Introducing a new series on our blog: the Thrive PPC Podcast, where we’ll be sharing tips for those in agencies like us managing PPC campaigns, but also for business owners who are running their own campaigns.
In this episode, we have Matt Ellis, Lauren Holland and Jacob Wulff sharing their knowledge with us.
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7 things to consider before hiring a PPC agency
Whether you’ve partnered with a PPC agency before or this is new to you, it’s important to consider some things before signing the contract. Chances are, they’ll be an expansion of your marketing team and you’ll be working with them often to continue improving the campaign performance and adjust the strategy as needed. Here are seven things to consider before hiring your next PPC partner.
The TLDR version:
- Goals & expectations
- Agency vs. client contribution
- Pricing structure
And, here’s the full script from the video podcast:
“We are super excited to get started on this discussion topic today. We are going to be discussing how to hire a PPC agency in 2019, so I know that we kind of have a gun load of information that we could dive in and start talking about in regards to this topic.
But, really, when you’re vetting and choosing your PPC agency, it’s important to kind of note down some key things in order to find who’s going to be the best fit for you as a client, and entrusting your paid search strategy to someone. So, we have a couple of our specialists on the call today day, and our PPC manager Jacob Wulff and Lauren Holland.
So, yeah, I know we have a couple of things that we wanted to talk about today, but really the first thing we wanted to touch base on was really transparency and partnership, and what that should look like when you’re choosing your PPC agency.” – Matt Ellis
#1 – Transparency
“Yeah. I think transparency is probably one of the most important things that you’re going to need to look for in an agency because you’re hiring this group of people that specialize in something specific to do what they do, but on behalf of your product.
So, you’re giving them an allowed ad budget, maybe depending on how they set it up, a number of hours to use, you’re working with them on the strategy. So, what products and services are most important? Geography, all of that stuff really belongs to the advertiser.
Even though you’re getting an agency’s help in making the campaign go live and optimizing and all of that good stuff.
If they’re not transparent, right, about what they’re doing with that every day, and they’re just kind of disappearing and then sending you a report in an email without the detail that you need, based on the strategy that you guys have already gone over, then that’s not very advantageous to you. It doesn’t really tell you what’s going on, what they’re spending their time doing.
You should be able to jump in the AdWords campaign or the Google ads campaign and say, oh, these keywords are good. Oh, I don’t want to do that anymore. We’re having seasonality issues over there. And, in that, you’re really becoming a partner with that agency. So, they’re doing what they know how to do best based on a bunch of experience on behalf of your business.
So, you should really be allowed to have transparency and be involved in that process.” – Lauren Holland
“Yes. Yeah, and we’ve definitely all been in the digital marketing world to see that, unfortunately, there’s a lot of agencies out there that’ll kind of just hit go, and then not give you any true feedback or become a true good partner for you as the client. So, I think it’s important to note some of those things that you’re working with, obviously, an agency that’s transparent. Not just giving you numbers that you want to hear every month and really developing a solid digital marketing strategy for your business.”– Matt Ellis
“I think advertisers are smart. They see ads on the Internet and they use the Internet. So, I think the whole industry is past the point of being able to send, here’s my budget, make some ads, go out there and I’ll get a report in 30 days. I think the whole industry is way past that. It’s more of a strategic move at this point. A partnership I think is important.” – Lauren Holland
“Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. No, that’s really, really good. And, like I said, I know we’ve all been kind of on the other side of the coin before we’ve either worked for agencies, or been a part of agencies that don’t really value that, just transparency and being a good partner for our client, making sure that we’re doing everything that we can from our end to provide quality. Just a good transparent partnership with our clients.
I know, along with that, obviously there’s certain expectations and goals that clients should have for an agency, and I know Jake, you had a few things that you wanted to touch in on that, just going over what some expectations should be when clients are going out, and they’re looking to find a agency that’s going to be the right fit for them.”– Matt Ellis
#2 – Goals & Expectations
“Thanks Matt. Goals and expectations, that’s very important from the get go. You want to make sure that you’re setting those clear expectations and goals from the very beginning. The moment you contact that agency, you’ve got to have a clear understanding of why you’re doing PPC, right? We don’t want it just be shooting in the dark and say, oh, I want to get clicks to my website, or I just want to get traffic or I want to sell a few things.
