19 Reasons to Fire your San Francisco Digital Marketing Agency

Over the past few years, San Francisco digital marketing has changed dramatically. What began as a loose-knit set of tips to help your site play nice with PageRank has blossomed into an entire field that’s unique in a city that’s at the forefront of the tech industry. A San Francisco digital marketing agency will still focus on content promotion, but has grown to include website optimization, data analysis, social forecasting, and, often, business consulting. Digital marketing has had more staying power than most web-centric fields, since it has innovation and adaptability built into its bones from the beginning.

However, that doesn’t guarantee that all practitioners are as forward thinking as their field would warrant. Digital marketing, and SEO, are data-heavy, niche services that everyone needs but many lack a clear understanding of. There are plenty of shady San Francisco digital marketing agencies that hang out their shingles and sell jargon-heavy promises, deliver automated link spam, trading on the quick, but massively short-lived rankings boost, but either never intend to provide any long-term return on investment — or don’t know how.

Some San Francisco digital marketing agencies get lazy, or refuse to stay current, and will sell you outdated services that, today, amount to little more than bad practice. In a city that’s home to some of the most innovative tech companies in the world, your digital marketing agency needs to match in both quality and performance. Take a look at these 19 reasons to fire your San Francisco digital marketing agency, and ask yourself if anything looks familiar. It’s never too soon to dump an agency that’s hurting your business.

#1. If they’re using black-hat SEO tactics

Let’s begin with a bit of a history lesson. Almost twenty years ago, in 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, working at Stanford, published a paper detailing the algorithm they’d been developing, called PageRank, as well as the prototype that would become Google. In simplest terms, PageRank determines the likelihood of arriving at a particular page, at random, based on how well connected to other pages it is, and it gives primacy, in search results, to pages with higher values.

With this, and with frequency of keywords for relevance, Google did a pretty good job of providing content that a person was more likely to be looking for. However, it wasn’t hard to cheat the system by plugging keywords and links unnaturally. In fact, a whole cottage industry sprang up to host pages upon pages of links, for a fee, to artificially inflate a site’s PageRank value.

This problem was first addressed in 2005, with “nofollow”, which could be added to a site’s code to make PageRank ignore any links therein. While it did help legitimate webmasters (of, say, message boards) prevent link spamming, it didn’t stop providers from cheating the system if they wanted to. Google’s Panda update, in 2011, and Penguin the following year, were more direct. Panda evaluated a site’s content, guarding against unnatural keyword stuffing, while Penguin punished sites that were trying to cheat the system.

That’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s an important inclusion. There are still plenty of San Francisco digital marketing agencies out there who will try to cheat the system for you just to get you a few weeks of artificially increased page traffic before Penguin brings the hammer down. You risk marginalization or even outright blacklisting by Google for employing these tactics, so be sure you don’t trust your business’s success to a disreputable agency.

This first rule is the simplest: a reputable San Francisco digital marketing agency won’t need to cheat by using black-hat SEO tactics.

#2 If they can’t explain their process

As we’ve said, San Francisco digital marketing is a highly technical, data-driven business, and there will be plenty of numbers, metrics, and terms that may not be familiar to you, but that’s not an excuse to keep you in the dark or to fob you off with jargon. If all they’re selling is double-talk, or if they don’t seem interested in explaining their process to you, dump ’em. Don’t take a chance on a charlatan.

#3 If they don’t report to you regularly

If your San Francisco digital marketing agency is telling you to look up your own Google Analytics data, with no explanation, that’s a huge warning sign. They should be reporting to you regularly telling you:

  • What they did
  • Why they did it
  • What the result was
  • How you’re doing now, compared to the previous report

If they’re doing their jobs, they’ll be running new campaigns and tracking ebbs and flows in your traffic, and you should be kept fully informed.

#4 If they tell you they’re done

In digital marketing, nothing is ever complete. It’s an ongoing process and the set-it-and-forget-it days are way behind us. If your San Francisco digital marketing agency doesn’t talk about plans for the future, or doesn’t keep your site up to date with changes to search engine algorithms, then they’re failing you.

#5 If they aren’t increasing revenue

After six to 12 months, you should expect to see a clear increase in site revenue. Digital marketing doesn’t come cheap, so if you’re not seeing results, there’s a good chance that you’d do better to take your business elsewhere. That said, keep in mind that there is a tipping point with your digital marketing budget. You have to pay to play or you won’t see substantial results.

#6 If they’re offering standardized packages

Every situation, site, and service is unique. What works best for your business likely wouldn’t be appropriate for another. Your San Francisco digital marketing agency should tailor their approach to your specific needs. There are plenty of agencies out there selling cookie-cutter packages of so many blog posts, keywords, and back-links per month, but it’s best to avoid them. Those are almost certainly automated or farmed out to a production mill, and it’ll look like cheap spam to whatever traffic comes your way. The worst words in digital marketing are “bland,” “generic,” and “irrelevant,” so don’t pay for pre-scripted drivel.

#7 If they’re offering guarantees

This one sounds a little odd, but bear with me. In this business, nothing is certain. We try our best, but the internet can be fickle. If they’re guaranteeing an increase in traffic, or a boost to your page rank, they’re almost certainly cheating the system on your behalf, and any increases you see will only last a few weeks before Google catches on. Your domain’s reputation is too important to be sullied by shady dealings.

#8 If they’re only focusing on one tactic

Optimizing for targeted keywords is a huge part of digital marketing, but it isn’t, in itself, enough to do the job. There’s no single thing that will get your site the traffic it deserves, so if your agency is a one-trick pony, wish it luck and send it on its way.

