This may be something of a controversial statement. However, the digital marketing space is a crowded one and everyone wants to make it known they are different from the rest.
In an attempt to convey knowledge and trustworthiness though, there’s a lot of language being used by both agencies and freelancers that is at best misguided and – at worse – reinforces some of the most damaging of industry stereotypes.
What’s the problem?
In many ways, agency websites are all largely the same. They serve as a brochure for our services, and a way to show potential clients what we can do. And they are also the first thing to get neglected when workloads are heavy.
For this reason, it should not be much of a shock that there’s a lot of repetition in between different sites. In particular, many seem to be falling back on the same few tropes about their methodologies. On the surface lots of these seem reputable, but a closer look shows them to be empty of any real meaning.
I’m not naming names here, and the instances I’ve used are completely made up, although firmly rooted in reality. Let’s start with a typical offender.
First, I can pretty much guarantee that there is nothing unique – let alone revolutionary – here. If they have bothered to explain this process, it will be something along the lines of this:
“We’ll carry out the most thorough research in to your sector to make sure we truly understand your business and it’s potential.”
“From here, we’ll use our extensive experience to build a plan that will deliver you real returns.”
“Finally, we’ll work tirelessly to carry out your campaign, all the time using data to make the most informed choices.”
In essence, there is nothing too much wrong with this. We say similar things in some of our own documents. Yet this is just basic business practice rather than some amazing methodology. A GCSE business course will cover this approach in more detail, so to pretend it is anything otherwise is a pretty poor show. At the very least though it does remind us of this…
Here’s another one. Notice the use of the word data again? Data analysis is a pretty emotive phrase. It conjures up banks of whirring machines and teams of earnest scientists poring over complicated documents and spreadsheets.
Over in the SEO world though, data analysis seems to apply to a few Excel filters, or someone scanning through some server logs to look for errors. If you ask the average SEO what Matlab is for example, they won’t have a clue.
There is not necessarily a problem with this. In most cases, we are not scientists or academics – but we still have the skills and experience to get the job done.
Where there is a real problem is in conflating this work with a discipline known for its scientific rigour. It says to clients we are something that we are not.
Some agencies will have qualified data scientists on hand, and undoubtedly they will be extremely capable. Is this required for the vast majority of projects though? Not at all, and this serves to create a distance between the agency and client that doesn’t need to be there.
This last point is a crucial one. In essence, digital marketing isn’t particularly hard. Producing the right content, optimising pages for search, promoting what you’ve made– all this is relatively straightforward on paper. The challenge though is making it happen, which comes down to experience, great project management and a mixture of creativity and analytical thinking.
This also requires great relationships with clients. By trying to use impressive sounding but empty terminology, we’re distracting from the most important message – that for a project to be a success, it needs to be a true collaboration. We should still be proud of our processes, but they are a basic system that enables delivery.
This is all important as the public perception of digital marketing and SEO in particular can sometimes be quite negative. There are plenty of people out there that have had a bad experience at the hands of an agency or freelancer. Pretending we are something we are not won’t change this any time soon.