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Top Tips for Selecting the Best PPC Agency

With increasing competition in many business sectors, and a continual stream of product changes and updates coming from Google (not to mention any of the other paid search advertising platforms in the world), selecting to have your PPC campaigns managed by a specialist search marketing agency rather than an in-house team is a common option, but how can you work out how to differentiate between the agencies? With so many in the marketplace, and with many of them making similar claims about their PPC practices, how do you pick one that you can trust and will deliver the results?

How do you ensure you make the best informed decision when selecting the best PPC agency.

I’d like to share some thoughts and considerations with you so that you can make better-informed decisions about which agency to hire to manage your paid search marketing.

1. Are they taking the pitching and proposal process seriously?

Even if they’re not based locally, don’t let agencies gather details solely over the phone. If they won’t take the time to drive to your office for a meeting then they probably don’t really want your business. How an agency acts when asked to travel a distance is an indication of the level of service they are likely to provide.

Also ask whether the agency will provide references, or allow you speak to any of their existing clients.

2. Do they really understand your business?

Ensure they understand your company and your barriers to sale. If they haven’t asked the right questions, how can they possibly understand your needs? You should feel that they truly understand every inch of your business, your objectives, your products and the buying process.

Ask how they will determine suitable metrics and KPIs appropriate for you, and how they plan to work with you to refine and ultimately achieve those goals.

3. How will the account management team be structured?

Are you given the opportunity either during the pitch or afterwards to meet the team that will actually be working on your account? Will you be able to speak directly to the person managing your account on a day-to-day basis or will you be restricted to communicating through a client manager instead?

Find out whether your account manager will be a PPC specialist, or whether PPC is just one aspect of their role. Will they have any other skills that might be useful in driving your site’s performance? For example, a decent PPC account manager should also be able to advise you on your Google Analytics setup, give website and landing page recommendations, and help configure your merchant centre account, in addition to having top-notch PPC knowledge.

Ask whether the agency has much experience managing campaigns on other popular advertising platforms such as Bing, Facebook or LinkedIn, or global search engines such as Yandex in Russia, or China’s Baidu. On that subject, if you’re likely to be interested in expanding internationally at any stage, ask what experience the agency has in setting up and managing PPC campaigns in foreign languages, and how they would approach that: would multilingual work be outsourced abroad, or performed in-house by native-speaking linguists trained in PPC techniques?

It’s a fair assumption that your account manager will be Google AdWords certified, but beyond that, are they Bing Ads certified? How about Google Analytics?

Does anyone at the agency have experience doing PPC in your particular industry?

4. Are you given 100% transparency into your account’s performance?

It’s very important to find out how active the agency will be in sharing data with you and your organisation.

How regular will contact with your account manager be, and what kind of updates can you expect to receive with regards to performance, strategy, optimisation and pro-active recommendations?

What standard reports will be provided – and how frequently? Which metrics will included and will you be able to ask for ad-hoc reports beyond the standard set?

Will you have direct access into your own AdWords and Google Analytics accounts?

5. How flexible and reactive is the agency?

Will the agency be able to react quickly to your request for ad copy changes to reflect your latest sale, or the ad-hoc performance report that you need at the last minute for an internal meeting? Will they be keeping on top of the latest industry developments and ensuring that your account is signed-up for the latest betas and new features that Google is continually rolling out?

6. Have you discussed contract terms?

What kind of fee structure and contract terms does the agency offer? Ideally you should work with an agency that is confident enough about their services to offer a rolling contract if you want it. While it’s fair to say you have to be prepared to commit to the work and timescales agreed before judging the results, if you are not fully convinced by the agency you are considering then ask for short-term contracts rather than a yearly lock-in.

You should definitely find out who will retain ownership of your account; should you happen to switch agencies or move PPC management in-house at any point in the future, what will happen to your campaigns?

Employing a PPC agency should hopefully be a long-term partnership; it is a key decision which directly affects your revenue and your reputation so choose which agency you want to work with very carefully.

Ian Harris, CEO, Search Laboratory