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What Is A Digital Agency?

A digital agency combines technical skills with creativity to improve clients' online presence. These agencies typically provide a diverse set of services focused on digital channels such as web design and development, digital marketing management, digital PR and more. 

As such, the term "digital agency" is typically used for the agencies that:

  • Use technical expertise to improve digital marketing and advertising efforts
  • Leverage digital tools and expertise to develop data-based strategies
  • Build digital platforms, such as websites and apps, and even products
  • And more
Digital agency specialists working on a client project
Digital agencies in the US charge about $125-$200+ per hour

What Services Do Digital Agencies Provide?

Most digital agencies offer digital marketing services in addition to:

  • Web design and development including technology consulting, information architecture planning, UX and UI design, development, Q&A, launch and maintenance
  • eCommerce design, development and even marketing to increase the online stores' competitiveness in the crowded marketplace 
  • App design and development, including consulting and marketing to optimize usability, rankings in app marketplace and stickiness
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as both an independent and an integrated service to help brands rank higher in search and generate qualified, organic traffic
  • Specialized digital advertising services including Google ads, Amazon advertising, social media paid advertising and more
  • Email marketing including strategy, list optimization, design and coding, delivery and metrics for leads nurturing and loyalty building
  • And more

Digital Agency vs. Digital Marketing Agency: What's The Difference?

You may hear the terms 'digital agency' and 'digital marketing agency' used interchangeably. But while it is easy to lump the two together, these firms actually offer different services.

Ultimately, a digital marketing agency provides services in, well, the digital marketing realm.

They help businesses promote their brand through campaigns, social media, SEO, content marketing initiatives, PPC, native advertising, and other online marketing operations.

But, as we discussed, digital agencies encompass digital marketing, but they also do more. In addition to offering digital marketing assistance, typical digital agencies provide full-service assistance in other online campaigns outside of marketing, too. This includes:

  • Web design and development
  • App design and development
  • Emerging technology integration
  • And more!

All in all, digital agencies in the USA have experts that span wider areas of business growth and can facilitate strong ROIs in more arenas than a digital marketing agency, which only focuses on marketing.

We've ranked the best SEO agencies.
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How Much Do Digital Agencies Charge For Their Services?

The amount that a digital agency will charge you largely depends on the scope of work you need them to complete. Nonetheless, there are some general figures that you can keep in mind when hiring a full-service digital agency.

First of all, digital agencies in the US can invoice in a few different ways. These include:

  • Hourly rates
  • Per-project
  • Results-based fees
  • Monthly retainers

An hourly rate is the most common way that a digital creative agency will charge a client. Essentially, you will be paying an hourly fee for every person and every hour spent on your account or project.

Typically, United States digital agencies charge about $125-$200+ per hour.
Meanwhile, digital agencies in Eastern Europe can cost between $35-$75 per hour.

Often, per-project invoices are also determined by hourly rates. Digital agencies are simply dividing each project they are working on for you into its own dedicated invoice.

A results-based fee is contingent upon achieving a specific goal, objective or key performance indicator.

And finally, monthly retainers are typically flat fees that allow you to work with digital agencies on more of a consultation basis.

Monthly retainer fees from US-based digital agencies can run from $500 to $5000 or more, depending on the projects you will be working on.

Why Hire A Digital Agency?

Your brand only has seven seconds to make a good first impression. (Forbes)

Your website is the first channel that your audience will probably visit when searching for your services. Therefore, making it visually appealing, easy to load and navigate will instantly improve your brand’s first impression.

The top digital agencies are experts in website design and development. They know what it takes to impress your visitors and increase the dwell time.

Digital agencies: the time brands have to make a good first impression

Mobile phones generate about 50% of the traffic websites get. (Statista)

Your website traffic is increasingly becoming mobile-first. What’s more, an average user spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their smartphones.

To capture this growing, highly engaged market, find an agency that can build responsive websites with an attractive UX.

The number of mobile traffic

One in four US-based internet users blocked ads in 2019 on at least one device where they were connected to the internet. (eMarketer)

In fact, according to the same source, 27.0% of users will use some form of ad blocking in 2021.

While the number of people who want to stop seeing ads online increases, they don't necessarily hate all types of advertisements.

Ads that are not relevant ruin the user experience. They are annoying and intrusive.  

Working with a digital creative agency will allow you to take a smarter approach to developing and launching effective campaigns that convert.

