What is a digital agency? Learn what makes them different from other agencies and how to choose the right one

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Digital Agencies 101 - TDA, home of the world's top digital agencies, answers the question: what is a digital agency?

There are over 7,000 digital agencies registered on TDA alone, yet business people often don’t fully understand what a digital agency is, what agencies do, and how they work. Below we answer some common questions about digital agencies.

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What is a digital agency?

What services do digital agencies offer?

What is a digital growth agency?

What is a digital product agency?

What makes a good digital agency?

How do digital agencies make money?

Who uses digital agencies?

How to hire a digital agency?

What is a digital agency? HeadingWhat is a digital agency?

Digital agencies help companies use digital media to communicate with consumers, customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

Many agencies also offer branding and strategic help to their clients as well as providing other services, but all digital agencies create communications that are delivered through digital formats like social media to websites, videos, emails, apps, etc.

What services do digital agencies offer?

Digital agencies help their clients in a variety of ways and each agency has its own primary expertise ranging from digital branding to implementing machine learning. Some of the most common digital agency services include:

Website Design for Celebrity Cruises by 3Sixty Digital - What is a Digital Agency? Digital Agencies 101

Website Design

Web Design is the process of designing a website’s structure and style. Agencies who specialize in Web Design are responsible for making a website aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate/use.

Example: TDA’s 3Sixty Digital designed this website for Celebrity Cruises. In the process they created a full user experience, designing not only the graphics, but the interactive elements of the site. In addition to building the site, 3Sixty also ran extensive tests with site users to ensure that the site functioned simply and easily. See the full case study for an example of a website design project.

App Development for Raiffeisen Bank by Euroart93 - What is a Digital Agency? Digital Agencies 101

App Development

App Development is the process of developing an application (software) for various purposes. Typically, app development refers to the development of desktop or other non-mobile applications. Agencies who specialize in App Development are responsible for developing applications for enterprises, SMEs, and other clients.

Example: TDA Certified Siver agency Euroart93 developed this app for Raiffeisen Bank. Developing the mobile banking app development meant creating over 150 different pages within the app and mobile banking website. See the full case study for an example of an app development project.

Branding for Bimble by ATTCK - What is a Digital Agency? Digital Agencies 101


Branding is the process of developing a company’s public image, logo, and other identifying collateral. Branding attracts customers through the use of advertising (tone/voice) and unique design. Agencies who specialize in Branding are responsible for creating a company’s public image (styling of content and actions), logo, design collateral, and other identifying collateral.

Example: TDA member agency ATTCK worked with CBD-infused soda maker Bimble to create their digital presence and incorporate the company’s iconic branding into their website. See the full case study for an example of a digital branding project.

Social Media for PetSmart by August United - What is a Digital Agency? Digital Agencies 101

Social Media Management

Social Media Management is the process of managing the social media presence of a brand, for personal use, or for a client. Social media management company Hootsuite includes “engaging audiences, and measuring the business results of social media activities” in their definition of social media management. Agencies that specialize in Social Media Management are responsible for the appropriate representation of a brand on social media channels, and for maintaining good relations with the target audience (via messages, posts, videos, etc.).

Example: PetSmart wanted to breathe new life into their YouTube channel, so they turned to TDA member agency August United to create new and exciting content. August United partnered with acclaimed YouTube creator, Aaron Burriss to drive results. See the full case study for an example of a social media marketing/management project.

Search Engine Optimization for Nestle by Codedesign - What is a Digital Agency? Digital Agencies 101

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a webpage or other content to rank better on Google, Bing, and other search engines. Agencies that specialize in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are responsible for the improvement of a client’s website’s search ranking on various search engines. For more detailed information, check out What is SEO? by the experts at Moz.com.

Example: TDA’s Codedesign agency developed an SEO strategy for Saboreia a Vida (SAV), a subsidiary website of Nestlé Portugal. Codedesign created content on healthy food, recipes, and related topics, producing unique and valuable content that searchers are looking for, resulting in an 84% lift in site traffic from searchers. See the full case study for an example of a search engine optimization (SEO) project.

What is a digital growth agency? HeadingWhat is a digital growth agency?

A relatively new term in the agency world, a digital growth agency, unlike a digital marketing agency, takes a more holistic approach to helping clients build their business. Terms come and go and “growth hacking” is definitely having a moment. So, the name may change but the idea stays the same, an agency that helps not just with marketing and communications, but looks at the entire business through the lens of digital technology for ways to drive revenue growth and returns would be considered a digital growth agency.

What is a digital product agency? HeadingWhat is a digital product agency?

Digital product agencies focus on delivering a digital product like software or a mobile app for their clients. While these agencies may help their client brand and market the digital products they create, the primary function of these agencies is to develop and maintain software and apps.

What makes a good digital agency? - HeadingWhat makes a good digital agency?

While “good” is a subjective term, there are some useful techniques for identifying quality digital agencies, depending on your goals. Here is some recommended reading for anyone looking to enlist the help of a good digital agency:

What is a Digital AgencyHow do digital agencies make money?

There are three primary ways agencies charge for their services:

  • Hourly rates – Many agencies agree to an hourly rate with clients at the beginning of a project. From there, agencies track their time and tally their billable hours to come to a total price. For clients, the downside to this arrangement is that you are paying for time, not outcomes. So a project that takes time costs more than a faster project even if the results have the same value to your business. But this system is good for clients who want to manage costs because you only pay for time spent doing work on your behalf. Most of the agencies on TDA list their average hourly rates on their profiles so you can get a picture of how much they will charge for your project.
  • Flat fees – Some agencies will quote a flat fee for specific projects. Often these agencies have set projects that they do for their clients. If a client needs this type of project, they can simply choose it from a menu of projects the agency handles. Agencies that charge a flat fee can sometimes be more costly to hire than those charging hourly, however the upside of this kind of arrangement is that the client gets to see the entire price of the project up front, rather than going with an estimate based on projected hours and not knowing exactly how much they will be charged.
  • Pay for performance – Some agencies whose work directly and measurably affects revenue, like social media advertising agencies, work with the client to pay for performance. These agencies get a payment or a bonus depending on how many leads or sales their campaigns generate for the client. While this model doesn’t work for things like website design or search engine optimization, pay for performance arrangements are good for clients whose goals are easily measurable and attributable to specific campaigns.

Who uses digital agenciesWho uses digital agencies?

In the past, makers of traditional products and services might have shied away from using digital agencies in favor of more traditional advertising agencies, but today almost all products and services are, at least in part, digital. Digital agencies help all businesses from Fortune 500, multinational corporations to mom and pop local stores transform their businesses. Current affairs such as the COVID-19 pandemic are accelerating the digital transformation of all businesses as everyone from healthcare providers to brick-and-mortar retailers to professional sports shifts their focus toward online experiences and digital delivery.

How to hire a digital agency?

Hiring an agency meant knowing the right people who could recommend a top-notch agency to handle your project. The world of top agencies was like a private club and if you didn’t know someone, your choices were limited. Today, things are different. You no longer have to know someone to find a great agency. You don’t have to be in the same city, or even country, as the agency you hire.

You can use services like TDA to identify the best agencies and hire the one that’s right for you. Using TDA is quick and easy. Companies post what they need and then wait for digital agencies to apply to them. Our system notifies digital agencies about the project and they apply directly to the company on TDA in a standardized format. After reviewing agency applications, companies can choose an agency to work with.