Hiring a PPC expert can be challenging, but finding the right one could be your ticket to big wins.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Tips for hiring a PPC expert
  • Top 6 experts to consider
  • Pros and cons of hiring a freelancer vs. a professional agency
  • Common costs and payment terms

As a seasoned digital marketer, you’re probably familiar with Google Ads, industry terminology, key performance indicators (KPIs), and goals.

But, depending on your role, you may not be as well-versed in the daily ins and outs of each of the “doers” who fall under your management.

As your department grows and expands (or finds they need to replace a current employee or agency), you may want to look into hiring a PPC expert to manage your paid search campaigns.

There are numerous ways to fill your current need, but there are also plenty of questions to be asked:

  • What’s the best option for your company?
  • Do you go with an agency, a freelancer, or an in-house expert?
  • What are the best PPC agencies?
  • Should you rely on reviews or the recommendations of colleagues?
  • Do you use a specialty hiring platform or turn to the biggest hiring platforms in the country, like ZipRecruiter and Indeed?

We’ll cover it all in this guide.

Top 6 PPC experts

If you’re ready for a roundup and have no time to waste, we got you! Here’s a list of the top six PPC campaign experts: 

  1. HawkSEM
  2. Wordstream
  3. Tinuiti
  4. Wpromote
  5. Jellyfish
  6. Merkle

From killer case studies and international offices to certifications and proprietary technology, each PPC expert on this list offers something different. No matter what makes them shine, these PPC experts are the real deal. 

Let’s dive in:

 1. HawkSEM

HawkSEM PPC agency for Realtors homepage

Hey, it’s us!

Look, I promise we’re not lacking in humility. It’s just that leaving our team of PPC experts off this list would be a massive disservice.

Founded in 2006, HawkSEM earned a reputation as a team of top experts in the PPC industry. As a Google Premier Partner, Hawk is among the top 3% of PPC agencies in the country. With a 4.5X ROI on average, it’s no wonder we have a 98% retention rate.

Using our PPC expertise, we increased conversions by 7X for DIRECTV, tripled lead volume and quality for New Century Financial, increased revenue by 562.45% for 686, reduced conversion costs by 60% for Zephyr, and created campaigns that reached 30 million people for Honda. (You can read more case studies here.)

Our PPC excellence partnered with our proprietary marketing tool, ConversionIQ, makes our services pretty darn bulletproof. 

 2. Wordstream

PPC expert: WordStream

When it comes to expert PPC resources, Wordstream leads the way. Their tools and articles allow any DIYer or marketing manager to improve their PPC management skills for free

Powered by their Google Premier Marketing Partnership, Wordstream’s Google Ads Performance Grader is a free tool that helps digital marketers assess the strength of their campaigns compared to best practices in the industry. Made specifically for small businesses and agencies, the tool offers insights into nine key metrics:

  • Wasted spend
  • Best practices
  • Quality Score
  • Click-through rate
  • Impression share
  • Display ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Mobile advertising
  • Account activity

These insights are paired with actionable next steps and a graded report to help you improve. If an agency partnership isn’t in the budget, look no further.

 3. Tinuiti

PPC expert: Tinuiti

Branded as the largest independent performance marketing firm, Tinuiti specializes in paid search and was selected as a Google Premier Partner, earning them a spot in the top three-percenters club. 

With a long list of big-name clients, impressive case studies, and proprietary marketing technology, Tinuiti makes it to the top of any PPC expert list.


 4. Wpromote

PPC expert: Wpromote

Dubbed leaders in performance marketing by Forrester, Wpromote’s Google Ads service began in 2001, combining “best-in-class expertise and innovative tech [that] works in tandem with your other channels, and drives growth across the funnel.” 

With over 700 team members and a long list of seriously big-name clients, Wpromote is a high-end agency with rock-solid rankings as PPC campaign experts. 

 5. Jellyfish

PPC expert: Jellyfish

With offices all over the world, Jellyfish is literally a global PPC powerhouse with a team of Google-certified Paid Search experts who “develop award-winning, innovative paid search solutions focused on audiences, automation, and attribution.”

Founded in 2005, Jellyfish is not only an expert agency with their own proprietary reporting technology — they’re educators offering training in PPC and paid media

Whether you want an agency or a course to tackle campaigns on your own, Jellyfish is among the top PPC experts to consider.

