Digital Agency Red Flags

Discussion in 'SEO, PPC and Online Marketing' started by Aleksander_Gramm, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Aleksander_Gramm

    Aleksander_Gramm UKBF Regular Free Member

    202 17
    Hello all.
    I think, that is an information worth sharing.

    I've been in marketing for 16 years and spent six of those working at digital agencies. Throughout this time I have encountered all sorts of strange and shady business practices that agencies do to their clients. My hope is that if you are considering hiring an agency, or going to work for one, that has these policies, you'll think twice about it.
    • The agency will only work out of their own ad accounts, especially on Facebook. The reason this is an issue is if the client ever decides to part ways with the agency, they cannot take their account with them. ALL of the data and learnings will be lost. Ownership of Facebook ad accounts cannot be transferred.

    • The agency will create its own Facebook pixel or use its own Facebook pixel on the client's ad account. I've seen agencies claim that this is done for the benefit of the client because "our Facebook pixel has significant data on it that will improve your account's performance". Cool. They can share the pixel with the client's ad account and build an audience off of it while still using the client's pixel. The client should ALWAYS own their pixel.

    • The agency requires that you pay the ad spend directly to them, and in advance. Typically, this is a sign that the agency is outsourcing the work to another company, a contractor, or they are upcharging. Otherwise, the client should be able to attach their credit card directly to the platform i.e. Facebook Ads, TradeDesk, Google Ads, etc., and pay the ad spend themselves. Another reason not to do this is if the client decides to leave the agency, it will be incredibly difficult to get the agency to return the unused ad spend.

    • The agency charges one flat fee and that fee includes the ad buy. This was really popular back in the early 2010's and generally targeted small business owners. The issue is that many of those agencies were not transparent about how much of their flat fee went to the ad buy and how much was eaten up by management fees. In some cases, as much as 90% went to management fees.
    I know this isn't an exhaustive list, so what did I miss? Have you encountered red flags when working with or at an agency that you think others should be aware of?


    I think it would be interesting, if you share your experience from client's side.
    Unfortunately there are no standards that can help to improve the quality of standards. But many agencies create own standards to help clients make money with online advertising.
    Posted: Jan 13, 2021 By: Aleksander_Gramm Member since: Dec 14, 2018
  2. StephenSumner

    StephenSumner UKBF Regular Free Member

    150 43
    I don't think it is necessarily fair to say this is a red flag as such, it could be, but then many of the better agencies develop their own proprietary scripts and methods that they would not want other agencies having access to, they keep this inside the accounts they build on behalf of clients to keep safe from prying eyes, this would be one reason. Also, it's quite common as a fee to charge as a service a percentage of ad spend, I'm not a fan of this model but a lot of agencies use it. In fact, some companies have approached my company and insisted on it.
    Posted: Jan 13, 2021 By: StephenSumner Member since: Oct 15, 2016
  3. Aleksander_Gramm

    Aleksander_Gramm UKBF Regular Free Member

    202 17
    It is reasonable, but I beg to differ.
    As a client I pay for methods and scripts. Also these methods are constantly changing because these things always meet the demands of the dynamic environment of the online advertising. But I agree, a lot of agencies require that you pay the ad spend directly to them. So, it can't be a red flag. On the other hand, a client need to keep that in mind, when he or she concludes a contract.
    Posted: Jan 13, 2021 By: Aleksander_Gramm Member since: Dec 14, 2018
  4. StephenSumner

    StephenSumner UKBF Regular Free Member

    150 43
    You pay for them to be used, not to have direct access to confidential systems that have high commercial value.

