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10 Best Digital Marketing Agencies in San Diego. Did you make the cut? | SplashU

The Top 10 Digital Marketing Agencies

  |   Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media, SplashZone   |   16 Comments

in San Diego.

Based on their ability to “drink their own Kool-Aid” and market themselves online.

 

Note: This blog post is in the process of being updated for 2017. Expected release date of new article is February 15, 2017.

When I started my agency, there were two things I knew about the state of digital marketing agencies:

The first is that there are a lot of bad agencies out there ruining what it means to be in this business. Many agencies are using underhanded tactics to either cheat their client or cheat for their client (black hat marketing, like posting fake positive reviews, or sending out spam emails). 

And the second is that there is a whole lot of this “The cobbler’s children have no shoes” thing going around… Web design agencies with bad websites; social media agencies with no Facebook followers. I mean seriously, how do these guys wake up every morning and let these problems persist.

As I embarked on my journey as an agency owner, I wanted to learn from the best and align my business practices with the agencies that were truly the best in San Diego. So I decided I would give a good hard look at all of the digital marketing agencies in this lovely city and find the agencies that are simultaneously running a great business and “drinking their own Kool-Aid,” so to speak. During the research process, I also discovered common mistakes and even a few big problems with a couple of agencies’ websites, but I will save that rant for another day.

 

 

The Truth About Digital Marketing Agencies

The truth about digital marketing agencies that no one seems to talk about is that, from an outside perspective, they all seem to do pretty much the same thing. If you do “SEO,” you probably do about the same thing as any other “SEO” company. If you are a social media management agency, you are likely just about the same as any other social media management agency out there. Sure, as a marketer, you probably “feel” different, but you are likely doing the something very similar.

There are a lot of tools and strategies that can separate one company and their ability to perform from another. But those are generally used internally, and talked about among employees or during sales meetings. So if every company looks the same at first glance, how can we tell the worst from the best without sitting down and meeting each agency?

 

Rating System

Sure, we could look at awards, types of clients, size of clients, or revenue as ways to establish each player as one of the best agencies in San Diego, but what I really wanted to know was, “Did they use the strategies they lay out for their clients on a daily basis in their own business?” Are they drinking their own Kool-Aid?

I ranked each company from 1 to 5 using these 4 ranking factors to determine who made the top 10:

  • Website Rating – The overall quality, flow, and feel to the website. Is it up to 2015 standards, mobile friendly, and easy to navigate?
  • Content Rating – Both the copy on the website and, more importantly, the quality of the blog articles. I asked myself, “Is this a company I could learn from?”
  • Social Rating – Are they active on their social channels? When was the last time they tweeted? Have they been trying to get followers? Do they have a solid foundation of followers across all of their channels?
  • When there was a tie, I used their Domain Authority via the Moz Bar as the tiebreaker.

I don’t want you to think as the #1 spot as “the best agency in San Diego,” but as the most focused on marketing themselves online and practicing what they preach. Anyone in the top 10 is clearly very reputable and working hard to do what they do best – digital marketing.

The Research

I carefully reviewed the top 50 or so agencies that I either found through Google searching “Digital Marketing Agency San Diego” or through social channels or industry contacts. Here are my thoughts on the overall online presence of the agencies I researched:

Websites

Most websites were acceptable and up-to-date. I was expecting more lead magnets and email exchange offers, but many of the agencies weren’t trying very aggressively to collect their visitor’s email addresses. It seems digital marketing agencies are still getting most of their business through referrals and events. How ironic.

 Contact Forms

Nearly all sites had proper contact info and a lead generation form on the contact page. It seems the e-mail opt-in form in the footer is a common strategy for a lot of companies. I am not sure how many opt-ins they are actually getting there (we have one and get pretty much zero).

Pricing

Almost no sites talk about their pricing on the website. I only found 1 or 2, and they didn’t even make the top 10. I don’t get this. Why don’t you tell people the minimum amount they would have to spend to do business with you? It’s a really clear way of preventing everyone from wasting each others time.

SEO

Sooooo many of the sites, even the top ranked ones, were not using a lot of the SEO best practices that are preached across the web. They didn’t have proper schema markups, their h1 tags were wrong or missing, their phone number wasn’t click to call, etc. etc. But, to be fair, they were all still ranking better than my site. 😀

Remarketing

And most importantly, so many companies didn’t have a Facebook custom audience pixel (<- great article on getting this setup) or Google remarketing pixel. This is the number one most powerful thing to do for any website right now because it collects all of the people that had some level of interest in your business in one place, and allows you to advertise to them later. Since we all know it is going to take more than 1 minute on a website to start trusting a business, this is crucial to moving people along the funnel.

