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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 12 , 2019

These tips will help you select the PPC service agency that best fits your needs.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to prepare for a PPC agency partnership
  • What questions to ask during the vetting process
  • Red flags to watch for from agencies
  • What qualities make up a good agency

Paid search is an ever-changing field. For marketing professionals whose time is already at a premium, finding the time to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and nuances can be challenging.

If you’re new to the SEM field, you may feel under-experienced to be running campaigns. Hiring a PPC agency may be the best way to boost ROI and free up your time for other channels.

Agencies understand that to remain effective, their teams must stay on top of the latest trends and techniques. Account representatives are experts in their field, and they typically have access to systems that help them increase effectiveness for clients.

In the same way that no single marketing strategy fits all companies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for PPC management. These tips will help you choose the right PPC service agency for your business.

hawksem blog: ppc service agency

You may have an estimate of what you can spend for a PPC company, whether it’s a percentage of your overall marketing budget or based on what you’ve spent in the past. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Have a list of goals and objectives

Before you begin your agency search, make sure you know what you want to achieve, whether it’s building brand awareness, fueling your pipeline, launching a new product or service, increasing conversions, or improving online revenue.

The more specific you can be about your objectives, the better chance you have of partnering with a PPC service agency successfully. Goals are crucial for ensuring strategies developed and the tactics used are in line with your business needs.

2. Identify which services you need

Perhaps you want to run paid search ads or add content to boost your SEO ranking. When making the list of agencies to contact, make sure they have experience with the services you need.

You may want to screen out any that only focus on one area, such as SEO. A PPC company that integrates paid search with other online marketing services can work with you to a higher degree and help you understand customer behavior across various digital channels. Over time this can improve campaign results and increase ROI.

Services that paid search agencies typically offer, include the following:

  • Paid Search (SEM, PPC)
  • Content Marketing
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • SEO
  • Social Media Advertising/Paid Social
  • Shopping Feeds
  • Display Advertising
  • Remarketing/Retargeting

3. Have a budget in mind

You may have an estimate of what you can spend for a PPC company, whether it’s a percentage of your overall marketing budget or based on what you’ve spent in the past. When searching for an agency to work with, ask for their opinion: Is the amount adequate to obtain your objectives? Is PPC the best way to go, or should the funds be spent on a different channel?

The way they answer these questions demonstrates whether they can explain it in a way you understand and can believe in. If they don’t think you’re budgeting enough, does their reasoning make sense? Ask if they recommend an alternate channel where the spend may be more effective.

4. Determine the fee structure

When it comes to pricing, the terms should meet your budgetary requirements. There are several options to consider, such as:

  • Flat monthly fee
  • Percentage of the advertising spend
  • Hybrid approach

There are pros and cons to each. But what deliverables are included in the services you’re signing up for? Are there any hidden fees? Will you need to hire additional resources to get the job done? Discussing such questions with the agencies you interview can help you decide which will work best for your business.

5. Know the qualities you want in a PPC service agency

No two PPC agencies are exactly alike. And while you can’t predict how a partnership will turn out, your intuition should be able to help you discern which agency reps you will and won’t mesh well with. 

Knowing what qualities to look for when you’re vetting PPC agencies will help you more easily weed out who’s not a good fit. Some qualities to look for include:

  • A history of meeting (and exceeding) expectations
  • Frequent communication
  • Industry expertise
  • Proactive ideas and vision
  • A long-term focus rather than buzzwords and numbers without context
How to Choose the Right PPC Agency: 12 Steps to Selecting a New PPC Agency

Before retaining an agency, you should discuss what your expectations are in terms of communication. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Find out whether they’re a culture fit

Finding the right culture fit is essential for the success of your relationship with an agency. This is because not only will they work with you or your in-house team on some aspects of the campaigns, but a shared perspective enables effective collaboration.

Even if it looks good on paper, if you don’t share similar values, the teams may not mesh and work well together, which can affect productivity. You want a firm that is motivated and passionate about what they do and takes pride in the quality of work they provide.

7. Research the agencies and ask for proof points

Any PPC agency will work to put their best face forward when meeting with you. But it’s up to you to do your own independent research to see what kind of reputation the agency has online. Check out review sites and see what other customers have to say (though take reviews with a grain of salt, since you don’t know the full story behind each client experience). 

