Digital Marketing Agencies, Explained: What They Are, What They Do, And How To Find The One For You

what does a digital marketing agency do

We live in an online world, where consumers around the globe spend over $4 trillion on goods and services annually via the internet. From their initial research to their final purchase, consumers are turning to Google, YouTube, and other online resources for every possible commerce consideration. Even pre-pandemic, over half of shoppers used Google to research a potential online purchase.

All credible forecasts indicate that online shopping of both products and services will only increase in the coming years. Businesses of every size and stripe know this, and understand that digital marketingthe pursuit of sales and leads online—can help grow, if not outright transform their business.

Few companies have the in-house resources to strategize, design, execute, and monitor successful digital marketing campaigns themselves. That’s why effective business leaders turn to digital marketing experts, and digital marketing agencies, to pursue their digital marketing efforts.

But what exactly does a digital marketing agency do, and more importantly, what can they do for your business?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the complex field of digital marketing agency offerings, and help you determine what kind of partnership will serve your business best.

What do digital marketing agencies do?

Seth Godin, one of the world’s foremost marketing experts, says that the mission of the marketer is “to engage with people and help them create the change they seek.”

They need to practice “the empathy to imagine what someone else would want, what they might believe, [and] what story would resonate with them.”

Good marketing is good storytelling. And digital marketing agencies help clients (like you) tell great stories using the vast online resources at their disposal. These can include:

  • Digital advertising (pay-per-click, Facebook ads)
  • Content marketing (blog posts, eBooks, white papers)
  • Email marketing (a special offer to new customers sent via email)
  • Search engine optimization or “SEO” (on-page keyword optimization, backlink audit)
  • Social media marketing (social media account management, community outreach)
  • Video marketing (YouTube pre-roll ads)
  • Mobile marketing (in-app ads)
  • Web design and development (mobile-friendly web design, expert UX)

Of course, digital marketing agencies are much more than the tactics they use.

Effective digital marketing agencies do what few business leaders have time for: they keep up with the latest marketing trends, the newest features, and the most promising case studies across platforms. Crucially, they also pair their expertise with deep experience that only comes from running successful campaigns themselves.

All the while, the agency needs to clearly communicate with you, the client, providing frequent updates, actionable insights, and transparent reporting.

The Seven Major Types of Digital Marketing Agency

As you probably guessed, providing all digital marketing services is no cakewalk. Rather than offer everything, many agencies choose to specialize in particular areas of the digital marketing landscape.

Depending on your business, you may find that a speciality digital marketing agency makes more sense to help you reach customers at scale and within budget. With that in mind, here are the seven primary types of digital advertising agency you should consider.

1. Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency (DMA)

what does a digital marketing agency do

True to their name, full-service digital marketing agencies can provide you with a complete package of digital marketing and advertising services. Rather than specializing in an area like social media marketing or pay-per-click (PPC), they are prepared to handle all things digital marketing for you. They might even offer “traditional” marketing services as well, like print advertising or media buying.

Full-services DMAs offer you a one-stop shop for anything from web design, to social media marketing, to PPC advertising.

2. Digital Marketing Agency (DMA)

what do digital marketing agencies do

Not all DMAs are full-service. Many DMAs specialize in certain services, while excluding others.

For example, a DMA might offer social media marketing, search advertising, and email marketing, but not handle SEO or web design (they will likely have trusted partners in these areas to whom they will refer you as needed).

3. Inbound Marketing Agency

digital marketing agency content marketing

In marketing speak, “inbound” refers to content that prospect customers seek out on their own: blog posts, eBooks, white papers, webinars, and more.

Inbound marketing tends to be educational, informative, and thoughtfully tailored to your audience’s needs and considerations. If you found this blog post via Google search and later became a Mediakix client, then it functioned as an effective inbound marketing asset (you’re welcome).

Some agencies specialize just in inbound marketing. And while inbound marketing might not be feasible for your business or budget, it can be a highly profitable marketing investment over the long-term.

4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Agency

digital marketing agencies

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about ranking among the top results for popular, relevant search terms pertaining to your business and sales funnel.

SEO agencies make this aim their bread and butter, with the expertise, experience and tools to yield results over time (often in combination with inbound marketing efforts).

There are many facets to SEO, including on-site and offsite optimization, keyword research and tracking, and backlink management.

Above all, trust is particularly important in selecting an SEO agency. While all digital marketing carries some inherent risk—an investment that doesn’t pay off, a Facebook ad account suspension, etc.—you want to be certain your SEO partners aren’t putting you at risk of being “penalized” by Google due to exploitative tactics.

