1. They care about the right KPIs
There’s nothing wrong with building goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) into a contract when kicking things off with a new agency if they’re the right ones to care about. If an agency is happy to contractually agree to link numbers, this can be a red flag (not just for companies, but for Digital PRs looking to join a new agency too!), here are three key reasons why:
It shows little to no strategy behind the link building
Often, we find link targets are arbitrary, with no strategy or consideration for how many links are actually needed. As a result, we see a scramble to get the agreed link numbers, meaning any tactic is used without considering why links are needed, what links are needed, and where on your site needs them.
While X number of links might be delivered, they tend to have little to no impact, leaving you with no tangible impact on the business to show for your investment.
Link targets are there to get the sale, not the results
Link targets in contracts are generally in there to get the sale and as a byproduct missell the point of link building in the first place – particularly if the person being sold the dream of links isn’t an expert in the topic. It’s an agency’s role to educate a prospect on what they actually need using a strategy, not negotiate on the link numbers.
When the link target isn’t delivered or the links have no impact, you have an agency that’s made some money and a client that lacks trust in link building and Digital PR.
The links don’t make sense for your business
Yes, getting a diverse range of links to your site is important, but the relevancy of the links is more important. If you have a beauty site, a link in a piece of content about racing, or home appliances, etc. in the name of quantity over quality and relevancy of links just isn’t right.
Remember, you want to build links that will increase rankings and drive traffic that will convert – it’s not just about link numbers.
Instead, KPIs built around goals beyond SEO and tied into your broader business objectives are the ones that keep agencies and their strategies on point.
2. They understand all areas of SEO, not just link building
If your Digital PR agency doesn’t understand SEO and why links are important, I’d question why they claim to be Digital PR experts in the first place.
An agency should understand what makes a good link for you and your site, not just go after big websites and numbers. This should be built on an understanding of the things Google uses to assess the quality of a good site such as seed sites, or the relevancy of the links built to you.
Beyond this, having an understanding of the other areas of SEO, namely technical and onsite content, is fundamental if a Digital PR agency is going to be able to build a strategy that will ensure impact.
Every person on our Digital PR team receives training on technical and onsite content so that they can create campaign pages in line with Google’s recommendations and guidelines and can build strategies that deliver results.
3. They’ll actually tie link building into your SEO strategy
Digital PR and link-building can’t be done in isolation. We see the best results when you have a technically sound site, technical and content improvements, and new content being created that is all aligned with link building.
If links point to just the homepage or to a section of the site that isn’t ready to receive them (because of things like poor internal linking, little content optimisations, or poor conversion), they probably won’t do much.
A good agency will know this and tell you, not just take your money and build links.
Great Digital PR agencies will communicate with technical and content teams, whether they’re part of a full-service agency or are working with in-house or other agency teams, so that everyone’s working towards the same goals. This way, they can identify target pages that have opportunities for growth but need links to rank and work on them collectively.
Through this approach, we were able to increase sales by +135% versus pre-covid levels for one of our insurance clients with a campaign focused on their target audience that worked alongside content and technical improvements for their caravan insurance offering.
4. They’re immersed in your business
This point is not mutually exclusive to Digital PR – any agency should fully understand your business and target audiences and work alongside other teams. Without this, work could be duplicated or overwritten, and you won’t get the maximum impact that could be gained from all teams working towards a shared goal.
Understanding your product and audience will mean that any Digital PR campaign is aimed at not just building links, but building links that have a higher propensity for people that click on the link to go on and convert.
Do they ask about your competitors? Do they ask about business updates? Do they ask for access to things like your reporting tools or Google Analytics? If they haven’t done any of these, then they’re likely just there to get the job done with little thought or consideration for growing your relationship and business.
5. They’re proactive, providing consultation – not just ‘doing the do’
Good Digital PR agencies do what they were brought on and told to do, great agencies challenge the why behind everything they do and are proactive in bringing new ideas to the table that support your business’s needs and goals.
After the honeymoon period of signing a new agency is over, you might see fewer fresh ideas brought to the table. If an agency is really good at what they do, they’ll be focused on maintaining and building on momentum.
An agency should preempt your questions, know your future plans, offer proactive solutions and be ready to harness new trends by pushing you out of your comfort zone with recommendations aimed at exceeding expectations you didn’t know you had.
6. They have a strong portfolio of past success
This might seem like an obvious one, but looking at recent case studies and evidence of a proven track record can often get overlooked. Even just looking at the types of campaigns that an agency has done in the past to see if they’re the right fit for you is important.
Transparency on their past performance and offering an introduction to other clients so that you can ask any questions about working with an agency is also a strong indicator that they’re going to deliver.
There are of course lots of other ways to tell if your Digital PR agency is doing a good job (chemistry, types of ideas etc.), but the points I’ve raised above are some of the main things you can check your current or potential agency against to see if they’ll deliver what’s needed.
If any of the points above have raised alarm bells…then it might be time to start looking around for a new agency, there are lots out there to choose from. If you have questions or thoughts on the above, please feel free to reach out!