We wrote this guide for small to medium-sized oil and gas companies, but the principles apply to any business owner who’s planning to improve their online presence. First of all, make sure that the basics are covered.
Your new oil and gas marketing agency needs to know:
Whether you choose a plain vanilla online marketing consultant or a specialist oil and gas marketing company, they need to understand:
- Which search keywords to target.
- Who your competitors are and how hard it will be to overtake them.
- The status of your current website and how it competes in the industry. Particularly concerning optimisation and quality.
- How extensive your social media reach is and how it compares to your competition.
- Content opportunities that are suitable and relevant for your business.
- Whether they have a copywriter who can write in your company’s ‘voice’.
- Suitable tracking, measurement and reporting of progress in terms of relevant KPIs.
- The estimated project time, work spec and desired result.
No one can be sure of the exact ROI on their future online efforts. The right online marketing agency will know approximately what they are going to do, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. You need a list of deliverables so that you can refer back later.
You won’t be able to get a guarantee (from a reputable agency) that you’ll be on the first page of Google for your product or service. You can get a commitment to ten new articles or twenty new quality backlinks that they can show to you in a report.
Do they speak your language?
This question has different nuances. Most of the world speaks English in business, but is it their first language? Communication problems can cause days or even weeks of work that go in the wrong direction.
More importantly, do they speak the language of your business and your industry? If the marketing agency you choose writes anything on your behalf, then this can be a problem. Every industry has its jargon and tone. You don’t want your company’s social media or website updates to come across as out of touch.
Do people in your sector of the oil and gas industry have suitable B.S. sensors? We know that they do!
These reasons are why your shortlist should only include specialist oil and gas marketing companies.
What do they advise that you do?
The marketing company that you send an enquiry to should be happy to explain everything. What they will do and why they plan to do it. If they can’t explain it clearly, then it might be that they are trying to confuse you, or even worse, are not sure themselves.
Depending on your niche in the oil and gas business, SEO might be a waste of time. You might manufacture a brand new patented widget that no one knows about, and therefore won’t look for with an internet search.
Likewise, there are many things that people don’t search for online. Many companies have long-term relationships with suppliers, and they already know where to go.
In this situation, social media might be a good focus. The most straightforward win will be to make sure that your home website is as professional as your product or service.
It could be that a professionally designed downloadable instruction manual will be more valuable than 500 more followers on Twitter (for the same marketing spend).
If after listening to their suggestions you are not entirely convinced, keep looking.
Look at their portfolio
Do they have existing clients in their portfolio who have businesses like yours? If you own a Mercedes, then you probably don’t want to bring your car to the Nissan service centre. It makes sense to use people with specialist experience.
When there are thousands of SEO, social media, and website management companies in the world, why pick one whose primary experience is in local flower shop SEO? Or social media marketing for hotels? An oil and gas marketing firm is far more likely to hit the ground running and already know what to do.
If you see that the specialist online marketing company has clients in your industry, that’s good. If some of these clients are known to you and you can check a reference or testimonial then you have already hit the jackpot, stop searching!
Watch out for generic logos that get shown on the homepage. If you see logos of major news agencies or online media outlets, this might indicate that the company has been mentioned there, not that these behemoths are clients.
Dig deeper if a company representative says that their client base is private. Client privacy might add up in the sexually transmitted disease industry, but not in the energy and resource business. We all recognise a good job done and are happy to send others in the right direction. Also, a link to the client’s site helps promotion and SEO, so there is no reason why such information would be private.
As we all know, prices are only one part of the equation, and in the business of online marketing, judging value over price is more critical than in many other parts of our business.
Did you know that you can get SEO, social media tasks, and graphic design can get done for $5 per job? On Fiverr, there are some great deals to be had, but $5 SEO deals are more likely to get your website de-listed than on page one of the search results.
At the other end of the scale, some of the top SEO companies in the world have a $50,000 per month minimum. Here’s a link to a great infographic showing everything you need to know about SEO agency pricing and contract details! Here’s an accompanying blog post for those who prefer to read the old-fashioned way.
A wise starting point would be to look at the size of your company, your current sales and marketing budget, and the progress that you’ve already made online. We advise that you ask the potential marketing company to quote the minimum amount it might cost, to start to see a result.
Social media and SEO is a longer-term strategy, where it can take time to build traction. You don’t want to spend $10,000- $20,000 per month (at the top end) to find that it’s not working after a year.
Remember that you can always scale up your efforts when you become confident in the result. It is impossible to recoup the wasted money from a misdirected campaign.
Be wary of guarantees and promises
If you’re looking at two web marketing companies and one is telling you:
We guarantee to get you on the first page of Google for these 5 keywords
Then the other says:
Results vary, but you will see improvements. At any time we are happy to explain what we have done, and why we are doing it
Which would you choose?
We recommend the latter. The reason is that it’s impossible to guarantee a first-page ranking for keywords that matter to your business.
‘First-page guarantee’ deals are full of loopholes and tricks. There will be simple keywords to rank for, ones with little search volume or commercial intent.
For example, look at the differences between these two niche-related search terms:
Buy shoelaces online
Free shoelace tying tutorial
Which is worth ranking for in the search engines? If you’re in business to make money, then you’ll want a visit from someone who is planning to buy something, not someone looking for a free tutorial.
Another way of ranking for a keyword is by using software to spam backlinks to your site. This automation is one way you get your site penalised by search engines.
Another example of where it is good to avoid guarantees is where you can purchase some ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ that you could receive on your social media pages. There’s such a thing as fake accounts or bot accounts. Even real, human-made profiles can get made in bulk.
