5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Digital Agency

There are countless warnings on which mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency, but many still fall victim to the idea of overnight success. The Harvard Business Review reported that companies outsource 32% of its digital marketing activities to digital agencies. It underscores the importance of choosing the right partner because of the damage it can do to your company. Otherwise, you could end up falling behind your competitors, shrinking your market share in the process.

1. They Have a Questionable Reputation

A company’s online reviews can be a telling indicator of their quality of service. Coming across a pattern of negative reviews and unresolved complaints can be a sign of poor customer service, lack of expertise, or even unethical practices. If an agency has a history of not delivering on promises or not communicating effectively with clients, it’s likely that they will do the same with your business. This can lead to wasted time, money, and resources, as well as a lack of progress towards your marketing goals.

Additionally, digital agency red flags like a poor reputation indicate a weak relationship with key industry players, such as major search engines, social media platforms, and advertising networks. These relationships are essential for securing favorable terms, priority support, and early access to new features and tools. Without these connections, your agency may struggle to deliver the best results for your business. More importantly, a negative reputation can be a sign of deeper issues within the agency, like poor management, lack of accountability, or a toxic work culture.

These problems can manifest in the quality of work delivered to clients, leading to subpar results and wasted resources. It’s important to trust your instincts. If something appears like digital agency red flags or you have concerns about their reputation, it’s better to err on the side of caution and look for a different partner. The cost of working with an agency with a poor reputation can be far greater than the potential savings or short-term gains.

2. They Only Use Informal Communication Channels

One of the mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency is overlooking their communication method. When you make important discussions and decisions via text or social media, the lack of proper documentation makes it difficult to refer back to agreements or track progress. This can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and potential legal issues down the line. Meanwhile, email and phone calls create a paper trail that you can use as a reference as needed.


Agencies that prefer communicating on informal channels may also struggle to keep you informed, coordinate their efforts, and deliver results in a timely manner. This leads to missed opportunities, wasted resources, and ultimately, a poor ROI for your business. Moreover, social media and text messages are often vulnerable to data breaches through accessing personal devices and are easier for people to hack into than secure email servers. It becomes more concerning when your business involves sharing sensitive business information or client data.

3. They’re Too Reliant on Outsourced or Automated Services

A reputable digital marketing agency should have an in-house team of skilled professionals who are dedicated to your account. Beware of agencies that outsource their work or rely heavily on automated tools, as this can lead to subpar results and a lack of personalization.

There are several mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency. One of which is disregarding the agency’s team structure and how it affects the quality of service. Outsourcing work or relying heavily on automated tools leads to subpar results, which can negatively impact your business. Outsourced work often involves multiple layers of management, leading to delays and miscommunication. This results in a lack of accountability and a sense of detachment from your marketing efforts.

Agencies that are over reliant on automated tools may struggle to provide the same level of customization and flexibility. Although automated tools are useful for routine tasks, it often lacks the human touch and creativity that an in-house team can bring to the table. When an agency has a dedicated team working on your account, they can develop a more nuanced understanding of your business and tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. This targeted approach can lead to more effective marketing campaigns and better ROI.

Relying on automated tools without proper oversight can be prone to errors and inaccuracies in digital marketing campaigns. For example, an automated tool might incorrectly categorize website traffic, resulting in misinformed marketing decisions. This can be problematic when the agency has inadequate resources to detect and correct these errors, leading to wasted marketing budget and poor campaign outcomes. Automated tools are also incapable of adapting to changing market conditions or customer needs, leading to a lack of flexibility in marketing strategies.


Worse, automated tools are prone to technical issues, such as server downtime or data corruption. These technical issues cause significant disruptions to marketing campaigns, leading to lost revenue and damaged brand reputation. In fact, Entech reported that 48% of companies experience tech-performance issues daily, costing small businesses up to $9,000 per hour of downtime. If your customers encounter a malfunctioning website or undelivered emails, they may lose trust in your brand and be less likely to engage with you in the future. This can have long-lasting effects on your business, as it’s difficult to regain lost trust and rebuild your online reputation.

