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Hiring a Blog Marketing Agency? Follow These 12 Steps

Chris Onyett

Hiring a Blog Marketing Agency? Follow These 12 Steps

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One of the hardest things about outsourcing any kind of work, marketing or otherwise, is assessing the suitability of the company you’re looking to work with.

After all, you’re probably hiring them because you’ve realized you don’t have the required skillset in-house.

And if you don’t have that experience yourself, it can make it pretty tough to know whether you’re diving into a pile of potential cash, or a pile of, well, not cash.

This is especially true when it comes to hiring a blog marketing agency.

With 4.4 million blog posts being published every single day (yes, you read that right), and only 10 showing up on page one for any given Google search, the stakes are higher than ever to find an agency that delivers results.

So, with that in mind, we’re going to give you a little helping hand and show you the 12 most important things to consider when assessing a blog marketing agency.

Hiring a blog marketing agency

1. Their Own Marketing

A great place to start is to have a look at the kinds of marketing efforts they are engaging in for themselves.

For example, if they’re not consistently publishing blog posts themselves, you’ve got to wonder how effective they are going to be at creating them for you, right?

Head straight over to the blog section of their website and see if they’ve got a decent amount of content published. If you’re seeing one or two sporadic posts, steer clear.

If you see an abundance of articles that share a common thread or theme, then things are looking good so far.

Now, let’s dive a little deeper. Click on a blog post that seems interesting and give that bad boy a quick read.

If you’re feeling inspired by their content, and you’d love to see a similar thing executed on your own website, then you might just have stumbled onto something good.

Lastly, let’s see how their content is performing as far as rankings go.

Wait, let me clarify something:

Ranking on Google is by far not the only metric to judge an agency on, nor should it be your only goal when creating future content. There are plenty of other good things that come from being an expert in your field and creating and distributing content.

With that said, though, it’s not as if you don’t want to rank. That sh*t is still important.

So, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Head over to this free keyword ranking checker from Small SEO Tools
  2. Select By URL mode
  3. Enter the agency’s website and hit search

The tool will then spit out a result that looks something like this:

Ideally, the agency you are assessing will have a selection of posts with positions from 1-10 (first page of Google). This tells you that they know what they are doing from an SEO perspective, as they’ve made some good stuff happen for themselves.

2. Planning and Strategizing

Now that you’ve got a preliminary idea of how their content performs, it’s time to dig a bit deeper into the how of their content marketing activities.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to get a feel for this by looking at their website or social media pages.

Yes, you’re going to have to talk to actual people.

serious

Schedule a call and prepare a few questions to ask to try and gain an understanding of how they’ll get you from point A (where you are now) to point B (smashing out epic content).

Here are a few good starters:

  • What does a content marketing strategy look like to you?
  • What are the steps involved in creating this strategy?
  • What do your goal-setting procedures look like?
  • What kind of metrics and KPIs are important to you in measuring success?

The most important thing here is that they have answers for you. And not some half-assed, jargon-filled salesperson bullsh*t answers, real answers.

Answers that make sense to you, that you feel comfortable with, and are genuine.

If they seem evasive, change the topic, or give fluffy answers, or, even worse, don’t have any processes, run.

3. Internal Processes

Copywriting Processes

When a blog marketing agency has spent time developing a solid set of internal processes, it tells you a few things:

  1. They value consistency
  2. They’ve been around the block long enough to have actually refined a process
  3. They know what works and what doesn’t

Don’t underestimate the value of strong internal processes. If your agency says something along the lines of “learning on the go”, be very wary.

Instead, ask a prospective agency about the procedures they have in place for content planning, keyword research, and content distribution.

Don’t expect them to tell you all of their secrets, though. They’ll probably want to keep a few cards close to their chest, it’s part of their value as your service provider after all.

But, if they can’t share even a basic structure of their processes, like this one, then you’re probably going down a bad rabbit hole.

Blog Processes & Systems

4. Marketing Personas

A good litmus test for understanding whether a blog marketing firm knows how to really reach and educate an audience is whether or not they bring up marketing personas.

For those of you who might never have heard the term before, marketing personas (also called buyer personas or customer personas) are essentially fictional representations of your ideal customer, outlining details like:

  • Demographics
  • Housing
  • Job details and responsibilities (especially for B2B)
  • Buying preferences

This information is typically collated into a one-pager that looks something like this:

Customer Personas

A good blog marketing agency should, at the very least, ask if you have developed buyer personas already.

They should also be experts at creating marketing personas themselves, so if you haven’t yet undergone this exercise, you should seek to understand a little bit about how the company can help here.

Again, not everyone is going to be willing to share such information, but it can be a good exercise to ask to see a copy of their marketing personas, to not only understand what they end product might look like, but to see if you’re the right fit for their business.

5. Keyword Research

Remember how we took a look at our perspectives marketing agency’s keyword rankings?

