PPC Agency Questions You Need to Ask to Avoid Failure

So you’re taking the big step and hiring an agency to manage your paid search marketing campaigns (or, you’re replacing a lousy one – kudos to you!). Sure, it’s easy to go with the PPC company with the highest ranking, best reviews, or simply what your buddy uses. But, how do you know what’s the best company for your business. Which one will fully complement and enhance your efforts, not just manage them?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Review the Company (Not Their Platform…Yet)

It’s easy to be swayed by the experiences of others, but don’t let that influence your decision to go with an agency. First, take a good look at the agency you’re evaluating, and ask these questions:

    1. How many years has the agency been in the industry?

If you’re thinking of putting all your eggs in one basket, you want it to be a strong one, right? Duration in an industry signals strength, stability, and an immense amount of knowledge.

Many digital marketing agencies have a tendency to change their names and reemerge as a new company when the dust has settled. Why do they do this? Sometimes, they found themselves (or their clients) tied up in click fraud or other unscrupulous activities. Other times, they’ve been acquired and change their name, only to be acquired again (once again, changing their name).

Longevity and experience in the digital marketing space separates performers from the non-performers. After all, they’re responsible for a very aggressive budget, and clients won’t stay with an agency that can’t maximize their budget to the fullest.

    1. Is there a contract you’re locked into?

Pay per click is a performance based system. The better your keywords are optimized, the stronger your copy. And the more aggressive your budget, the more likely someone will click on your ad and convert. If pay per click is a performance based system, shouldn’t the company managing this performance also be performance based?

This is important. Are you going to be locked into a long-term contract with the agency? From an agency perspective, this makes sense. A tremendous amount of resources must be dedicated to get a campaign up and running, so they’ll want reassurance that a client is going to stick with them.

But this also leaves them with no skin in the game to ensure your campaign is a success. If you’re paying for a service, skin in the game means they’ve got a vested effort in your success, right?

    1. What does the company roadmap look like?

You have a roadmap for your business and what you want to accomplish. It might be documented, or it at least lives in someone’s head, on a bar napkin, or a sticky note. You have plans and goals you intend to reach with your business. Isn’t it important that your agency has visions of grandeur, too?

A roadmap shows that they plan to nurture your relationship long-term. They have goals and plans, and they want you to be part of their success. After all, without successful clients and beneficial relationships, there isn’t much of a reason for a roadmap, right?

    1. Are they fun to work with?

Your relationship with your PPC agency should be complementary to your own efforts, and you should enjoy working with them. Is their work environment laid-back, engaging, and collaborative? Then there’s a good chance they’ll be more creative and thinking outside the box is encouraged – two wonderful traits you want in someone trying to set you apart from your competition.

Are the Account Managers a Good Fit?

You’ve established the company is a good fit, now how about the account managers. They’re responsible for your day-to-day communications and likely the optimization of your campaigns. Before you leave your budget in their hands, they need to be a good fit for your needs. You should ask:

    1. Do you have access to keyword tools?

You’ve entrusted your budget with this person. Can they do something with it your competition can’t? Are the keyword tools they use free or paid resources? With free tools, they have access to the same information as everyone else. If they use a paid resource, can they identify times when this resource helped them see gaps to better optimize their campaigns?

A person with a paid tool that can’t use it effectively is no more effective than a person with a free tool who uses it expertly.

    1. Are they Google AdWords certified?

AdWords certification shows a dedication to learning and mastering PPC. Granted, it should be current and it doesn’t replace competency, but the strategies learned here might help with developing your campaigns and your account set-up.

    1. Are they good at math?

What does math have to do with PPC or the management of an account? Well, quite a bit actually. An account manager doesn’t need to be an advanced statistician, but they should be analytical. A good grasp on analytics will help an account manager identify statistical significance, changes, or patterns in your campaigns and how adjustments positively or negatively affect an account.

With testing and running campaigns comes data and numbers, and an account manager should know what to do with this information.

    1. Are they chatty?

Communication has a big impact on the success of a campaign and that means chatting regularly with your account manager. But communication is a two-way street. Your account manager should keep you aware of changes in your account, or opportunities to maximize your budget or CTR. Likewise, you’ll need to keep them informed of changes to marketing or advertising that could change the scope of your paid campaigns. Some examples include:

  • Planned sales at locations – You’re pushing a three-day sale on home generators, but the forecast is calling for a hurricane, depleting your home generator inventory and cancelling your sale. Drop your campaign manager a quick note so you’re not spending budget and driving traffic towards a non-existent sale.
  • Closing down branches or locations – Geotargeting is a wonderful option to target an audience, until it isn’t. It might seem miniscule, but if you close locations or no longer want to target certain markets, bring your account manager up to speed. They can remove geotargeting from these locations, freeing up budget for other locations.
  • Product deactivations or changes – Perhaps you’re no longer selling a Deluxe 178 Series Widget, but you’re selling the Turbo Deluxe 178 Series Widget, which is a way different, more improved Widget. Each search contains most of the same keywords, so users might get your ad but be disappointed to learn you only sell one widget and not the other. With negative keywords, your account manager can adjust when advertisements are seen on certain queries, but only if they know of the changes.
  • Do they have patience?
  • PPC is a numbers game – adjust this, move that, add long-tail keywords here, make this exact. Each adjustment, no matter how small, has an impact on the overall scope of your success. Boy, that takes a lot of patience, especially when these changes are taking place during a test of an account. Account managers that recognize the devil is in the details and are patient to wait out short term gains for long term growth, often have patience reserved for the truly experienced.

    Look at the Platform Logistics

    Okay, so the company is a good fit for you, and you seem to jive with the account managers, but this means nothing if the platform won’t work for you. Let’s chat nitty-gritty, holding-up-signing-the-contract logistics:

      1. If they have their own exclusive platform, does it allow for creativity?

    Your account managers should be creative. Their platform shouldn’t hold them back and neither should character limits.

    Example Search with Keyword Placement in PPC ads

    Many keywords are in high demand and your ad needs to stand out. What’s most important in the ad, the brand name or the message? In this instance, student loans are not a brand, and they’re found in several places. Ads should be different, creative, and stand out, while still being relevant. A user might not be that interested in the brand, but they’re definitely interested in planning their future (quickly, I might add), and with little confusion.

    • Who owns the content?

    The agency crafts the keyword list, generates the AdWords campaigns, creates the landing pages, and maybe even creates the creative for you, too. Logically, they must own the creatives and the content right? Not so fast. Check the details of the contract and see who owns this content. Yes, they are doing the work, but you’re likely paying them a fee for the services. Read the fine print: the creatives, content, and data should be owned by you. Otherwise, data from your campaign could be sold to or used by a competitor.

    • Do they have a tolerance and willingness for change?

    “This is how we’ve always done it” won’t work here. If you hear that line, run, and run fast! PPC is the epitome of finding a way to one-up your competition. Why would you want to do what you’ve always done?

    Maybe you’re looking for a customization on the platform that’s not currently available? Ask. A good platform will consider your request: a great one will built it. Don’t be afraid to be disruptive here.


    Not all PPC companies or providers are the same, and some are a better fit for your business than others. Take the time to find a good fit for your company. With the right account managers who see your vision, without technological limitations, you’ll have a happy partnership that won’t leave you feeling frustrated.