Canadian geek in Myanmar

Category: SEO

My new test for evaluating a digital agency

During my days at EA I used to get agencies reaching out to me on a weekly basis to ask for meetings where they could pitch their expertise.

One of the first questions I used to ask was, what’s your Twitter handle? It was amazing to me how many of these digital shops didn’t have their own Twitter accounts but claimed they could grow my considerable communities exponentially. There was one notable meeting where a social media agency was claiming they could get me up to 5k followers (!), ignoring the fact that I already had over 60k followers by that point. Clearly they did their homework 🙂

For those of us who build product, it’s called eating your own dogfood. Meaning you do what you want to charge others for, which these agencies clearly were not doing. They were dismissed out of hand.

Nowadays, Twitter is much more common and isn’t much of a test so I’ve got a new one. In two minutes you can see if your digital agency/partner knows what they are doing or if they are full of hooey.

Mobile site
This seems like such a no brainer. Everyone in the world has been talking about the importance of mobile for a number of years now. Everyone knows you need a mobile strategy and everyone is scrambling to create apps and have a mobile presence. And yet, it seems to me like everyone in Vietnam is ignoring the lowest hanging fruit. Your mobile website.

I did a quick search of the biggest ‘digital agencies’ in Vietnam and not one of them has a site that is mobile friendly! One of my favorite digital agencies from my EA days is Check out their site from a mobile browser and you will see that it’s streamlined for this platform. Now take a moment to look at the mobile site of whatever partner you are trusting with your digital campaign. See?

Forget apps for now
There’s been a lot of discussions and arguments in whether or not you need to build a native app. While I think every company is different and needs to decide that based on a deeper analysis of the business, there’s absolutely no reason why your current website isn’t mobile friendly. If the site is built properly in the first place (from the back end) then it’s a minor investment to make sure that your site is rendering properly on a mobile browser. And I don’t just mean that the site loads. Make sure that the links and navigation are clickable, the content is readable and site is easy to navigate.

Check your stats
If you have an analytics tool like Google Analytics, you can quickly check to see how much of your traffic is and was coming from a mobile browser. I would place money that the trend is swinging upwards, and rather rapidly. This is the right investment! Stop distracting yourself with whether it not you need an app yet.

Controlled customer journey
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about mobile sites is that, unlike an app, you can manage the consumer real time, the same way you would with your website. Hell, you can mostly use the same tools to ensure optimization!

It’s time to start asking yourself if you are making the right investments in your online marketing initiatives…and if you have the right partners to take you into the new digital era.

What’s missing from Vietnam’s online marketing scene?

I recently read a couple of articles specific to online marketing in Vietnam. Links are below for your reference. I don’t know that I agree with everything in these articles but I think that Chandler Nguyen has some good points (not so sure I buy into all that Digiwave was trying to sell though). However, as I read through these blogs, there’s a couple of glaring omissions that I see.

The first is that Vietnam is trying to jump whole hog into this online marketing and social media game but most here haven’t learned the fundamentals yet. It’s like trying to run before you have learned to walk.

Most Vietnamese websites are a hot mess. There are blinking banners taking up every conceivable space, lots of stars and flashy lights, fonts are the same size and bolded throughout and not a deep link to be found. My eyeballs are usually spinning in their sockets before the whole page even has a chance to load. Even worse, I can usually find 2 or 3 navigations and rarely are they planned with SEO in mind. Some sites now throw a “share this page on FB” links at the bottom of their page but I’m not exactly sure what they are trying to accomplish with those links. Please don’t tell me someone has convinced them that this will cover them for link sharing!

SEO is not synonymous with PPC. Meaning you can’t just buy a bunch of terms on Google then think your job is done. SEO planning happens before you even start building your site or microsite. If you’re doing your job right then it should be forming a whole lot of the tags, copy, navigation and content of your site. Even better, use PPC to test your key search terms. Since natural SEO takes some time to get right, a quick and dirty PPC buy will help you to find the right terms and phrases to use.

Iteration seems to be a dirty word. The power of online marketing is the ability to do quick iteration and rapid deployment. So why is it that no one seems to have heard of multi-variate testing? Yeah, I know everyone’s trying to measure their stats these days but so what? (side note: I’ve had to two people excitedly tell me about some new start up building a listening platform, thinking it was the hottest new thing around as opposed to sooooo five years ago). You’ve captured a bunch of numbers from uniques to bounce and time spent…now what? I think this is the point where some poor coordinator/assistant has to create a huge ugly spreadsheet that has a bunch of numbers but doesn’t tell anyone squat. And besides, the report is coming too late to do a damn thing with your current campaign. If you’re lucky, you’ll take key learnings to the next campaign. Maybe.

But I’ve just mentioned that online marketing allows for rapid deployment and quick iteration. So, if you have built your sites properly in the first place, you can test two or ten different calls to a action, 5 different nav items and 20 different promos to see what people like. You can even see if Hanoians like the same things as the Saigonese. Even better, do specific links/promos drive more purchase intent and track to full conversion? And then as you start to review what’s working and what’s not, you can narrow down or change your CTA’s, promos, etc on the fly. And there’s so much more that can be tested and optimized real time…Oh, I could geek out about this all day!

I’ve focused this blog on websites but same basic principles apply for mobile web. Apps are a bit different and I’ll write something about what I see missing from Vietnam’s social media scene at some point. In the meantime, here are the blogs I referenced above.