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4 Red Flags to Look Out For When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency Partner


Signing up with a digital marketing agency is an important decision. You’re entrusting someone to drive your digital strategy, hit your ROI goals, manage your paid media budget, and represent your brand online – that’s a big deal! So, how can you tell if a marketing agency is ‘bad’?

When interviewing a prospective marketing agency, if you see any of these red flags, don’t just walk away – run!

Red Flag #1 – Promises that are too good to be true

“We guarantee that you’ll rank on the first page organically for your number one search term within a month!”

“We guarantee that we’ll increase your paid media performance by XX% in the first month.”

Good agencies can get you on the first page- sometimes even in the first position. After months of hard work, ongoing in-depth competitor analysis, sticking to a robust technical strategy, and consistent site health audits, great things can happen. They can also have a significant impact on paid media performance but are never able to give a 100% guarantee.

There are no guarantees in this industry.

If a marketing agency guarantees significant results in a short amount of time, that’s red flag number one. They are more interested in getting you into a contract than getting you realistic results.

Another possibility is that they employ black-hat or gray-hat methods that can get your website penalized. No short-term traffic surges are worth the long-term detriment that comes with a search penalty.

Pick an agency that can talk you through a long-term growth strategy and can speak to your company’s progression at any time throughout the contract.


Red Flag #2 – No proof of performance

“We generate amazing results for our clients and can get these results for you too!”

Okay, great. But where is the proof?

Case studies are what differentiate good agencies from agencies that are just full of hot air. If the marketing agency you’re interviewing is all talk, that’s red flag number two.

On the other hand, some agencies will be quick to show off glittering case studies and success stories, but if you do your due diligence and research, you may see a different side to the story. Make sure the agency has a variety of case studies showcasing their success in several industries.

Reputable agencies are happy to offer case studies – but take it a step further and ask for referrals. Even better than a phone number and the hassle of setting up a reference call (for both parties), some agencies have video references where their client talks about the whole experience the client has had with them. There is nothing better than hearing from clients that are currently working with the agency.


Red Flag #3 – Cookie cutter service offerings

“We offer a series of packages and add-ons for companies just like yours.”

If you are beginning to talk with an agency, pay close attention to the questions they ask and the promises they make. The best agencies will try more than anything to understand the intricacies of your business, your products/services, and your niche. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy in SEO, paid media, social media marketing, or cold email outreach.

If an agency starts to give you answers before you’ve explained how you differentiate from your competitors, that’s red flag number three and you probably shouldn’t hire them. This is a sign that the agency is already putting your brand in a box – and you should expect their strategy to be boxed too – generic and pre-packaged.

There is no replacement for a customized strategy executed by talented and detail-oriented marketers. If an agency’s offerings are packaged or if certain services are add-ons, their strategy will most likely be superficial. Hire an agency that can clearly communicate their services and stresses custom strategies.

Take a good look at the prospective agency’s proposal. Does it seem generic, or is the presentation customized to your business? If the agency’s proposal isn’t custom when they’re putting their best foot forward, how do you think their strategy will stack up after you sign on?


Red Flag #4 – Singular focus on website traffic… or any one aspect of service

“We’re focused on your traffic, not your lifetime customer value.”

First, it’s important to remember that you’re seeking a partnership with an agency, not just contracting a service. To that end, beware of agencies that focus singularly on one specific type of result, for instance, website traffic.

If an agency only focuses on one aspect of their work or one specific metric, it is likely that they do not have a holistic strategy. It is likely that they are only looking to provide a service, rather than investing time and resources in a partnership that helps both businesses grow and meet their specific goals.

At the end of the day, you want to partner with an agency who wants to know your target audience and ICP (Ideal Customer Persona) intimately so they can cater their strategy to drive revenue – not just traffic. Beware of the agencies that only hold themselves accountable to KPIs that don’t drive your bottom line.

In other words, don’t hire someone to fill up your steakhouse with vegans.

Pay attention to the questions agencies ask you. They should ask, what is your ICP? What is your average sale amount? What is your close rate? What is your customer lifetime value? These are the kinds of questions that indicate that the agency is vested in your success.


When it comes time to hire a marketing agency, look out for these common red flags, and run if you see them! Do your due diligence and only commit to an agency who is also committed to you.

If you’re actively searching for an agency or considering digital marketing solutions for the first time, you may find our recent guide helpful:

SEO Objections: What Holds Companies Back from Investing in SEO

The guide outlines real questions that have come from real businesses, with insights straight from our team! Enjoy 😊