Thinking of hiring an agency to step up your PPC game? You’ll want to find an agency that helps you achieve all your business goals.
But with hundreds of agencies out there, how do you find one that’s a perfect fit for you? And how do you make the most of your PPC agency investment?
This post will guide you on how to find a PPC agency and manage the relationship. You’ll also learn what to look for in an agency, what you and your agency should be doing when you aren’t getting the results you want, how to fire your existing agency, and how to evaluate and select a new agency.
What to Look for in a PPC Agency
There are certain qualities that each business wants its ideal agency to possess, but here are some must-haves you shouldn’t compromise on:
1. Technical Ability
A PPC agency must be able to tackle an increasingly complex technical landscape. They should have serious tech chops to do well with your PPC campaigns.
The following roles should be in place for your agency team:
- Relationship manager: Addresses emails, phone calls, reporting elements, and project management.
- Account strategist: Sets the overall strategy, directs the account, responsible for account performance and oversight.
- Product specialist: Handles day-to-day items, sets up new campaigns, assists with analyzing data and sending it up the chain.
- Tracking expert: Keeps track of analytics results.
- Graphic design or landing pages optimizer: Ensures ads are awesome, tests and continuously improves ad performance.
There also needs to be someone inside the agency monitoring your progress on a regular basis. They should be able to notice any red flags and get on it right away.
2. Business Acumen
Business value is more than just increasing income. An agency should be able to combine their technical know-how with business savvy.
They should be on top of your KPIs and make sure they’re met. They should take what matters to your business and translate that into tangible results.
3. Reporting Transparency
Reports are subject to interpretation and can turn the objective into the subjective, which may not bode well for your business and the agency. A PPC agency should design reports that match internal metrics. They should go in, get the data, and report on it the way it’s being measured in your company.
4. Business Process Alignment
An agency should coach you through the intricacies of the digital space. They should identify what business processes need to be re-engineered to make sure you’re succeeding the way you’re supposed to.
5. Extraordinary Results
Get the experts to do the expert’s work. An agency should allow you to achieve exceptional results which you can then leverage to be the best at what you do.
What to Do When Results Plateau
Not getting the results you expected? Go through the following steps before giving up on your current agency:
1. Understand Why
Ask your agency to unpack the results you’re seeing and understand what’s happening in the landscape. Maybe:
- The competitive space is changing so you’ll have to rethink what you’ve been doing in the past.
- The industry is generally struggling so plateauing is better than dying out entirely.
- You’re having website troubles or bad PR problems.
Whatever the reason is, figure out the role of your business versus the market when it comes to plateauing results.
2. Explore the Role of Other Channels
Are you finding a lack of brand search volume? Maybe it’s time to boost your display efforts.
Have your PPC efforts soared at the cost of other channels? Maybe you should re-evaluate your proportion of remarketing spend.
Lack of new customers? Perhaps it’s time to figure out where people heard of your brand first and re-invest your money there.
Put pressure on your agency to make sure you have metrics that matter to your business and not just those that make the agency or the digital space look good.
3. Be Willing to Invest in New Technology
Investing in new technology can free up your agency’s time to focus on bigger things and automate the simpler ones. It can also result in greater time savings for both you and your agency.
Investment options include a different bid management technology or CRO to lift conversion rates. Whatever new technology you’re willing to spend on, your agency should also be willing to explore them.
4. Align Your Budget
Consider a Now-New-Next budget approach to encourage innovation and continual testing.
- Now: Allocate 70 percent of your budget on what’s currently working for you, on what’s stable and reliable.
- New: Allocate 20 percent of your budget on looking at old initiatives in new ways. A test that failed years ago could succeed with flying colors today. Evaluate the role of audiences (customer match, similar audiences, in market, and more) to see which fits your old efforts and new business.
- Next: Allocate 10 percent of your budget to keep moving forward and prepare for what lies ahead.
How to Fire a PPC Agency
Firing an agency can be expensive so it should be your last resort. But if you absolutely must let your PPC agency go, here are a few things to keep in mind before pulling the plug:
1. Do Your Research
You don’t want to leave your business hanging so make sure you have a new agency lined up before you fire the old one.
Give potential agencies access to your account and do your best to keep it hidden from your existing agency. Otherwise, you might throw them into a panic, experience weird service interruptions, or see executives poking their head in trying to make things right.
2. Analyze the Agreement
Go back to your contract and check your out clause. You’ll need to have your research for a new agency done at just the right time so be sure to plan accordingly based on the length of your out clause.
3. Give Enough Notice to Get Your Job Done
Two or three weeks is likely fine but a month’s notice may be too much. Get access to all your accounts if you don’t have them already.
Collect all reports, tests, presentations, and other documents for the new agency. Unlink old tools and terminate access but give the agency time to bill for work they’ve done.
4. Leave on a Positive Note
The PPC world is a small one so you don’t want to burn bridges you might later on regret. Be professional, thank your agency for the work they’ve done, and wish them the best.
Evaluating & Selecting a New Agency
Whether you’re thinking of hiring an agency to help with your PPC efforts or you’re in the process of replacing your existing agency, there are a few things to remember when selecting an agency that suits your business:
1. Develop a Common Criteria for Evaluation
You should establish a criteria agreed upon by stakeholders and other relevant people within your business when choosing an agency. You can then use this criteria to evaluate transparency, relationship, expertise, and fit. This score card can help.
2. Expertise or Experience?
The people you speak with in potential agencies must demonstrate an ability to do their job well. They should have a point of view on industry changes because things move fast in the paid search realm.
Does the agency have relevant experience in your industry? Check if their experience in related industries comes close to what you’re looking for.
Do you want a team of experts, a team of interns, or something in between? Years of experience may not be the best equivalent of skill so focus on identifying how the agency tests, reacts, and plans.
3. Evaluate Your Idea of Value
What do you want in an agency? How does the agency measure success? Do they report on their metrics or business outcomes? These are all important questions to ask to identify what you consider valuable to your business and how to find that value in an agency.
4. Understand Their Technology Suite
Make sure the agency uses not only one but several tools for measurement and reporting. Understand how often the agency evaluates technologies and whether they take a test drive. Most importantly, check if their technologies of choice support your marketing goals.
5. Secure a Cultural Fit
Cultural fit is the most crucial aspect of an agency relationship. You want someone who is passionate, proud, and motivated to work on your business.
Find people you love to work with and ensure their structure works for you. Ask to meet the team and get to know the people who will actually do the work so you know what to expect.
6. Find Pricing That Works for Everybody
When it comes to pricing, there will always be room for negotiation. But know that it’s a give and take situation.
Align contract terms with business needs but also offer a performance incentive. A percentage of media spend, a reward for good performance, or something else entirely can keep everyone motivated.
Hiring a PPC agency is one of the most important marketing investments you’ll ever make. Make that investment worth it by hiring an agency that’s up to the task and best meets your needs.
Video Recap of the #SEJThinkTank Webinar on How to Find the Right PPC Agency
This post is based on a SEJ Think Tank webinar about finding the right PPC agency, with expert advice from Joe Khoei, founder and CEO of SalesX, and Aaron Levy, manager of client strategy at Elite SEM.
Here’s a video recap of that webinar, which includes a Q&A session:
Here’s the SlideShare of the presentation as well.
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Author: Loren Baker