#9 If they’re ignoring social media

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. If your site doesn’t maintain a regular, and compelling social media presence, on a variety of networks, then you’re cutting yourself off from a huge traffic generator. People look to social media for trending topics, for shares from friends and trusted sources, and as a point of access to small businesses and mega-corporations alike. To find something like store hours or even a phone number, many people will begin on Facebook or Twitter, and, if your social media presence is neglected or out of date, those potential customers will leave in disappointment.

Social media advertising puts your content in front of a wider audience, and your competitors are very likely already leveraging a healthy, compelling social media presence to engage directly with their customer base. In this era of interconnectivity, it’s expected that a successful business will be a lively social media presence. Keeping your various accounts fed and maintained is part of your digital marketing strategy, so don’t bother with an agency that isn’t willing to handle them.

#10 If they lack a varied skillset

They should be handling your digital marketing needs in-house. No one’s an expert in everything, but a digital marketing team should have all your needs covered. That goes beyond the standard SEO tropes, like links and keywords. They should be able to help you optimize your site’s architecture in general, not just its content. If your site doesn’t show up well on mobile devices, for instance, your agency should have a solution. A good digital marketer can speak as easily about Google’s algorithms as about Fitts’s Law and the place of skeumorphism in designing a user interface.

#11 If they don’t offer ways to improve your site

More than just a problem-solver, you want an agency that takes a personal interest in your site and offers you suggestions for improvement. If they don’t seem concerned with helping you develop the best possible site, you may want to think about finding a new agency. If you’re being treated like a number, or you’re getting the impression that they don’t want your site to thrive as anything more than a paycheck, you’ll find yourself paying for substandard service and you’ll be missing a chance, with a new San Francisco digital marketing agency, to help your business grow.

#12 If they prioritize rankings over relevance

Bringing in traffic is part of the job, but bringing in the right traffic is an art that few agencies master. If they’re planting links everywhere, and targeting the right keywords, you’ll probably see your page rank increase and you’ll see an increase in traffic. That seems like a good thing, but it doesn’t address your site’s conversion rate and it doesn’t ask whether the increase in traffic spurred an increase in revenue. Bringing in thousands of people who leave immediately is less valuable than bringing in one person who decides to stay.

#13 If they’re not asking you for input

It’s your business, and, to properly market it, an agency will need your input. They should be asking you what you want a marketing strategy to look like, whom you’re trying to attract, how you hope people will interact with your site, and so on. Yes, they’re the pros, but you’ve contracted them for the service so they should be directing your marketing approach the way you want it done. Ideally, you and your agency should be handling your digital marketing as a team. If your agency isn’t asking you to be a part of the process, find another agency.

#14. If they’re ignoring your feedback

Just like in the previous section, it’s your business. Your agency should be listening, when you have something to say. Listening can take a lot of forms, but it’s not hard to tell when someone’s ignoring your opinions. If they’re disregarding your input, they’re not doing the job you’ve paid them to do, and you should get rid of them.

#15 If they’re not building good content

Remember, content is queen. All the traffic in the world won’t help you if your content isn’t relevant, compelling, and distinctive. If your blog posts, your marketing material, your sponsored content or your ads are little more than barely-paraphrased clickbait, your digital marketing agency has failed you.

#16 If they have a conflict of interest

Do they have any of your competitors as clients? Did you include provisions against that in their contract? These questions are often overlooked, but they’re worth asking. For instance, Colibri Digital Marketing will not take on proximate clients with overlapping interests. Within strict geographic limits, Colibri will only take on a single client in a particular market or industrial niche. That way, no two clients will compete for the same slice of traffic. You can’t expect your agency to direct all possible traffic your way if they’re simultaneously trying to send it to your competition, and even outright sabotage isn’t unheard of.

#17 If they have a history of spiteful conduct

This is by no means common in the industry, but there have been cases where partnerships have gone bad and the digital marketing agency has intentionally sabotaged a client’s site. Remember, if they have your admin credentials, they have the power. Deleting content, removing tags, or submitting de-listing requests to Google are some of the forms that sabotage can take. If your agency has any history of bad conduct, change your passwords, and sever ties in that order.

#18 If they’re too far away

In this industry, we tend to think globally, but there are advantages to going local. For instance, we’re a San Francisco digital marketing agency. We know the ins and outs of the city, and the peculiarities and habits of the locals. It’s our business to keep our fingers on the pulse of their internet behaviours, too. So, for San Francisco-based companies, we can choose better keywords and more strategically find cross-linking opportunities than someone in New York ever could.

If your agency doesn’t know the best place to get a sandwich, or the fastest way to get across town, there’s a good chance they won’t know how best to appeal to your local clients. That won’t be an issue for every business, but it can make all the difference for some.

#19 If they don’t share your values

We’ve saved the most important one for last. You should have a personal connection with your digital marketing agency — they should be almost a part of your business. They need to know your content inside and out, and they need to take it in a direction you’re comfortable with. Do their values align with yours? Are you comfortable treating them as partners, rather than just as contractors? If they were at the helm of your business, where would they take it? Will you take pride in their work — and will they take pride in yours?

Should You Fire Your San Francisco Digital Marketing Agency?

Helping your content find the right audience should feel good. Tricking traffic into clicking on your site with unnatural keywords and sneaky link farms feels shady. If you wouldn’t share your own content with your friends and family, you aren’t building a digital marketing strategy you’ll feel right about. If your digital marketing agency is making your skin crawl, the analytics data doesn’t matter.

If yours is unskilled, unhelpful, uninterested, unscrupulous, uninformed, or unfriendly, you should fire your San Francisco digital marketing agency.

Want to learn more? Schedule a free digital marketing strategy session with a top San Francisco digital marketing agency! No strings attached, and you’ll come away with some solid actionable items for your business.

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This post was originally written and posted by Andrew McLoughlin. It is republished here on on behalf of Colibri Digital Marketing. Thanks, Andrew, for a great read!