So, you want to make sure that the agency that you’re working with has a firm grasp on these goals and these expectations the moment the relationship begins. So, what does that look like? I mean that can be, I want to have X number of sales by this time next month. Or, within the first six months, I want to increase my my goals or my conversions or my sales or my business leads by this percentage.”
You definitely want to make sure that that goal and that expectation is aligned with what the agency has in mind when you start that relationship. Setting these expectations and being clear on your marketing goals from the beginning, will definitely go a long way with both your business and your agency, and keeping a pulse on the progress, the performance, and just being able to correct course when needed. You can’t score if you don’t have a goal.
That’s very important. Make sure that you set those expectations and those goals, the moment you reach out to the agencies so they have a clear expectation of what they’re aiming for.” – Jacob Wulff
“What are some, if you guys had to boil it down, things that a client should be looking for when they’re kind of vetting apples to apples between agencies. What makes them distinguishable with their strategy or what are some things that is really going to be clear cut to show if the agency is providing quality, or if they ultimately know what they’re talking about when they’re developing the PPC strategy.” – Matt Ellis
#3 – What’s the strategy?
“I think strategy and optimization are two words that are kind of thrown around. And so, if you may be hear an the agency that you’re thinking about partnering with say, yeah, digital advertising is really strategic but that doesn’t make as much sense as talking through with your potential agency and say, what would your strategy be? So, every single advertiser, maybe a search campaign doesn’t work for everybody, maybe you need video or local service ads or remarketing or something.
Something different. So, a strategies should be something specific that you’re doing for that advertiser. Same thing with industries. Hotels could not be more different than selling ladies’ shoes or something like that. The strategy needs to be different, and in markets too. Texas is going to be more different than the west coast. The costs are going to be different. The demographics are different.
So, there’s a whole set of things that your agency needs to be looking at before they recommend a budget or a strategy, a start date. A list of keywords or any of that because one of the things we have when we use Google Ads or Bing Ads, or Amazon is all of this wonderful, wonderful data, and so, we need to be using that instead of sending it in, or getting it, and not seeing strategic.
Same thing with optimization. Those keywords that you guys talk about at the beginning of the strategy call, at the beginning of the campaign set up, those are going to change. The bids are going to change, the [inaudible 00:07:26] are going to change, all of that good stuff. So, the strategy needs to be set up, but then it needs to be ongoing. You need to keep it going with optimization too, and just be involved in the process as well.” – Lauren Holland
“Those are some really good points. I definitely agree with those, Lauren. And, another thing that I wanted to add to that is you definitely want to ask how the agency can help you further develop your PPC strategy, or maybe you need help with creating one from scratch. So, good points. You definitely want to ask what tactics and management tools they’ll use.
I know that’s something that I get asked from time to time. I know you guys have been asked that question. What are you guys going to do to my account? What tools are you using to monitor the performance of my account? You also want to ask does the agency expect you to contribute in any way to the account.” – Jacob Wulff
#4 – Agency vs. client contribution
“Here at Thrive, we do have some things we need to get started. Do we need to have access to a search console, Google Analytics. We do need to have the CID so we can have the ads access. We may need admin access to WordPress, so we can get into the backend, and help to further develop landing pages.
Also, if you have a current PPC account or if you’ve had one in the past, be willing to let the agency take a look at or audit that account, and see what changes we would recommend and how your agency would approach improvements moving forward, or how we would maintain the previous performance that you’ve seen in the past.
So, those are all very important as well. And then, also have an idea whether you agree to let the agency take over your current accounts. So, sometimes the account’s running well and you just want to maintain and build on what you’ve already established. Or, sometimes, you may want to just create one from scratch and just use the data from the other account to start anew.
And, definitely make sure strategy is first and foremost one of the things out of the gate that you’re definitely narrowing down.” – Jacob Wulff
“Really makes sure that we understand your business initiatives and what your unique goals are before even starting a strategy writer, making optimization suggestions.
Lauren, I thought you brought up a really good point with talking about understanding the historical data and looking at trends, before trying to come up with a solid concrete strategy is where a lot of agencies will start kind of hand feeding you the strategy without giving you kind of detail on really trying to understand your business and your goals, and what you’re trying to achieve with PPC and getting some of those specifics tailored down prior to you even kind of just throwing out there what the campaign type should be or what types of keywords you should be bidding on and what modifiers you should be using. And, a lot of things that are a little bit further down the line.