Well, the cornerstone for success in this area is a solid foundation in keyword research.

Let’s break it down for anyone who considers themselves an SEO noob.

Each blog post you write should target a specific key search phrase, which is achieved through a variety of technical and creative techniques.

First, though, you need to know which keywords actually make sense to target.

Sometimes, this is obvious. If your company sells hotdogs, you’re probably not going to write that much about deep space exploration. 

Unless you’re planning on being the first hotdog vendor in space, which actually might not be a bad idea.

Niche Writing

Sometimes, though, it’s not that obvious.

Let’s say that instead of hotdogs, you sell tomatoes (throw-back to a previous post, shout-out to my binge-readers out there).

You might think then that the search term ‘rotten tomatoes’ could be a good one to target for a blog post topic.

Problem is, the search intent for this term has nothing to do with you:

Keyword Research for Search Intent

It’s about intent and context.

The value you’ll gain from working with a blog marketing agency that has keyword research locked down like a chastity belt is that they’ll be able to identify the most relevant phrases with the best ranking potential and understand how to develop content appropriately.

They’ll also understand how to approach topical grouping; a process that involves grouping similar keywords together in the same piece of content to help Google (and other search engines, cause they exist too) ascertain relevance.

For example:

Main Keyword

Keyword Variations

Scheduling App

  • best scheduling app
  • online booking app
  • schedule app
  • scheduling apps
  • scheduler app
  • appointment scheduling app
  • appointment app

Medical Scheduler

  • medical appointment scheduling software
  • healthcare scheduling software
  • scheduling systems in healthcare
  • health care appointment scheduling software
  • online scheduling software healthcare

People Waiting in Line



  • waiting in line
  • wait in line
  • waiting lines
  • waiting line
  • waiting line system

Patient Scheduling 

  • patient scheduling software
  • patient appointment scheduling
  • patient scheduling system
  • doctor appointment scheduling software
  • doctor appointment software
  • clinic appointment management system
  • doctor appointment booking software

Online Schedule Maker 

  • online scheduling
  • web scheduling 
  • free scheduling software
  • online scheduler
  • free online appointment scheduling
  • scheduling software free

6. Content Calendars

It’s pretty widely understood these days that some people are thinkers, and others are doers.

In truth, it’s not quite that black and white, but it’s a helpful division nonetheless.

Your blog marketing agency should have a healthy selection of thinkers (strategizers) and a solid network of doers (those who execute on those strategies).

The key to getting those two parties working in synchrony (you thought I was gonna say synergy didn’t you) is, in the blog writing world, the content calendar.

Content Calendar

The content calendar bridges the gap between strategy and creative ideas to actionable, timeline-driven production.

Content calendars can be simple spreadsheets, or beautifully colorful project management boards (we’re nerds so we’re big-time into the latter), but they do need to exist.

When evaluating a prospective company, you should enquire about their processes for creating and executing on content calendars. If you’re lucky, they might even show you one.

7. Blog Aesthetics

Blog Styling

Aesthetics? Aren’t we talking about blog writing?

Yes, we are, but blog writing isn’t just about writing blogs.

Let me explain:

Formatting is important. You’ve gotta have your H2s and H3s in the right place, with the right words, and in the right structure.

It’s crucial not only for usability (like being able to quickly scan an article and know what it’s all about) but for that technical back-end stuff that Google nerds love.

You’ve also gotta make sure you’re presenting information in the best possible way for online readers by using short paragraphs, lists, tables, and bullet-points.

And then, of course, there are images.

Yes, you want to make your blog post look pretty and maybe throw in a meme or two, but there’s a technical reason behind adding images to a blog post, it maximizes views.

Blogs with images get nearly twice as many views as those that don’t.

Plain and simple.

Plus, images give context to what you’re saying and help to break up big chunks of text, which nobody likes.

Blog Styling & Aesthetic

8. Industry-Specialized Writers

Okay, great.

You’ve established that the agency you’re looking to hire at least knows their stuff when it comes to planning, researching, and prepping content calendars, but who have they got doing the actual writing part?

Content marketing agencies basically have two choices when it comes to hiring writers:

  1. Hire in-house
  2. Outsource (to freelancers or other writing contractors)

There are pros and cons to each, at least from the agency’s perspective.

9 times out of 10, though, you’re going to benefit more from working with an agency that outsources their writing.

Why?

Because it allows them to tap into a greater pool of expertise and experience.

In-house writers can be easier to manage from a resourcing standpoint (again, their benefit, not yours), but agencies inevitably reach a limit in terms of both breadth and depth of expertise.

Basically, nobody can be an expert in everything.

Industry specialized writers

Before you pull the trigger and start working with a new agency, find out a bit about how they’ve structured their writing team, and what kind(s) of expertise they have.