If you are selling wellhead valves, and have a Facebook account, it is likely to have relatively few followers. You could get tens of thousands of ‘likes’ in the next few days by purchasing Fiverr gigs.
Even if these are ‘real followers’ how many will give a damn about valves? None of them. It is a fool’s errand.
Be wary of companies that try hard to close you, or seem too keen from the outset
A quality online marketing company will want to understand your business and objectives. Sometimes the desired result is unrealistic. For example, if your industry niche is tiny, you won’t end up with a high volume of website traffic. If you’re a minor player in a very competitive sector, first-page rankings might be practically impossible.
Consider that you’ll be working with your chosen oil and gas marketing consultant or agency for months if not years. Things could turn ugly quickly if you jump into something too soon. The budget, time frame and result expectations must be agreed upon and understood. That’s the minimum requirement. Ideally, you and your new marketing company will have aligned knowledge, interest and perhaps even dreams for the future.
Find out who your go-to person is and speak with them
Have you ever been sold to by a professional salesperson and then passed on to a dummy that causes you stress and frustration?
We all have, it’s vital that you get along with and can communicate clearly with the company representative who’ll be your go-to person. You should establish a relationship with them before you pay any money.
In the online world, some agencies are headed up by charismatic leaders, who then outsource the work to clueless idiots. Sometimes people who appear to be clueless can do good work, at the specific task that they are assigned. You need some intermediary who can act as ‘mission translator’ in this situation.
Ask if they can share an analytics account and be prepared to explain things
If your traffic doubles, or halves, how will you know? If your online marketing specialist gets you ranking for a keyword, how will you know whether it has five people searching for it per month, or 10,000?
Then when results get reported, you can double-check them, and ask for explanations as to the importance of the results. None of these analytic consoles is that hard to understand if you can be guided through them by an expert.
Look at the experts ‘body of work.’
It’s possible that the website of the agency you are looking at was created by a different company altogether. Perhaps all of the information on it was written by a professional copywriter?
Imagine two restaurants on the same street, who both decide to get a website created or updated. One restaurant owner has a budget of $2000, and the other has $20,000 to invest.
- Which restaurant serves the best food?
- Which restaurant will look like it serves the best food according to its website?
Don’t take anything at face value. If a company is marketing itself as a specialist online marketing agency, then they are calling themselves experts. This statement is true whether they say it or not.
If they specialise in the oil and gas business, then they’re effectively professing a secondary area of expertise.
Is there anything to back this up? Other than a helpful-looking website?
These are the types of things to look for:
- Blog posts that give you ‘aha’ or ‘hell yeah’ moments.
- Published books on industry-relevant topics.
- Speaking at events, or having a stand at trade shows.
- Profile(s) on LinkedIn that have many of the same people as you do in your network.
- Client testimonials from others in the industry.
- A portfolio of past clients in the industry.
- Online teaching or resources that benefit others. (For example, an industry-related forum, FAQs, how-to guides, glossary, technical manuals etc.
- There’ll be other things that send quality signals about the company that you’re investigating. The more credibility and industry-related links, the better!
Discard the possible agency immediately if you catch them using pressure, misdirection or untruths.
If someone says that they’re booked up for the rest of the year, but might be able to fit you in then perhaps congratulate them. But then find an oil and gas marketing company that’ll have the necessary time and attention for your project.
Some companies offer courses, certificates or accreditation if you go through a series of online exams. Some of these courses cost $200 or less. Does this make the person who took the course an actual partner? Not really.
If someone tells you that there’s a discount that will disappear on a particular day, consider running a mile. Are they paying their SEO person 30% less for another 48hrs? Is their electricity bill going up after the special offer ends? No.
Unless they can immediately explain the discount in a way that makes complete sense, walk away. (We can’t think of a legitimate reason to put you under pressure).
Will the owner talk to you?
Try to speak to the owner of the agency. After all, this is the person that you will be trying to reach if the project goes wrong. You need to get a commitment and a good feeling from the person at the top.
Sometimes business owners get detached from their business, and the company loses its best and brightest employees. This point is the stage where things start to go downhill. This process can happen quickly or slowly, so you might be one of the final new clients of a dying company.
Try to Skype the leader, or at least get some personal conversation going, even if it is email only. The head of the company might take a particular interest in your project, and will feel more obliged to answer to you later.
Ask as many questions as possible.
How many questions?
All of them, whether that is 10, or 110, ask every question that you can think of so that everyone is on the same page. If the person you are dealing with can’t or won’t answer all of your questions, then it is better to find out before you have made a deal with them, not after.
If you can’t think of any questions to ask, here are a few to consider:
- Why should we hire you?
- Who is your main competition?
- Are you better value than them?
- Can you handle our contract?
- Do you have backup staff in case of sickness or turnover?
- What work do you do in-house, and what do you outsource?
- What do you know about our company?
- What’s the single most significant improvement that we could make online?
- What software tools do you use?
- Do you follow Google guidelines and best practices?
- Explain to me what they are?
- Will you provide us with a report or list of backlinks that you have built?
- Will you tell me exactly what changes you have made to our site?
- How can we contact you?
- When can we contact you?
- How often can we contact you?
- If we don’t contact you, how often will you contact us?
- What are your payment terms?
- How can we terminate the contract?
- How can we measure the results?
- Will you give me reports, not just on results but on the work done to achieve them?
- How will what you do fit in with what we are doing already?
- How much do you think we can achieve?
- If you were us, would you be excited about the online future of our business?
- Explain why?
So, well done for getting to the bottom of this enormous post. This page is one of the longest posts on our website and one of the most important too. If you want to find out more about how we can help you as your next oil and gas marketing agency, then please contact us.