PPC In-House or Agency: Decisions, Decisions – Part I

My Twitter bio says “In house or agency – I’ve done it all.” I got my PPC start doing in-house PPC at Magazineline from 2002-2007. I loved it – this was the heady early days of $0.10 clicks and a pure auction, and PPC practitioners were a small and tight-knit group. I’ve since moved on to Fluency Media, where I manage PPC campaigns for a wide variety of clients.

(Before I go any further, let me make it clear that this is my personal blog. As such, the opinions expressed in this and every post here are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of past or present employers.)

Based on my background, I have a pretty good handle on both in-house and agency PPC. If you’re a business owner who’s thinking about getting into the PPC game, which way do you go?

The short answer, as usual, is “it depends.” What’s right for one business is probably totally wrong for another. Having seen both sides, I’d like to present the pros and cons of each approach. In this post, I’ll talk about in-house PPC management.

In House Pros:

  • Full-time attention on your PPC campaigns. Without multiple clients tugging at their time, in-house managers are able to devote 100% of their focus to squeezing maximum performance out of every ad group and keyword in your campaign.
  • Attention to detail. An in-house PPC manager’s performance review likely is based on account performance. As such, they’ll be keen on accuracy and account performance.
  • You’re the employer – they answer to you. And you’ll see them every day: in the halls, at staff meetings, and performance reviews. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re in-house.
  • Understanding of your business goals, company culture, and other quirks. If your CEO hates the word “cheap,” an in-house PPC manager knows this – and knows not to use it in a PPC ad.
  • Deep vertical focus. In-house managers are motivated to learn about your vertical and what works, not just in PPC but on your website as a whole. This enables them to develop a super-in-depth PPC account that covers every angle.

In House Cons:

  • Learning & training. It’s often hard for an in-house manager to even find out where learning opportunities exist, much less find the resources to take advantage of them.
  • May not be “plugged in” to SEM community. Although it’s a much larger club than it was in the early days, the SEM community is still out there, and it’s a huge competitive advantage – IF you can break in.
  • Longer learning curve. Your company is the manager’s only “client” – there’s no previous experience with other clients to go on and learn from.
  • Motivation. A less-than-conscientious in-house manager may not be motivated to make the program succeed – after all, it’s just a job, with a low risk of getting dumped for “someone else.”

In Part 2, I’ll cover the pros and cons of agency PPC management.

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