You hired your content marketing agency in good faith.
You had every hope they would soon start producing fantastic content for your brand or your clients’ brands.
That content would help build awareness around the brand, pull in more traffic, and generate more leads.
But your hope started to fizzle as months passed with little to no changes in awareness, traffic, search engine rankings, or conversions.
What gives? Is it time to fire your content marketing agency and move on?
Hold up. Not so fast.
It might be time to say goodbye. But you might also need to take a step back and pause before you leap. (Content does take longer to work than traditional or paid marketing methods – but it’s also more sustainable.)
Here’s exactly what to weigh and consider.
When is the right time to fire your content marketing agency?
1. You’re not seeing results in the expected time frame
Content marketing does not and will not work in a week – unless you have exceptionally rare or specific circumstances. It won’t work in one month or a few months, either.
To see the full ROI from content, it will take anywhere from multiple months to a full year or more.
That said, the needle should start to move before then. You should start seeing gains within a few months – incremental ones, but gains nonetheless. If you’re seeing absolutely no movement of any metric and six months have gone by, you may want to start asking questions.
And, by the way, your content marketing agency should have set accurate expectations for results from the beginning.
You should have set goals, staked out KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure, and strategized about tracking them. They should have given you an outlook about when to expect ROI and what it will look like.
If none of the above happened, that’s a good reason in itself to question the content agency you’re working with.
Remember, marketing for the sake of marketing is silly. You can and should expect ROI from it, and your agency needs to be accountable for moving that needle.
2. The agency makes repeated mistakes in your content
Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is whether you learn not to repeat them.
For example, say your content marketing agency creates content for your brand with a few glaring errors (like links pointing to low-authority pages or worse, competitors).
Say this happens during the first few months of your relationship. That’s something that can be quickly pointed out and corrected so it never happens again.
If your agency keeps making mistakes in your content, even after corrections, that’s a good reason to dump them.
The entire point of hiring an agency is to take content off your hands so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s their job to:
- Nail your brand voice.
- Link correctly in your blogs.
- Use correct grammar and spelling.
- Use keywords appropriately.
- And generally, produce content you can be proud of.
If they’re not paying attention to details, they may not be the right agency for you.
3. You’re dissatisfied with the content quality overall
Content quality is an organic search ranking factor. That means you absolutely should be concerned with the quality you receive from the agency in charge of writing it.
Bad content can have a domino effect on your brand reputation and visibility. Poor content won’t rank well in searches, if at all, and thus will drive zero traffic from Google. (Click-through rates drop off a cliff beyond page two of a Google search.)
Not to mention, a visitor reading bad content is most likely to:
- File you away in their mental “do not trust” folder.
If the content isn’t cutting it, it probably has one of these things wrong with it. Bad content is:
- Poorly structured with few headings and long paragraphs.
- Unfocused, irrelevant, or rambling.
- Full of spelling and grammatical errors.
- Laden with factual errors and inconsistencies.
- Brand-centered (instead of user-centered)
- Ignorant of search intent.
- Poorly optimized with either little to no keyword placement or keyword stuffing.
- Not set up to direct leads to their next action (using CTAs).
- Missing external links to authority sites, or internal links to relevant pages on-site.
If you see any of the above markers consistently, it’s time to fire your content marketing agency. They should know better and do better.
4. The content marketing agency isn’t communicating well
You’ll never get good results with a content marketing agency that doesn’t communicate well.
Good communication on their end will help you clarify and pinpoint your goals, set your expectations, understand various stages and processes, get answers to questions as they pop up, and more.
Without solid communication:
- You may be left feeling unsure about where you’re headed with content.
- You might be unclear on what’s happening and when.
- You might feel alone, when in fact you should feel like part of a team.
Some red flags to look out for regarding communication include:
- Getting no response to emails or messages, or waiting days to receive a response.
- Asking questions but getting unsatisfactory answers, or no answers at all.
- Not knowing when you’ll connect with the agency next to go over your strategy, progress, or results.
- A lack of transparency on their part, which leads to confusion on yours.
5. The agency continually misses deadlines
Meeting deadlines isn’t just a matter of adhering to a content schedule or publishing content on time.
Yes, those things are important factors in consistent content, which is important to the overarching success of a content strategy, but let’s not forget another aspect:
Meeting deadlines is also about showing respect and responsibility. If you and your agency specify deadlines in advance (such as when and how often content will go out on your blog), keeping those deadlines also shows:
- The agency respects your time.
- They respect your brand.
- They respect the strategy and are following through with it.
- They put care and thought into your content all the way down to publication.
Continually missing deadlines and offering excuses is therefore a good reason to part ways with an agency.
That leads us to our next point.
6. The agency isn’t treating you like a partner
To see the best ROI, you need to work well with your content agency. Your individual gears should turn in sync, otherwise, the whole operation will jam and stall.
Part of that is good communication, but another part is acting like collaborators and partners in every stage of the game.
- Does the agency you work with treat your concerns seriously?
- Do they listen well?
- Do they keep you in the loop every step of the way?
This doesn’t mean they allow you to run the show, by the way. They’re the content experts, not you. That said, your content marketing agency should still keep you involved in the process and decision-making, and help you understand the strategy and its moving parts.
They’re accountable to you, just like you’re accountable to them. Mutual trust is important. If you’re not feeling the teamwork, you might want to reconsider the working relationship.
7. You suspect they’re using spammy or misleading techniques to get quick results
Usually, the only way to get uber-fast results with content is to cheat.
Even today, spammy tactics are surprisingly common in content marketing. However, using them is a giant trap. You may see swift gains in rankings or traffic, but these are unstable gains.
They will disappear just as quickly because Google is incredibly finely-tuned and can detect most types of spam through their automated systems as well as through manual action.
That may result in a penalty for your site – which could range from a ranking demotion to being completely removed from Google search.
If you suspect your content marketing agency may be using spammy techniques to quickly rank your site in search, they’re playing with fire. It may work for a short time, but will inevitably result in death for your site’s visibility.
If they’re playing with fire, dump them and find an ethical content agency that will build up your site rankings for longevity and sustainability.
What to remember before firing your content marketing agency
A content marketing agency’s job is to handle your content marketing so you don’t have to. They’ll manage everything from planning to creation to distribution.
If you hired an agency, you most likely don’t have the time or expertise to handle it yourself. At the same time, you expect smart strategy and results from whoever you hired.
And that’s totally warranted – but don’t make the mistake of giving up too early.
Content marketing is a long-term game. It isn’t about quick wins, but rather slow and steady gains that build over time.
It can be frustrating in the beginning, but consistency will pay off dividends in the future.
If your agency is working diligently on your content marketing, publishing regularly, communicating well, analyzing metrics, treating you like a partner, nailing content quality, hitting deadlines, and keeping you in the loop – just hang tight.
Those results you long for will be coming around the bend.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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