8 Agency Secrets for Hiring the Best Content Agency
If you have not been living under the rock, you definitely know that content is one of the key things you need to drive your marketing process. Be it SEO, be it social, be it content marketing, you need content. Information-rich, engaging and well-written content is your best bet to grab Google’s attention and rank high on the search results page. After all, 90% organizations market themselves with content today, 80% people tend to learn about a company through customized content and 70% consumers connect with a company through content marketing. But wait. How do get all that content written and drive your content marketing process? Exactly, that is where most businesses start looking for a content marketing partner. Picking the right content marketing partner from a million (ok yes that is almost reality) is the real task. You will see business/brands changing their content marketing agencies every year, citing reasons like mismatch in goals, lapse in delivery deadlines, quality issues etc. And then there are brands who happily continue with their digital partners for years (well we are talking of 3-4 years at a stretch). For real magic to happen, you need to find the right partner who know exactly how to deliver what your brand needs and what your customers want.
If you have not been living under the rock, you definitely know that content is one of the key things you need to drive your marketing process. Be it SEO, be it social, be it content marketing, you need content. Information-rich, engaging and well-written content is your best bet to grab Google’s attention and rank high on the search results page.
After all, 90% organizations market themselves with content today, 80% people tend to learn about a company through customized content and 70% consumers connect with a company through content marketing.
But wait. How do get all that content written and drive your content marketing process? Exactly, that is where most businesses start looking for a content marketing partner. Picking the right content marketing partner from a million (ok yes that is almost reality) is the real task.
You will see business/brands changing their content marketing agencies every year, citing reasons like mismatch in goals, lapse in delivery deadlines, quality issues etc. And then there are brands who happily continue with their digital partners for years (well we are talking of 3-4 years at a stretch).
For real magic to happen, you need to find the right partner who know exactly how to deliver what your brand needs and what your customers want.
We decided to make things easier and create a list of things you can measure them up against, basically questions you can ask and assess whether they are the right agency for you.
Here are 8 ways to ensure that you are hiring the right content partner. Read on.
1. Are they really content guys for real?
These days, there are many web development agencies, SEO companies and digital marketing agencies that claim to be content players. However, in reality, they often offer content services on the side and don’t have a dedicated team to understand your needs and deliver accordingly.
Like, in the past 10 years, we were often approached by clients who wanted their website content to be improved. And the reason usually is that their content was developed by an agency that is chiefly into website designing. Naturally, the quality won’t work, especially in the long run. So, avoid content services that are offered as a part of a different package.
So, to find out if an agency actually has content-related experience, knowledge and skills, you can give them a small assignment or sample to work on. This way, you will know if their work can measure up to your expectations and if you can trust them. Even if you give them an old content piece to work on, they should be able to analyze it thoroughly and come up with ideas for improvement.
Also remember that not all content agencies are adept at all forms of content. So, take a look at their past projects or portfolio or ask them what kind of content they have developed in the past. For instance, if you want to create whitepapers or product descriptions, hiring an agency that excels at SEO articles might not be ideal.
2. Are they capable of offering 360-degree content?
Content doesn’t just refer to website content or articles. The various content formats used today include infographics, videos, case studies, e-books, whitepapers, presentations, blog posts, memes, checklists, podcasts, emails, and so on. And brands often use a mix of different content formats to get their message conveyed more effectively.
So, before you pick a content creation partner, find out if they can handle 360-degree content, which will cover multiple content formats. In the long run, sticking with an agency that only creates SEO articles will not be enough to beat competition. Also, the agency should be able to advise you on which formats will work best for your business and on which channels they should be distributed.
3. Do they understand how content marketing exactly works?
Always go for a content marketing partner that proactively asks you about your goals, before suggesting a plan. No marketing campaign can work well unless they are aligned with what you want, be it boosting brand awareness, building your domain authority or thought leadership, getting more traffic or generating more leads. So, if an agency simply offers to churn out say 20 SEO articles per month based on the topics you provide, be wary. The right content agency will also satisfy these criteria:
- They will know how SEO and high-quality content can work together to drive traffic and sales. While information-rich, engaging and well-written content is necessary to appeal to human readers, optimizing the same for search engine crawlers can get you the high rank you desire. Also find out if their SEO team can do the right backlinking to promote your blog posts.
- Pick an agency that can help you choose the topics that will perform the best. They should be aware of the trending topics and what your competitors are working on, so that you can gain an edge. The agency should also research and come up with the top keywords you can use to make your content more valuable and aligned with search engine ranking criteria. Find out if they use the latest tools like SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, BuzzSumo, Uberflip, Ubersuggestand Quora to get fresh and original content ideas and strategies.
- Ask what will be the agency’s content strategy to help you achieve your goals. Are they capable of identifying your target audience or creating the buyer personas?How do they pick writers, what content formats do they think will be right for you, and how do they intend to distribute your content and on which channels. Will they distribute on your owned media, paid media or both? The right content agency will also have an editorial calendar in place, so that they can easily track what to create and when to publish. This is especially essential if you want weekly articles, blog posts or daily social media posts etc. And remember to ask how they plan to make your content easily shareable.