Whereas it should be more preliminary for you to try and understand, are they understanding what my business goals? Are they trying to listen to me first before offering any tips and strategy and optimization techniques? I think along with that, one of the things you have to look for, Lauren, I saw that you put down here is just experience, right?
Looking at agency to agency, seeing what different agencies can offer and maybe what that specialist you’re going to be paired up with, what they have in the background. Maybe they’ve worked in your industry before, they haven’t, but I think it’s important to understand does that particular PPC agency have any specialties or niches that they’re a little bit more knowledgeable on.” – Matt Ellis
#5 – Experience
“Yeah, experience is super important. And, the reason I was even thinking about that as we were talking about agencies is that sometimes when I do audits or talk to a potential client about Thrive, they ask me that all the time. And, it will kind of come from a place a lot of times like, well, I’ve been trying to run this ad, it’s for a hotel maybe, but it keeps getting disapproved and I don’t understand why.
And then they’ll ask, do you guys ever run ads for hotels? Is it even allowed on Google Ads? Why can’t I run it?
So, with experience, I’ll be able to look at that and identify what’s wrong in your ad copy. Well, you can’t say you’re the best hotel, you have to word it this way. This is what you should do. And yes, we’ve definitely run a whole ton of ads for hotels, and we kind of organize ourselves that way.
So, I have a lot of healthcare clients and that’s a wide range. It can be an urgent care center, or maybe somebody selling supplements, it could be a whole hospital. And so, we kind of have people within our agency that have specialties. Someone else might run a lot of legal ads, something like that. And that just gets us, so we can be the best at what we do is kind of keeping the same industry like that. So, you’re partnered with a specialist in the agency because that they know what they’re doing with that industry too.” – Lauren Holland
“And with that, I think going off of case studies that obviously dives just into another topic, huge discussion of reporting where you can get a variety of different things from agencies now that are either shallow reports or clean cut, good reports. So I know Jake, you had some good bullet points on that. What do you really look for, if you were the client, what would you be looking for in an agency giving you kind of qualified reporting, and how would you kind of compare agency to agency with the type of reports that they may give you?” – Matt Ellis
#6 – Reporting
“Yeah, definitely. So, it’s obviously important to identify what kind of reporting agency will provide. I’d also have in mind how often you expect these reports and updates to come from your specialist. Do you want a monthly report? Is that something that you’re interested in having? Do you want to have a biweekly update from your specialist? Just kind of a quick glance at some of the metrics that they’re seeing, or do you want to have recurring meetings with your specialist maybe once a week, every two weeks, once a month to kind of go over the results and share the strategy on screen share. Here at Thrive, we have a mix of different types of clients.
We have the clients that are fine with just a monthly report and that’s all they need and they trust that you have the accounting control and they’re happy just seeing them month over month metrics. Whereas, you had may have a different client that wants to have the biweekly meetings or even the weekly check ins as well as a mid month performance report and a monthly report. So, we definitely make it a point to send a monthly report in addition to a mid month report here at Thrive. We think that works pretty well for most of our clients. But, we do have those exceptions to where a client has a special request on what they want to see.
You also want to make sure you’re asking, what metrics the agency would measure, and how does that answer align with your company’s marketing objectives and goals. So, are they reporting on something that’s completely irrelevant to what your business offers? Is CTR important to you? Do you even know what CTR means? Is CPC important to you? Or, are you just looking to see how many leads we drove this month compared to last month, and at what cost? Will they measure the results all the way through from the initial click to the conversion? Do they have a different type of attribution model?
So, those are all important questions to ask, and it’s also good idea to ask these questions in addition to asking to see examples of the dashboard and the reports that they’ll be be producing, whether it’s just an email summary or it’s a more comprehensive PDF document, or sometimes a video report is something that a client may have expectations to get. So, it’s a good idea to know what to expect as you begin your working relationship, and make sure your expectations going back to that first point align with what the agency plans to produce for you.” – Jacob Wulff
“Jake, you mentioned that we can jump on a call and go over the reporting, because I know, in Google Ads in particular, CTR and CPC and conversion rate, they’re all calculated differently. There’s a whole bunch of acronyms for everything. So, I know what I like to do is, after we send them a report, give everyone a chance to look it over.
