How to Spot Digital Marketing Malpractice

When you start working with a marketing company, you are giving another group of people your life’s work. It’s an intensely personal process that can call your business goals into question. It’s also uncomfortable, difficult, and will help you grow your business in the best way possible.

Each marketing company you work with should want to leave a positive mark on your business. So how do you spot the companies that just want to take your money and run?

General Marketing Malpractice

If your marketing company is anything less than transparent about their processes, you have a problem.

Your marketing team should spend time educating you on what they do. At some point, you should have a strong idea of the metrics of success for your marketing campaigns. Those metrics, along with real education, should also give you a strong picture of when they’re succeeding and when they’re failing. When your marketers are failing, they should respond honestly and give you understandable solutions on how to fix it.

Many marketing teams also don’t disclose “training” accounts. Your team might have hired a new person, and they’ve decided to train her by using your account. This isn’t inherently bad; the new marketer could be a godsend for your business. But, your team should be transparent about their new hire as they take over the account. They should then give you actionable items that make sure your account won’t go into sudden decline.

Be wary of anyone giving you marketing services for an unusually low price. You should ask around about pricing for marketing efforts. The lower the price, the less personalization you get. If the price is low, you’re more than likely getting a pre-built template. Ideally, you should get a custom solution that maximizes your success. But not everyone is looking for a customized solution and may just need something to get your marketing efforts rolling. In this case, a templated solution may be best for you.

Within each silo in the digital marketing field, there also come unique marketing malpractice steps. Here are 21 questions you should be asking your digital marketing team.

SEO Marketing Malpractice

    1. How do former clients speak about them? — Ask for references of former clients from your prospective marketing company. If the former clients don’t speak highly of them, reconsider using them. A marketing company should have a smooth transition from their services to another vendor. This means they gave their former client everything, including assets, providing data and passwords, and any other elements of their campaign.
    2. Does the contract seem long? — If the contract is for a year or more, you may have a problem. Initial contracts should be about 90 days. After that, they should renegotiate with you for a reasonable length. Anything that’s a year or more could trap you with a company that provides less than desirable results.
    3. Do they speak at events?

— Doing a quick Google search of people at your prospective marketing company should tell you if they’re speaking at events. This shows that your team is actively working to push the industry further. They’ll be bringing that same level of innovation to your account.

  1. Do they want to look at your AdWords? — A good SEO should wonder what is making you money. By looking at active AdWords campaigns, they can craft a strategy to help improve visibility for your money-making service.
  2. What is their plan for off-page? — Also known as link building. Off-page SEO is a critical metric towards boosting your business’s visibility by placing it on other key websites. Without an ongoing off-page strategy, your company’s online presence will stagnate.

PPC Marketing Malpractice

  1. Are they using a tool? — Your best PPC teams will not use tools outside of custom scripts for AdWords.
  2. Is your team testing ad copy? — If they’re not testing, they’re not working on messaging. The right messaging drives the best sales for your business.
  3. What is their most complex campaign? — If they’re unwilling to give you numbers, details, and expertise on their most complex campaign, then your prospective company might be trying to sell services that they can’t provide.
  4. Are they transparent about their paid media fees? — Some PPC services will host your campaign under their own account. This means they could be funneling cash through themselves and not your account. Your PPC account should be owned by you and operated by them.
  5. What is their training process for PPC? — The more rigorous the training, the better your PPC services will be.
  6. Are they asking you questions that prove a proactive strategy on your account? – Your PPC team should rarely be asking for your input on advertising direction. They should be proactive on your account.
  7. Are they asking what you do with leads once you get them? – If you have 10 people sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, but your marketing team is sending form fills, then they are not connecting with your needs. Your marketing team should create strategies based on how you close leads.

Social Media Marketing Malpractice

  1. What kinds of Costs per Impressions/Costs per Clicks have they dealt with? — They should show experience with an account of your size. If they don’t, or are unwilling to be transparent about it, you have a problem.
  2. What are smallest/largest budgets they’ve managed? — Transparency about budgets can help you decide if they have the expertise to handle your account.
  3. What platforms have you worked with and when? — Social media marketing changes a lot. Make sure they have worked on the platforms that generate you the most business (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.). Make sure they have worked on them recently. If their last experience in social media marketing was in 2016,
    they’re completely out of the loop.
  4. Are they sending your audience to your website? — The goal of a social media campaign is the same as any other marketing campaign – generate business. Make sure your team is using social media to drive real KPIs. And, if your audience hasn’t converted the first time, make sure your team is using remarketing to convert them later.
  5. Are they tracking vanity metrics? — Likes and impressions don’t help much in the social media algorithms. Clicks and shares do help boost visibility, which can boost sales.
  6. How are they using social media for you? — Are they using social to enhance your marketing campaign? If they aren’t giving you sales and visibility, reconsider your partnership.

The Absolute Dealbreakers

How many clients do they have? — If a digital marketing company of 15 people is bragging that they have 60 clients, that is a red flag. The more clients a company has, the less attention you will get. You will get a templated approach to your business, which doesn’t have customized solutions that help drive goal conversions. Conversely, if they have 1 or 2 clients, that could show a novice level approach. If a client has between 10-15 clients, that should be a sign of a quality company.

What do your marketers do for fun? — Do they have marketing-related side hustles? Do their post-work activities reflect a dedication to marketing? You ultimately want to work with a team where marketing isn’t just a job—it’s a lifestyle.

Are they using their marketing superpowers for good? — If your marketing team’s efforts seem intrusive, violating a possible client’s privacy just so they can get a sale, then you run the risk of alienating all of your clients. Marketing companies only give people honestly valuable information. If the information is not useful, then it won’t convert. A digital marketing company should not go around trying to over aggressively close that sale. They should work on improving the message and be transparent about those improvements.


Do you think we missed some marketing malpractice questions? Need more clarification? Reach out to Apogee Results so we can help educate you on what to expect from a quality marketing team.