What to Research When Considering a Content Marketing Agency in 2023
Finding a content marketing agency is not an easy task. Follow these steps to make sure you invest in the best possible partnership for your business.
Competition in the marketplace has never been more fierce. In today’s increasingly digital world, this is especially true for companies’ online presence. The demand for online content grows with each passing day, but it also influences how marketers approach their audiences entirely.
Online content is a tried-and-true, necessary marketing tactic. Up to 44% of businesses intend to increase their content creation spending this year. Gaining an edge over the competition requires using every tool available, and content marketing is a great way to yield consistent results.
However, not every business has the resources or the availability to develop a content strategy on its own. For this reason, it’s often better to outsource this task. That’s where a content marketing agency comes in.
These companies allow you to develop a uniquely tailored strategy to best serve your business. After all, content creation is not about publishing a short quarterly blog. It’s about engaging audiences on a deeper level by cultivating ongoing conversations with them.
However, hiring the right marketing agency doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to be informed before navigating outsourcing, so you don’t make the mistake of wasting valuable resources only to end up where you started.
In this comprehensive guide, you will discover how to make the right choice for your specific business needs when seeking a content marketing agency to partner with.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing relates to the production and distribution of online business-oriented materials.
Like any other business practice, the general goal of content marketing is to increase your company’s return on investment. However, depending on your objectives and goals, the benefits of content marketing can far exceed ROI. Content comes in a range of formats, each of which serves different purposes. Nowadays, if a business doesn’t have a well-established and consistent online presence, it might as well not exist. For this reason, your company requires a robust content marketing strategy.
Sure, content can be produced in-house. But, it takes a lot of time and resources—that could be more effectively invested elsewhere—to cultivate a successful campaign. That’s why companies often rely on content marketing agencies.
Consider these key areas when researching a content marketing agency to partner with:
1. What is Their Website Like?
It’s imperative for companies to diligently research the content marketing agencies they are interested in. The first thing a company should do is determine if the agency is a legitimate business. Verifying if an agency is real could save you from data breaches, compromised information, and thousands of dollars.
To make sure you’re protecting your business and its integrity, consider the following:
Do They Have a Secure Website Connection?
First, you should ensure the website has HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) Communication protocol. This protects your information through encrypted data transfer. Though a great start, this is not a bulletproof way to ensure a website is secure. This tactic should be used in tandem with other cybersecurity protocols.
What Are Their Online Reviews Like?
The most reputable content agencies tend to have an extensive online presence. By using Google, you should easily be able to access public consumer feedback about how the agency works and the opinions of previous clients. Be on the lookout for companies with zero online presence outside of their website. This is a major red flag.
Is Their Website Authoritative?
Having social media handles with consistent posts is a good sign of an agency that cares about its presence. Check out the type of content that they have released to see if it matches the tone and style you’re looking for. Any worthwhile content marketing agency will have its own content marketing strategy (this is a non-negotiable!). Aside from that, look for the company on social media sites like LinkedIn, where you can further verify them as an actual business. Companies with a lack of online presence often prove themselves to be untrustworthy later on. Don’t miss the signs!
Do they Allow Collaboration?
As much weight as outsourcing takes off a company, achieving exceptional marketing results isn’t a one-person – or even one team – job. Collaboration between teams and companies is vital to making progress and ensuring consistent results. Observe how the agency handles partnerships and how established their lines of communication are. Great agencies provide full transparency and welcome feedback and collaboration.
Lack of collaboration can quickly snowball into more prominent problems, impacting the quality of your content and your reputation. Accredited agencies are very open about their processes because informed clients are easier to work with. This approach allows the agency to expedite its work and exceed expectations. At the end of the day, it’s your money and reputation on the line. You have the right to inquire about these things. Do.
Do they Focus on KPIs and Metrics?
We live in a data-driven world. It is essential to understand how a content marketing agency measures success. Hint: it should be with metrics and analytics. The way the content marketing agency tracks its progress and approaches its goals can tell you a lot about its credibility. Once you have discussed the project’s scope, you should have a clear roadmap. The promises along this roadmap should be able to be substantiated with data.
Take into consideration that content marketing is an ongoing process. There are bound to be roadblocks along the way, especially in the early stages. However, experienced agencies take advantage of these early stages to gather invaluable insights to continuously improve your content’s quality. During this part of the process, be hyperaware of how the agency handles communication. What insights are they on the lookout for? How do they gather them? How will they use these insights to course-correct/best optimize the content?