    It's all about doing your due diligence in the first place, it the same with anything... kitchens, roofing, boob implants etc etc.
    Posted: Jan 13, 2021 By: StephenSumner Member since: Oct 15, 2016
  5. Aleksander_Gramm

    Aleksander_Gramm UKBF Regular Free Member

    202 17
    In fact, settings of PPC campaigns aren't confidential. Agency's experience, staff, methods have high commercial value but these values outside the ad account. It is another model. Agencies sells the experience of their PPC specialists and process or, we can say expertise and authority.
    In fact, many companies can hire PPC specialists, but these companies want to save some money. So, companies hire agencies which outsource the work to freelancer or agencies from India, Philippines, Ukraine, etc.
    As I wrote above agencies can use some "magic" tricks, but it would be better for a client to know a little bit more about these tricks. Also, agency can use non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
    Posted: Jan 13, 2021 By: Aleksander_Gramm Member since: Dec 14, 2018
  6. SEO Lady

    SEO Lady SEO Freelance Consultant. Domain migration expert. Full Member - Verified Business

    2,098 389
    The amount of times I've taken over from a Digital Agency only to find the Agency has created, and therefore is the owner, of the following accounts are too damn high
    • Google Analytics
    • GMB
    • Google Ads: Access only via email, or no access at all as the agency will simply send reports each month
    • Website admin - This infuriates me. Yes, I totally get CYA honestly I do, but some nice agencies will make the client sign a waiver "If Nina breaks the website then you are liable for costs" then that's fine.
    • Website admin continued: Especially virulent in niche industries, examples include: Dentistry, Therapy, Plumbers and local services. All the websites are the same template and are a monthly payment for hosting and some support. Most times if you want a design element moved or changed, or a HTML block added to the homepage for SEO content, that will be £150 minimum charge please. Plus the hosting is on 12 months, the clueless clients over a barrel want to migrate to me for SEO but are physically unable.
    I've had people crying down to phone to me, begging me to help as they can't afford it. But I can't work for free for 2 weeks trying to untangle the enmeshment and separate the client from the agency. They are over a barrel and whilst some of these clients are happy to pay the premium price tag for the absolute hands-off arrangement, it comes around to bite them in the arse eventually.

    My approach to helping clueless clients used to be a lot more lenient, but I can't dedicate unknown countless days to figure things out only to take on a clueless client who wants their hand holding, SEO explaining to them so they understand and texting you at 6 o clock on a Saturday night because a full stop is missing from a blog article.

    Digital agencies sometimes are the protectors of sole traders, how many times have you taken on a client who turns out to be a stalker, a mini psycopath or is in dire need of anger management?
    Posted: Jan 26, 2021 By: SEO Lady Member since: Aug 28, 2009
  7. Aleksander_Gramm

    Aleksander_Gramm UKBF Regular Free Member

    202 17
    Posted: Jan 26, 2021 By: Aleksander_Gramm Member since: Dec 14, 2018
  8. WolandPetrov

    WolandPetrov UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    8 0
    Isn't it too much to state all these practices are red flags?
    I mean, no doubt, insisting on using their own Pixel instead of a client's one is kind of a dirty move. Although, I bet there are marketers who will argue this but, say, "The agency requires that you pay the ad spend directly to them" isn't something bad. Making paying in advance isn't a problem either if you sign papers with a proven marketing company rather than negotiating it verbally. If you work with a well-known and, again, proven organization you almost fear nothing when it comes to parting.
    Then move to outsource. Since when it is a shady practice? It's a decent way especially for smaller companies that cannot afford to hire a huge staff on payroll. For instance, subscription services like Awesomic are in huge demand among various marketing agencies because having their own designers isn't that convenient and far too expensive for small biz.
    It's just my opinion, I may be not that correct and thus I'll be much obliged if you prove me wrong.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Posted: Mar 12, 2021 By: WolandPetrov Member since: Dec 2, 2020
  9. makeusvisible

    makeusvisible UKBF Ace Full Member - Verified Business

    1,144 270
    Really good list. I always shudder in disbelief when a client joins us and tells us that they don't have their own Google Ads or Facebook Ads account.

    In that scenario, I have two concerns

    1. The client has lost ownership of all the data on which they have spent significant sums.
    2. The client has no idea if the Ad agency has in fact been spending their given ad budget fully.
    Posted: Mar 15, 2021 By: makeusvisible Member since: Jan 23, 2011
  10. Marketing Hub

    Marketing Hub UKBF Contributor Full Member

    35 3
    If they agency is not running ads and doing the marketing for their own business why would you let them waste your money. They need to be the case study
    Posted: Apr 29, 2021 By: Marketing Hub Member since: Apr 29, 2021