 6. Merkle

PPC expert: Merkle

A leading customer experience management (CXM) company focused on data-driven solutions, Merkle is a PPC expert with over 30 years of partnering with Fortune 1000 companies and nonprofit organizations to maximize the value of customer portfolios. 

With 12,000 employees, more than 50 offices throughout the Americas, and over $900 million in ad spend this year alone, Merkle is a staple in paid search. Named the #2 by LinkedIn’s Top Companies in Marketing & Advertising to grow a career in the industry, Merkle’s expertise in PPC is palpable through their resources and proven through their powerful case studies.

What does a PPC expert do?

No matter who you choose, your PPC expert should have the knowledge to guide you through PPC strategies and benchmarks.

A PPC specialist has the expertise to guide you through PPC strategies and benchmarks. They’ll actively help you set goals and budgets. They can also do the heavy lifting: researching keywords, building campaigns, and measuring progress against KPI benchmarks.

Your expert isn’t just the one building and managing campaigns. They interpret data and provide needed insights to make your campaigns successful and profitable. They’ll work with your SEO, email, and social media experts to create a cohesive strategy and voice that moves your business toward its goals.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “A PPC expert manages internet pay-per-click advertising campaigns including the strategy, design, implementation, SEO, and analysis of ad performance. It is a challenging role that is also highly sought after because it takes a unique skill set to nail a PPC campaign.”

Beyond this, they watch trends, assist in producing conversion-optimized pages, and report on performance.

two people outside on a bench looking at a tablet

You should know the pros and cons of hiring an individual vs. an agency, and common methods of calculating service fees. (Image: Unsplash)

How do I hire a PPC consultant?

Hiring a PPC expert can sound daunting with all the potential options. Your first step should be to educate yourself and assess your company’s current needs and goals.

You should know the pros and cons of hiring an individual vs. an agency and common methods of calculating service fees. Most importantly, you should know your budget and timeline.

Finding a PPC expert

There are a variety of different places to find PPC campaign experts online. Starting with a simple Google search, you can find more PPC experts than you could ever vet.

You could use a freelancing platform like Upwork, Mayple, or the plethora of new providers cropping up regularly. You can seek out local agencies or one of the big names in the industry. Alternatively, you can post on LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, or other job sites.

Questions to ask during an interview

It doesn’t matter where you find your PPC expert. You’ll need a good vetting process to get the right person (or agency) for the job.

It’s not just about their skill level but also about how they’ll fit into your company culture and meet your specific needs. Essential questions should be meant to weigh initiative and not just PPC-specific skills.

Skills assessment

The skills assessment is not only about overall skills but also experiences that will make them a key asset in your marketing program.

Start by asking individuals and agencies for case studies, samples of their work, insights into past performance, and information about industries they’ve worked with. Showing a proven track record in your industry (or similar industries) is vital to finding a PPC specialist to lead your business to success.

You can use these materials to separate the candidates into those that are definitely not a good fit and those you’d like to speak with. They’ll also give you some key discussion points during an interview.

Potential experts should have experience improving return on ad spend, lowering cost per acquisition, and enhancing other vital metrics.

Now it’s time to schedule the interviews. 

two women interviewing an agency

Hiring an agency comes in two flavors: a full-service agency with many services and a PPC-specific agency. (Image: Unsplash)

Potential interview questions for your PPC expert

Scheduled a consultation with a PPC expert? 

You can expect your prospective hire to come prepared with a convincing presentation a la what makes their PPC services your best option. 

And while any reputable agency will try to knock your socks off with a proposal during this initial meeting, make sure you also come prepared with a list of questions to test their expertise and compatibility with your business.

Here’s a helpful list of questions to ask your potential PPC expert:

  • What size budgets have you managed?
  • Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t meet the PPC goals set for an account? What stood in your way?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How do you feel about smart bidding and other machine learning/automation currently available in PPC?
  • What key metrics do you use to make decisions on strategy?
  • Do you typically create branded campaigns?
  • Do you use scripts, automated rules, or third-party tools?
  • How often do you perform account optimization?
  • What do you consider when writing ad copy?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Do you have Google Ads certifications? What about other certifications?
  • Do you regularly do A/B testing?
  • How much of your experience involves managing e-commerce campaigns vs. lead generation campaigns?
  • What percentage of the ad spend do you typically allocate for remarketing?
  • How do you manage the creative asset production process on Google Ads vs. Facebook ads?
  • In what ways do you optimize ads to improve click-through rates?
  • How do you optimize your campaigns to improve conversion rate?
  • What data can you leverage from the SEO team to create winning results for your PPC campaigns?

