How Savvy Advertising Agencies Outsource Search



For years now our search-specialized marketing shop has worked with “traditional” advertising agencies,  who’s clients ask them for services we provide. While ad agencies have discovered their digital-metamorphosis involves an intense learning curve, trial and error and experience-most figure  out their appropriate place at the search table after training.

However, since their clients need help right away, it often makes sense to seek out interim and long term search partners to augment immediate creative and production. Professional search-fluency requires a very serious commitment of human resources and dollars. It’s hard to keep up without a dedicated search team.

That’s where we come in. Depending on the situation our support ranges from turnkey handling of projects, production components for the agency to use as part of larger campaigns and training. Sliced any way, we strive to empower our advertising agency partners because there’s more than enough work to go around and nobody needs to feel threatened.

A huge part of this process involves teaching an Ad agency exactly what we do! What are the SEO, PPC, ORM, social and other deliverables? What standard operating procedures go into cranking out beautifully optimized copy or feed installation? How do search marketers think about and execute demographic research, PR or study consumer behavior?  Here’s 30 recommended (and common) ways we interact with ad agency clients, including associated deliverable formats and work flow processes.

It is our hope that the deliverable-components featured herein are a good starting point for any agency considering outsourcing and/or training. Use ala-carte’ services to attain cutting edge search-savvy to augment traditional marketing & branding values.

Up Front Planning
Invite your search marketing consultant to the table early. Whether organic, PPC or social, if ever there was a crucial point in every online project’s life cycle initial pre-planning is critical.  For just a couple of hours investment, an ad agency can capitalize on the search marketer’s years of experience and deep understanding of the vernacular. The deliverable is a search expert sitting at the conference room table to contribute. The format is participation and a short white paper with after-the-meetings input.

Demographic Research
There are a myriad of keyword and buzz research tools out there. Choosing the correct database, UI and methods are far from one-size-fits all. Also “stemming” (thesaurus function) is very important, especially where KW research is influenced by chatter patterns in public social communities like Twitter.

Getting from “catering” to “food service” to “gourmet food delivery Minneapolis” takes a shrewd research artist.  The deliverable is a tabbed spreadsheet, segmented sufficiently foSEO Competitive Analysisr AdWords AdGroups and organic production.

Competitive Analysis
Tools to dissemble your competition’s online marketing are so excellent that they can best be described as politically correct (and fully legal) industrial espionage. It’s bad form NOT to spy.  Deliverables include lists of competitors’ external and internal link graphics, PPC buys, targeted organic keywords, social strategies and much more.

Business Plan Support
Ad agencies often have startup clients. From naming the business or product to evaluating demand by geo, search marketers have this market niche’ cornered.  The deliverables are a SWOT report, keyword research, competitive analysis, cost projections and other business plan modules.

SEO-technical-auditTechnical SEO Audits
Most websites have at least some nagging last-gen’ technical problems which can hurt its chances of being crawled and indexed properly by search engines.

Having a staff person who is fully equipped and up to date regarding always-evolving best practices for content management is too specialized for all but the largest traditional agencies.

Call on your search partner to diagnose canonical problems, duplicate content, poorly conceived site architecture and other technical SEO issues.   The deliverable is a .ppt deck outlining issues and solutions.

Research Niche’ Social Media Opportunities
Sure everybody knows about YouTube, Facebook & Twitter, but how about or Sphinn? Search marketers are best equipped to research and report regarding the actual value of participation in certain communities. The deliverable is a spreadsheet of communities sorted by various values.

Optimize Newly Completed Or Existing Site
We get this one a lot. Ad Agencies come to us after a site already exists, wanting to optimize it.  We either build title tags, descriptions, alt tags, interlink etc…or provide the agency with suggestions.

It’s very useful for us to crawl the content for phrase density and loop the keywords through AdWords inventory or Keyword Discovery. That way we can see what the content is “really about.” This is a great use of your search agency’s time with great ROI.  The deliverables range from making changes to the live site to a Word.doc for every page in the site.

Daily or Weekly Analytics Sweeps
Making web analytics actionable is not a job for a designer or copywriter. It’s a specialized skill. Even if it’s only for a few hours a month, consider outsourcing analytics reviews to a specialist. The deliverables are short white papers outlining salient user behavior, site growth and problems as they arise.

Set Goals & Implement Conversion Tracking
These days tracking users through conversion funnels until they go kaChing…or not, is an incredibly important ethic search marketers bring to the table.  No matter the channels, call on your friendly search industry pal to make double-dare sure those conversion events are well-defined and tracked properly. The deliverable is a dashboard, alert emails and white papers.

Community Manager Training
Often the key to integrating social media into the marketing mix is about not hiring immediately, but rather sharing CM duties cross departments. There comes a time in many a’ company’s evolution where it makes sense to bring in partner to grow a corporate culture of community management.

Twitter Trainingtwitter
I’ve met many people who think Twitter is stupid. Others are more like me and believe that Twitter’s channel-concept is revolutionary, to the level anthropology overtones.

Either way nobody disputes it’s a raging viral firestorm. Like any art, holistic participation (to the benefit of users and marketer alike) can be taught. Bring in your search marketing firm for group and private Twitter lessons.