4. They Use Outdated or Unethical Practices

Some mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency are working with someone that uses outdated marketing strategies. This leads to a lack of engagement, poor brand reputation, and eventually, a decline in sales. For example, using social media platforms that are no longer popular or using advertising formats that are no longer effective can cause low click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates. As the agency’s campaigns continue to underperform, they might resort to unethical practices out of desperation, such as:

  • Keyword stuffing: It involves overloading a webpage with irrelevant keywords to manipulate search engine rankings. While it may seem like a shortcut to boost visibility, it offers poor user experience and can actually harm your business in the long run. Search engines like Google have become increasingly sophisticated in detecting keyword stuffing. If search engines identify this practice on your website, it may penalize your websites with lower rankings or even your website removal from search results. This makes it harder for potential customers to find your business.
  • Fake reviews: A competitor or the agency itself creates fake reviews to manipulate public opinion. It may include detailed descriptions, specific dates, and even photos, to appear authentic. But a closer inspection usually reveals inconsistencies like an unusual number of positive reviews in a short period. Engaging in this practice puts your business at risk. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against several companies for engaging in deceptive marketing practices, including the use of fake reviews, which resulted in significant fines and legal penalties.

  • Cloaking: Cloaking involves hiding a webpage’s true content from search engines while displaying a different version to users to manipulate search engine rankings, deceive users, or even to hide malicious content like malware and phishing scams. This puts users at risk of having their personal information stolen or their devices infected with malware. This comes with severe potential legal implications. In some cases, some legal professionals consider cloaking as fraud or deception, resulting in huge financial loss and damage to the agency’s reputation that can extend to yours.
  • Duplicate content: Duplicate content refers to identical or near-identical content that appears on multiple web pages, either on your own site or across different domains. In a Ravel Tools study, it estimated that duplicate content accounts for up to 29% of all content on the web. When search engines like Google encounter duplicate content, they have to decide which version is the most relevant and it should rank higher in the search results. Duplicate content dilutes the authority and relevance of your website. Search engines that encounter multiple versions of the same content interpret it as low-quality or spammy, which can negatively impact your website’s reputation and deter potential customers from considering your business.

  • Link farming: One of the worst mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency is working with someone that has a network of low-quality websites to link back to your main website. It’s a form of link manipulation that artificially inflates the number of backlinks to your site. Customers who discover that you’re engaging with link farming to boost your website rankings may lose faith in your brand and choose to take their business elsewhere. You also lose credibility in the eyes of other businesses and industry professionals, so you’ll miss out on partnerships that could contribute to your overall business growth.

5. They Have Unclear Pricing and Contract Terms

The most common mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency usually involve their pricing and contract terms. Look out for hidden fees, long-term commitments, or vague language that could leave you vulnerable. Hidden fees, unclear commitments, or ambiguous language in the contract can expose your business to unexpected costs that can strain your budget. While long-term commitments limit your flexibility and hold you back from adapting to changing business needs, potentially putting your business at a competitive disadvantage. These digital agency red flags can include convincing you to sign a three-year contract. When your business suddenly experiences a significant downturn, you’re stuck with a contract that is no longer financially viable, significantly draining your budget that could even lead to bankruptcy.


Vague language in contracts can also be a major issue because it causes misunderstandings and disputes between you and the agency, which is expensive and time-consuming to resolve. Ambiguous language in contracts is an integral part of digital marketing red flags because it also creates loopholes that the agency can exploit at your expense. Vague terms regarding deliverables or timelines could allow the agency to deliver subpar work or extend project timelines without consequences.

Understanding Which Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Digital Agency Will Save Your Business

Use of informal communication channels, unclear pricing and contract terms, unethical and outdated practices, reliance on automated services and outsourcing, and questionable reputation are just some mistakes to avoid when hiring a digital agency. Doing so saves your business from disastrous results like wasted marketing budgets, lost sales opportunities, and damaged brand reputation that could easily cost you thousands of dollars. It also maintains a positive relationship with your customers. It’s because you can offer better consumder experiences, such as faster website loading times or more relevant content.

Digital Trek is a full-service digital agency helping businesses like yours achieve online success. Our experienced team can help you create and manage effective marketing campaigns that drive conversions and revenue. With our expertise, your business is in good hands. Contact us and get a free quote!

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