Content

Almost all of the agencies I visited had an active blog. Some were only posting monthly, others bi-weekly. The ones that really stood out were the ones that had long-form content and custom images for each blog post. Taking the time to write extensively on your subject matter is the best way to guarantee your content actually makes a difference. The ones that followed this current content marketing best practice all had higher domain authority, and presumably website traffic to go along with it.

You could really tell within the first minute of reading the web content whether or not the agency used their site for lead generation, or it was just a placeholder for the business – like a place they send people after meeting them in person.

And it was interesting to see the variety of content each agency would post about. It ranged from advertising to millennials, to advanced user experiences, to news of related industries – almost seemingly off-topic stuff. You could really get a feel for the target audience of each blog and you could clearly see the diversity of each company within the digital marketing industry.

Social

The one thing that became apparent as I was going through these agencies was that an agency isn’t going to get 100,000 followers online. It just doesn’t happen. Agencies just aren’t interesting enough. Most companies were working hard on social to get 1,000+ followers, and some, even social media agencies, seemed to have given up completely on their own following! A couple of the top agencies have really strong followings and probably a very large social reach, but I don’t think people follow a digital marketing agency the same way they might follow someone like Rand Fishkin or Tim Ferris.

 

Dive Into It Already Derric

 

Alright, here we are. Your top 10 digital marketing agencies in San Diego:

 

10. MindGruve

 

Overall Score – 12/15

Website – 4/5

Content – 4/5

Social – 4/5

Domain Authority – 40

Sub-Industry: Branding for medium to large businesses.

Clients include: PGA Tour, Bud Light, Union-Tribune San Diego

Website

MindGruve is a very large agency with offices across the country. They no doubt have great designers on their team because their site is very, well…designed. Not “well designed,” it’s actually a bit overdesigned (at least for my tastes). The call to action on each page gets a little lost in the artistic flare being expressed by the designers. Just take a look at this home page and tell me what they want me to do. I thought I was at a digital marketing agency’s site, but apparently they want me to rock and roll.

That being said, the design is pretty cool in a lot of places, and it helps make up for their lack of lead collection and user flow.

Content

Their blog has solid information and a great feel to it. You get to learn about the people behind MindGruve and you can tell they are an amazing, award-winning agency.

Social

They have a decent following on Twitter and a whopping 3,000 follows on LinkedIn, but sadly under 1k Facebook likes. They clearly know where to focus their efforts.


9. Ignite Visibility

Overall Score – 14/15

Website – 4/5

Content – 5/5

Social – 5/5

Domain Authority – 31

Sub-Industry: Small Business Full-Service Digital Marketing

Clients Include: Mission Federal Credit Union, Metrex, Dr. Dental

Website

This site has a distinct call to action and explains their services clearly on the home page. Now, the site isn’t as “cool” as some of the others, but it really looks great in terms of getting the message across and getting the job done right. I don’t like that the blog link is buried under their tools and resources menu button, but overall it’s a solid site with a lot of information and great social proof.

Content

They post articles twice a week and have very solid content on a variety of topics. The articles are lengthy and can genuinely help people solve simple problems surrounding digital marketing.

Now they do claim to be “The Most Advanced Newsletter Online” which I think is immediately proved false by the wording of the claim itself, but it is a nice attempt.

Social

They have over 2000 Facebook likes, 5,000 Twitter followers, a host of YouTube videos, and some followers on G+ and LinkedIn. I would say they are doing a great job on social and clearly care about their online presence.


8. Parker White

Overall Score – 14/15

Website – 5/5

Content – 5/5

Social – 4/5

Domain Authority – 31

Sub-Industry: Branding for Health-focused companies

Clients Include: Heal2gether, On-Q, InPlace

Website

This is a pretty good landing page, even though I do feel that the case study they are showcasing might confuse some people as far as the message of “what we do.” They’re showing us football players, so I think, “digital marketing for big brands,” but they actually specialize in digital marketing for health-centric companies.

Usually you want to put your offer or message as the first thing people see and save the case study for after someone understands your business a little better. But it seems like many digital marketing agencies are doing “case study first,” so maybe this is a strategy I am just not fully comprehending just yet. I suppose it depends on who you are sending to your website.

Content

Great white papers and a lot of nice blog posts. The blog posts are relatively short. They could spend more time on each post in order to provide more long-form content. But the information they are giving away is pretty solid, and well-focused around what they actually do.

Social

700+ LinkedIn followers, nearly 3,000 Twitter followers, and only 350 Facebook followers, it’s clear they have chosen which social channels to focus on, but I disagree with the choice, because Facebook is always relevant, and every person they to do business with is on Facebook nearly every day, even though they might have some more power to target people on LinkedIn. This is very close to a 5 on social though.


