Tom Shurville
Tom Shurville Managing Director

How to give constructive feedback to your search marketing agency

Tom Shurville
Tom Shurville Managing Director

Good communication is essential to build a healthy client/agency relationship and providing constructive feedback on strategy and deliverables is key to achieving this.

We like to engage our clients throughout any activity or project we are working on and we recognise that differences in opinion are a natural part of the process.

By following a few simple principles you can provide feedback which is actionable and leads to effective solutions, whether across landing page design, ad copy messaging or the tone of a blog post.

Consider what works

When reviewing a piece of work, we’d recommend that you spend some time considering what works well, plus how it could be improved:

  • What do you feel has worked well and why? 
  • Can any of the work be used as it is?

While it may seem beneficial to focus on areas or elements that you feel aren’t working, it’s often useful to start by evaluating the overall positive impact before focusing on particular areas that require further improvement.

Narrow the focus and be specific

General language and absolutes are difficult to action. Similarly, feedback based on a purely emotive response of ‘I simply don’t like it’ is a difficult foundation to work from.

The following feedback is concise and actionable:  

‘The concluding paragraph doesn’t wrap up in a coherent way. Can we summarise the blog by including mentions of our 5 main products and how they help our clients?’

This example is ambiguous and open to interpretation:

‘I’m not sure what the copy is about. It just doesn’t sound right.’

Take a look below for some practical tips which will help you provide effective feedback to your agency:

1. Ask why

The motivations behind an agency’s decisions are often connected to search marketing best practice or years of experience driving successful campaigns.

Taking an open minded approach to the intent behind your agency’s approach and listening to the expertise offered may uncover benefits that you hadn’t thought of.

Ask your agency to explain why decisions have been made before requesting that they make changes. Open communication can lead to new perspectives and collaborative working.

2. Be objective

As experts in our field, we take pride in our work and we strive to meet your requirements.

Keeping any critique focused on the work produced ensures it will be well received and frames conversations to be solution-oriented.

Compare and contrast the following:

Approach 1: ‘You used the wrong colours in the landing page.’

Approach 2: ‘The colours used in the landing page don’t match our branding guidelines.’

The second turn of phrase is most likely to elicit the most positive reaction.

3. Be as specific as possible

Identify the exact qualities you find problematic and narrow the focus to where this is an issue, for example:

  • This blog title suggestion concerns industry guidelines which aren’t relevant to our particular service anymore
  • The CTA button text is too ‘salesy’/pushy in its tone
  • We’d like the copy to be more persuasive, particularly in the opening paragraph

4. Provide reasons

Explain why you find particular items problematic:

  • Does it go against brand?
  • Is it inconsistent with the tone/style/imagery used elsewhere?
  • Is it technically inaccurate? e.g. misrepresenting what you offer as a company
  • Does it contradict your business objectives?

If we understand the reasons behind your concerns, we can potentially resolve the issue by offering alternative and more effective solutions.

5. Offer actionable suggestions/directions

While you may not know how to achieve the goal you have in mind, offering suggestions can help clarify your intent.

If you do know what you want, try to provide clear directions which can be implemented, such as:

  • Can we tailor some ads around these particular keywords?
  • Can we remove phrase X that appears in paragraphs 1,4 and 5?
  • Service X isn’t a main business driver. Where we mention it in the copy, can we replace it with Y?
  • When we talk about X in the industry, we actually say Y. Can we adapt the phrasing to reflect this?

Wherever possible, it’s helpful to provide feedback in writing. We use G Suite, which allows for real-time updates to online documentation, making the feedback cycle that much quicker and more collaborative.

Putting feedback down in writing also encourages you to clearly outline the specific issues you want addressed.

If you’re experiencing difficulties pinpointing exactly what it is that you aren’t keen on, then it is sometimes worth looking for alternative examples which have achieved the results you’re after.

This can help you re-frame what you don’t like about the work you’re reviewing.

If you still can’t quite verbalise your criticisms, then we’d encourage you to pick up the phone and talk to your account manager.

Sometimes, a discussion with someone who understands your account can help you clarify your own thinking. We want to work with you to find the solutions you are happy with.

The feedback and sign off process is integral to successful search marketing campaigns. If you want to see your review comments actioned swiftly and smoothly then it’s crucial to work with your agency to maintain transparent and effective communication by providing clear, concise and specific feedback.

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