Relevant metrics to track to improve your content marketing strategy
Does the agency know how many leads their previous content pieces have generated? Generated leads are essential to a content marketing agency; that’s a huge part of why you hire them in the first place. At the very least, they should be able to give you an approximate number.
Down the road, after your first few trials with an agency, you can always track ROI. You can do so by tracking the number of leads a piece of content or strategy has generated over a specific timeframe.
You can also survey how different pieces of content perform with Google Analytics. This helps determine which pages contribute more to your overall content strategy, so you can prioritize those kinds of content moving forward.
This is one of the most important metrics, as it allows you to determine the popularity of individual content. Popular content yields higher levels of traffic because audiences connect deeper and are more inclined to share them.
However, traffic can be evaluated differently, such as through unique page views, average session times, unique sessions, etc. You can measure the success of your content against individual metrics depending on your goals. Traffic lets you understand if your content is reaching an audience, as well as how long they are motivated to engage with it.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
It’s easy to measure the success of a piece of content on social media. If it gets a lot of engagement, shares, and likes, you can deduce it is doing well. Tracking social media engagement lets you understand how your audience views your content and if they genuinely connect with it. However, consider that not all content marketing agencies focus on social media. Ensure that the agency can demonstrate its expertise through previous work.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
SEO is arguably one of the most important metrics to track for content marketing success. SEO allows you to have better rankings on search engines, giving you an edge over your competition. However, gathering data on how your keywords are performing is what ultimately allows you to optimize and update your content, pushing it higher up on the search engine ranks.
CLICK-THROUGH RATES (CTR)
After everything else is fine-tuned, you can look at your click-through rate (CTR) as a final measure of your content. Your CTR on your call-to-actions can also give you a good idea if your content is helping you generate more leads.
2. What is the Quality of Their Content?
After verifying that the agency is legitimate, the most critical step is gauging the quality of the agency’s content. Most reputable agencies will automatically provide you with a portfolio of services and happy clients. This portfolio helps you determine if the agency is a good fit for your company, both in terms of scope and quality. Reviews can also help you gauge the quality of their content.
When it comes to outsourcing part of your business, you should be hypercritical before passing the baton. A legitimate, quality agency will appreciate your due diligence. Be on the lookout for red flags, whether that be in the content itself (i.e., grammatical mistakes, poor writing, general style issues), their communication skills, or anything that makes you feel uneasy.
Another way to determine content quality is to review their case studies and white papers. Compare their numbers against industry standards and competitors.
How to Spot Bad Content
You should pay attention to many elements outside of grammar and writing style to determine if an agency is a good fit for your company. Their level of expertise is at the top of that list. Some content marketing agencies specialize in specific industries because of their complexity. Aside from marketing services, they should be able to demonstrate how they will leverage their own experience and expertise to best represent you.
A good content marketing agency will also communicate with you honestly and directly. They will tell relay the project’s scope and its viability, and go above and beyond to ensure you’re fully informed every step of the way.
Other things to be on the lookout for are:
- Unreliable communication
- Lack of a portfolio or work examples
- Spelling mistakes in the sample content
- Lack of expertise/credentials
- Lack of valuable insights
- Dull content
3. Determine the Type of Content You Want
Producing high-quality content is crucial for any business, regardless of industry. It’s the foundation of a solid inbound marketing strategy. That being said, developing an effective strategy isn’t as easy as hiring the first content marketing agency you come across. Before getting to that step, your company must determine its underlying motivations, how it wants to interact with its target audience online, and how that audience will be most receptive to the messaging.
The best way to figure out these focus points is to look inwards. No one knows your audience better than you! From customer profiles to data insights/analysis, your understanding of your audience is the foundation of the content you want to produce. Not all agencies create the same type of content, and you need to figure out your audience’s needs before enlisting external help.
Content Formats to Use in Your Content Marketing
So, how do you indulge your audience’s content needs? Start by taking a look at your consumers’ preferences. What type of information does your ideal customer like to read. This is the perfect time to leverage your data analytics to have a more accurate picture of what your target audience would like to see.
After this, you can proceed to the next step of choosing the right agency for the job: choosing the type of content you want to distribute.
Types of Content to Use in Your Content Marketing
There are many types of content, but not every type may be a good fit for your audience. As with most aspects of business, it depends on your goals and the needs of your audience. Every kind of content serves a specific purpose; the ones you pick should complement your outbound marketing strategy. For example, a newsletter serves an entirely different purpose than a white paper or a case study.
