10 questions to ask before you work with a content marketing agency

Content marketing is one of the very best ways of building your brand. Not only does it position you as an authority figure in your industry and give you resources to share on social media, but it offers significant SEO benefits and encourages visitors to keep coming back to your website.

However, creating high-quality, original content on a regular basis can be tough – especially when you’re running a business. We’ve already spoken about why you should outsource your content marketing – but today, we’re going to delve deeper into the questions you should ask yourself before doing so.

Read on to find out more about finding the right content marketing agency for your business and budget. The tips we’re sharing today will save you time, money and ensure you’re working only with the very best agencies that will deliver genuine results.

Do they practice what they preach?

A good content marketing agency should practice what they preach. If you’ve found one that you like, check that their blog is regularly updated with well-researched, insightful content – the type of content that you would want them to produce for you. If their content isn’t quite up to standard, or worse still, their blog isn’t up to date, then look elsewhere.

Some agencies will cry that they’re “just too busy” to write content for their own website because they have lots of clients, but that’s no excuse to abandon a blog. It also suggests that they’re probably not that interested in delivering consistent results for your website, either. Find an agency that cares about their own marketing just as much as they do yours.

What do their clients say?

The content marketing agencies that you’re considering most likely have testimonials splattered across their websites from valued clients. And rightly so – displaying testimonials is a great way of establishing trust and increasing a brand’s credibility. However, agencies are, most probably, only going to display only the very best testimonials from their clients – anything less than “perfect”, and their client’s feedback will end up on the scrap heap.

Instead of going only to their website to see what customers had to say, do a quick Google search and see if you can find genuine customer reviews on websites such as Reviews.co.uk, FreeIndex and Facebook. These review websites are much more likely to show an accurate representation of the brand and its clients – and it can give you a better idea of whether or not the content marketing agency is right for your requirements.

Better still, if you have friends or connections who’ve used a particular agency, reach out to them directly for answers to any questions you may have. Their answers are likely to be a lot more genuine than any testimonial or case study that you find on the agency’s website.

Do they understand my project?

For every good digital marketing agency, there’s a bunch of others that are only in it for the money. And that’s fine – that’s how the business world works. It’s your responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff and find an agency that aligns with your values.

Before signing any paperwork or exchanging money, be confident that your content marketing agency understands your project. That is, what type of content you want from them, what style you’d like them to write it in, how you’d like them to research and what results you want to achieve from your campaign.

This kind of insight just cannot be gained from filling in a form on a website and waiting for a writer to fill in your work. That’s why we recommend you avoid freelance writing websites that offer cheap prices and fast turnarounds on writing projects. As much as these websites claim to offer an alternative to content marketing agencies, they cannot compete against a time-served copywriter who takes the time to understand the ins and outs of your project.

What is their turnaround time?

If you’re looking for a content marketing agency to help you put together an occasional blog post, then this next point won’t really apply to you. However, if you’re trying to build a website that’s packed with keyword-rich content that offers value to your customers, then you’re probably going to want to place a big order with a content marketing agency. Or, at least, sign a contract and have work delivered at set times for you to publish.

Make sure you understand the turnaround time of your agency before choosing them. If you want them to make some last-minute edits to a piece before it goes live, for example, will they be able to accommodate your request, or will you join their ever-growing backlog?

How much does it cost?

Asking a marketer how much a good piece of content costs is like asking how long a piece of string is. It depends on the amount of time and resources you want your content marketing agency to devote to each piece of content, and it also depends on their experience level and current availability. Therefore, there’s great disparity in the content marketing world. You can find an experienced agency that will charge hundreds of pounds for a single blog post, and find others that will put together twenty similar-quality pieces for the same price.

Before you start prospecting agencies, work out what your budget is. You’ll be able to find an agency that can produce a weekly blog post for less than £30, but your budget can be stretched to allow higher quality writing, you should do so. Not only does long-form, well-researched content perform better on search than thin content, but it means you can offer real value to your audience and give them a reason to keep coming back to your site.

What is their revision policy?

The chances are that the content marketing agency you choose will research your industry and find out exactly what your audience will want to read, but they won’t always get it right. Make sure you find out about the revision policy of the agency before you order a bulk load of content – it could prove costly if you’re charged for every edit that you request.

One of the best ways to avoid mistakes is writing a thorough brief for each piece of content, or at least for the initial project so that the agency understands exactly what you’re looking for. Trust us: there’s nothing worse than writing a great piece of content, only to have it torn to pieces because it didn’t fit an imaginary brief that the client forgot to send. Just because you’re outsourcing your content marketing, it doesn’t mean you’re outsourcing the responsibility for your content. The best results come from collaboration between the content marketing agency and the company that’s paying for the content.

Can I get a trial?

Every content marketing agency has its own writing style and way of doing things, and while you’ll probably be able to get an idea of what they can do from their samples, you should ask for a sample or trial of your own. We’re not saying that this piece will be free. In fact, you probably will have to pay for it – especially if you later go on to publish it. But it’s better to lose out on the cost of a single piece than buying in bulk and regretting it when the content delivered doesn’t match your expectations and doesn’t feel like your brand.

In fact, you may decide to ask for trials or samples from a few different agencies to test the water and find what works for you. That way, you can experiment with different styles and determine your brand voice, if you don’t already have a writing style guide in place.

What will I need to do when the content goes live?

Your marketing efforts don’t end when the content goes live on your website. Really, that’s when the job of a content marketer really begins. Not only do you need to share your new blog on search engines, add internal links between old posts and new posts and let your email subscribers that new content has gone live, but you also need to consider outreach if you want to use your new post to build links. Some content marketing firms will take control of these tasks alongside writing the content, so ask them what they can do for you.

Remember, though, that submitting new blogs to article directories, scheduling social media posts and letting writers know that they’ve been mentioned in your content isn’t difficult, and it may prove more cost-effective to complete these tasks on your own.

Will I own the content?

It sounds obvious that you’ll automatically own the copyright to content that you pay for, but that isn’t always the case. Make sure you understand the legalities behind your content marketing firm – and also be sure to check that they won’t be using your content on other websites, or as samples or on case study pages. As Moz writes, site owners can suffer ranking and traffic losses if Google indexes the same content more than once, so your marketing efforts could be in vein if the blog is going to be used elsewhere, too.

Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the marketing firm, and check that copyright will be handed over to you as soon as the content is delivered. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Would it be easier to write the content myself?

If you’ve been reading up on content marketing, then the chances are that you know a little about it already. You don’t need to be an SEO whizz or journalist to create readable, shareable, valuable content that will help you rank on search engines. If you’re capable of producing high-quality content on your own, then there’s little point in outsourcing to a third-party company. After all, you know your business better than anyone else.

You could even consider hiring a reputable proof-reader on a freelancing website to double-check your content before it’s published, or an SEO expert to optimise your keywords and copy to maximise your chances of ranking on search engines.

The more you can do yourself, the cheaper it will be. You can then invest the money that you would have spent producing high-quality content on promoting it. Facebook Ads is a popular choice, or you could consider a tool such as StumbleUpon where to pay per eyeball.

Summary: select your content marketing agency wisely

Outsourcing your content marketing offers various benefits, not least saving you time and ensuring you’re posting only the highest quality content on your website. But finding the right agency can be a challenge. Don’t dive in head first. Always do your research and be prepared to try out multiple agencies before you find one you’re happy with.

What are your experiences of working with a content marketing agency? Let us know your top tips on social media.

 

Max Greene

Managing Director of Muffin Marketing. Passionate about small business search engine optimisation, social media management and content writing. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you.