Who Dresses You?
Imagine for a minute that you are hiring a butler or a lady’s maid to get you dressed. (Those of you who watch Downton Abbey know exactly what I’m talking about). From the pictures below, which “professional” would you choose to button you up?
Easy decision, right? You wouldn’t want someone that looks like a mess to get you dressed.
There are millions of small businesses choosing the sloppy butler to help them with their online marketing. Web designers and SEO agencies make lofty promises to get their clients to the top of search engines with their so-called “marketing expertise.” There is little risk for these web providers to make guarantees to customers who are unaware of the complexity of ranking in search engines. So how do underinformed business owners decipher if the agency making the promises can actually deliver?
One easy way is to check “how they are dressed” before you let them dress you, just like in the case of the butler and lady’s maid.
A web designer or SEO agency proposing to acquire meaningful traffic and rankings for your site should be getting significant traffic and rankings themselves. If they aren’t achieving results for their own site, why would you expect them to be capable of doing it for you?
SEO Agency and Web Designer Background Check
There are hundreds of ways to measure the marketing acumen of your prospective marketing provider by analyzing their website traffic statistics. People will likely argue about the merits of the different metrics, but let me propose one simple method.
Alexa ranking is a traffic ranking given to a website by the popular analytics company – you guessed it – Alexa.
Alexa is a web analytics giant owned by a larger giant, Amazon.com. Alexa offers a lot of web analytics tools, but they are most famous for their traffic ranking given to virtually every site on the web.
You can check your own site’s Alexa ranking by going to Alexa.com and typing in your URL. Just to give you an idea of rankings, here are a few global rankings.
- Google – 1
- Facebook – 2
- CNN.com – 62
- Entrepreneur.com – 732
- Business2Community.com – 4,900
- WCPO.com – 39,896 (ABC News Cincinnati)
- Xsport Fitness – 272,588 (Chicago-based fitness company with under 50 locations in 3 cities)
- WebEminence.com – 340,176 (my website)
- JsingerWebDesign.com – 13,851,125 (local web designand marketing firm)
- RocketBoxSEO.com – 4,357,865 (Albuquerque web design firm)
- KRDCPAs.com – No Ranking Data (local accountant)
It’s also interesting to browse the Alexa Top 500 to see the top trafficked sites in the US and World.
Are Alexa Rankings Perfect?
No traffic analytics platform is perfect, and Alexa is no exception. But it is a useful metric in determining the relative importance of website as measured by their traffic. You can even install the Alexa toolbar to get a quick idea of a website’s traffic ranking at a glance. The overly-simplified premise is: The more people visit a site, the more important it is.
The ranking examples above align with reasonable thinking. We all know Google and Facebook are household names. While sitting at Caribou Coffee (Alexa ranking #194,123) writing this, I overheard people mention Google and Facebook a couple times. These sites and most sites in the Alexa top 10 are visited by a wide segment of the population multiple times per day.
Going down the list of rankings – you see large and small news outlets, national chains, media giants, regional chains, my website run by a single content creator (me), and a local accountant that probably isn’t doing many activities to increase traffic on their website.
How Does Your Prospective Agency Measure Up?
These rankings should give you a good idea of the spectrum of Alexa traffic rankings for different types of businesses.
Keep in mind, there are many factors to website traffic. Websites for national chains, news outlets, or sites with large staffs of writers should be held to a higher standard than local businesses. I would NOT expect a local CPA small business with 3 employees to have a ranking under 100,000 and if they did, it would be impressive. But as a small business owner, they should seek to get a traffic ranking better than “No Ranking Data” like the example on the bottom of the list.
What about Your SEO Agency?
Ok – so what about the SEO or web design company that you are considering bringing on board? Where do they rank?
Notice the two bold listings in my list above. They are both web design companies selling SEO and marketing services, but one has a ranking of 4 million+ and the other 13 million+. They may be small companies but compare that to my traffic rank of 132,000. My ranking is not amazing, but it shows I know how to get decent traffic, more than some national chains, even though I’m a one-man show.
If the agency you’re investigating is larger with over 50 employees and a writing staff, you should expect them to have an Alexa ranking of under 100,000. If they don’t, you should probably think very hard and investigate other options before hiring them.
So ask your prospective agencies as many questions as you want including this handy list of questions to ask web designers, but check their Alexa rank to see if they can live up to their marketing guarantees.
If their Alexa ranking is unimpressive or problematic, ask them why (or just move one) and share responses below. No need to share names, but I’m curious to know how agencies respond.