5. Digital Ad Agency

digital marketing agency example

The advertising arm of digital marketing is enormous and growing: in 2020 alone, businesses spent over $350 billion on digital advertising.

Digital ad agencies create, manage, optimize, and report on digital advertising campaigns. Major platforms like Google (which also owns YouTube), Facebook (which also owns Instagram), and LinkedIn currently garner the majority of ad spend. Generally speaking, these platforms offer powerfully precise targeting that previous generations of advertisers could only dream about.

Specialization within digital advertising is also common: certain agencies focus entirely on Facebook ads, while others concentrate just on Google search ads, etc.

6. Social Media Agency

digital marketing agency types

Many businesses find that maintaining a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter is highly advantageous for reaching customers and prospects. Moreover, an active social media presence can complement an effective social media advertising campaign.

Social media marketing agencies typically manage a client’s social media accounts, conceive and create content, strategize campaigns, and cultivate community on these platforms.

Effective social media marketing campaigns might also make use of the significant and growing role of influencers online (at Mediakix, we know a thing or two about this). Influencer marketing enables brands to leverage the authority and trust that influencers have cultivated, which can generate effective groundswell for a product or service.

2. Web Design Agency

digital marketing agencies web design development

If your business operates online in any meaningful way, it’s practically a requirement to have a website. But whether that website converts prospects, reads easily on a smartphone, or loads quickly depends on web design and development.

A good web design agency is dedicated not just to great web design, but a great user experience (UX): the ease with which a prospect finds what they’re looking for, and takes the action they want to take on your site, across different devices (desktop, smartphone, etc.).

Web design agencies often provide web development resources as well: coding the website, handling the site’s hosting, and generally working to provide the fastest, most secure browsing experience possible.

Choosing The Right Digital Marketing Agency (For You)

Hopefully, you are beginning to get a sense of the kind of digital marketing agency that would best serve your business goals.

While there is no formula for finding your “dream” agency, we recommend you start by asking around with trusted partners in your industry. Who have they work with? Who do they still work with? Who is reliable? Who follows through?

Once you have an agency or two in your sights, consider the following questions to help you determine whether they are the agency for your business.

What’s your pricing structure?

It’s best to cover this early. If an agency’s fees don’t match your budget, you’re both having the wrong conversation.

What recent successes have you had either in our industry, or with a business like ours?

Generally speaking, you want your agency partner to be replicating recent successes, not using your business to pilot an untested marketing strategy, or rehashing an outdated strategy. Ideally, they might even have case studies showcasing these recent successes.

What can we expect over the first 30, 60, and 90 days of the partnership?

You want clarity on what kind of results you can expect, and by when. Even if expectations change once underway, their answer can help level set across both organizations, and will help you benchmark how things are going.

How, and how often will you be communicating with us?

Agencies aren’t successful in a vacuum. Every effective agency partnership is a two-way street in which each side provides what the other needs in a timely, reliable fashion.
Good agencies are good communicators: available within reason, clear in their expectations and requests, and maybe even a little bit of fun to work with!

How do you measure results? What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you use to measure success?

Many marketers—and marketing agencies—struggle to make sense of the volume of data generated by a typical campaign. Great agencies can find the signal in the noise, tie the data to your business goals, and speak coherently through the alphabet soup of marketing analytics (CPC, ROAS, SQL, UTM, etc.).

What specialty tools or software will you use to run and measure our campaign(s)?

Good tools don’t make a good marketer, but good marketers have invested in sophisticated tools to optimize each campaign.
If their eyes glaze over at this question, it might be time to talk to another agency.

What is your ideal client partner? How does our contract compare with your other clients?

Good agencies have a stable of long-standing clients, and can’t give you 100% of their attention all the time. This is a good sign, suggesting that they are both successful at what they do, and a partner you can count on long-term.
Additionally, if the agency caters to your industry or to businesses around your size, you stand a better chance of getting the experience they promise you. Conversely, if you run a mom and pop shop and they mostly serve enterprise clients, you should seriously question whether they will prioritize your campaign.

How To Successfully Collaborate With A Digital Marketing Agency

Hopefully, you now possess a clear sense of your digital marketing agency options, and feel empowered to evaluate whether any given agency would make a good partner for your business.

At Mediakix, we believe that the best digital marketing agency partnerships happen over time, as the agency meshes with your company culture, and gets to know your audience well. With some luck, the results they yield for your business can be felt throughout your organization, leading to healthy growth for both parties.

In fact, the right digital marketing agency partnership can even be transformative for your business.

Good luck out there.