How To Choose A PPC Agency (Without Getting Stung)

LAST UPDATED:   TOPIC:

RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

RATED:

Choosing any kind of marketing agency is nerve-racking, but outsourcing your PPC efforts can be particularly stressful. You’re putting hard cash into paid search trusting a bunch of strangers to spend your budget and get the best return on investment.

It doesn’t always work out either. Speak to any business owner or marketing manager who’s been stung by a PPC agency and they’ll tell you just how much it hurts. On the other hand, speak to one who’s has found the right agency and they’ll tell you all about how wonderful paid advertising can be.

So how do you choose a PPC agency with confidence – one that will turn your paid advertising adventure into a success story?

Make sure they do the kind of PPC you need

That’s right, not all PPC campaigns are the same. Google AdWords tends to be the first name we associate with paid advertising but there are other search engines and a range of social networks you can take advantage of. And even within AdWords, you have a range of campaign types that may or may not suit you.

For example, eCommerce firms will often start with Google Shopping campaigns – an option that will soon be available in Ireland – while bricks and mortar businesses like to focus on local PPC and SEO. It all comes down to what your marketing objectives are and which platforms are best suited to achieving them.

If you don’t know what your goals are yet, speak to various agencies and ask for recommendations. Take notes, compare what they say and conduct your own research. You should find your marketing objectives become clearer, which makes all the difference when choosing the right agency.

Check how they’ll integrate PPC with your other marketing strategies

PPC doesn’t make things happen on its own – it needs to work seamlessly with your SEO, social and other marketing strategies. This gives you two options: find one agency that can take care of all three or one that integrates PPC with your existing campaigns.

It’s generally more practical to have one agency take care of everything. The last thing you need is two teams pulling in opposite directions when they should be working in sync. Things can get messy pretty fast, so make sure your agencies can work together if you hire more than one.

Either way, the most important thing is that your PPC strategy integrates with your wider marketing efforts. Here are some points to consider:

  • Keyword research: SEO and PPC keyword research are different but closely related. Ideally, they should be done together to cover more ground and pinpoint user intent.

  • Locality: If location is important to your business, combine local SEO with location-targeted ads.
  • Landing pages: Every PPC campaign needs a landing page designed to convert clicks. This is where PPC and web design’s complex relationship begins.
  • User experience: As soon as anyone clicks your ad, anything that stops them making the final purchase is another click you’ve paid for without a return.
  • User intent: People use Google and Facebook for very different reasons, which calls for a different approach on each platform you use.

In the brief list above, PPC already overlaps with SEO, web design, social media and more. The list could go on, but the point is your agency needs a plan for integrating PPC into your wider marketing efforts – because they absolutely must work together.

Don’t be fooled by the Google Partners thing

This is the classic mistake that’s made when choosing a PPC agency. You see badges proudly displayed on a website that say you’re dealing with an AdWords certified Google Partner – so they must be good, right?

Sadly, things aren’t quite that simple. As our Head of PPC, Richard Talbot, explained earlier this year, the requirements for being AdWords certified are much lower than you might think:

“Getting Certified Partner status is similar to passing your driving test in that you remain very much a ‘novice driver’ for a time afterwards. You have achieved the minimum competency required to operate an AdWords account but have much to learn before becoming a PPC ninja!” – Richard Talbot, Head of PPC at Tinderpoint

It costs nothing to take the AdWords exams and all you really need to pass is know how to create a campaign or two. You don’t need any understanding of strategy or the advanced settings it takes to target people who will actually buy into your business.

So be wary of any PPC agency that brags about being a Google Partner because this is the absolute minimum requirement, not something to be proud of. You won’t hear racing drivers brag about the day they passed their driving test and the same thing goes for any good PPC agency.

Check their list of clients

Instead of looking for Google Partner badges, check the list of clients for each agency you’re interested in. If big name brands regularly trust an agency, they must be doing something right, but it’s not the only thing to look out for. Consider also the following:

  • Which industries are their clients in?
  • What size businesses does this agency specialise in?
  • Which profile of clients do they have – local, national, international or all three?

It’s always good to see an agency with experience in your industry – or something similar – as they’ll start with a good idea of your audience and what they’re looking for. Also think about the size of the companies an agency works with because you don’t want to be the little guy that falls down their list of priorities. Make sure they cater to businesses of all sizes or have a good reputation with similar-sized companies to yours.

Finally, it’s also worth checking the profile of clients on their list. There are three main categories here: local, national and international. We’re not talking about the size of your company here, but rather the location of your target audience. For example, you could be a small retailer that ships products all over the world, meaning your ads need to reach a global audience, rather than focus on your local area.

You should be able to find most of this information on an agency’s website but it’s always a good idea to pick up the phone and speak to them directly. Which brings us on to our next point.

Give them a call and ask questions

There are three questions you really need answers to before choosing a PPC agency: can they deliver what you need, can you trust them and will you be able to work with them?

Of course, asking these questions directly won’t get you far, but you can suss them out pretty well by picking up the phone. Ask about their working process, your marketing goals and what they can do for you. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about an agency purely based on how they handle your questions.

If you’re not sure what to ask, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Ask about:

  • What your PPC objectives should be: Even if you know what you’re objectives are, see what they have to say.
  • Their pricing model: Fixed fee, percentage of spend and performance-based are the three most common PPC pricing models. Ask which model(s) each agency uses and why.
  • What you get for your money: You need to know how many hours of management you get for your money – especially if you’re paying a fixed monthly fee.
  • Analytics: Not only should they be using data to measure how profitable your PPC strategy is, they should provide you with the necessary data to show you they’re hitting targets.
  • Account ownership: Make sure you own your account and not the agency or you’ll lose everything if you decide to stop working with them.
  • Their long-term strategy: Your PPC strategy should get more effective over time – so ask each agency how they plan to make this happen.

You’re not restricted to the list above by any means; ask whatever questions you feel necessary and compare the answers. You want an agency that’s excited to work with you, which means they should be more than willing to answer any questions you have. And you should get a good idea of how transparent they are and what they’ll be like to work with by speaking to them directly.

Better yet, if you find an agency you like in your local area, meet them after your initial phone call to get a better idea of how they operate as a business. It’s amazing how much a quick chat and a cuppa can tell you about an agency.

Follow the tips here and you should have no problem finding a PPC agency that’ll help you fall in love with paid advertising. The best agencies will always tell you that building successful accounts for their clients is the most important measure of their own success. You’ll see evidence of this by looking at their previous clients and how they conduct themselves when you speak to them. The key is knowing which questions to ask – so keep this guide handy as you weight up your agency choices, and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

RATE THIS ARTICLE:

RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

Twitter Linkedin

An experienced digital marketer with 8+ years of industry experience, Richard has worked in client account management at both Google AdWords and Microsoft's Bing Ads in Dublin. He now leads the Paid Search & Display Advertising team at Tinderpoint delivering successful campaigns for a portfolio of diverse national and international clients across many industries.