7.Mod Girl Marketing

Overall Score – 14/15

Website – 4/5

Content – 5/5

Social – 5/5

Domain Authority – 31

Sub-Industry: Full-Service Boutique Marketing Firm

Clients Include: Tampa Bay Plastic Surgery, Build a Miracle, iDrive Transportation

Website

I had to knock a point off for them simply because they are using a very generic form on their landing page, and they have a lot of text on the left hand side that nobody is reading. Other than that, they have an amazing video that engages the user, a call to action that gives them a reason to sign up, and a solid explanation of their services. And they are even showing us how many people they have in each department, which I really like. They aren’t afraid to list their ideal client and problems they solve right on the homepage.

Content

I am actually a long term subscriber to their email list and they produce great content on a weekly basis. They are trying to help as many people as possible with their blog and dish out well sectioned/organized articles that include great checklists, social sharing options, etc. The articles are using all the right techniques and I know I could trust these guys… I mean gals… to write content for my blog (won’t ya?). They have a solid lead magnet offer designed to get the most out of each website visitor.

Social

I like that they list a lot of channels with their social icons. This means they are probably on the cutting edge of digital marketing tech and social media trends. They have 15,000 Facebook likes!! Very impressive. Might I recommend turning more than 4 of them into Facebook reviews 😀 Their following on Twitter is 25,000. Clearly they are very good at social media marketing.


 

6.BOP Design

Overall Score – 14

Website – 4

Content – 5

Social – 5

Domain Authority – 44

Sub-Industry: Web Design agency

Clients Include: Integrant, IXI Technology, Allofill

Website

They have a fairly solid landing page, but seem to be trying to convey too much information in too little space. They put every possible industry and service as a clickable list on the home page. I have been told in the past not to put clickable text next to each other, because it is hard to navigate on mobile. I would recommend making the homepage longer and expanding on the topics they want to address.

Content

Overall they have a ton of information, and everything is very clean. They showcase their team, process, locations, and services. They answer all of the questions you might have about the business. They post weekly on their blog with their own custom images.

Social

They have solid numbers. 400 LinkedIn Followers. 2400 Facebook likes, and 1400 Twitter followers. Unfortunately, they are using Buffer to post to Twitter and the images aren’t being displayed properly. If you know me, you know this is a huge pet peeve of mine. You simply must have an image with every Tweet. No excuses. Bonus points: it looks like they did a few episodes of a podcast (titled “BOPcast”) but must have given up on it after not gaining traction. Too bad they stopped.


5. Red Door Interactive

Overall Score – 14/15

Website – 4

Content – 5

Social – 5

Domain Authority – 50

Sub-Industry: Big brand full-service customer acquisition

Clients Include: Charlotte Russe, Cox, Rubio’s

Website

It’s a pretty solid site, even though I am not thrilled with the tagline “We are a data-driven agency.” It’s kind of like Starbucks saying, “We sell coffee.” We know… But it’s obviously still a great keyword to hit, and that’s probably why it’s up there… Or so I thought. I checked their H1 tags, and unfortunately, they are being mismanaged. They could get some free “Google juice” by adding their tag line into the H1 and title tags. This might be a small SEO error, but it doesn’t matter too much because the page is very well optimized other than that. Other than that, they have a large site and a lot of information, but the design and flow just wasn’t enough to hit the 5/5 mark.

Content

There is some good content and clearly put a lot of thought behind each blog post. The content is fresh, having recently covered Meerkat vs Periscope, which are only a few months old at this point. And they like to have fun with the articles, while throwing down some helpful tips. It looks like they should remove the commenting feature though, because they are getting a lot of spam, but no real comments.

Social

They have over 1,500 Facebook likes, and even 230 check-ins. Their Twitter following is over 6,000 strong, and they are relatively active on Instagram too. You can tell they enjoy having fun when they are online; the smiles shine through the internet.


4. Digital Telepathy

Overall Score – 14

Website – 4

Content – 5

Social – 5

Domain Authority – 62

Sub-Industry: UI/UX Design, Strategy, Branding and Voice, Front-end Dev

Clients Include: Adventure.com, New Relic, The Lean Startup

Website

This is a very cool website that is centered on design. The homepage is a video with one headline subhead and two calls to action. It’s very clean, but feels a little overdesigned. But the rest of the site has some really cool custom features that give you a nice organic feel for what they can do. I mean, it’s all really cool stuff, but I think it loses something in readability and maybe even conversion.

