The Apprentice: Why Lord Sugar needs a lesson in digital

During the course of watching last night’s Apprentice, you probably spent your time debating over the different business aspects of each pitch, how lucrative it was likely to be, or whether there was a market for it.
I however, spent most of the episode with my face in my hands, cringing as candidate Mark Wright pitched for a Digital Marketing agency that guaranteed to ‘move people up the pecking order’.
*rolls eyes*
2010 called, they want their strategy back.
Was I the only person that wanted to call the mysterious receptionist and demand to be put through to Sir Alan himself?
What Mark is essentially referring to here is SEO, and SEO is the practice of optimising a website to drive higher volumes and better quality of traffic to it, and in turn obtaining a higher number of conversions i.e. somebody making a purchase or enquiry.
SEO is no longer about ‘being at the top of Google’. You need the positioning, sure (nowadays first page is just as beneficial as position 1), but it is not the sole focus anymore, and it certainly should not be the sole KPI of Mark’s business model.
He needs to consider traffic, conversions, site engagement, social signals, bounce rates, brand mentions and a whole load more.
SEO changes all the time, the minute something becomes ‘popular’ (aka spammy) Google updates the algorithm and shifts the goal posts. In 2014 alone the changes to the practice were monumental, with guest posting and link building no longer deemed to be useful.
This saw some agencies abandon SEO altogether (they panicked), and the rest re-branding to also offer Inbound Marketing with an emphasis on content, alongside Technical SEO.
‘Climb Online’ was his first mistake.
Firstly, the name implies what the business model proposes to do. Bear with me here, because I know in most situations that would be perfectly OK. But in this situation, it limits Mark in terms of what he can brand himself as actually being.
If he wants to be considered as a ‘digital agency’ and certainly to compete in the market, he needs to consider; PPC, Social, Content Marketing, Video, Web Design and Development, Email Marketing. The list is a long one.
And those services aren’t there to play that much of a part in “moving you up the pecking order” or helping you to “climb online”.
While his intentions are good, he’s an SEO agency at most, and already an out-of-date one.
Secondly (and this is a hum-dinger), for somebody pitching to be an expert in digital he rather embarrassingly didn’t think to check that the domain name for his company was available, and after a quick search it turns out, it isn’t.
Why this was a bad decision.
Essentially, what Mark hasn’t done is put together a strong business plan for a digital agency that could “go global in a short time”, but what he has done is further cement the already warped perception of what SEO is and what SEO does with a mass-load of publicity, and managed to get the Big Guy who’s trying to “break into online” to part with 250 thousand of his British pounds to the first offer on the table.
Only time will tell what happens to Lord Sugar’s investment, so let’s watch this space.
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Written by Amy Norris

Brand & Agency Marketing Manager