- Find out if the agency can understand a buyer’s journey (from awareness to consideration to decision) clearly and can create content for every step of the journey.
For example, during the awareness stage, an experienced content agency might suggest blog posts, checklists and whitepapers as the content formats, since the prospective buyer is trying to define his problem at this point. In the decision stage, they might suggest podcasts, videos, how-to guides for product usage etc., since at this point the prospect is trying to find the best business that can solve his problem.
4. Has the agency won any accolades?
Since India is teeming with so many content agencies today, going for one that has won awards or accolades can be reassuring. This way, you will know that the agency has been recognized for its quality and services by discerning authorities. Such agencies will have a decent track record and you can rely on them for timely delivery of great content.
5. Can they sell themselves with content?
Now, this question usually attracts two different opinions. Some brands feel that a content agency should be able to sell itself and rank high on Google before it tackles client needs. After all, it proves that they are actually able to use content to establish industry authority, generate awareness and get leads. Basically, if they are not able to sell their own content, they surely can’t sell yours. This is the reason why at Justwords, we believe in consistently sharing knowledge through blog posts and e-books that help clients understand their problem and choose an agency with confidence.
However, other brands feel that a good agency is often so busy selling their clients’ content, they don’t get the time or can’t devote enough resources to market itself. Hence, if an agency doesn’t have many social media followers or is not appearing on the first page of Google search results, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their work isn’t good.
So, the best idea is to go through their past work and testimonials carefully and then take a call.
6. Do they have any case study to prove that their content actually works?
Case studies essentially show how a campaign achieved the desired results by deep-diving into the problem at hand, the content strategy used, the implementation of the strategy and the metrics measured to test the success of the campaign. So, for instance, if you are planning to hire an agency for SEO content, ask them to show you a case study where they strategized a topic for a client, helping the article to rank high and drive more traffic to the client’s site. Look at the numbers and then decide if the agency is worth your time. Also take a look at our case study that elaborately outlines how we boosted Alliance Fintech’s traffic by 149% with content.
Apart from case studies, check up on the agency’s client references and reviews. Are their past clients happy with their content quality and effectiveness? Were they able to add value to the client’s marketing plan? Was the agency able to meet deadlines and put in extra effort to ensure customer delight? Once you get the answers to these questions, you can hire the right content creation partner.
7. What is their process of producing content?
We don’t really need to tell you that the content agency you hire should have a systematic content production process in place. And you need to be aware of what goes on behind the scenes –like, who writes the content, edits it, manages it, and distributes it?For example, you will ideally want an experienced editor to handle your account instead of a fresh graduate right? Also make sure that the agency is able to establish a transparent communication process, so that your instructions are properly conveyed to the writing and editorial teams. They should approach you in case of doubts and you should be able to provide feedback as well.
Here are a few other things that should be in place:
- Management of the writing team–Imagine a scenario where you have asked the content agency to produce 7 blogs per week or say 40 how-to guides per month. Naturally, they will use multiple writers to get the project done on time. This means different ideas and writing styles will come together. So, ask how the agency will maintain a consistent brand voice or messaging. Find out how they will prevent duplication of topics and generic content. Be aware of their quality monitoring measures and if there is an editor who will check every piece before sending it to you.
- Experience of the writers–While hiring a content agency, always ask about the kind of writers they use. What kind of educational and industry backgrounds do they hail from? Are they fresh out of college or have at least a couple of years of experience under their belt? While a versatile and gifted writer can research thoroughly and put together an engaging, informative article in any industry, some cases might be exceptions. Like, if your industry or company is highly technical or scientific or finance-oriented, you will want writers who are especially adept at it. So, ask the agency how they will pick writers or train them for your project.
- Editing and formatting – Don’t overlook details like editing and formatting, when you hire a content agency. Ask what kind of tone they will use and how they will format the content to make it readable and mobile-friendly. Do they use the latest grammar and formatting tools for finalizing the content piece? Will they carry out revisions in case you are not happy with the first round of content? The best agencies usually keep the language simple yet attractive and use multiple subheads, small paragraphs, bullets and numbering to appeal to the reader.
- Management of time and meeting deadlines–If the content agency cannot deliver on time, it means you will be in a mess and held accountable by your clients. So, before assigning a project, have a clear chat about how they manage the pace of a project and plan their resources to meet deadlines. If the project in question is a large one, will they submit everything together or in installments? Also figure out what to do in case there is an unavoidable delay.
8. Is the pricing reasonable?
While the benefits of hiring a content agency are many, you need to make sure that they fit your budget. However, don’t settle for agencies that quote super-cheap prices, as they will probably end up compromising on their resources. You might also consider hiring a freelancer for your project. Though this will cost you significantly less, it might not be the best option if you want reliability, punctuality, professionalism and ideation.
So, don’t let price be the only deciding factor when it comes to picking your content marketing partner. Get quotes from multiple agencies, go through their proposals, make sure they can fulfill the above points discussed and then make a decision. The right agency will always explain the charges to you and might be willing to negotiate a little as well.
So, what next?
Currently, more than 60% companies outsource their content marketing needs, which tell you how important it is to find the right content partner. So, keep the 8 things we discussed here in mind and hire a content agency that can fulfill your exact requirements and budget.