Content

The content is really, really good. They have some unique articles on the integration between psychology and design, and it’s pretty clear the entire site is built around the blog. All of their articles are lengthy and contain some real gems. Also, I think they do the blog “for them” and not just to get solid search engine rankings (which they have). An admirable strategy, I tip my hat.

Social

With 15,000 Twitter followers and 3,000 Facebook likes you know these guys are sharing great content on their social sites. They also have over 1,000 LinkedIn follows and 400 YouTube subscribers. This agency is a true thought leader in design and branding, and is a really close contender for the #1 spot on my list.


 idea

3. The I.D.E.A. Brand

Overall Score – 15

Website – 5

Content – 5

Social – 5

Domain Authority – 46

Sub-Industry: Big Name Branding, PR, Social Media

Clients Include: Puma, Harrah’s Resort and Casino, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Website

They are branding experts with truly original ideas. The site has a unique and amazing style and flow to it. They keep a lot of content on the homepage, so that we can browse all of the art that they have created. And they showcase their amazing awards and demonstrate their artistic talent which gives them an instant proof of concept to the viewer.

Content

They don’t really go into their process as much as I would like, kind of pretending that what they do is so magical that no one has figured it out yet… unlikely, but not impossible given what they have been able to do. But I really like the blog. The content is fun and gets to the point.

Social

On Facebook, they have over 2,200 likes, 400 check-ins, and 17 reviews. And on LinkedIn and Twitter, they have over 3,000 followers each.


 

 

2. Internet Marketing Inc

Overall Score – 15/15

Website – 5/5

Content – 5/5

Social – 5/5

Domain Authority – 51

Sub-Industry: Integrated Digital Marketing for Global Brands

Clients Include: LegoLand, Mastercard, Aria Resort and Casino

 

Website

These guys are seriously one of the best in the nation. Working with big brands across the country and really setting the bar for top-shelf digital marketing agencies. They know what they are doing and have a plethora of awards to back their claims. They have a solid homepage with a lot of information. They’re showcasing their big name clients. Names like McDonalds, AMC Theatres, and Aria Hotel and Casino. They have a very solid homepage sales video showcases a ton of talent and makes the viewer really trust their business.

Content

They have very solid content for a mix of their potential small business clients. These guys are real thought leaders, so they have a ton of talks and speeches about the industry as a whole and what they have learned over the years. They create long-form, quality content that no doubt helped contribute to their high Moz score of 51 and give them the #2 spot for this post.

Social

21,000 Facebook likes, yikes. These guys have a massive social following and haven’t neglected any channel. 1,200 Pinterest followers. 3,700 LinkedIn followers. And even 450+ Google Plus followers. They likely have the largest social reach out of all of the companies in the top 10 and are clearly the digital marketing agency that we should all aspire to be one day.

 



Geary LSF logo

1. Geary LSF

Note: Geary LSF has gone out of business. We will be updating the list to reflect this shortly.

Overall Score – 15/15

Website – 5/5

Content – 5/5

Social – 5/5

Domain Authority – 53

Sub-Industry: Big Brand Full-Service: SEO, Creative, and Paid Media

Clients Include: Bumble Bee Seafoods, WD-40, Brooks Brothers

Website

This site has a great feel to the landing page, two clear calls to action in the center, which I think is fine for them, and they give a solid breakdown of their “integrated marketing” solution (which mostly everyone is using these days). You quickly find out they work exclusively with the big brands, and are probably a big budget agency exclusive to major companies and the Fortune 500.

Content

Their blog is good and provides pretty solid tips for digital marketing. They pull from their recent events and experiences to bring unique content to the viewer, even though they aren’t solving the biggest problems you may face online.

Social

Where’s the LinkedIn link on the homepage? Well, other than that they have over 1,000 Facebook likes and 2,000 Twitter followers, so they are clearly putting in the effort. They have a solid YouTube channel, but it isn’t linked on their social icons, and that seems like a bit of an oversight. They should probably add a few more social icons to the site.

 

 


Overall Takeaways

All of the best agencies in San Diego are doing 3 things right:

They have rich content on their websites. From white papers, to case studies, they show you everything they are about, and what makes them unique.

They blog regularly. Even if the content isn’t A++ they still are producing blog posts weekly in order to keep the site up to date and keep the users in the know.

They are active on social. All top agencies are posting daily on Facebook and Twitter, and quite frequently on the other channels too. And, based on the numbers, we can be certain that LinkedIn is a very powerful source of leads for all of these agencies.

How would I chose an agency from this list?

If I had to go with an agency from this list, first I would find the ones that align with my business, and my goals. I’m a small, local business, so right away we can rule out all of the global, big name, and branding companies. That narrows it down to about 3 or 4, which makes this pretty easy.

