The majority of the web development work I have done work over the past nine years has been with web and marketing agencies. In all but a few instances, I have had amazing experiences with these agencies who I would highly recommend. There are a few cases where I would not recommend the agency to be able to monetize a client’s online presence. I am a big advocate of using an agency vs. going directly to an individual.
The key is being able to research enough to limit your choices to those agencies that will be able to deliver on their promises. I will list out some of the key indicators to use in this process. I would recommend asking for at least 5-6 similar business websites to review.
Search the Website and look for Google “Site Links”
I find Google “site links” as a good indicator on the authority of the agency website. An agency website that did not product site links would not be a “deal killer” but would cause me to question their ability to rank a website in an organic search. I have included a great example from one of the leading digital marketing and design agencies (Skol Marketing) in Minnesota / Upper Midwest to demonstrate this.
Checking the Websites for SSL
It is important to verify the example websites requested they have provided have SSL installed. Even if it is a small advantage, a digital marketing agency should be delivering to the highest possible standard. There are two easy ways to tell if the site your looking at have SSL installed. The first way is to check for a “padlock to the left of the website address. The more comprehensive method would be to use an online too such as “Why NO Padlock”.
Check the Agencies Online Presence
I always advise a retail client to spend a little time in Google searching on any web design or digital marketing company they plan to engage in business with. The first thing I recommend is opening up a Google search window and searching by “Company Name” (in quotes). Reviewing websites published works and other content will all go a long way to establishing credibility. I would never base an opinion on a single negative review. I might start to question when I see one negative review out of a total of three on a major platform such as Google Places.
Checking for the Favicon
The favicon is the small “icon” the that appears in the browser window and is helpful when you have 30 tabs open up like I normally do. A Missing favicon on a few websites sent for review would indicate a lack of attention to detail. I would start to ask what other details that should be “industry standard” are getting missed.
Checking for the Open Graph Implementation
In 2010 Facebook introduced the Open Graph standard. I recently wrote an extensive article on the subject here. Out of all the “best practices” related to web development and SEO, this is the one I see that is most overlooked. If I was testing example websites that failed to have this standard implement, I probably would not continue to explore a business relationship with the agency that sent them. As seen in my article, there is a very simple way to test and verify an Open Graph implementation.
Checking for On Page SEO Best Practices
Testing a prospective agencies general best practices for “on page SEO” is a more of a technical Process. The tools that are available this can be achievable for most individuals. I recommend looking at a few websites that are provided as reference to start. One tools for this purpose is the Site Audit tool from Neil Patel. This tool will rate a website between 1 – 100 based on best on page SEO practices. I would give a second thought to using web design and digital marketing agency with consistent scores below 80. There are many other free tools that can be used to check a websites’ “on page” ranking score. They are very easy to find with a Google search.
What Questions are Being Asked?
I have seen an assortment of initial questionnaires over the years to gather information from an agencies retail client. When starting the initial engagement with a web design or marketing agency it is important, they fully understand the business needs of their clients. These normally goes beyond the capabilities of a “standard questionnaire” and needs more direct engagement and interaction. At the end of the initial engagement it is important that both parties understand the desired business goals and the plan to achieve them.
Does the Agency Have an Office Location?
I understand we are living in 2020+ where everything is virtual, but my recommendation would always be the agency with a fixed office. The value of being about to personally interact with the team responsible for understanding your web design and digital marketing needs will be valuable. In addition, I feel that an office demonstrates an agencies overall stability. Remote contractors and employees can be valuable and cost-effective way to produce a better outcome for a client.
Does the Agency Answer the Phone? / General Response Time
I am a firm believer in an agencies responsibility to properly commutate over the phone. It is recommended during the “selection process”to call the agency during business hours at least a couple times. This will demonstrate the agencies availability after you have signed the contract. A client should never have to send a “did you see this” email. All emails should be responded to in a responsible amount of time. I consider one business day an ample amount of time for an agency to respond to a client request.