addition, what type of project management tactics and tools do they use? For example, we at SHIFT use the Kanban methodology, otherwise known as agile management, and it’s worked wonderfully for flexibility, efficiency, and transparency. Any good management style needs communication tools to assist – there are numerous communication and project management tools to choose from such as Slack, Trello, and Azendoo. It doesn’t matter what tools they use, as long as they do! A team without a means of project management or communication isn’t a team worth working with in this fast-paced digital age.
What tools do you use to gather data and insight to plan a content strategy around?
The agency should respond with a variation of web analytics, social media analytics, SEO analytics, marketing automation, blogging, and CMS tools all within arm’s reach to start.
Here’s a sample of what some of these tools are and what purpose they serve:
- Moz – ranking, keyword research, SEO campaigns
- SEMRush – tracking keywords across both paid and organic channels
- SpyFu – “spy” on the keywords competitors use
- Google Analytics – tracking organic traffic, along with other marketing channels, and Search Console queries
- Hubspot – marketing automation platform or the content marketing agency should be familiar with the one your organization currently uses
What metrics and format do you use for reporting?
In other words, how are they going to measure the success of their efforts? Will they be shipping a PowerPoint with tons of graphs and charts? Will they be providing an interactive Google Data Studio™ dashboard? Will they be sending excel files of raw data? These may seem elementary, but best to ask upfront rather than getting what looks like a child’s report card in the mail.
Ultimately, your goals will drive the metrics they use but most companies share the same goals in terms of running a successful content marketing campaign: high page ranking, a high conversion rate, a high domain authority, and increased organic traffic. There are over 200 factors that go into Google’s ranking; figuring out necessary metrics and a solid reporting method is a difficult feat but an important one.
Some of the key metrics that should be included but are not limited to:
- What pages are driving traffic and organic traffic month-over-month? What can we learn and use from these top pages in terms of keywords and future content?
- What content is social media promoting? Is it successful? Should we be pivoting the type of content shared to increase engagement and traffic flow?
- Where are we ranking on our pre-determined keyword list? Which ones have we dropped in ranking or increased in ranking?
The key to successful reporting is learning from the data and providing actionable insights for future endeavors. If the content marketing agency hands you a template and doesn’t seem to deviate from that reporting style, be cautious of what they can truly offer in terms of deep-dive analysis of your content marketing strategy. Also, one-size does not fit all within the marketing world.
Do you have case studies showcasing success from previous work with other clients?
At this point and time, it’s essential for agencies to showcase their previous work. It boosts trust and provides insight into how they can successfully run events, campaigns, and projects for clients. In fact, you shouldn’t have to ask this question – this should be readily available on their website.
How are you going to make me money?
The three letters everyone cares about: R-O-I. For what you pay, what can an agency give you in return? If the relationship works in your favor (as you hope and intend), the amount of money you earn should outweigh the amount spent on the agency’s work. A solid content marketing agency should be able to measure your return on marketing investment.
ROI % = (Conversion Value – Spend)/Spend * 100
Even if initially the ROI isn’t positive, they should be able to provide explanations as to why and recommendations to change the strategy moving forward.
When you’re sourcing your content marketing strategy to another agency, you need to ensure you’re in good hands. Ask the tough questions upfront, gain some insight into reporting, team structure, metrics, and ROI. Use the answers to these questions to find a content marketing match made in heaven!