YouTube Training

pic_youtubelogo_123x63.gifYouTube is the second largest search engine by query volume in the world.  Therefore mastering its  “organic” SERPs is crucial. However it’s not just about keywords because arrays of participation and engagement metrics matter to the organic prominence of your video. As you set out on your YouTube strategy, take a minute to learn how social tactics impact YouTube success.

Community Building
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, Delicious, StumbleUpon (yes still) yada, yada, flavor of the month etc… USING these channels as part of an integrated cross channel program is indeed a cool challenge. A good social media company can cut years off your ad agency’s evolution. We’ve already made a lot of the mistakes :), you don’t have to.

Link Building
As anyone in the space knows, link building is a freaking hornet’s nest. Since links traditionally have played a large part in search rankings (PageRank), there have been tons of “plays,” ranging from very healthy to total crapHat.  Expect that links will remain important, though not as much as before. Search engines have many other clues as to ranking. It’s actually artificial intelligence with bullshit detectors.

It turns out that so called “link building” looks a lot like the way we used to do PR before, from the heart of corporate and personal relationships.  Ask your search marketing firm to lead a series of conversations with your ad agency account representatives and PR folks.  Amazingly it’s old school skills that get the right kinds of links these days.

Analyze A Site’s Inbound & Outbound Link Graphs
Sites link out. Sites get links. Both are important. See the next 2 items.

Link De-Crap Projectslink-building
When search engines think they’ve been gamed, they sometimes react by somehow reducing the ranking of your pages.  When buying an old URL or deCraping a new client’s existing one, evaluating the inbound and outbound link graph can be an important task. Get ready to figure out how to LOSE links. Note that it kind of sucks that Google won’t let us disavow bad links.

They say they’ve got it figured out. Yeah right. (BTW, there are only a few tools to do inbound bad neighborhood evaluations, and no good ones we’ve seen that are automated. SO… we need a new one. I’m looking at you, Rand.) Your search marketing firm can either do this project or teach someone to.

Re-Purpose Internal Links
When only “good links” remain, link builders evaluate the anchor text. Anchor text is the word the link is made on. When search engines look for clues on a page, the anchor text on inbound links provides semantic insight about what the destination page is about.  Often we contact the person that gave our client the link and ask them politely to change the anchor text. Sometimes we take them out to dinner.  Your search marketing firm can either do this project or teach someone to.

Internal Link Building
Whereas quality inbound links are hard to get, linking within your own site is easy. Good news: it matters a lot to search engines for clues as to what the link destination pages are about. Internal link building is low hanging fruit.

Take note however, it’s possible to crap out internal linking and create a spammy mess. All the same rules apply.  Also the internal linking should be in addition to global navigation, inline content blocks and as unique as possible throughout the site. Your search marketing firm can either do this project or teach someone to.

blogs and feedsFeed & Blog Building
A surprising amount of businesses have absolutely no idea that nearly half the websites in the world have blog-like tools to connect with others, RSS aggregators, social communities, the media, and modern link building communities. Open source software like WordPress makes this relatively inexpensive and easy.

However installing, extending and integrating WordPress in new or existing sites is a task for search marketers. Your ad agency can make terrific ala carte’ use of WordPress content management system skills (literally) every day. Here’s a list of associated tasks for outsourcing or training.

-Install software
-Configure & register feeds

-Interlink with new or existing site
-Install plugins and confirm that all SEO attributes are available
-Optimize themes

Publication Management & Blogging
Once your feed is properly configured, many search companies offer publication management and blogging services. In order to avoid blogging to nobody, consider outsourcing in order to grow your publication’s authority. We can teach you to plan, schedule and execute content publishing content by methods designed to engage community.

Inventory and Recommendations to Leverage Digital Assets
In the brave new world of hybrid SEO, photos, social videos, news, audio and other rich media are an important components to multi-channel discoverability for your website.  We can help you inventory and assess the usefulness of digital media assets and evaluate their usefulness as part of a greater suite of strategy and tactics.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Planning & Set Up
It is reasonable to say that hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted each year by unqualified users building out bloated PPC campaigns [author’s opinion]. Run don’t walk to utilize your internet marketing partner to pilot PPC initiatives. Your client will thank you for it by not hiring us directly :).

Landing Page Testslanding
No task in all of search is seemingly more challenging than creating and testing landing pages. Not just limited to PPC, landing pages can be anywhere marketer sends traffic where a conversion goal is set. Does the agency’s client, the agency or the search company handle landing page development?

What are the tradeoffs in terms of URL, server model, dynamic attributes and other common needs-which-can-become-barriers? Your search marketing firm can answer these questions, do the project or teach someone to do it.

Day-to-Day PPC Management
Best-in-class PPC management takes a lot of time and expertise.  Don’t try it at home unless you are completely committed and equipped. Yup, we’ll just do it. However, be prepared to measure our success. We’ll make you.

Job Descriptions, Employee Hiring & Training
As an advertising agency gains momentum in the search space, it soon makes sense to internalize certain tasks. From a community manager job description to building a reputation monitoring dashboard take advantage of your search partner’s experience building staff and departments. The deliverables are job description and even handling interviews.

Monthly Ad Agency Staff Briefings
Search changes at the speed of imagination.  I attend between 8-14 mainstream and niche’ conferences annually and read for 1.5-2 hours every night. Our team interacts with some of the coolest practitioners in the world in any given channel.  We’re more than happy to include periodic briefings in the suite of deliverables we bring to our advertising agency partners.  Consider us your eyes and ears at the table.

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