Choosing a PPC agency to manage your paid advertising strategy is a big commitment. Anyone can run campaigns on a platform like Google Ads but you’re looking for an agency because you want to get the best return on your PPC investment.
This article aims to help you choose the ideal agency for your needs by asking the right questions. The answers prospective agencies provide to these questions should tell you everything you need to make your choice with confidence.
You want to know what your PPC agency is doing to manage your account on a daily basis. Ad performance varies from one hour to the next and maximising ROI requires constant optimisation. No agency can manage your account 24/7 but you want to know the steps they’re taking every day to get the best results possible.
You also want to know who will be managing your account and completing key actions: everything from keyword research and ad copy to bid settings and campaign optimisation. Are these tasks being carried out in-house by experienced PPC specialists or will some of these jobs be handled by juniors and outsourced to freelancers?
Something else you’ll want to know is who your point of contact is. Are you assigned a dedicated account manager who you can contact at any time or are you speaking to department managers, PPC advertisers, etc. when you get in touch?
Communication is vital for this kind of working relationship and some conversations can’t be had over email. You’ll want routine phone or video calls with your agency to discuss goals, expectations and progress – probably every quarter or month, but this depends on how your agency operates.
With sufficient reporting and email exchanges, you shouldn’t need to spend too much time talking over the phone but you want an agency that routinely checks in to make sure your PPC strategy is contributing to your business goals.
Reporting is the most important exchange of information with your PPC agency. The numbers should tell you everything you need to know about the performance of your campaigns, formatted in a way that’s clear and easy to understand without any expertise in PPC advertising.
Before you hire an agency, get a breakdown of the reporting you’ll receive and how this will be presented to you. They should be able to explain which data points you’ll be presented with and what this tells you about performance – eg: what the impression share metric says about search visibility.
It’s always worth asking about service level agreements (SLAs) with potential agencies to understand the contractual obligations of both parties. This is where the agency defines the limits of liability and responsibility for things like deliverables, contract termination and communication response times.
SLAs spell out your agency’s obligations in specific terms (eg: customer email messages must be responded to within 48 hours) but they tell you a lot about what you can expect from the services they deliver.
In modern marketing, there are few agencies that only provide PPC advertising and you wouldn’t really want to work with one, considering how integrated it is with SEO and other strategies.
That said, a result of this is that some agencies offer PPC services without necessarily having a great deal of experience. Maybe they provide it as an additional, optional service or they outsource it to freelance advertisers so they can provide the full package.
So make sure you’re getting an agency with proven expertise in PPC advertising because this isn’t something you can do by half measures.
PPC performance is complex but your agency should be able to demonstrate results in clear numbers. It’s their responsibility to explain which KPIs and metrics align with your goals and illustrate success/failure. This allows you to look at reports and quickly assess performance, compare results and see how things are progressing over time.
PPC advertising is a game of efficiency where the aim is to maximise the return on your budget. Every PPC strategy has wasted spend but your agency should do everything it can to minimise this by optimising campaigns, budgets and goal completions.
When you’re talking to agencies, ask them to explain how they approach wasted spend and try to get specifics. Find out about bid adjustments, targeting, automation and other techniques that can get the most out of your budget.
As mentioned earlier, no PPC agency can manage your account 24/7 but they don’t have to if they use automation to keep things optimised around the clock. Google Ads has built-in automation settings and features but the top agencies also use their own automation systems to optimise bids, analysis, reporting and a range of other tasks.
It’s not only a question of constant optimisation but also automating repetitive tasks so your agency spends less time completing the same tasks over and again. Automation frees up time so that all of your agency fees are spent on meaningful actions, not copy-and-pasting spreadsheets.
We’ve mentioned automated bidding a couple of times already and this is a topic you definitely want to talk about with prospective agencies. Most PPC platforms have built-in automatic bidding settings and, while these can be useful, you surrender control over your bids and data visibility.
Some agencies have their own automated bidding systems, which retain full visibility to campaign data and control over settings. There are pros and cons to both approaches but the top PPC agencies use their own automation technology alongside built-in features.
If you’re facing particular challenges with your PPC, you might want to delve a bit deeper into the more technical side of campaign management to ensure that the agency has the necessary skills to help you overcome certain issues. Questions might include:
PPC agencies get plenty of data from platforms like Google Ads but there’s a world of external data out there that agencies can access, too. The modern consumer journey is more complex than ever but big data allows us to understand it in great detail.
Purchase habits are affected by a wide range of external factors: weather patterns, sporting events, political developments, news headlines – and plenty more. For example, we can access data from the Met Office to see how rainfall impacts the sales of specific products or consumer spending.
If you’re an online retailer, Smart Shopping campaigns in Google Ads are something you’ll almost certainly be using. A common issue you might experience with Smart Shopping campaigns is declining return on ad spend (ROAS) and your agency should have techniques in place to deal with this. So, if you’re looking to promote retail products through Google Ads (and likely to use smart shopping campaigns), raise this question with prospective agencies.
Related content: How to overcome common smart Shopping problems
Smart Shopping campaigns combine shopping, display and remarketing ads into a single, automated campaign format. Another intrinsic issue with this is that you can’t attribute results to individual channels – you simply have to take Google’s word that the combination of all three is best for performance. Speak to agencies about this issue and how they plan to overcome it (or mitigate it) before you decide to work with anyone.
If you would like to find out how we answer these questions, you can speak to our PPC team by calling 02392 830 281 or filling out the contact form below. Also check out our PPC services for more information about how we can help.
Mike is a senior PPC specialist at Vertical Leap and has worked in digital marketing since 2016. He specialises in eCommerce PPC, increasing ROAS and growing revenue particularly through Google Shopping & Facebook Ads. Outside of work he enjoys all things sport, particularly football, tennis, skiing and paddle boarding. He also loves dogs, particularly labs and golden retrievers.
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