What should my Digital Marketing Retainer include?

Wednesday 28th September 2022

Some things is life are absolute and finite. In digital marketing - setting up your Adwords campaign for 2x keyword groups - is finite, and thus carries a clear fixed cost.

Retainer agreements are different though. You're buying a digital or ecommerce consultant or agency's time and energy for a project that is never ending. But do not let that scare you - in the hands of the right person digital marketing is incredibly rewarding.


What should I include in my Digital Marketing retainer?

The range of services within digital marketing and/or ecommerce management is large.

It can include Search Engine Optimisation, Pay-per-Click advertising, other paid advertising management like Facebook Ads, or even email marketing.

It can be as detailed as analysing the robots.txt file on your server, to being as clear and tangible as writing 10 new pages of keyword focused content. In summary:

  • Technical SEO - site speed, server logs, meta data, robots.txt
  • Content SEO - assess and improve current content, recommend new keyword focused content, interlinking
  • Reputation SEO - building backlinks and mentions via PR outreach, content, blog posts, forums etc, aka content marketing
  • Email Marketing - CRM management, email design and content, sends and reporting
  • Paid Advertising - Google and Bing Ads, display advertising and partner site outreach
  • Website Changes - improvement to the user journey, design layout changes, content entry, interlinking
  • Social Media Management - creating and sharing content, stimulating online discussion about your brand
  • eCommerce Management - creating filters and user driven categories, improving product descriptions, assessing order journeys, bug testing, creating banners or promotions (all except the customer service/order management side)


Creating Accountability

The important element in any retainer agreement is that - irrespective of what services YOU want to trust the consultant / agency with - there is freedom to choose and therefore accountability.

If your eCommerce consultant recommends that this month they improve page speeds, or next month they connect your site to Google Shopping, there needs to be a report as to its potential effectiveness and turnaround time, and thus accountability for that decision.

In defence of the consultant / agency, Google and Bing are their own masters and are considering the competition as much as they are considering you.

If a change is expected to have an effect within 2 months, it may actually be 5 or 6. Yet the consultant should also see that, and act upon another recommendation that might have more immediacy.


Exiting an Agreement

Any agreement you enter into, should also have a clear and agreed exit.

Having consulted with agencies themselves on how their retainer agreements should look, yet also having directly dealt with business owners who want to move fast, cancellation clauses are very important to both parties.

On one hand the client wants to switch to another provider, an internal resource, or drop things altogether. But like a house only half built, a clear and calm handover period is required. 

The next incumbent consultant or employee has a better chance of success if they know what activity has been completed so far, what hasn't and what barriers have been faced. If the web designer didn't complete work as requested then any follow up digital marketer is going to face the same problems.

On the other hand, the consultant needs to close a number of items down carefully - not just drop the job half finished. Closure reports need to be written and explained; any exit training should be arranged, and any final jobs (site wide updates etc) should be completed.

I usually recommend a period of 3 months for this, though have one occasion undertaken a staged wind down of activity and billing.


This article was written as a supporting piece to the SEO Retainer Services available to order - which is sold by [days] rather than a fixed fee - I had several questions from people about how many [days] they should order - which is then discussed here.

If you are interested to understand more about Retainer agreements then you can simply Ask Me a Question.