Category: seo
Jessica Magyar

7 Tips for Transitioning to a New Agency

If you’ve decided that it’s time to make the move to a new digital agency, then it’s likely the following has also occurred to you: 1) breaking up is hard to do and 2) the transition has a lot of moving parts. How are you communicating the change of direction? Is there a plan in place to ensure campaigns can persist without disruption? And who the heck has all the passwords to the technology platforms? Companies planning for or in the midst of a switch can benefit from these tips to ensure the new agency is able to get up and running as seamlessly as possible, with less downtime for your marketing efforts and more opportunities to improve the process.
  1. Own your tools. From AdWords to Optimizely to everything in between, your company should own the contracts for these solutions, rather than using your agency’s platforms. Should your engagement with an agency come to an end, you do not want to be in the position of fighting for your data, nor do you want to receive it in the form of a bitter Excel dump—the equivalent of finding your precious belongings in a cardboard box in the hall. All too often, clients stay with an agency simply because they are “in too deep.” Owning the contracts will keep you in the power seat.
  2. Be the master key holder. Keep company accounts for your platforms, in addition to enabling individual access. You’ll want to hold the master key. This prevents getting locked out of an account if a key person leaves the organization, and it also makes transitions between agencies less challenging. Let’s face it, no one enjoys asking for their key back (awkward!).
  3. Have a prenup. The best time to form a contingency plan with the new agency is while you’re on great terms and optimistic for the future. Take what you learned from your previous experience—both the good and bad—and draft a plan for what happens if the new partnership doesn’t go as planned. This may include how you want certain elements such as campaigns or automation setup or structured. Lay the groundwork now, while love is in the air.
  4.  Ask for assets and reports. Before the transition is complete, ask your existing agency for any assets, files, images, videos, presentations, or reports that you may want to use for reference. You’ll also want to compile a list of all reports, including:
    • Automated reports and dashboards. Make certain those reports are distributed from an email address in the system that will not be deactivated when the current agency is removed
    • Manual or semi-automated reports/dashboards, including where the numbers/queries are pulled from.
  5. Create a Solution Design Reference. It’s critical to make sure you request any applicable documentation on how your accounts and campaigns are set up, tracking convention(s), tag management solutions, any custom Javascript on your sites and applications, etc. Ideally, a Solution Design Reference would be created during initial implementation that contains all of this information and is updated as needed.
  6. Get context and instructions. Set aside time to have a conversation with your outgoing agency about decisions and customizations that require explanation and instruction. There may be items that are labeled or codified in such a way that deserves an explanation. Find out if the team had a specific way of doing something, such as generating reports or adding segments to emails, or if any workarounds are in place (and why). All of this knowledge will be needed in order to transition smoothly. You don’t want to be stranded six months from now with questions no one can answer.
  7. Share the wish list. When Smart Panda Labs takes over accounts, we always like to know what was on the previous agency’s to-do list for the future. What plans did they have in the pipeline? Were there different technologies under review? Are these still goals that you want to be executed? If the new agency is anything like we are, they will want to keep your dreams alive.
Moving to a new digital marketing agency can seem daunting, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do and
well worth the effort. Whether you feel like your current agency isn’t meeting your needs, or you’re seeking
new expertise and insights, turning the page may be the best way to meet your goals. Keep these tips in
mind to ensure a smoother transition and to set the new team up for success.

Key Takeaways

  • Take what you learned from your previous experience—both the good and bad—and draft a plan for what happens if the new partnership doesn’t go as planned.
  • Before the transition is complete, ask your existing agency for any assets, reports, instructions, or context that you and your new team will need going forward.
  • Create a Solution Design Reference during initial implementation that contains applicable documentation on how your accounts and campaigns are set up.
  • Be the keeper of passwords and contracts. While it’s important that everyone have access to the tools they need, make sure you are the owner of your own data and can never get locked out of your own accounts.
Category: seo
Ravi Chandramouli

Content Edits with GTM? Just Say No.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) makes it easy for marketers to add and update website tags with just a few clicks, and without needing to edit website code. We’ve touted its virtues previously on this blog, including the ease by which it can be learned and launched, and of course, the fact that it’s free.

