Choosing a PPC agency is a minefield…
Throw a rock and you’ll end up hitting one…
So how do you choose a PPC agency? You first need to ask yourself some questions:
Look at your business first – where is the digital skills gap?
You have identified the need for some external help in the growth of your digital footprint, but what are your skill sets internally? If your budgets are relatively small, or the products you wish to sell are limited is this work something that can be self-taught? There are a myriad of training companies out there (we found the Institute of Digital Marketing were excellent), so could an employee be up-skilled to handle some basic AdWords campaigns?
If time, or the complexity of the tasks involved looks overwhelming, its time to seek some help. AdWords can be a way to gain digital traction, quickly. Whilst an SEO program can be the result of months, or even year’s worth of work, AdWords can get qualified traffic to your site pretty much straight away. We like to think of AdWords as the original growth hack.
How do you like to work with consultants?
Trusting an external consultant takes a leap of faith. We know your business is your baby. Like your baby, you would only allow the people you trust the most to look after it. If you are worried about handing over the digital keys to your business to a 3rd party, you will need to set a framework with the agency to make sure there is total transparency.
Would weekly meetings or calls make you feel comfortable? Be sure to mention this to the agency you want to appoint so the ground rules are set early on. On the flipside, if all you want to see a progress report with next steps and recommendations on your Google Adwords campaigns, tell your agency. As suppliers we find both parties setting the ground rules early on helps for a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. Remember, as a client you only want to work with an agency that adds value to your business. What may surprise you is that agencies, generally, only want to work with clients who add value to their business too. ‘Value’, in this case, extends beyond just being paid, so perhaps ask your prospective agency ‘what value will our business add to yours?’ — if you’re happy with the response they have obviously thought about your business and are serious about how you can help them long term, and outside of the obvious prism of money.
Credentials and recommendations
At the risk of teaching your Grandmother how to suck eggs…always look for evidence. An agency that purports to be a PPC specialist, ask for case studies. Then ask for a current client whom you can speak to. Any agency worth their salt would be happy to share their successes. As an agency, we find that most of our business is generated from recommendations and referrals. Also, we like to help our clients as much as we can too, it’s like a virtuous circle of reciprocity.
In terms of credentials, we would say always look to appoint an agency who is a Google Partner. To be a Google Partner, the PPC agency will need to have taken the appropriate exams and studied the right courses. They also need to manage a minimum amount of spend per month with Google and also meet certain performance criteria with the campaigns they manage.
Think about the whole the picture
AdWords or any paid advertising should only ever be a part of a wider strategic picture. For instance, your SEO and PPC should dovetail. PPC is often used to ‘fill the gaps’, for instance if getting to page 1 for a highly competitive term will take a considerable investment in terms of content production and link building it may be far more effective to use PPC. Or, does your PPC need to compliment (or even complement) your social media activity, what about your other more traditional forms of advertising? What we’re saying is a PPC agency that thinks about your AdWords activity in a silo is probably not the right partner. Similarly, from a suppliers perspective, if a client seems reticent to share as much information with us as possible for us to do our best work, we would have to ask some tough questions about whether the client was serious about making PPC work for them.
Transparency is key – think long term
Any good relationship is worth nurturing and takes time and effort for both parties. At the crux of all good relationships should be honesty. From the supplier’s side if mistakes happen, they should be rectified and owned up to. Before choosing an agency maybe ask your prospective supplier what the biggest mistake was that they made and how they rectified it.
Your supplier should also be alive to the fact that the longer-term trend in digital is about client’s filling their digital skills gaps. The general trend, for larger SME’s, is that digital specialists are taking over management of things like PPC and other forms of paid advertising. A good agency will be aware of that fact and want to share their knowledge with you. Digital Marketing shouldn’t be like the dark arts and a good agency will have a healthy pipeline of prospects anyway, aware that churn happens. Breaking up is hard to do, but breaking up with an agency shouldn’t be, and setting the mutual expectations and medium term strategy from both sides (supplier and client) should prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.