The Top Advantages Of Working With Digital Agency Specialists

Shaking hands with one of the top digital agencies carries certain benefits to your business.
Here are the top three advantages of working with digital specialists:

  • Accessing analytical reports: Online companies use different tools to create different reports. So, working with a digital creative agency will give you access to meaningful data related to your business. These reports will give you an insight into how well your brand is performing and whether the strategies that your partners use work.
  • Targeting high-quality leads: The top digital agencies are experts in target market research. With their help, you can reach the right audience and bring high-quality leads to your website.
  • Following emerging trends: Digital agency specialists are always on the top of the latest trends that are essential in keeping your brand and website up-to-date. They know what technologies to use and how to improve your brand identity and positioning.

These three advantages will allow you to better cope with your competition, increase your conversions and ROI as well.

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How To Choose The Best Digital Agency For Your Business?

Finding a trusted partner who has demonstrated experience in helping businesses grow is essential in delivering you the desired results.

Wondering how to make the right choice? Here are a few factors to help you decide:

Factor #1: Determine Your Own Business Needs

Ultimately, the point of hiring an award-winning full-service digital agency is to fulfill a specific business need.

So, before you even begin searching for a digital agency or setting up pitch meetings, you need to assess your own company goals.

Determine what you want to accomplish, shortlist the platforms that you think will help, and assess your internal manpower. This will help you find the agency that will complement your brand identity and help you achieve your objectives.

Factor #2: Discover Each Digital Agency’s Primary Strengths

Although the best digital agencies have a wide variety of expertise, no one is an expert in everything.

There will always be one or two areas that an agency particularly excels in. Look at their portfolio, case studies and clientele and examine the work that they have done for them.

Plus, a full-service digital agency doesn’t necessarily need experience in your specific industry. More importantly, they need to demonstrate prior experience solving business growth problems that are similar to your objectives.

Factor #3: Understand How They Attain Results

The top digital agencies have high success rates with clients because they place a strong emphasis on a consistent and reliable process.

This process includes a dedicated point of contact, regular meetings, a cohesive team and plenty of internal and external communication.

Factor #4: Create A Fair & Secure Contract

An airtight and comprehensive contract is the most crucial logistical element when forging a partnership with a great digital agency.

Work with your legal department or applicable representative to draft (or oversee) a fair, legally-binding document. It should outline important aspects of your partnership with the agency, such as payment deadlines, deliverables or dispute resolution. 

With a sound contract, you won't have to worry about the technicalities of your partnership with the digital agency. Instead, you'll be able to focus on the creative process and maximizing the value of the agency's work. 

20 Questions To Ask When Interviewing The Top Digital Agencies

Working with a digital creative agency can grow your business and allow you to enjoy success in a shorter time.

However, since top digital agency specialists come in different sizes and shapes, sometimes the search for the right partner may be overwhelming and stressful.

Asking the following questions will save you time in the long-run and help you easily decide which agency you should work with:

Question #1: Where can I see your clients’ reviews?

While trolls are the reality of today’s day and age that no entity is safe from online, most client reviews tend to be detailed and value-packed.

These can tell you more about the agency’s core strengths, their work ethic, people and even give you tips on how to make the most out of your collaboration.

Question #2: Do you have experience of working with clients in my industry?

While most digital agencies tend to build a diverse client portfolio and industry experience, a few choose to specialize in particular verticals.

Companies in sectors such as healthcare, nonprofit and government are generally safer in the hands of industry experts as these have a better understanding of their complex and highly regulated environment(s).

Question #3: How many clients are you currently working with?

It is important to understand how many projects the potential candidates currently manage. If they have an excessive amount of work, they may not be able to dedicate a lot of time to meet your objectives.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid working with large agencies.

Enquiring after their resources and capacities will merely help you get a better understanding of how hands-on you can expect your partner to be.

Question #4: Do you outsource your work?

Some digital agencies in the United States outsource certain projects to designers or developers abroad to achieve a lower cost of services or to compensate for the local talent gap.

Knowing more about the agency’s operational setup will help you understand how various factors like time zone difference, language barriers or cultural differences can affect the success of your partnership and project delivery.

Question #5: How do your digital experts stay up to date with the latest trends?

Asking the potential candidates how they stay in line with current trends will show you whether they are actually aware of the latest changes and opportunities in digital marketing.

And, you will also understand if they will incorporate them in their strategies to fit your unique needs and help you compete better in the market.

Question #6: Do you have any credentials?

Certifications and accreditations can be a good indicator of an agency’s competence in terms of certain practices or tools.

