PPC advertising helps you grow your business.
PPC advertising can help grow your business one click at a time. — Getty Images/Rashad Aliyev

Paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC) management can be a powerful marketing strategy to propel your business forward. However, it can also be frustrating and costly. If you want to integrate paid search into your marketing strategy, hiring an outside agency to help may be in your business's best interests. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between PPC vendors.

What is PPC?

PPC is a way of marketing on search engines in which advertisers pay a fee every time a user clicks on their ads. Businesses use PPC to generate more leads (and eventually more sales) as well as to promote brand awareness. Even if you have not used PPC in your own business as yet, you have already seen it in action.

With PPC, advertisers have the ability to show a targeted ad that is relevant to a specific user at the moment they input a search query with the goal of persuading them to visit your site. To put it more simply, PPC is known as 'paid search' because you have to spend money in order to see the business results you want. Keep in mind that you only pay for your ads when someone clicks on them, not when they are displayed. This is why it is called pay-per-click advertising.

However, it is important to note that when PPC campaigns are extremely effective, the fee becomes insignificant because the visit is so valuable. For instance, let’s say that you pay $2.50 for a click that generates a $200 sale. That’s a sizable profit.

Evaluate your needs

Here are some indicators that it is time to consider a PPC vendor to meet your business needs:

  • You lack the time to manage your PPC campaigns internally
  • You don’t have the expertise to effectively keep tabs on your PPC account(s) in-house
  • Your current ad agency lacks requisite PPC experience

In assessing your needs, it’s also important to look at your long-term goals:

  • How do you see your business growing in the next 3 to 5 years?
  • Do you expect to double or triple scale of your PPC campaigns?
  • Do you plan to bring the PPC work back in-house in the near future?

Discussing the questions and your answers with the PPC agencies you interview are important in determining whether the agencies have the ability to handle your evolving requirements.

Your budget is also an important consideration. In general, most businesses will either have a fixed budget with a cap on how much is spent every day, or one that varies based on campaign results. In determining your budgetary constraints, consider the following:

  • How much can you afford to spend, in general?
  • How much value do you place on each lead?
  • How long is your buying cycle currently?
  • What is your current conversion rate through SEO?
  • How many PPC leads do you need each month?

Once you’ve come up with a number, be sure to work with the agency that is best able to tailor their services to fit your monthly and annual budgetary constraints.

Businesses use PPC to generate more leads (and eventually more sales) as well as to promote brand awareness.

Top questions to ask when hiring a PPC vendor

Do not be afraid to ask tough questions during the interview process — it will help you find the best agency to drive the results you need.

What is the agency’s track record?

You need to be able to assess their proof of success by researching the following:

Is the agency a certified Google Partner? Think of this certification as the minimum competency level required of a PPC agency. It means that it has passed the Adwords certifications exams and that it has met the minimum spend requirement as outlined by Google. The latter is a good indicator that the agency handles a certain amount of business.

What does the agency's portfolio of work consist of? There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to the agency’s experience level.

  • Has the agency worked with clients in similar verticals as yours?
  • What types of results has it produced for these clients?
  • How has it handled campaigns that did not go according to plan?

You should request references during the interview process so that you can follow up with the agency’s current or former clients directly.

What is the agency's client retention rate?
Another great way to see how the agency performs is to ask about its retention rate. The best PPC agencies typically have retention rates of 90% and above. This speaks directly to the results it delivers and the strong working relationship the agency is able to build with its client base.

What types of services do they offer?

Ensure that you understand what services are included from the agency. For instance, you will want to find out whether the agency can integrate PPC with your SEO (search engine optimization) activities and if it offers other services such as web design and development. You should also find out how much of its agency resources are devoted to PPC compared to other lines of business. This will usually offer good insight as to its level of specialization in the industry.

You can also find out how well the agency measures up when it comes to information sharing. Does it offer information like webinars, white papers or detailed guides? The agency's willingness to share their expertise is usually a good sign that transparency is important in the way business is done.

What is their keyword selection knowledge?

PPC is all about relevance and keyword selection to getting the right ads in front of the right people. If your PPC vendor chooses the wrong set of keywords, then you’ll get fewer qualified leads coming to your landing pages, which will increase your cost of getting new customers. A PPC campaign that performs well will include different types of PPC keywords such as brand keywords, commercial keywords, broader, low-intent keywords as well as long-tail keywords. Long-tail terms are typically longer than six or seven words long and are not searched very often, but can generate good results when used correctly.

A good PPC manager will be able to ensure that your PPC campaigns work together with your SEO initiatives. The best PPC campaigns work very well with terms that you rank for organically. The same search result pages will send both paid as well as organic clicks to the links that appear on a search.

Will you get full access to your Google AdWords account?

This is actually an important question. Not all search agencies will provide you with complete access to all of the data generated by your search campaigns. There is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to access your own data. And, the best PPC agencies will want to ensure that you have full visibility into the performance of their PPC campaigns. If you don’t yet have an AdWords account, the agency will be able to create one on your behalf under your business name and with your billing information to ensure continuity even after the relationship has ended.

What type of reporting will be provided?

When hiring a PPC agency, you should always ask what type of reports it provides to their clients and the frequency at which it provides them. As a baseline, the agency should be able to provide reporting at least monthly which details campaign performance and budget allocation. These reports should not be overly complicated but rather straight to the point, highlighting what really matters -- leads and conversations.

You should also ensure that you will have a direct point of contact who can field questions regarding these results via email or over the phone.

It is also recommended to find out more about the agency’s technological capabilities. For example, can its marketing reporting tools integrate with other software you use in your business, such as your CRM or accounting platform? Integration can improve efficiency and cut down on duplicate work.

Next steps: Set realistic expectations for the working relationship

While the above points are important, finding the right cultural fit is a consideration that cannot be overlooked. It is important to be up front with your expectations and the type of working relationship you require.

For instance, do you need quick responses and frequent communication preferably by phone and not email? Is your firm large and extremely organized or do you thrive on letting the creative chips fall where they may? Each of these situations demands unique skills sets and personalities — and it’s worth it to invest the time during the interview process to reduce the potential for headaches once the relationship gets underway.

Furthermore, if both parties aren’t on the same page about deliverables, deadlines, types and frequency of communication required and shared responsibilities, then it will be very hard to establish trust in order to move forward.

Final thoughts: Do your due diligence

As you can see, choosing the most qualified PPC vendor isn’t always an easy process. Once you have identified your own business goals and expectations, then it’s time to put potential hires to the test by determining track records, levels of expertise, services offered, reporting capabilities and communication style. Avoid signing on the dotted line if you don’t feel confident an agency can fit the bill.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published February 25, 2019