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Looking for the best PPC agency can be a challenge. Here are some hints and tips.
If you want the best – you need to work with the best. This guide is written for those companies who are looking to work with a digital agency and looking specifically for PPC or AdWords & Bing management. This guide is also useful for those that are currently with an agency and are looking to move.
In many cases, agencies are employed when a business is looking to substantially increase sales online. Setting guidelines, objectives and communication, are key to a harmonious partnership.
Choosing the right fit for your business requires some planning and asking the right questions.
It also means you have to look at your own business requirements and seriously work out a desired outcome – a good agency will ask the right questions to fill in the blanks, collectively, this can then help you shape a fuller brief if you have the basics.
Why listen to me?
Having been both client and now agency side for quite a number of years, I have over 15 years in successfully growing numerous businesses through the power of online, especially PPC.
[disclaimer]: though I actively work at an agency, this guide is totally independent and unbiased. It is intended to help those that need a start-point to find the right agency or move to a new agency.
Why I wrote this guide
In all my years of hands on experience, I have all too often come across poor practice from agencies and clients who have had terrible experiences, some at the end of their tether.
So, this guide is designed to save some heartache and time as well as help you to focus on what you ‘really’ need.
The best way to find your ideal PPC agency is to understand that it is a relationship and like any relationship, it involves both parties. So, I have broken this down into core areas.
- Questions to ask yourself
- Questions to ask the agency
- Due diligence
Questions to ask yourself
Why am I looking to engage with an agency?
Though this may sound obvious, many companies fail to understand the ‘Why?’ As the old saying goes, you can’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going.
Work out your internal resources and understand that if you were working with an agency, what support you could provide them – or would they need to do everything, from a-z. If that is the case, fine. Most importantly, know where your capabilities end and the agencies begin. Have this discussion with the agency. It will save a lot of pain in the future.
What are my business objectives?
The real question is, what am I looking to employ the agency to do. Do I have a turnover/profit target I need to achieve? If so, what proportion of that target is down to your business and what is the agency responsible for?
What am I after?
Traffic? Branding? Leads?
- What is my current online traffic?
- What is the makeup of this traffic?
- Is my Google Analytics counting the right numbers?
- How much of this is paid and how much is organic traffic?
- How am I measuring brand engagement through PPC?
- Is this the only channel?
- Is my PPC aligned with my Social Media?
- Can I easily measure a content engagement path to conversion?
- What leads am I getting currently?
- What is the difference between a lead to an enquiry?
- How do customers currently find me?
- What percentage:
- Fill in a form
- Call the tel no.
- Send a direct message
- Tweet a question
- Send an email
- Where do your current enquiries come from:
- Google search – SEO?
- Google search – PPC?
- Social Media?
- LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter?
- Word of mouth?
Over and above your profit and loss account, how are you measuring your results? These can be enquies through to sales. It is always a good idea to give your prospective agency access to your Google Analytics (GA) account.There are further questions regarding GA below in the ‘Questions to ask the agency’ section.
Create a benchmark
Creating a start-point is important. This helps understanding the journey.
- How am I measuring currently?
- What are the lead times?
- How many leads to conversion?
- What is the current conversion rate?
- How much am I willing to pay per lead/sale?
Having a idea of budgets is key. In many cases, budgets are down to affordability. In some, it is down to a desired result i.e. what do I need to spend, to achieve this amount of sales over 12 months?
Either way, budget planning is crucial and will also determine the size of agency you use, more importantly, the level of service and return.
A good agency will guide you based on experience and your perceived return. A good agency will also walk away or guide you in another direction based on your budget or expected return.
Budget setting questions to ask are:
- What budgets can I allocate to my desired goals?
- Number of leads I want
- Number of units I want to sell
- How many clients do I want to acquire?
Cost per acquisition (CPA) may not be something you have accurately calculated up until now, but it is crucial to start thinking about costs against returns. Again, a good agency will help you understand and measure true return on investment (ROI) and your return on advertising spend (ROAS).
Understand what you’re working with. In certain cases, when there is a lack of data or the agency or client is unsure of the results being achieved, it is good idea to undertake a PPC audit. Many agencies will ask for this to help them better understand the overall PPC footprint. This may also incorporate a wider audit that will look at other factors. If this is agreed and both parties understand what the objectives of the audit are, it is always seen as a good investment.
Once you have addressed the above, it is time to think about what you should ask your prospective agency.
Questions to ask the PPC Agency
This is designed in you getting to know the agency and find a safe pair of hands.
Finding and then contacting an agency for the first time can seem daunting.
This could be through a Google Search or reading an article and engaging with a piece of content, whether from a social channel or again through content found through a search engine result. Going through what a company may say about itself or even looking at accolades, may not mean that this particular agency is right for you.
So, in order to help create the right business match and following on from the above, here are some questions to ask the prospective agency.
Honesty and transparency
One wants to believe that all business is honest and transparent. Sadly, this is not always the case.
When things are going well, all is rosey but real relationships are tested when things are a little more challenging.
Here are some questions to ask or at the very least, keep in mind:
- What happens if you don’t hit my targets?
- What plans do you have in place for the holiday season – we’re open
- Who owns the data?
- If I change agency, can they have our logins?
- Do I have full transparency of my AdWords account?
- Can I share Google Analytics logins?
In most cases, ask these questions and the answers you get will help determine whether a particular agency is right for you.
Most experienced agencies will not shy away from this and possibly even discuss transparency before you have to ask.
Trust is two ways. So be prepared for a good agency to ask about transparency in your own business.
An important part of the process is to ascertain how long the company has been in existence and the experience of the team involved. Logic dictates that a company that has been going a week may well have less experience and skill-set that one that has been going for 10 years.
So, what can help you understand experience and what are the questions to ask?
- When was the agency established?
- What industry or vertical sectors do they have experience in?
- What clients have they worked with before?
- Process and planning
Ask your potential agency about how they work. Questions to ask are:
- What process do you have in place?
- Will it fit around my requirements?
- What reporting do you use?
- How often will I see reports and what will they contain?
- Will you pick the phone up to me if I require, equally how often can I call you?
- Can you share a succesful or recent PPC plan that showed results?
- How often do we meet – face to face / skype / etc.?
- Do you share market information – can I share information with you?
- What does success look like – what are the key metrics (KPIs) we can measure?
Asking some of the above will give you a taste of your future agency’s process.
Looking between the lines.
Due diligence is a passive way of getting a feel for an agency you may want to work with. It allows you to get behind the headlines or statements on their site. What are the areas you should look for and what are the best places to explore more about your future agency?
Below are some areas to take a look at and see what they and others are saying, to help you build a profile.
Remember, over 60% of companies make their mind up about an agency, before they even contact them (Google B2B survey) – a good agency will help you achieve the same for your clients.
Look at social channels – what tone does this reflect? What are the cultural elements of the agency? Particular channels and areas to pay attention to are:
- Linkedin, Twitter Instagrametc.
- The agency’s own blog:
- What are the topics?
- What do they address?
- Are they or their team on independent blog channels e.g.
- Thrive Digital
- Awards and Testimonials
- Is the agency respected by peers and its clients?
- Who are testimonials from?
- Case Studies
- What clients have they worked with
- What were the results?
If you have gone through the process above, you should be better informed and ready to make a decision. In the end, it will come down to a number of factors that should all be considered and if required, done in a scorecard format.
Following this, the main factor is down to non-tangible elements like culture, empathy and likeability. These final points, mixed with all your information above should help guide you to shortlisting the right agency.