Hiring a search agency of record for your corporation

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Finding an experienced search-marketing agency that can simultaneously optimize 10 or more of your corporate Web sites isn't easy.

When a global hospitality organization wanted an agency of record for optimization and paid search for its corporate initiatives as well as for 65 properties worldwide, it approached our agency.

As a mid-size agency, DBE knew it couldn't scale its resources for the multi-site assignment, but its in-depth knowledge of industry best practices and white-hat processes made it the ideal choice for managing the agency search.

Use the following tips to help find the right search agency for your organization.

  • Develop your request for information first, and use it to establish your needs and expectations. Use the RFI (request for information) to educate and unify your internal stakeholders about what you are looking for, before you start reaching out to candidates.
  • Identify agencies that can deliver results. Visit www.sempo.org, for example, to find agencies that can meet your needs. Review their approach to SEO (search engine optimization), paid search and their client/industry experience. And search your competitors' names with "SEM (search engine marketing ) agency," "optimization" and other terms in the query. See which agencies have your competitors in their client list. Are those companies appearing in the natural listings for terms you would assume they would? Are they running paid search too?
  • Contact the agencies that look like they may be a fit. Ask the agencies your qualifying questions in order to determine suitability.
  • Send the RFI to agencies that passed. Review responses according to SEM best practices. Reject those with "old school" answers or tactics that would jeopardize your rankings.
  • Invite three or four agencies to present. Get a sense of their culture, people and work style. Make sure they bring the client service team, not just their shiny new business team.
  • End the request for proposal to your finalists. While they're responding check their references. Call clients listed on their Web site, too; don't just use the clients they provide.
  • Have a final presentation. Ask the hard questions, negotiate the fees and ensure you are getting what you need. Once all these steps are taken you can make a confident hiring choice.
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