Marketing Red Flags

Warnings and Preparations for the Future

Whenever we provide an audit to a client or potential client, it is based on objective aspects of digital marketing, unless otherwise specified. Unfortunately that is not always the case with all marketing companies. Here we would like to include some points for you to consider so that (whether or not you decide to work with us) you can avoid being duped by a company selling snake oil or practicing predatory marketing techniques. 

  1. Own your content. If we stop working with you, you keep the work we’ve done. We aren’t ‘leasing’ our work to you; whatever we do under contract, you keep forever. There is a frustratingly common trend of online marketing companies and services revoking the work or setup they’ve done for a client once a contract ends, or letting you keep data that only really works within their proprietary software. All of the optimization and analytics we offer will be kept in accounts owned by you. All of the content and design we create while working on a contract with you belongs to you. Simple as that.

  2. Define your brand guidelines. Make sure that you have a style guide and/or brand guidelines for both your visual design and the voice of your brand. Most companies have a (sometimes undocumented) language that communicates their mission to their customers or clients. It’s important to synthesize that language into a guide so that your branding is consistent wherever you or the people who work for you are representing your company. Make sure that the branding and design you pay for is working toward defining the language of your brand. 

  3. Don’t be taken advantage of. Many SEO and website audits from our competitors will highlight scare tactics that won’t have a real-world impact on ranking factors, or won’t show you an ROI. A core tenet of our strategy is focusing on ROI above all else. Below are a few examples of of issues that some agencies will make a big deal about, but won’t have much (if any) effect on your online strategy:

    • “Essential” aspects of your Google MyBusiness page that are not, in fact, actual ranking factors. Make sure to consult Google’s documentation on how to represent your business online – sometimes marketing agencies will recommend blackhat strategies that can get you removed from Google altogether! 

    • Site speed. While Google’s Core Web Vitals update rolled out in 2021, your site’s speed is not the only ranking factor. Many agencies will utilize Pagespeed Insights/Lighthouse audits by Google to scare business owners into hyper-focusing on site speed. While it’s important to provide a good user experience, these reports are often more nuanced and require a more technical analysis – don’t be scared into making a rash decision.

    • Non-ranking factors for your on-site SEO. Many agencies will use outdated audit decks that point out aspects of your on-site content that are not actual ranking factors. Things like H1 tags, keyword density in meta descriptions, schema markup, and countless others. When in doubt, consult Google’s Webmaster Hangouts with Google’s Search Liaison John Mueller, where he often directly answers many of these questions. At Vanir, we get our SEO resources directly from the source – not interpretive 3rd party sites.

    • Links. Many agencies will cite links as being a primary factor, and offer a package that provides your site with a certain amount of links. This is a wildly outdated blackhat method that could, at best, do nothing for your site, and at worst, get you a manual penalty from Google. Legitimate “followed” backlinks can help – “nofollow” citations from random directories do not (at all).

  1. Prepare for a world without cookies. In 2023 the Chrome Web Kit will no longer utilize cookies (the primary method of tracking users for analytics across the internet) – a trend mirrored across the industry as states like California and regions like the EU pass legislation on user privacy. Google Analytics’ current iteration, Universal Analytics, utilizes cookies. This year, the successor to UA was released by Google: GA4. GA4 uses ai to replace the use of third party cookies. With that in mind, your company should have GA4 set up, as historical data from UA will not be brought over when a GA4 property is created. Leveraging Google Analytics (both UA and GA4) is a near essential aspect of digital marketing for any business, along with Google Search Console. Ensure you have these invaluable free Google analytics platforms set up, and that you are an administrator of all accounts.

  2. We can be a resource for you. Even if you decide not to hire Vanir, we want to learn from your online marking experiences. If you receive a scary audit or have questions about something another company tells you is important, we’d love to hear from you. We can learn a lot from your concerns, and we can answer your questions.