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Questions to Ask When You're Vetting a New Online Advertiser

woman thinking about questions to ask online advertiserLast month, we reviewed the differences between various online advertising programs and showed you how to choose which one best fits your company’s marketing needs. Now that you’ve selected the right online advertising approach for your company, we want to show you how to find the new online advertiser that will bring you the best results and most satisfaction. When it comes to choosing a new advertising provider, there are inherent risks involved. You have no way of being 100% certain that any given provider is going to deliver on its promises. That’s why the best thing you can do is to manage and minimize those risks by asking all the right questions before you sign up. Here are a few things you should ask your new online advertiser, broken down by type.

Questions for SEO Providers

“Do you offer references from other clients?” Because SEO is difficult to measure with hard data, it’s important for you to get firsthand opinions from a company’s current and former clients. Any company worth its salt will have no problem providing you with references that will validate its reputation.  “Do you build a second website, or do you perform all SEO on my existing one?” If you’re keeping an eye on your budget, this could be a very important question. Traditionally, SEO only used to be performed on a client’s existing website. Many business owners found this strategy too cost-prohibitive, so a more affordable SEO method was created, which involves the construction of a second, smaller site. This method is typically used in lead generation programs instead of traditional SEO projects. Essentially, in asking this question, you’re finding out what the company is focused on and how much you’re going to pay. “What kind of content do you provide?” If an advertiser does produce websites from scratch, this question determines whether they provide you with fresh, original content or they reuse a generic template with your company’s details filled in. Generic templates require less overhead, but fresh content will give your site a more personalized touch and help ensure you won’t face duplicate content penalties. “What kind of campaign tracking do you offer?” Does their program come with a way to track your campaign’s performance? Performance tracking is important so you can know whether you’re getting the highest ROI. For example, many providers offer metered phone numbers and e-mail addresses that keep track of incoming calls and messages. They may also offer reports that show your site traffic, search engine ranking, and monthly leads. The more tracking features available, the better grasp you’ll have on your campaign’s performance. “What is your process for dealing with a difficult Google Maps listing?” This question is more of a test. A common issue with certain black-hat SEO providers is their willingness to create duplicate listings when original listings prove difficult to claim. They may or may not admit to doing this, but if they give a vague or indirect answer, you can bet that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, their laziness or lack of scruples could cause you to get penalized down the road, so you need to be extra careful about this. “What is your policy about returning access to Google listings and/or metered phone numbers?” Again, this is a test. If you were to end your partnership with this advertiser, would they give you access to your Google listings and metered phone numbers? Their answer should be yes, so you can have ownership of all your accounts and experience as few headaches as possible.

Questions for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Providers

“Is there transparency in how you handle PPC accounts?” In other words, can you see where exactly your money is going? Some advertisers just send you a bill for your PPC; they don’t tell you how much of that money is going toward their paychecks and how much is going into your actual bids. “How much input is welcome in the setup of my new PPC campaign?” Often, business owners don’t have much of a say in the configuration of their PPC campaigns. Ask this question to see if you’ll have a say as to which ad groups you’re included in. “What kind of campaign tracking do you offer?” This is the same as for SEO: Performance tracking is important so you can know whether you’re getting the highest ROI. The more tracking features, the better.

Questions for Local Directory Providers

“How do you select the directories you use?” In other words, does this provider have a vetting process they use to decide which directories they list clients on? Hopefully, the answer is yes. You need to make sure you’ll only be listed on high-quality, popular, valuable directories; meanwhile, you want to avoid the bad directories that will get you penalized by Google and other search engines. “Do you use paid directories or only free ones?” You want to be aware of any extra fees you’ll need to pay for local directory listings. Plus, if you’re paying a significant amount for these services, you want at least some of that money to be spent on getting you into directories that you can only get access to if you pay. “Do you offshore your directory work?” Does the advertiser shoulder the extra money to complete all of the directory work in-house by native English speakers, or do they send it overseas for cheap labor? While offshore directory work is less expensive, its quality rarely compares to that of an in-house team. “What would happen to my directory accounts if our partnership were to end?” Once you’ve had accounts all across the web created on your behalf, you’ll want to make sure you can access as many of them as possible if your partnership with the advertiser ends. You don’t want to have countless business listings out there with no way to control them. You’ll want to be sure that the listings created for you are not left with (potentially erroneous) information you have no ability to change. You’ll want to know whether the provider leaves everything as-is at the time of cancellation, pulls down your listings, hands over log-in information, or does some combination of those three. That knowledge may help you make better choices as the relationship winds down.

Questions for Pay-Per-Lead (PPL) Providers

“How many accounts do you share leads with?” Many pay-per-lead sites share leads with multiple businesses at once. As a result, the job usually goes to the first business that responds. You have a better shot at closing leads if they aren’t being shared with lots of businesses, so you’ll want to know what that number is. “If you send me a lead that doesn’t match my service offerings, will you credit my account?” Sometimes, a lead comes in, you pay for it, and it turns out that the prospective customer is asking for something you don’t provide. In many cases, the provider will refund you for that lead if this happens. You’ll want to make sure they do offer credits or refunds for these scenarios because these kinds of mix-ups are bound to happen on occasion. You’ll also want to ask how these refunds arrive (i.e. whether they reimburse you or if they credit your account for another lead). “Do I have to pay extra for prominent visibility?” Some pay-per-lead services tell you that they’re free to join, but they don’t tell you that you have to pay for a premium option if you actually want to receive good leads. Make sure you know the real cost of doing business before you sign up. The next time you find yourself talking to a prospective advertiser, remember to keep this guide handy. By asking these questions, you’ll be able to decide if they’re actually worthy of your business. Good luck!