If you want to learn a little bit more about PPC experts, you can get started with 8 Things Every Google Ads Expert Should Know.

Hiring an individual vs. a PPC agency

There are many differences between hiring an agency and a PPC freelancer (contractor). These differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes freelancers (or contractors) get a bad rap.

Agencies often tell you that you should hire them because they’re more reliable or have better access to tools, but this doesn’t give the complete picture of how the two types of service vary. 

Hiring a full-service digital marketing agency vs. a PPC agency

Hiring an agency comes in two flavors: a full-service agency with many services and a PPC-specific agency.

A full-service agency is great for businesses that will eventually need other services since there will be easy communication and data-sharing. Hiring an agency allows you to have a dedicated, specialized team.

Here are some of the pros of hiring a full-service agency:

  • You’ll receive a dedicated account manager
  • They’ll understand the importance of a cohesive, seamless brand and message
  • They can also provide other services as you need them
  • A full-service agency can assist with other problems you may run into that a specialist agency may be less experienced in, like implementing Google Analytics 4 or troubleshooting conversion tracking issues

The cons of hiring a full-service agency include:

  • You may only be interacting with the account manager and not your PPC expert, which may create delays in getting answers
  • They may require a larger ad budget than you are ready to spend
  • Full-service agencies are generally used to working with large businesses, so if you fall into the small-to-medium category, they may not be equipped to provide the service you need
  • They may charge more for services

By comparison, hiring a professional agency comes with its own pros and cons. Let’s start with the positive aspects:

  • They’re specialists who live and breathe the service you need
  • You’re likely to speak directly to the person managing your account, meaning fewer delays
  • They’re specialists, not generalists, so you’ll get a PPC manager who is well-versed in the more complicated aspects of PPC
  • Their management fees may be less since they focus on one type of work
  • They’re likely to be a smaller organization, so your relationship may be a little more personal

Some of the cons of hiring a PPC-only agency include:

  • They may not be able to help you with PPC-related tasks like complicated tracking or building a shopping feed
  • The agency might be less in tune with your overall strategy
  • They may not have the capability to create landing pages or videos

Hiring an individual vs. an agency

Just as there are differences between hiring a full-service agency vs. one that is only dedicated to PPC, there are also differences between hiring an individual and an agency.

Who do you want to handle your ad campaigns? That depends on your needs. An agency probably has a whole group of experts who can be consulted when your PPC ads are performing sub-optimally, but they have many clients.

Will an agency give you the time and dedication you deserve, or will you just be a number? Consider asking agencies how many clients your specialist will be looking after. An individual will likely have fewer clients but won’t have the agency support structure either. When they’re sick or on vacation, there’s no one to fill in. They may have no one to assist when they get stuck on an issue.

The pros of hiring an agency are:

  • Reliable service that won’t be affected by sickness and vacations
  • Marketing experts are vetted and held to standards
  • Agencies usually create SOPs, procedures, and processes to ensure accounts run smoothly
  • There’s someone to complain to if things go wrong

The cons of hiring an agency are:

  • Agencies usually charge higher fees
  • They have less flexibility for meetings and changes
  • They have a standardized way of writing reports and performing tasks that may not fit your organization’s operations
  • They’re more likely to require a multi-month or yearly contract

In contrast, you’ll find that the pros of hiring an individual are:

  • They’re generally flexible and willing to make adjustments to fit your organization 
  • Individuals usually work on a month-to-month basis
  • It’s easier to integrate them into your organization than an agency
  • They don’t necessarily have a set amount of time each week to dedicate to you

Cons of hiring an individual are:

  • Less security in the long term since they don’t have anyone to back them up
  • They may not work the hours you work
  • They may not respond to your emails and requests in a timely manner
  • There’s no one to hold them accountable or to provide feedback to

Individuals may be less stringent regarding charging for meetings or the number of hours they dedicate to you and your accounts. They may or may not know other marketing parts, which is convenient if you occasionally need email marketing or a blog post.

