How Not To Use Your Agency’s PPC Reports

People hire PPC agencies for a number of reasons:they want to use PPC, but don’t know how; or they’ve tried it but found it too complicated and time consuming.I’ve worked on both sides of the desk, in-house and agency, so I definitely see the advantages of each approach – and there are times where it just makes sense to hire an agency rather than try to do PPC yourself.

Any PPC agency worth its salt will provide some type of reporting on a regular basis.Some reports are more useful than others, but that’s a topic for another post.No matter what type of report you’re getting, there are ways to make use of the information, and ways not to.Here are some ways you should NOT use your agency reports.

Nitpicking over small details.

Ideally, your agency reports will include not only detailed data, but high-level insight and analysis.Even if the analysis is lacking, though, don’t obsess over minutiae.Focusing on one keyword’s stats, or one day’s data, is not a good use of your time – nor of your agency’s time responding to the inevitable questions you’ll have.You’re paying your agency to obsess over these details, precisely so you don’t have to.Don’t waste your time worrying about minor details that really don’t factor in to the big picture.

Ignoring the reports entirely.

Believe it or not, this is more common than you may think.A surprising number of clients receive their weekly or monthly report email and file it away without even opening it.On the one hand, maybe these clients trust their agency so completely that they aren’t worried about their account’s performance at all – sort of like the thousands of people who file away their 401K statements without ever looking at them.But just like a 401K, PPC performance can vary – and a good client will want to be aware of these variations.

Furthermore, a good report will contain not only data, but recommendations for future improvements such as landing page or website changes, shopping cart suggestions, and other information.(If only our 401K statements came with this info!)A good PPC manager can do a lot of great things without client involvement, but website changes often not are on that list.As the client, this is the stuff you’ll need to do – so ignore it at your own peril.

Taking the information and then trying to do things yourself.

I think some clients consciously try to use their agency as a training school, learning as much as they can so they can take everything in-house.Let me be clear – I’m not saying that no one should ever take things in-house.There are many instances where this makes a lot of sense:when the account has grown to the point that it warrants a full-time person managing it, for instance.

I’m also not saying that taking PPC training courses from qualified teachers such as Brad Geddes from Certified Knowledge is bad.Far from it!I’m a huge fan of continuous learning and training, and everyone, from agency managers to in-house PPC’ers, should take advantage of as much training as they can.

What I am saying is that it’s unfair to hire an agency under the guise of a vendor-client relationship, and use them to set up and optimize your account and make a bunch of recommendations – and then take the whole thing in-house in 3 months.

If you need help with initial start-up and optimization, that’s perfectly fine – but be honest about it!Tell the agency that you’re looking for a short-term commitment and you need help getting things off the ground.Some agencies will be fine with this, and some won’t – but in any agency-client relationship, a good fit is key to getting optimal results.Pretending you’re going to be a long-term partner, and then dumping the agency 3 months in, is not the best use of your money or the agency’s time.As the old adage goes, honesty is the best policy – and the best way to get what you really want out of the relationship.

If you’re thinking about hiring an agency, or if you’re already using one, I highly recommend my friend and fellow PPC Chatter Robert Brady’s post on agency reports, It’s Client Reporting, Not Training.It’s a great read, and it helped inspire this post. Thanks, Robert!

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3 Gift Ideas To Give Your PPC Agency

If you celebrate Christmas, you’ve probably at least started your shopping by now. If you’re looking for a gift to give your PPC agency, here are some ideas for you. Best of all, they’re all free!

Tell them everything.

Your agency will have tremendous difficulty running a successful PPC campaign if you don’t tell them what your business goals are. We’ve been surprised many times by our clients when they tell us that their #1 goal is something we’re not even touching with PPC campaigns. While not everything is easy to promote in PPC, nothing is easy if you don’t know what you’re promoting.

Along the same lines, tell your agency when you make changes to your website. It’s not uncommon for PPC managers to discover that the landing pages they’re using for paid traffic all of a sudden don’t exist anymore. Remember, you’re paying for this traffic. If you’re not going to keep your PPC agency in the loop, you may as well use your money to buy lottery tickets instead.

Take their recommendations.

You probably hired a PPC agency because of their knowledge and expertise in the field. You realized that they’re experts in PPC, and you’re not – so you’ve decided to pay them to put their expertise to work for you.

Ignoring your agency’s recommendations is like ignoring doctor’s orders. Sure, no one’s holding a gun to your head to make sure you follow directions, but if you don’t, things aren’t going to get better. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So if your PPC agency recommends changes to your campaign or landing pages, you’d be “insane” not to listen to them!

This doesn’t mean you have to blindly do everything your agency says. But at least have a conversation about it. Talking things through and compromising is better than just blowing things off.

Respond to their communications.

Any PPC manager can tell you about the one client who never responds. Emails and reports go unread; voice mail messages go unreturned. We PPC managers are pretty good at keeping things rolling along with little direction – again, that’s probably why you hired us. We pride ourselves on being able to manage your campaigns without needing daily direction from you.

All that said, we’re not contacting you to chit-chat, and we’re not spending hours producing reports to clog your inbox. The most successful PPC campaigns are born out of collaboration – back and forth conversations between agency and client. So if I’ve called you 4 times and you don’t respond, or I send emails that never get a reply, it’s hard for me to get the best results for your campaign.

Trust me – we PPC managers don’t want to add to your workload. We understand that you hired us to take the burden off your shoulders. But success in PPC (or any marketing effort, for that matter) comes from collaboration and communication.

So take the time to share and respond to your PPC manager. Your bottom line will thank you.

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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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