In some cases, however, the easiest path is the wrong one. The urge to make SEO changes using GTM, for example, is a trend I don’t recommend.

In the Moz blog post How to Implement SEO Changes Using Google Tag Manager, the author points out a common challenge faced by marketers of getting website changes in the development queue—specifically SEO changes. Among other solutions, he suggests using GTM to deliver custom scripting to make these changes, therefore bypassing IT or CMS restrictions.

“Tag managers are mostly used to implement off-the-shelf tags, like Google Analytics or Facebook tracking,” he writes. “A lesser-known functionality is to implement custom HTML snippets (which can include JavaScript code) … This allows us to bypass CMS restrictions and development queues, directly applying changes to things like page titles, canonical tags, and on-page content.” The author goes on to show scripting examples of how to do this with jQuery and GTM.

In the past, GTM hadn’t been considered a reliable way to make SEO changes because Google (and other search engines) couldn’t sufficiently execute JavaScript. Recently, however, there is evidence that such changes are being picked up by Google, including implementation through tag managers.

Unfortunately, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. As a technical lead, I can tell you that using a tag manager for SEO testing and content edits is very a bad practice for high traffic sites. I have witnessed firsthand how these kinds of workarounds—particularly how injecting “code” without testing it through the software development life cycle—can go terribly wrong.

Let’s consider for a moment a new site launch. The backlog for defects is a mile long until someone on the marketing team realizes they can inject scripting to the site to make a content edit with jQuery. Marketing makes that change and heads home for the weekend. Little did they know that the IT team was preparing a deployment for a critical error defect to go live that night. When IT did their release, a conflict in code on the UI ended up breaking the login screen. The IT team couldn’t find the error in their code and had to keep the site down through the weekend until it was learned that another team injected the conflicting code and the edit was rolled back.

Yeah, that happened.

Less debilitating but still problematic, adding more JavaScript and DOM manipulation can slow down page load time. Even Google’s own John Mueller doesn’t recommend using Google Tag Manager for SEO purposes. “Getting SEO reasonably right is hard enough without adding a layer of unpredictability on top,” he explained.

A Better Solution for Implementing Changes: Transparency

As in the rest of life, most problems are rooted in a lack of communication. Instead of fighting the process, try working with it. Most IT departments are open to hearing why a change is important and discussing how to best implement it. If you or a colleague wants to run a test through Optimizely, let IT and other parties who manage the site know what’s going on. All stakeholders in site management and development should have an understanding of the 3rd party tools and how they are integrated. Maybe consider creating a message board where tests can be posted, including whom to contact if anything goes wrong.

Even changing something as simple as a page title can start to cause a ripple effect of confusion. When someone starts circumventing the process, it becomes impossible for backend developers to know where changes are being made. Instead of making surface-level changes in Google Tag Manager, talk with the CMS or content team first; ask whether they can place components or tag changes inside the CMS right from the start.

Transparency, in other words, is the key.

While I’ve advocated here for marketing departments to understand the software development life cycle, equally important is helping the IT department understand the importance of speed to market as well as how marketing tools can help free up their time and resources, so they can focus on higher priority tickets.

Instead of band-aiding the site with quick fixes, aim for a joint understanding of website responsibilities and coordination. Your site and all the teams involved will be better for it.

Key Takeaways

  • Using a tag manager for SEO testing and content edits is not a best practice and can wreak havoc on high traffic sites
  • Even changing something as simple as a page title can start to cause a ripple effect of confusion. When someone starts circumventing the process, it becomes impossible for backend developers to know where changes are being made
  • Adding more JavaScript and DOM manipulation can slow down page load time
  • Instead of fighting the process, try working with it— most IT departments are open to hearing why a change is important and discussing how to best implement it
  • Instead of band-aiding the site with quick fixes, aim for a joint understanding of website responsibilities and coordination