Most common types of content
- White papers
- Thought leadership/expert advice
- How-to guides
- Social media posts
- Case studies
Why Written Content is More Important Than Ever
If you surf the internet searching for insights on marketing strategies, you’ll likely come across the phrase content is king.
That’s because written content is the foundation of every content marketing strategy out there. It offers a host of benefits while being accessible and affordable for all-sized companies.
In fact, 56% of marketers say that blogging generates the most ROI for them.
Content marketing is also one of the most versatile options as it isn’t limited to one format, is easily adaptable, easy to distribute, and more cost-effective than other marketing mediums. From videos to podcasts, any format is only as good as the words behind them.
2. Establish a Budget
Planning a budget may not be the most exciting, but it very well can be the difference between a healthy bottom line and struggling to keep your head above water. Resource allocation can often change depending on how a company is managed.
However, a few strategies can help you navigate how much you should be spending. The standard 80/20 rule states that a business should invest 20% of its marketing budget into content creation.
However, content demands have risen since the onset of the pandemic, as audiences spend more time online. The more you can practically invest in content creation the better. In the very next breath, your content creation budget should reflect your goals – proportionate to what you can realistically afford. Establishing this balance requires planning!
Considering that 73% of companies spending up to 70% of their marketing budget on content marketing, reports to yielding excellent results.
One of the best ways to figure out how to allocate your resources is through time and optimization. Constantly collect consumer data and use it to refine your content strategy. If you’re finding it difficult to set a specific percentage, a full-service content marketing agency can help you determine how and where to allocate your resources.
3. Does the Content Marketing Agency Offer SEO Services?
SEO is essential for your website’s visibility. Without it—and without actively writing content to boost it—you risk falling through the cracks of the World Wide Web.
A staggering 68% of all online interactions start with a search engine.
This is why your content should be strategically optimized to rank well on search engines. Most content marketing agencies, especially those focusing on written content, offer SEO services. Well-written content is central to high SEO scores. If your content is not helping you rank, it’s failing at its core function—to drive web traffic and grow your business.
4. What Is Their Business Operations Process for Content Production?
Though content marketing agencies exist to achieve similar goals, don’t assume they are all the same. Observing the agency’s internal processes and systems is every bit as important as ensuring they generate original, SEO-boosting content.
Ask the agency about its content creation strategy. What content management system (CMS) do they use? How do they approach publication schedules? How do they guarantee quality submissions (this entails inquiring about their hiring process, as well)? A company that struggles to answer these simple yet critical questions you may be dealing with a content mill rather than a content agency.
And beware of content mills! They offer cheap, low-rate content production passing off subpar content by underpaying underqualified freelance writers.
Business Processes to Consider When Collaborating With a Content Marketing Agency
At first glance, this might seem like an obvious, almost unnecessary step. But, ownership of content is critical. You want to make sure that the produced content entirely belongs to you and your company. That way, you have no limitations to its usage and distribution. You paid for it, you should full legal rights to it!
Determine your content calendar
Your content calendar is your publishing and distribution schedule.
You must collaborate with your content agency to ensure the timing of posts, platforms, and deadlines match your internal processes. Audiences like consistent content, so your strategy needs to be coordinated to fulfill their content needs and build brand credibility.
Final Thoughts Before Hiring a Content Marketing Agency
As the masses turn to their digital devices more than ever before, content marketing is no longer an option, but a necessity for companies in the digital age. It’s the way for businesses to attract more customers, provide valuable content, and build brand loyalty. Of course, necessarily doesn’t mean easy.
Selecting the right content agency requires in-depth planning and a whole lot of questions. Getting value out of the agency doesn’t just mean getting the best bang for your buck; it means collaborating with a team that has the capacity to truly and uniquely elevate you. Again, not easy.
Here’s the upside: if you can commit to putting in the work to find an exceptional agency now, your business can enjoy a lifetime of noteworthy content, engaged consumers, and sky-high profits.
Partner With WriteForMe as Your Content Marketing Agency
Here at WriteForMe, we strive to be that for our clients every day. Our dedicated, full-service content marketing team offers top-tier, SEO-maximized content curated just for you.
We pride ourselves on being fully transparent and welcoming collaboration every step of the way. We also have clear processes in place to ensure your success, and take a metric-based approach to accurately measure said success. It’s our mission to design a thought-provoking, traffic-driving content marketing strategy that truly reflects your brand and increases your bottom line.
Invest in yourself. You deserve it. Check out WriteForMe, today!