The digital marketing boom is a problem for agencies

Zac basara [pictured] is the founder of the Australian PPC and SEO agency – SEO Advantage. Here, he discusses the pitfalls of the digital marketing boom and shares some ideas on how small businesses can navigate this….

Every week I wake up and Google “SEO Service” and other related search queries just to see which agencies are buying Google Ads for the terms. For those unfamiliar with search engine optimization (SEO) within digital marketing, this may not seem strange. Maybe I’m just checking my competition?

The problem is this: the goal of search engine optimization is to get as high as possible on the results page for a targeted search. If your SEO agency needs to buy ads to place on page one of Google, maybe this is a bad sign, as the need for an ad in basic terms like ‘SEO service’ or ‘SEO provider’ in effect disproves your ability to do the job.

However, every week I see ads, so clearly it should work. Possibly naive clients with a marketing budget but little expertise. After all, that’s what we’re here for.

This little anecdote is a microcosm of what is happening right now in the much larger digital ad space. Ask almost any agency leader and they will tell you that digital marketing is booming right now. Skilled professionals were already in short supply, and now, with revamped closures, companies are turning to agencies and freelancers to keep business flowing through digital channels rather than traditional ones.

However, this boom has a major flaw, especially for this large group of SMB owners who are only now beginning to dive into the waters of digital marketing for the first time.

The massive push to online channels makes it much more difficult to get the same pre-pandemic results in today’s environment. There’s just more competition, and big tech companies like Apple are making it harder with privacy changes.

Facebook was one of the mainstays of SMB marketing, but the platform has become much more difficult to convert and get a return on investment than the pre-pandemic. There won’t be a single marketing agency in the world that hasn’t noticed this impact by now. The good guys will have already explained this impact, the others have tough conversations ahead of them.

We are in a perfect storm – there are very few pressure relief valves other than marketing agencies and freelancers. The agencies themselves are very busy and struggling with one of the most difficult environments to generate conversions and results in the last decade.

So things are more difficult and there is more demand, what is the big flaw? The problem here lies in the customers themselves and their experiences at the moment.

The digital marketing campaigns that Facebook and Google use are the first steps of marketing for almost all companies. They are our ‘gateway drug’ that inspires owners to use digital channels to scale, improve and reinvest in their businesses. If your experience from this time is that, for some intelligible reason, your business just doesn’t market as well as the previous ones an agency showed you, what lesson do you think they will learn from this?

There is a surprising amount at stake here. For larger companies, a bad experience with one agency or freelancer means you move on to the next, but SMEs may simply not get involved at all if their fingers are burned. Right now, ‘naive clients’ are being won over with clever presentations, case studies, and projected ROIs that are grounded in a world that no longer exists.

Even if your budget doesn’t allow for anything else, we should take these opportunities to expand your understanding of digital marketing tactics outside of Facebook, Google, and Amazon advertising. Let them know that the game is changing!

Longer-term marketing strategies, such as SEO, or a return to more traditional methods, such as coupons and EDM, will become increasingly important as the profitability of online ads declines.

We cannot expect our clients to do this education themselves, or to be surprised when they are not happy with the result of trying what worked last year and fighting for ROI now.

If we let this continue, we risk jeopardizing one of the greatest business efficiency improvements our nation will ever see.

mckinsey, digital marketing

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Public Relations Manager at digital marketing agency no 1