Whether you manage your own paid search accounts or partner with an agency, the decision can at times seem overwhelming. Business owners are often inundated with vendors offering their services, and if you hired every consigner that came through the door, you wouldn’t be in business very long. Decisions must be weighed and priorities established by understanding the value that each new service brings. Investing in a paid search expert is no different.

Before digging in, it’s important to revisit exactly what your paid search goals are. Generally, paid search is a lead-driven marketing tactic that allows for an exceptional amount of budget control because of the pay-per-click model that it operates under. It is a powerful tool that can lead to incredible results with the right administration, and with a lack of oversight and experience, wasted money. So if your key performance indicators are not seeing numbers aligned with your goals, what should you start examining in your current team and in a new agency?

#1 Understand That Tracking is a “Need” Not a “Want”

When implementing a pay-per-click advertising strategy it is essential that your campaigns are set up and tracked properly in order to determine where your leads are coming from, and which ones are converting. Your search resource needs to help provide guidance on which keywords and placements will largely garner the best results. Good marketing agencies go a step further and utilize 3rd-party analytics providers to dig even deeper into how users are interacting with your placements and have the know-how to utilize this information to improve your CPC (cost per conversion).

Just as–if not more– important than analyzing what is working, is to track what isn’t working so you can transfer funds away from ads draining money and into your successful campaigns if they have room to grow.

This approach applies not just to search terms but to time: respective days and hours yield different results, and tracking these changes allow you to maximize your return on investment. A good agency will take the time to review these trends and capitalize in a process known as day-parting.

#2 Your Paid Search Team Must Embrace The Constantly Evolving Landscape  

If you are trying to handle your pay-per-click advertising in-house, chances are it has ended up being piled on as an additional responsibility to an existing employee. Paid search experts eat, breathe, and live SEM. They are not only economizing your account each day, they are also embedded in the industry, which makes them knowledgeable about algorithmic changes and evolving best practices. Unless your team can commit to staying up-to-date on all the latest changes on a weekly or daily basis, you won’t have nearly as much success running campaigns on your own.

For example, Google periodically changes their Keyword Match Types. Exact match keywords, which have traditionally been the foundation of most campaigns, have evolved to no longer restrict search results to terms that exactly match the terms in the query. Google exact match results now ironically show if the words are in a different order. The feature also disregards functional words like “for,” “in,” “with,” and so on. This example is just one representation of the many evolutionary shifts that require your team to dedicate time in learning and restructuring your account..

Google has also restructured its mobile search results to give ads an even more significant advantage, taking up the majority, and many times all, of the screen post-search. Your team needs to be embracing this shift, have time to organize an independent campaign structure, and follow the respective advancements in each of the different device type’s SERP’s. There many more examples of important repercussions which innovative marketing professionals are taking advantage of, and that resource-strapped teams are losing money from.

#3 Is Your Agency Incentivized by Contract or your Spend Amount?

Agencies that bind clients by contract or that structure their fees based on the amount you invest in paid placement are incentivized to fail you.

The common rationale that agencies have for creating contracts sound reasonable. Often times they may tell you that resources need to be invested into your account towards the beginning, and the results of these investments take time to actualize. The resources are costly and would leave the agency in the hole should your company prematurely end the partnership before those results come about.

Innovative and confident agencies don’t make you sign a contract. Here’s why:

  • A good agency will communicate their expected expectations so that you understand when results should start to materialize. If you understand this and choose to go with the agency, why would you need a contract?
  • Realistic promises will actualize, sensational ones will not. If an agency wowed you during the courtship and then puts a contract in front of you, it could be a sign that they over promised and are more concerned with earning your business than having an honest relationship.  A contract will keep you on the hook with their agency longer which is good for them, but not for you.
  • A contract will make your transition to a new agency after you leave them a massive headache. It will delay the changes, make you miss important seasonal opportunities, and after you give notice of termination, there will be a period where they own your account but have no incentive to perform good work.
  • Contracts prolong poor relationships.
  • If an agency is well-established, the concerns of investing resources should be built into their business plan.
  • An agency should believe not only in their work, but in your company. Investing resources into your company then is a sign that the agency wants to be part of your ambitions and believes in your cause.

In short, good agencies retain their clients and don’t need contracts to do it. If you are currently bound by a contract, either make efforts to renegotiate out of it, or find someone better to team up with.

As for incentive structure, an agency needs to have your best interests at heart. That means your key performance indicators and ROI. They should not be rewarded by finding ways for you to spend more money.

#4 Accept That There’s No Substitute for Experience

A seasoned search professional has been faced with many situations for different types of clients. Chances are, if you encounter an issue, they will be able to provide you with detailed background information on what is happening and why. All the research in the world will not arm you with the same knowledge as someone who has experienced a particular situation before and had to adapt his or her strategy.

#5 Understand That SEO Takes Time; But Your PPC Investment Should Have an Immediate Impact

If you are nurturing your SEO and hoping that it will drive business, this is a good tactic. But, if your paid search efforts are not bringing you a high number of qualified leads or purchases, something is wrong. An experienced search professional should be able to fuel leads to capture your slice of the marketplace now. They should also provide you insights on projections and timelines for improvement so that your campaigns become more sophisticated and effective using data collected over time.

If your team or agency has hit a rut, it’s always good to get the opinion from a fresh pair of eyes. Some agencies will provide you with consultations. Feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation look under the hood