PPC In-House or Agency: Decisions, Decisions, Part II

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of in-house PPC management. I’d like to thank all of you who commented on Twitter and linked to the article – it’s gratifying to know that I can help sort out some of these things for you!

In Part II of this 2-part series, I’ll cover the pros and cons of agency PPC management.

(And it bears repeating: 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.)

Agency Pros:

  • Experience. Chances are they’ve done this before. Lots of times. They’ll be ready to hit the ground running with best practices, instead of spending a lot of budget trying to, as someone on Twitter said last week, “get a clue.”
  • Contacts at the major search engines. Any agency worth their salt has a dedicated account team at both Google and Yahoo/Bing – meaning they have a direct line to help and support within the search engines.
  • Contacts in the SEM industry. Again, most agencies worth their salt attend at least one or two search marketing conferences per year. The really good ones not only attend the shows, they speak at the shows. They’re plugged in to what’s going on in the industry – and your account will benefit from their connections.
  • Multi-channel integration. Many (although certainly not all) digital agencies can manage not only your PPC program, but your SEO, social media, display, email, and sometimes even traditional media. This holistic view gives them a “big-picture” perspective that can get lost when these programs are siloed across several in-house departments.
  • Accountability. As an outsourced vendor, it’s in the agency’s best interest to be good stewards of your PPC budget. If they’re not, it’s pretty easy for you to pick up your ball and go to another agency – or go home and do it in-house.

Agency cons:

  • Cost. This depends on how you look at it: of course, it costs money to pay a full-time in-house PPC staffer. But an agency is going to charge you to manage their PPC budget, resulting in either a higher PPC budget, or a reduced spend with the search engines.
  • Communication can be an issue. Good agencies know how to work around this, but sometimes it’s hard for a client to know just what the agency is doing.
  • Accountability. Yes, I know I listed this in the “pros” column, but hear me out. An in-house PPC manager has to report to your company’s management team. If they do a poor job, chances are good they’ll be fired – and have to look for another job. But an agency manager likely works for several clients. Unless they’re grossly negligent, doing a poor or even mediocre job on your PPC account probably won’t’ cost them *their* job. It may cost the agency your business, but that person will probably just keep on working there.
  • Depth of account manager expertise. While it’s absolutely not the case at many agencies, sometimes the day-to-day management of your account will be handled by a junior staffer (or even an intern). While junior staff is almost always monitored by senior staff, if it’s important to have your account managed by a seasoned PPC pro, it’s not guaranteed at an agency.

Like I said, there’s no one right answer. I’ve done both, and I strongly believe in both approaches. If you’re wrestling with this idea, I recommend listening to this episode of the Best Search Strategies show. Jamie and Brian (both are super-smart acquaintances of mine) give a thorough overview of questions and considerations to review when you’re deciding on in-house or agency.

And as always, let me know your thoughts!

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