Individuals also don’t have required work hours or a vetting process and might be less likely to gain certifications. They may offer much more than PPC services and have a generalist mentality. Freelancers selling their online marketing services can be either specialists or generalists, so you’ll need to investigate their backgrounds carefully before deciding to go with them.

man videochatting with a colleague

Typically, payment terms fall into two categories: hourly and fixed rate. (Image: Unsplash)

Hiring a contractor vs. an in-house PPC expert

You should also consider the benefits and pitfalls of hiring a contractor versus an in-house PPC expert.

Hiring a full-time employee versus an outside entity can be a boon if you have the kind of PPC accounts that require 40 hours of management and optimization each week. An in-house expert may pay off if you plan on advertising on Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Hiring a contractor will allow you to pay someone for the hours they spend without footing the bill for all the other costs an employee brings. You’ll get the services you need without paying payroll tax, benefits, paid time off, and more. However, you won’t be able to dictate how and when they complete the work.

An in-house PPC expert will be there to answer questions when you need it and to work exclusively with your team. They’ll be your paid search guru and no one else’s, so you won’t need to worry about them being occupied with other projects.

The top benefits of hiring a contractor are:

  • You get the work of a true expert even if you don’t have enough work to employ them full-time
  • They work on other projects and can bring those experiences to your project
  • They’re unlikely to get bored or feel unsatisfied with your project because they can work with a variety of businesses in many industries
  • You can negotiate payment options with them, and if your needs change, those terms can be adjusted

Some downsides to hiring a contractor are:

  • They aren’t part of your organization, so they won’t be able to drop things whenever you need them
  • They don’t have to give two weeks’ notice if they decide to leave you
  • You can’t dictate how or when they work or how much time they spend on your projects
  • They could be working with your competitors

If you prefer hiring an in-house PPC expert, consider these pros:

  • They are fully invested in your company and your success
  • They’re a part of the everyday workflow, so they truly understand your company from the inside out
  • They can work on cross-functional teams with ease
  • They can easily access all of the necessary assets and information without extra steps

Of course, with pros come cons:

  • You have to pay them a salary, not just for their work hours
  • They won’t have any backup when they’re out of the office unless you train someone else on the team
  • You may not be able to afford the level of expertise you need, leaving you to settle for less
  • You’ll need someone to manage them

Common payment terms

Just like in other industries, pricing methods vary in the marketing business. Depending on whether you hire an individual or an agency, this will vary even more.

Typically, payment terms fall into two categories: hourly and fixed rates. Since pay ranges vary by region, experience, and more, we’ll keep things general.

Hourly campaign management

Both agencies and freelancers offer hourly campaign management. If you hire an in-house PPC expert, you could expect to pay them benefits in addition to their salary.

By contrast, freelance rates will vary quite a bit. Rates will also be affected by the country the freelancer is residing in. Those living in countries with a lower cost of living will charge a bit less for their expertise.

You can ask your potential freelance PPC consultant about the number of hours they expect to spend on your account, as this will be based on budget, the number of campaigns, and how often you run promotions or discounts.

Retainer-based PPC management

Retainer-based management allows you to have a predictable fee each month. Both agencies and freelancers offer this arrangement as well. These retainers include specific terms like how reporting is completed, the number of meetings you’re entitled to, and more. 

Agencies tend to prefer the monthly retainer model, while you’ll have more flexibility in payment terms with freelancers.

The takeaway

There are many benefits to hiring a PPC expert. The first is obviously their expertise. They understand the ins and outs of search engine marketing, from quality scores to cost per click.

Since PPC marketing is their forte, they can conduct in-depth keyword research, monitor CPCs, and maximize your return on investment. Other benefits of hiring a PPC expert are:

  • You’ll get an expert who deeply understands their platforms and how to optimize performance
  • Strategies will be built and customized to work with each platform
  • Channel-specific feedback that will help to inform your marketing strategy
  • Strong ad copy is written to perform on your advertising platform
  • Knowledge about how to reach your target audience on PPC channels
  • They can take care of the technical details

When you’re starting out on your search for the right PPC expert, the process can seem overwhelming. Use the above tips and tricks to guide your journey to finding the perfect fit for your company.

How HawkSEM can help you

HawkSEM is more than just ppc ads management. Our ConversionIQ System will supercharge your management services with actionable insights, full-funnel attribution, and high-quality conversions. We will dramatically improve your ROI, improve lead quality, and ensure you track everything. Request a consultation (or just say hi!)

This post has been updated and was originally published in November 2022.

Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.