I would call each of the remaining companies and set up an appointment. What I want to learn in the first meeting is the process they use, their pricing, and most importantly, how well we would work together.

From there, you just have to pick the agency that you trust the most. Digital marketing for a small business is a very invasive process. You need to know numbers, customer types and personas, sales and profit margins, and the overall voice of a business. If you can’t trust them with your business, your brand, your life’s work, then you can’t do business with them.

Also, I would highly recommend not choosing the cheapest quote over the most trustworthy. It really is still a “go with the gut” kind of process. Cheap will often end up giving you a headache, whereas trustworthy means you can just sit back and let the leads roll in.

Before you make your decision, I’ve got another post you might like on advice from some of San Diego’s top entrepreneurscheck it out by clicking here or the image below:

FB Ad Influencer Post


 

How about you? What process do you go through when choosing an agency? How would you judge a digital marketing agency without meeting them in person? Are you an agency in San Diego that didn’t make this list but think you should have? Did I leave you out?

Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

 

 

AUTHOR - Derric Haynie

CEO of Splash - Online Presence Management Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur

  • kelly

    i will have a look on all the digital marketing agencies but you can have a look on the website below. i hope you will like it.

    http://yantradigital.com/

  • Edward Mills

    Awesome post about top creative agencies. Its so much informative for the followers. I like the way you describe this post. Its really helpful for the users of this site. I am also searching about these type of sites now a days. So your site really helps me for searching the new and great stuff. This site contain all my specifications. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up. I am waiting for your more posts like this or related to any other informative topic.!!!

  • Alex_Cruz

    Hey Great article! Made me feel good about our following at PenPath.com haha.. More than some of these top dogs. Like the breakdown very much. Thanks! – Alex

  • Very valuable info. This article gives inspiration to people of what to do when into SEO. The list can also be used to benchmark in this field of business.

    • Hi, yes it can and I’ve actually used the same model to create 2 other posts in different industries. Results still pending on those. If you like the structure and strategy, I suggest you check out thesaleslion.com, that’s where I learned it from. Marcus Sheridan is AMAZING.

  • Canadian Forensics Inc.

    Hey Derric,
    Amazing article. Just to let you know that you are a true leader in your niche. I am going to use your blog’s format to publish a blog on Canadian Forensics Inc. website about Criminal Background Check Agencies in Toronto.
    Cheers

    • Thanks so much. You are way way too kind. I stole this idea from thesaleslion.com, mixed with a “tilt” from Content Inc (book by Joe Pulizzi). I certainly can’t take credit for the idea, but it did take forever to actually execute 😀

  • TJ Cooper

    Totally weird ranking system you have here. Where does overall value to clients fit into this picture? Wouldn’t the best agency be the agency that produces the highest ROI for clients? Believe it or not, there is a subculture of digital direct response and in-feed ad agencies that also do direct outreach to potential clients via FB messaging, cold emails, and video demos all sent directly to a landing page that may or may not appear on their site, who cares how many likes a social media agency has if you have revenue and results numbers to show your client instead. What is the value of a like versus a “body in building” customer? I’ll take case studies over social presence any day of the week. JMO.

    • Hi TJ. How would I be able to get ahold of that information? If you can give me an unbiased review of all of the agencies average ROI, please send it my way.

      I think any digital agency that understands the best practices of inbound marketing and digital marketing, should be reflected relatively fairly in this analysis. But I do encourage you to write your own post with your own ranking system and link it here. I’d be happy to take a look at another way to do things, this is obviously just one way.

    • Hey TJ. I’ve been going around San Diego interviewing agency CEOs to redo this blog post with a more value to client focus. Thanks for your feedback. It will likely be up in mid or late Feb.

  • Lance Haynes

    Hi Derric.
    Thank you so so much for all your free ideas. You seem like a pretty darn smart fellow. I have a older web site hireoldcars that is getting over 1000 unique free clicks a month others say the i-phone will not work with it and I should have more business so thinking about someone like you or you recommend to help me. What do you reccommend? Faithfully Lance Haynes

    • Hi Lance, Thanks for the compliments, it means a lot.

      Contact me at derric (at) splashopm.com. I work closely with a great development team that can handle this for you. Mobile responsiveness and friendliness could be just what you need.

  • bigdaddy

    Great article. Does anyone ever give you their horror stories? I have a doozy that cost me about 50k

    • Good question! We are going to reserve that for another article. I have a few of my own, on both the client and agency side, but never at a cost of $50k. Yikes!

      • bigdaddy

        Great. Let me know so I can share.

  • Jon Dubensky

    Also check out 2Point Digital Agency