Ideally, there will be a match there with what you do!

9. Areas of Specialization

Speaking of expertise, what is theirs?

This is not something to overlook.

Businesses frequently choose a marketing agency based on their previous results but then get frustrated when they don’t hit those same numbers. Often, it’s because they didn’t take the time to understand whether that agency actually understands their industry.

Sure, they’ve got a nice content marketing strategy template that they can replicate, but do they really understand what makes your customers tick, what they want to learn about, and what drives them to purchase?

Some agencies are great at SaaS marketing, others know the e-commerce world like the back of their hand.

Others still are ideal for those of you with crack-pot ideas, like opening up a hotdog stand halfway between Earth and Mars.

The point is this:

Find out what they’re good at, what industries they know (and love to work), and make sure it aligns with yours.

10. Clients and Case Studies

This is a great way to really get a feel for an agency’s areas of specialization because you get an actual insight into projects they’ve worked on in the past.

Some agencies will actively promote previous projects they’ve worked on; others won’t.

That’s not always because they haven’t worked on anything in the past (though sometimes it is, so do what you can to determine whether this is the case), but because their client information is sensitive.

It’s sensitive to them, and it’s sensitive to their client, who might not want it plastered all over the internet that they pursued XYZ strategy to create ABC results.

In any case, it’s worth asking your prospective marketing firm whether they have any case studies or examples of previous clients that they can share with you.

You might find that all you need to do is ask.

Being able to dig into previous marketing campaigns, particularly ones that are laid out clearly in a case study format, gives you an insight into how the agency works, and the kind of product that they deliver for their clients.

So, yeah, it’s a pretty valuable exercise.

11. Time In The Industry

Look, I’m not saying that any newcomers to the marketing world can’t create and execute a damn good strategy, far from it.

The thing is, though, if you’re taking a chance on a college graduate with a passionate and enthusiastic outlook, or a fledgling blog marketing agency that started up a few weeks ago, then you are taking a risk.

Ideally, the agency you’re looking to hire will have been around for a fair bit of time, has probably evolved their model and service offering several times (demonstrating experience in understanding markets), and probably has a few content marketing secrets up their sleeves as a result.

Many hiring managers are looking more toward specific experience (and a decent set of people skills, which seem to be lacking across the board) than they are toward education or learned expertise.

Take a leaf out of their book, and look for a blog marketing agency who’s been around the block once or twice.

12. Their People

Speaking of people skills, the final point to consider when evaluating a blog marketing agency is the people that actually work there.

For a lot of business owners, this is the last thing on their mind, when it should probably be the first.

“So, why is it last on the list?”, you say.

Because if there’s one thing we want you to take away from this article, it’s this:

The people you work with are the number one thing that matters when growing a business.

You could be getting the best results on the planet, but if you’re working with a bunch of assholes, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Writers background

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I trust these people?
  • Do I like these people enough to want to talk to them?
  • Do I feel like they understand what my company is all about?

If you answered yes three times, then you’re probably in good hands.

Conclusion

Let’s recap on the main points and the questions you should ask to determine whether a prospective blog marketing agency is a good fit for your company or not:

Consideration

Questions To Ask

Their Own Marketing

  • What do their marketing efforts look like?
  • DoI enjoy reading their blog posts?
  • Is any of their published content ranking?

Planning and Strategizing

  • What does a content marketing strategy look like to you?
  • What are the steps involved in creating this strategy?
  • What do your goal-setting procedures look like?

Internal Processes

  • Do you have internal processes, and what are they?

Marketing Personas

  • How do you approach creating marketing personas?

Keyword Research

  • What is your philosophy around keyword research?

Content Calendars

  • What does your process look like for creating a content calendar?

Aesthetics

  • How do you approach formatting and designing your blog posts?

Industry-Specialized Writers

  • Do you have in-house writers or do you work with industry-specialists?

Areas of Specialization

  • What industries and verticals do you specialize in?

Clients and Case Studies

  • Do you have any case studies or previous projects I can review?

Time In The Industry

  • How long have you been around?
  • How long have you been operating in the way you do now?

Their People

  • Do I trust these people?
  • Do I like these people enough to want to talk to them?
  • Do I feel like they understand what my company is all about?

If you can answer all of these questions favourably, then it sounds like you’ve found the perfect blog marketing agency.

If not, then you might like to give us a call. We’re inbound marketing experts and we’re damn good at content marketing and blog creation if we do say so ourselves.


And we’ve got some damn good answers to those questions. So give us a call. Like, now.

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Chris Onyett

Chris Onyett

Chris is one of the managing partners at Roketto. His area of expertise is digital marketing and loves sharing and educating on topics like Google Ads, CPC bidding tactics, Google Analytics, and marketing automation. When Chris isn't in the office, he enjoys playing volleyball, mountain biking, and hiking with his American Eskimo.