Find the Boy Scouts of SEO: Tips on Choosing the Best Digital Marketing Agency

Jen Saunders

Boy Scouts: since 1910 boys from all corners of America have been performing good deeds, earning accolades by improving various survivor skills, and they do it all in the name of striving to set a strong moral foundation. Today is National Boy Scouts Day, and although many business leaders may not think they can possibly learn anything from a group of kids that walk old ladies across the street, the best digital marketing agencies in America would likely beg to differ. It’s interesting, but almost all core values surrounding the Boy Scouts are right in line with the metrics businesses can, and should use, when it comes to selecting the best digital marketing agency to partner with.

If you are a business leader currently shopping for a Google-partner SEO agency, now is the time to consider the ethical arena from which the Boy Scouts operate as a guiding light in your search for a high-level marketing firm that can take your business to the next level. By identifying the following Boy Scouts virtues and why they matter in a digital marketing agency, you will find the right partner to help enhance your online branding, garner higher conversions with measurable results, and report with honest full transparency.

Is the Digital Marketing Agency Morally Sound and Straight-Up?

Before delving into skill set and experience, it goes without saying that you want to find a digital marketing agency with a sterling reputation established by a lengthy history of performing honest work. Just as the Scouts Oath calls for them to be “morally straight”, your marketing agency should be able to demonstrate their honesty and integrity. You aren’t just hiring a team to increase business growth; you are entrusting your company’s reputation to people you have never met. Here are some questions to ask in order to gauge virtue:

  • How Will the Agency Measure Success and ROI of Invested Marketing Dollars?
  • Is the Agency Willing to Work With You to Set Goals?
  • Who are their Past Clients?
  • Do they Provide a Sample Marketing Report? Is it Easy to Understand Revealing ALL Analytics Good and Bad?
  • Ask What their Biggest Weakness is (all agencies have one, and if they fail to admit to something, they are not truthful).

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Does the Digital Marketing Agency Talk the Talk, or Walk the Walk?

One of the main reasons why it is so hard to find a truly skilled team of digital marketers is because the search marketing industry is loosely regulated. Even if a marketing firm is a registered Google-partner agency or a HubSpot agency (meaning someone in the company had to meet certain criteria) this in no way testifies to the skills held by each team member. Digital marketing has yet to be integrated into a fully accredited business degree program, nor are there any professional certificates earned through in-person monitored test-taking.

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If Only Digital Marketing Agencies Could Earn Merit Badges

If the industry was regulated and digital marketing agencies could earn merit badges for SEO, PPC, inbound marketing, and a slew of other services, clients would have a much easier time separating those who make it from those who fake it.  The Boy Scouts, on the other hand, are regulated. When Johnny says he mastered archery, his merit badge will back him up proving he can walk the walk. These badges aren’t just handed out like candy; the kids go through a fairly comprehensive micro program complete with testing for each earned badge. Digital marketing agencies may not have reliable certificates attesting to their virtue and skills, but by selecting certain Boy Scouts merit badges to use as a gauge, your business will have a much better chance of working with a perfect-fit marketing firm.  Here are some merit badges that will help you identify digital marketing specialists as either “walkers” or long-winded talkers:

American Business Badge – Does the agency have employees grounded with an education attesting to their business knowledge and skill set? Boy Scouts need to prove their knowledge of the free enterprise system and understanding of overall business practices before they get this badge. Where did the marketing agency’s CEO, directors, upper management, and SEO staff go to school, and what degree did they earn? Though having a traditional university degree does not instantly make someone a wizard in their craft or at mastering business growth, it does testify to the fact they were able to make the mark through lengthy, rigorous classes and see many goals from start to finish. It also demonstrates advanced skills like researching, writing, and problem-solving.

Art Badge – Does the agency have a portfolio from their creative department attesting to their Web Dev skills? Boy Scouts need to prove their knowledge of various art forms and theories, techniques, the six principles of design before creating an art work that garners high praise before they receive this badge. Does the Web Dev team show methodology in creative directions based on the client’s industry? Does the design accommodate site architecture? Make the agency prove their creative chops; check their work before you write their check.

Animal Science Badge – Can the agency give you a complete breakdown and history of past major Google algorithm updates like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird? Before Boy Scouts can get this badge they need to name livestock breeds, state diseases that afflict them, name triage methods, and explain how each has different structure and functionality. Ask the agency to clarify the difference between Hummingbird and Penguin, and ask them what penalties websites can get when site masters ignore their Penguin and Hummingbird guidelines. Finally, make them showcase some on-site and off site content designed to appease and play nice with these Google animals.

Medicine Badge – If a website has broken links, slow load time, 301 errors, duplicate content, or isn’t getting indexed properly, is the agency prepared to execute the needed tasks to discover the problems and quickly mend them? Before Boy Scouts earn this badge they must display proven knowledge attaining to eight individuals that contributed to medicine from an approved list and explain how their contributions contributed to healthcare. They must also discuss healthcare provider / patient relationship practices, know key medical terms, as well as educational and licensing requirements. Ensure the agency knows how to run a technical SEO audit and make them explain how various errors communicate with the site, how it is impacted, and how a clean bill of health can be administered with ongoing preventative care.

Journalism Badge – Does the agency have a content marketing department with skilled writers capable of delivering various types of content for multiple audience types designed to favor well with SEO, and convert readers into paying customers? Before a Boy Scout can have this badge sewed to his sash he must first talk about legal considerations in journalism, define various modes of written communication, show how content connects with various readers, and showcase a knowledge of best practices through digital communication. If the agency produces the same old style textual blueprint across their portfolio, they are clearly not advanced content marketers. Ask how their copy accommodates Google RankBrain while targeting consumer emotions. Is the brand’s voice present? Do they take too many risks such as voicing political views in marketing strategies for clients? Is there a mix of keywords that are organic for voice and longtail?

Reading Badge – Do all agency team members from Director of SEO to the copy writing team read ongoing digital marketing journals, blogs, and do they publish their own industry articles? Before a Boy Scout can get the Reading Badge he must first showcase library research skills, read various types and genres of writing, and produce some content based on his newly acquired knowledge. If you interview a digital marketing agency that attends conferences, reads daily industry news, and produces their own articles with case studies, you can rest assured they invest in ongoing education and are the top brains in their field (it also shows they have a genuine passion for what they do).

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Boy Scouts Will Help You Cross the Street to a Boutique-Style SEO Agency

Boy Scouts are always on the ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. They are known for being ultra polite, well-mannered, and insanely helpful. They are the “Nordstroms” of little boys, because offering high-level care to others has been ingrained in their culture for more than 100 years. Consider working with a boutique-style digital marketing agency where offering top-drawer customer service is baked into the agency’s culture, in contrast to large agencies where clients are just numbers who get reports from account managers that don’t even perform the work themselves. You deserve the best customer service, from true skilled experts that perform the work in a manner that is honest, transparent, and a cut above the rest.
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Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.

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