It’s also worth checking out the agency’s own site to see what kind of testimonials or case studies they’ve published that could be relevant to your industry or goals. If they don’t have anything published, you can request to speak to a referral or past client for more information. 

8. Get to know their communication style

Before retaining an agency, you should discuss what your expectations are in terms of communication. Is receiving a weekly email with updates enough, or do you prefer a phone call? Do you want specific information in the reports? The firm should also make their preferences regarding communication clear. Do they recommend regularly scheduled meetings and updates? Is the whole team involved, or just the account manager?

You should also discuss what the agency needs from you and their expectations. Will they be partnering with you to strategize and execute, or simply providing recommendations for your team to carry out? When both sides communicate clearly, the partnership can proceed more smoothly.

9. Prepare the right questions to ask potential PPC agencies

When you schedule a phone or video call with a PPC service agency, make the best use of time by having a handful of specific questions ready. The more pointed your questions, the less opportunity they’ll have to be vague or broad. 

Some questions you can consider asking include:

  • How would you make sure our leads are resulting in revenue for the company?
  • On what level is the structure and experience of the team we’d be assigned?
  • What successes have you had in our industry before?
  • What is your long-term plan to drive value for us?
  • How would you report on monthly or quarterly results?

These are generally good questions to ask. However, you should also ask additional questions that are focused on your company’s specific goals.

10. Understand their experience and expertise

When discussing the possibility of retaining an SEM agency, find out who will liaise with you regularly and learn more about who will be working directly on your account. The agency you hire must be able to navigate today’s complex landscape and have the chops to make your PPC campaigns successful.

  • Account strategists help you reach your goals by directing the account and setting the overall strategy.
  • Tracking experts and analytics specialists set up campaigns, track analytics, and analyze the results.
  • Conversion rate optimization specialists continuously test landing pages for improved ad performance.
  • Graphic designers ensure your ads and landing pages look great and attract – and convert – the right traffic.

Not every agency will have dedicated teams with all of these positions. Some have senior managers who own several of these roles, while others may use junior talent and freelancers. It’s important to understand the level of expertise you are getting and whether it is commensurate with the fee.

Another factor to consider when choosing an agency is whether they’re Google Ad certified or a Google Premier Partner. This accreditation is earned by individuals that attend training and demonstrate proficiency in a broad range of Google Ads features.

11. Ensure you own your data

It’s possible that, over time, you may decide to find a new agency or build an in-house team to work alongside or in place of your agency. Prepare for that in advance by ensuring that the Google Ads accounts, landing pages, and creative assets, are all yours.

When you work with an agency, not only should you receive experienced PPC management, but your creative assets should build. Make sure the account is set up using your email account and that you have full access to any paid ad accounts, but grant the agency full access so they can create and manage campaigns as needed.

Having historical data is crucial to optimizing your campaigns. If the Google Ads information isn’t yours, you’ll have to start over again, which wastes valuable resources. When the partnership with the firm ends, you should be able to take everything with you.

hawksem: PPC service agency blog

The paid search agency you hire should be willing to share the complete, unaltered information related to your KPIs. (Image via Rawpixel)

12. Pay attention to any red flags 

Though an agency should make you feel like you’re their No. 1 client, the facts are that they’re likely juggling dozens, hundreds, or more. But while no business is perfect, there are certain red flags you may come across during your search. Let these serve as warning signs that you may not want to continue discussions with this particular service agency.

These signs include things like going days without receiving a response to a voicemail or email, making claims not based in facts or numbers, and promising outcomes without the data or sourcing to back it up. You also want to look out for a history of unhappy clients, poor retention, and any results or rates that sound too good to be true, given the company’s size and bandwidth. 

13. Look for transparency

Reporting results can be subject to interpretation. The paid search agency you hire should be willing to share the complete, unaltered information related to your KPIs.

In addition, the reports they design should match your internal metrics so that you can get a consistent view of performance. The data they contain should be detailed and up-to-date, not days or weeks old.

The takeaway

Deciding to work with a PPC service agency could do wonders to enhance your paid search efforts. When you’re entering into one of these partnerships, make sure you negotiate a deal that works for you, especially if you’re a smaller company. 

For best results, don’t pick an agency swiftly or in a panic to fix your ad accounts. Rather, treat your agency as an ally. Sometimes new clients treat agency managers adversarially like they have something to prove. Go into your new venture with an open mind, defined goals, and a clear communication plan to help ensure the relationship is successful and lasting. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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