Digital Marketing Expertise: Is it as scarce as everyone says?
William R. Benz - Chief Digital Officer Carnegie Agency
The short answer is... maybe.
Digital Marketing is not just your company website. It is a comprehensive Omni-channel strategy that complements your sales plan by setting your business apart from the competition.
Chances are if you are not online, intentionally writing, tagging and coordinating the use of keywords and phrases describing your business values, then someone else is already doing it. They may even be using your company name and even your products to promote their own rankings in returned search results. To check, run a Google search on a popular term and see which competitors appear on the first page of results with an AD indication located on the lower left die of the search entry. These companies are not appearing in the top 10 by accident. They have approached the topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) thoughtfully and are making serious headway.
Good news! It's not too late.
In the article How to Hire for SEO… In Googles’ Own Words posted on February 17, the author refers to an embedded 11-minute video, featuring Maile Ohye, a senior Google developer. In the video, Maile goes on to describe how to hire an SEO resource including requesting, often at a cost, an audit from any potential SEO suitor. I suspect any company looking to improve their digital presence is willing to pay for such a service. For a guide, plan on 2-3 hours of effort to complete the review.
SEOs need to recognize what makes them valuable is the intellectual capital used to advance and improve a company's digital footprint. Too often proposals provide tactical specifics with enough detail to create a roadmap for the company to proceed without hiring the SEO resource. Consider this process as the vetting of a skills-set instead of a planning session that might reveal not just the desired outcome of the marketing activity but also the approach that is planned to make it happen.
Many companies, as described above, are uninformed regarding the nuances of SEO. Optimizing SEO presents various elements associated with Marketing as well as Technology and finding a skilled resource that spans both disciplines is still rare. The same can be said for the web and email optimization including practical exposure to best practices, both parts of the way companies on the web are ranked by Google. Simply search a solution provider’s website and read what is possible, then decide if that is something your team is able to accomplish without assistance.
Don't let the size of your company deter you. Companies of all sizes are in desperate need of skills to optimize digital delivery. For the smaller companies, it is a cost/resource issue and for larger companies, there are competing priorities and the misplaced belief it can be handled by a random member of the marketing department who happens to be between projects with a few years of experience in Marketing.
Said differently, SEO typically remains an after-thought as the marketing department emphasis shifts to focus on content creation without a plan for distribution and syndication. Climbing the uphill SEO path to achieve a louder voice online is akin to scaling Google to access the Mountain View.
Using external solution and service providers is not a new phenomenon. However, with the race to compete in SEO and ranking on the first page of results so important, companies are awakening to the fact that there are specific activities that will boost their position. It does not occur overnight. A best practice of placing relevant content in front of the appropriate audience in a number of different venues will improve the reputation and placement in search results. The Google developer Maile Ohye estimates the process takes between four and 12 months to see results. If you receive faster estimates for results from vendor proposals, be wary.
Choices are numerous for selecting the right person possessing the right skill from an array of competent solution providers. Bigger agencies are not always better. Review the results of prior work and spend time interviewing, not the company, but the actual person that will be servicing your account. Leave open the idea that in many cases engaging an independent consultant provides an effective way to give your company the lift in digital prominence without over-investing. Independent experts can provide practical measurable insights, allowing companies to avoid subtle risks and pitfalls frequently experienced by other competitors attempting to stand out in the digital crowd.
With so many areas of Marketing falling under the banner of Transformation, it is no wonder that consulting companies are re-targeting sales opportunities in search of new business by explaining how they are experts in online media including Paid, Ad Exchanges, SEO and SEM. The real question to pose to these providers is what differentiates them from the other companies competing for the same work. We recommend that you do your due diligence and find the right fit for your company.
There are a few steps that can ease the engagement of SEO experts.
Larger marketing / SEO companies require a commitment of staff. Assess whether your company can dedicate the time away from other projects to take on all of the activities of SEO at the same time. Listed below are advantages that can best be described in the following way independent contractors can build or enhance your SEO:
Relevant Industry References
Accessible for follow-up Questions and Answers
As you start the review of suitors to assist you in building your online voice or at least amplify your message, check the Google Webmaster tools as it is well explained and available at either no or low cost. This ensures you have at least the basics or SEO covered.
Other resources include the SERP (search engine results page) checker http://www.whatsmyserp.com. This is a consistent way to see the display of the Alt-Descriptions added to the page content in HTML. It’s free to register and you can add multiple domain names to keep track of your digital footprint.
Prices for expertise vary which is not surprising. For a small Marketing shop located on the east and west coasts, expect to pay between $150 and $225 per hour for someone with specific experience and explainable expertise. In the middle of the country expect to pay 75% of that fee for a similar experience. For engagement with larger marketing firms, this cost can rise to $5,000 per month or more for just SEO. Add other services and that cost can rise dramatically. A face-to-face meeting with the person assigned to the account can usually confirm the real deal. Ask about Per Hour Billing v. Value Pricing as it is also a way that affects the expense of the work.
So regarding scarcity, most of all, when searching for digital talent, if you are not up to date on SEO best practices ask for help from either a knowledgeable co-worker or an acquaintance that has the background you need. As a way to illustrate the point, if the role requires expertise in complex online experiences then a junior person with 3-5 years will typically not have enough exposure to all of the aspects of work required to deliver a quality product. A more seasoned professional is likely to be your best option.
Today, there are self-appointed SEO experts marketing their skills to uninformed buyers. Select SEO experts with a high degree of skepticism. Although asking for an audit in advance of the engagement is awkward and not recommended, at Carnegie Agency, we suggest that you have a discussion with the person actually assigned to your business and ask them to describe the process of completing either an audit or assessment of your digital footprint. Measurement and reporting are essential to getting the most for your SEO investment.
About us, Carnegie Agency is a digital-first agency offering clients’ practical measurable marketing to increase the inbound traffic into the top of the sales funnel. Please visit our website at www.carnegieagency.com or call (646) 504-1204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.