And, a lot of times, every single one of those metrics, they can be important to the campaign, but the advertising might not know what every single one of them means and what their significance is. So, we just like to jump on a call, just like this and go over it together. And then, there’s an opportunity for questions and explanations.” – Lauren Holland
“Yeah. Jake, and I thought you brought up good points just going over, let me see examples of those reports prior to us signing on and making sure that, again, you’re comparing between the agencies that you’re looking at to see what types of metrics are they showcasing right off the bat that they want to show you.
Do they include a video report with the report? Do they include any additional items alongside that report? And, I think most of the time you’ll be able to tell which agencies are providing you with very less tailored, high level reporting versus agencies that are providing you with really solid concrete reporting metrics, and the ones that are going to be really trying to convey to you or show you the metrics that you want to see.” – Matt Ellis
#7 – Pricing structure
“And, I guess to kind of go alongside that as we’re talking about interviewing agencies is, one of the things I wanted to touch on was understanding how agencies, their billing cycles, what it looks like, what their pricing looks like. I know that there’s a variety of different ways that PPC agencies charge clients.
Some have a monthly retainer fee. Some take percentage of spend. Others, like here we do at Thrive, we do a bunch of different things, kind of a combination, but uh, an hourly rate that they charge by. And, I think it’s important to understand when you’re going in and inviting for PPC agency, are they taking a percentage of your spend, and what is that percentage and how is that going to impact the performance of the campaigns that you may be running.
So, commission and pricing is obviously something that is going to be up front. You’re going to want to know, obviously, what the agency is going to be charging. But, I think comparing agency to agency to see what a type of model is even going to best assist you and that you want to reward the agency with, is the client, and what you’re willing to be able to pay in order to see the results that they may give you. So, kind of looking at that and seeing what are the different pricing models between each agency?” – Matt Ellis
“Definitely make sure you know how the agency is getting their fee because they will be getting a fee somehow. So, if they tell you, I can run these ads for you, let’s do about $10,000 a month. Well, make sure you know if it’s a commission model, or if you’re paying on top of that and they’re going to send you a separate invoice because if they’re telling you 2000 a month, and it is a commission model, than your ad spend is only 8,000, 9,000 depending on what their commission is. So, that’s super important to know in your ad budget. It’s going to make a huge difference in your campaign performance. So, you’re going to have to know that for sure.
Also, minimum spends. If there’s an agency that tells you, if you want us to be your agency and you like us, you have to send $25,000 a month. Well, if you have a local service ad and maybe you’re not in a huge city or something like that, you don’t need to spend $25,000 a month because there’s not that much search volume out there. There’s not so much for contextually relevant YouTube ads. So, something like that might be fishy. If you think that’s way too much or way more than anybody else has recommended that you spend, they’re probably not the best fit for you as well.” – Lauren Holland
“And also to add to that, I think you kind of covered it a little bit, but it’s also really important to take a look at the commission pricing structure for your management fees because that definitely plays a big role in your spend, your ROI. You want to make sure that you’re taking account, not just that $10 cost per acquisition, or that CPC, but you’re also taking into effect to account the management fee. How much are you spending total for the management fee, as well as your budget, and definitely, maintaining that account for your total overall spending CPA.” – Jacob Wulff
“Yeah. How those things benefit each other, right? How does the pricing model effect my overall SCM strategy? So, I think these are all really good things. Lauren and Jake, thanks for hopping on today. I know we covered a lot. Everything from transparency between agencies, expectation and goals, looking at, strategy and optimization, experience of specialist or team members that any given agency may have, reporting and also pricing. So, I think these are some really good practical steps that clients can be taking when they’re looking into finding who their PPC agency is going to be in 2019 as the industry grows.
And that, more and more agencies starting to pop up, I think is going to be that much more crucial for clients to really, not just kind of jumped the gun with what they think is going to be a great agency without asking some of these really important and instrumental questions. So, be sure to hit the subscribe button to get more of our content as we’re going to be talking about a lot of a variety of topics throughout the year, going over any and everything PPC.” – Matt Ellis
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