It is quite standard that an SEO agency would have Google AdWords certification or certified experts, for instance.

Question #7: How do you manage your projects?

Project management can be a complicated process. Digital companies cope with different tasks, from planning and executing their strategies to measuring success for a multitude of clients.

So, to be able to deal with deadlines and deliver what they promise on time, they usually count on the help of productivity tools and clearly defined processes that help them stay on track and perform effectively.

Question #8: How often do you communicate with your clients?

The reality is that your budget will usually dictate the communication frequency with your partner. However, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t regularly reply to your emails.

In fact, the contact person would be available at all times during working hours and the company should send you reports on activity and results continuously.

Question #9: What makes a digital campaign successful?

A digital agency can offer various types of services, from digital marketing to development – each of which has its own KPIs and success metrics.

For instance, the success metrics for an SEO campaign are organic sessions, keyword rankings and conversions.

To measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns, on the other hand, you should look at various KPIs like engagement, reach and leads.

Question #10: What is your content development strategy?

This question is only applicable to projects that include content as part of deliverables such as a blog, on-page SEO and web content.

The answer to this question is also important since it will show you how methodical the agency’s approach toward content development is.

Question #11: How will you optimize our content for readers and search engines?

If you have subscribed to SEO services, or if these are an integral part of another service, look for specific steps the agency takes to optimize content and pages.

These steps can include on-page, off-page and technical search optimization.

Question #12: What types of ads do you run?

There are so many different advertising options that digital experts can leverage to strengthen your online presence. However, running paid campaigns means spending extra money.

Your partner should be able to suggest the best options to incorporate to meet your objectives without breaking the bank.

Question #13: How do you get quality backlinks?

This question is relevant if you are thinking of employing the agency’s SEO or, specifically link building, services.

One of the best strategies to improve search engine rankings is having a sufficient number of links of outside domains that point to your website.

However, with the aim to deliver better success to clients, some agencies incorporate black-hat linking techniques that may lead your website to get penalized.

So, make sure the partner you hire focuses on the best practices that will bring you success in the long-term.

Question #14: What social channels should my company have profiles on and why?

Every business should establish a social media presence. However, you should only have accounts on the platforms where your audience is.

The digital agency you hire will make market research and identify who your target group is and which social channels they use. Then it will let you know which of them to prioritize.

Question #15: How do you measure success and which metrics do you track?

Every professional company should track project success. Looking at different metrics like website traffic, SERP rankings and returning visitors not only tell you how well your brand is performing but also how effective the strategies that your partner uses are.

Ensure the digital specialist provides you with meaningful reports, but remember that the right metrics depend on your business goals.

Question #16: Are my expectations realistic?

Sometimes businesses get disappointed by their partners because they set up expectations that are too difficult to achieve or that may take a long time.

To ensure these candidates don’t make promises they won’t be able to keep, simply ask whether your goals are possible to be achieved.

Question #17: How long will it take for my business to see results?

Be aware of digital firms that promise instant results. Branding and marketing efforts are typically based on outbound methodologies which means that it may take some time until you get the desired outcome and return on investment.

Question #18: How do you charge and how much will my project cost?

Every agency has its own ways of charging for their projects. Asking about their pricing structures and the approximate cost will give you an insight into how much you can expect to pay and as well as which of them you can afford.

Question #19: Are there any fees that are not included in the cost?

Posing this question will let you understand how much money you should be able to allocate for extra costs like paid advertisements.

And it will also help you avoid any hidden costs.

To ensure they don’t require an extra amount of money after your project starts, signing a contract would be a good option to consider.

Question #20: Why should I choose you as my partners?

Even the most professional and experienced full-service digital agency may not be the right match for you. Every company is different and your business does not only need experts that are good at what they do, but also specialists that are a good fit.

So, give them the chance to explain why you should consider their services and learn whether they can provide you with a customized plan to help you accomplish your objectives.

Ready To Sign A Contract With A Digital Agency? Here Is One Last Tip To Have In Mind

Did you choose your partner already?

Great, the next thing to do is signing the NDA agreement. Make sure you read everything well and agree to what your agency has provided.

However, if there is anything that you don’t like, don’t hesitate to ask for any adjustments.

After you sign the contract and your project starts, make sure you are always there for your business partners. Be responsive and ask them to include you in the strategies they create for your brand.

What’s more, you should also ask your partner to provide you with monthly analytical reports. That way you will get an insight into how well your brand is improving.

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