Selecting and Monitoring Internet Marketing Companies
by Bill Mitchell, RezStream's Chief Operating Officer
Through my various travels to work with RezStream clients or when I speak at hospitality conferences, one of the most common questions I’m asked is how to select a good Internet marketing company. People are equally as curious about how to monitor the performance of the Internet marketing company that they decide to hire.
Successful Internet marketing has become a complex discipline. The search engines are constantly changing their criteria, new trends seem to appear almost daily, and there are many tasks that must be completed in a regular and consistent manner if you want to achieve increased visibility in the search engines. No single Internet marketing element is rocket science. However, most Internet marketing companies struggle to do the work when no one is actively monitoring them. Other companies lack the all-around expertise to complete the various components that should be routinely updated, often concentrating instead on the elements that are easy to change.
A first rate Internet marketing company is one that specializes in your industry, has talent in all segments of marketing, and can work with competence when no one is supervising them. It takes a special skill set to be good at the multiple layers of Internet marketing. Make sure the company you hire has employees that possess the talent to implement your Internet marketing strategies. Increased revenue will be your reward!
With these ideas in mind, what is the best way an Internet marketing customer can select and monitor a good Internet marketing company?
RezStream tips for hiring an Internet marketing company:
- Pick a company that specializes in the hospitality business and has the talent to accomplish your list of Internet marketing (IM) goals. Consider companies that have a proven track record in marketing similar businesses as yours. NOTE: As Internet marketing companies grow in size, they often have quality control problems. Make sure your Internet marketing company is large enough to take care of your business, but not so large that your business gets lost in the myriad of other clients.
- Ask for a free analysis of your current website before hiring any IM company. Are they willing to take the time to explain what they are going to do to help you? Ask for examples/references of other websites that they have optimized, have done pay per click for, and what other important marketing elements were completed such as link building and content building. Are they willing to travel to your business to meet you? Chances are, the more time the Internet marketing company is willing to spend with you up front, the more passionate they are about what they do.
- Avoid local “experts” that are web designers or general marketing people; they don’t specialize enough in Internet marketing to be GREAT at search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising, and all other factors that it takes to make your website more visible in the search engines. There are exceptions to this train of thought, but the benefit that these people hold in knowledge of the local area does not outweigh the lack of specific talent needed to be a successful SEO specialist.
- Avoid aggressive and boastful companies. Any IM company that promises they can deliver a number one position in Google overnight is a red flag. Unless these companies own Google, their claims for guaranteed results speak false. NOTE: Pushy and aggressive Internet marketing companies make bad business partners.
- If possible, find out who your specific account manager will be, and interview them. Some marketing companies wow you with their guru but don’t have a solid team backing them up. If you do have a problem, is the management at the company easily accessible?
- Check references carefully. Find out what companies they have helped and call those businesses to ask about promptness of service, results, and overall satisfaction. You don’t always need to have a reference from your specific area. If the marketing company is good, they can market any location well.
- Look for a company that is willing to educate you as needed. Ask about what makes them different?
RezStream tips for monitoring your Internet marketing company:
- Use an online booking engine that allows for insertion of revenue tracking code. Make sure your website tracker can track visitor behavior AND link it to online revenue. How much money you generate from your Internet marketing efforts will help you determine whether the costs are worth it. In addition, a good revenue tracker will give you INDEPENDENT statistics on the performance of each directory that you have a listing with. Track it and you will know if the expense is worth it.
- Do not get obsessed with “traffic numbers” or ranking for your favorite pet terms. You will know if your company is helping you if your phone is ringing and you are making more money. Simply put, conversion rates are more important than traffic.
- Both the experience and performance of an Internet marketing company matter. Just because they are familiar with your industry does not mean they are good at working when no one is watching. You want BOTH experience and performance attributes when hiring an Internet marketing firm. Be leery of companies that have grown too fast. Ask them about their internal monitoring/accountability systems for their employees. Get references and call them to ask about communication, quality of work, passion, and delivery of services promised.
- Good communication is another essential element of working with a reputable Internet marketing company. How often do you hear from your account manager? What ideas do they share when they do call you? Are your account reps enthusiastic about helping you?
- Set a specific time, at least once a month, to speak with your Internet marketing account manager. Ask for written summaries of all work completed and what is scheduled for the next month. Compare this information to what was done the previous month. If your company cannot provide detailed reports and analysis, chances are they are not organized and effective.
- Check your own pay per click ads from time to time to see if ad copy is changing. Your Internet marketing company should be monitoring your PPC ads periodically to adjust spending, targeting, and ad copy. Make sure you ask what they are doing for your PPC spending each and every month. It is also beneficial if you can learn, and monitor, meta tag changes, internal linking within the website, etc. These are things you can SEE when they change.
- Make sure your Internet marketing company does not outsource important work. You don’t want your new website designed by someone who is working from home, three states away from the corporate office. Likewise, you don’t want to have your PPC outsourced to some third party company. Make sure you ask about outsourcing when selecting an Internet marketing company.
It is a challenge to find a top shelf Internet marketing firm. The best companies hire GREAT employees and pay them well. Internet marketing specialists must be able to communicate effectively, have a somewhat technical mind, and be able to work without supervision. They should also have good common sense and solid all-around marketing acumen. Make sure your Internet marketing specialist has these attributes and you should be in good hands.
For more RezStream information on finding a good Internet marketing company, view our video:
How to find a good Internet marketing company.
About the Author:
This article was written by Bill Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer of RezStream, which is located in Denver, Colorado. RezStream provides a complete range of hospitality solutions to independent innkeepers of all sizes. Bill has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.