There’s a lot the average business owner can do to promote a company in the online arena, from building a website and creating social media profiles to joining listing services and ad shares that help to virtually spread a brand name. But most business owners will find that they have neither the time nor the inclination to learn and implement the marketing tactics and techniques that will bring them true recognition, a marked uptick in visitors (and sales), and a higher page rank on search engines. In short, it may be in your best interest to focus on what you know (managing your business) and let the professionals see to the task of increasing your web presence. And here are five things you’ll want to look for before you settle on an internet marketing company.
- Seek out a reputable firm. Getting referrals is always a good idea since trusted sources are unlikely to mislead you intentionally. And there’s nothing like word of mouth to cut through the white noise of thousands of service providers clamoring for your business. But you have to keep in mind that a company your colleague uses may not be right for your business for a number of reasons (mainly that your needs are different). Luckily, you can get tons of referrals for reputable marketing companies to compare by asking around and looking on industry forums. This should give you a good shot at finding the one that is right for you.
- Check page rank. Paging Captain Obvious! If an internet marketing company can’t even market themselves successfully you can probably guess how well they’ll do on your behalf. If, however, they have managed to get themselves ranked in the top five on sites like Google and Bing for searches like “internet marketing company” or “online marketing firm” (just for example), and we’re not talking about the colored box at the top with paid ads, then perhaps it’s worth the money to see what they can do for your business. However, you’ll also want to check their page rank (use the add-ons provided by Mozilla or download a page rank tool for Explorer) to ensure that they are also PR 5 or higher.
- Beware of big promises. Anyone that claims they can put you in the number one slot for your industry within just a couple of months, or makes similarly grand promises, is probably lying (unless you happen to have a ridiculously obscure niche, like say, lederhosen costumes – by the way, over half a million results populate for this search on Google). The truth is that it generally takes at least six months to show significant gains through SEO practices and internet marketing efforts. So you need to be in it for the long haul with a company that offers realistic expectations for results.
- Look for guarantees. We’re not talking about the “#1 in 60 days!” type of guarantee, but rather the sort of policies that ensure happy and satisfied customers. You’ll want to find a company that is active in the online community and has a reputation to protect, for one thing, since they’re more likely to do what they have to in order to avoid negative reviews. And while you aren’t likely to find any offers of the “100% satisfaction guaranteed” variety, chances are that you will find companies willing to sign service contracts that include some kind of quantifiable results.
- Ask about customer service. There’s nothing worse than hiring an internet marketing firm (or any type of service provider, really) only to find that you can never get in touch with them when you’re facing a problem. So look for a company that offers multiple avenues for contact, including email, phone, and even live chat options in addition to a dedicated account manager. This will help to ensure that all of your internet marketing concerns are addressed and that you are satisfied with the service you receive.