How to Hire a Digital Agency

Hiring a Software agency or Marketing agency can be challenging for someone who isn't an industry professional. It's like if you were trying to hire a plumber as a non-plumber. How do you know they're not going to put in the wrong size pipe that will cause a leak and thousands in damage?

In the same way, how do you know an SEO agency is doing their job, what exactly are they doing, and is it actually good for your business?

In this post, I'm going to give you a some quick and easy suggestions to verify the quality of any digital agency before you hire them.

Case Studies:

What is the difference between these two forms of social proof?

Social Proof 1: "Wow John did such a great job!" - Happy Client

Social Proof 2: "Increased Xyz Co's Revenue by 350%" - Happy Client

In the first example, a "great job" is subjective. a pretty website is subjective. If you're running a business, you want to invest in objective things that make you more money. When you're on an agency website, make sure they have case studies of actual clients and links to their website so you can see the results they've given to other clients.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it beats having no indicators at all.

So ask the agency to check out their client websites! Ask for case studies with hard numbers of real results. If they don't have any, ask yourself "Why not?"

Lighthouse Scores:

Lighthouse is a tool inside the Google Chrome Browser. It crawls a web page and evaluates the performance, SEO, and other quality metrics of a page.

Lighthouse is something you can use to evaluate the quality of the work a digital agency is likely to provide for you. Let's take a look at how to use this seo benchmarking tool.

  1. Step 1: Open a Chrome Browser
  2. Step 2: Visit the agency website you may hire, or one of their client's websites. In this example, I'll be visiting Jinny Brook's website:
  3. Step 3: Right-Click and click "inspect" somewhere on the screen (#1 in the image below)
  4. Step 4: Click "Lighthouse" in the Tab menu (#2 in the image below)
  5. Step 5: Click "Analyze Page Load" in the Dev tools Window (#3 in the image below)
Lighthouse Report

After a few moments, Lighthouse will display an overall "score" which you can use to determine the quality of a website's "Core Vitals". It doesn't need to be 100, but it should be in the mid to high 90s.

Lighthouse Score

While Lighthouse scores don't directly impact SEO results, they are a good indicator of how a site is performing.

Search engines want to provide the best user experience possible. How long a user waits for the page to load is a factor in User Experience, meaning it's likely a factor in the ranking algorithms.

Accessibility is also a factor. Search engines do not want to alienate their visually impaired users, so if your site isn't "accessible" to people with disabilities, they're less likely to rank your site.

Let's take a look at the performance section of the lighthouse score:

Lighthouse Performance analysis

Serve Images in next-gen formats: PNG files are heavy because they allow for transparency. JPG is older and less optimized. AVIF and WebP imags are some of the better image formats.

Properly size images: Take a look at the following image:

Target Image size

It's small, only 2.96kb as a jpg. It could be even smaller if I ever take my own advice and use a next-gen format.

This image is exactly the size it needs to be. 60x60px, which was the requirement for the design. If this was a full-width image, it would need more pixels, and the image would be a larger filesize, and it would take longer to load the image.

One full-width image on my site is 341kb at 1920x280 dimensions. I could shrink that image down to 60x60, but it would still take longer to load than my 2.96kb image because the 341kb image is 115x the size.

Improperly sized images are just that. a large image going into a small space, wasting compute resources, taking longer to load, and giving the user a bad experience.

Defer offscreen images: An image halfway down the page that isn't visible to the user does not need to be loaded until the user is about to see the image. If this error shows, it means all the images on the page are loading before the user is able to access the page, whether they are visible or not, giving the user a bad experience.

Eliminate render-blocking resources: Having render-blocking resources is like putting clothes in the washing machine and being forced to wait until the washer goes through its complete cycle before doing anything else.

Don't waste your time sitting there. Do something useful while the washer is going, and come back when it's finished. In a similar way, if this error shows up, it means the site is waiting on something to finish even though the page could be loaded, while that 'something' can finish loading in the background.

Reduce Unused CSS: CSS is code that tells elements how to display themselves. Font colors, image sizes, etc. If this message shows, it means there is CSS being loaded that isn't actually doing anything useful.

There's quite a bit of stuff to do just in the performance section. You can check out the Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO sections on your own. The point is you now have a way to verify the quality of work provided by your potential digital agency of choice.

Digital agencies may not be doing a lot for themselves, since competing against other SEO agencies for SEO related terms is more competitive and harder to succeed at. So if they aren't putting effort in for their own business, at least check out what they're doing for their clients.

Ahref & SEMRush:

There are SEO tools you can use to estimate the amount of traffic a website is getting, which keywords a website is ranking for, and how well your competitors are doing in the SEO realm.

These tools are expensive, and aren't meant to be used long-term. They do, however, have a free or cheap trial long enough for you to vet the quality of someones work. OR, you can ask the seo agency to show you their results, since they're probably using these tools themselves. Better yet, ask to see Google analytics results!

You can use these tools to poke around and see how a digital agency is performing for themselves and their clients. In this video I'll show you how to analyze your competition and verify the quality of a digital agency by using Ahrefs:


This is barely scratching the surface of what digital agencies should be doing for their clients, but I'm often surprised at how many agencies are not doing even the most basic things for themselves or their clients, so please, do your research before you invest your hard earned money into a marketing agency.