Pay-Per-Click

8 Key Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PPC Company

Make the right decision when it comes to the person managing your PPC campaign.
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CEO of The Media Captain
11 min read
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Google Adwords can be a key component to driving new business for your business. Pay-per-click advertising can drive instant traffic to your website that can result in new leads, customers and ecommerce sales.

Related: 5 Google Pay-Per-Click Tricks To Save Your Business Money

If you are a business owner, entrepreneur or marketer who isn't certified in Adwords, nor do you have the time to manage your campaign, a PPC agency could be a viable option to save time while making your campaign work smarter for your business. While a PPC company will likely take a percentage of ad spend or charge a flat fee, it is a better option than improperly managing a campaign. Yet, plenty of PPC agencies could mishandle your budget and campaign, which is why you need to ask the right questions.

I view PPC agencies in a similar way to golfers. There are a lot of people who can pick up a club and make contact with a golf ball. There are very few scratch golfers who can shoot near even par. Here are the questions you need to ask to determine if the PPC company you are looking to hire is more similar to a PGA golfer or a weekend warrior.

1. Will you provide search term results?

If you are not analyzing your search term results, you don't have a true gauge of the quality of traffic that's being driven to your website via PPC.

According to Google, this is the difference between a search term and a keyword: "A search term is the exact word or set of words a customer enters when searching on Google.com or one of their Search Network sites. A keyword is the word or set of words that AdWords advertisers create for a given ad group to target your ads to customers."

I'm a visual learner, so let me show you what I'm talking about. Below is an example of keywords I'm bidding on within a client's account. While these are the keywords I'm bidding on, other search terms will drive people to click on the advertisement (unless we're bidding on exact match, which we're not).

Most people will see the keyword report, but they won't see the search terms report. In the example above, you'll notice there is a "search terms" tab. Make sure to click on this to view this hidden gem (or pile of garbage, depending on how well your campaign is managed). Below, you'll see some of the search terms that were pulled in for these keywords.

A couple of quick observations: If your law firm didn't have a female on staff, the search term "female divorce attorney tampa" likely wouldn't convert. If you didn't have any reviews on your website, this should be something you consider. If you don't offer free consultations, the keyword "free" also wouldn't be viable for you.

Every business should analyze its search term reports and work with its PPC agency to determine what will convert and what won't convert so it can add the proper negative keywords (read more about negative keywords in the next question to ask).

Related: PPC vs. SEO: What's Best For Your Business?

2. How proactive will you be when it comes to adding negative keywords?

Once you dig into the search terms results, it is very easy to see how many search terms there are that won't convert for your business. Even the best PPC managers will find search terms that come through that are complete garbage. When you see these low-performing keywords, you need to be proactive and add negative keywords either at the ad group or campaign level.

According to Google, a negative keyword is a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.

Below, you can see where the negative keywords tab is (within the old interface) and the negative keywords that were added within this campaign. By adding negative keywords, you will drastically improve the quality of search terms coming in from your advertisements.

Related: SEO vs. PPC: Knowing Which Is Right for Your Website

3. How much time will you take to understand my business?

As much as I pride myself on my PPC skills, when a search term comes in for an ecommerce skin care line, I'm not 100 percent certain the keyword will convert based on what I'm seeing in the search terms report. I'm not an expert in that line of work, nor is the PPC consultant you'll be hiring.

For example, in Google Shopping, if a search term comes in for "retexturing scrub" and I'm seeing a lot of search volume for this based on a specific product, I need to make sure this is a relevant keyword for the client. That's why I need to be in communication with the client and he or she needs to be proactive with the partnership.

As a business owner, entrepreneur or marketer, you need to make sure the PPC company is willing to spend the time learning your business and asking you the right questions. Does it need to have an intense understanding of your product line or service? Not necessarily. It does need to know your geo-specific area, your top performing products and your most profitable services (to name a few). It should also be checking in with you on negative keywords.

Related: Of the 4 Popular Pay-Per-Click Platforms, Which is Best for You?

4. How will you track conversions?

You'd be amazed at the amount of businesses who run Adwords campaigns yet don't have the proper tracking in place. 

I can't tell you how many people don't have DNI tracking set up on their website. DNI is a dynamic phone number that swaps out after someone clicks on your advertisement and visits your site. If someone clicks on your advertisement and calls into your business, the PPC advertisement should get credit for this. Yet, many people don't know how to do this, so they under-count conversions.

Within your Adwords account, if you click on "Tools" and then "Conversions," it will pull up several conversion tracking options. To track phone calls, you will select the option for "phone calls" and then you'll proceed to select "calls to a number on your site."

This is the most complicated conversion to track, as you'll need to place a DNI script on your website. You can reach out to a developer well-versed in Adwords, and she should be able to tackle this for you within 30 minutes.

    Select "Phone calls." 

    Select "Calls to a phone number on your website." 

    For ecommerce websites, your business should track the amount of revenue generated from the sale after someone clicks on the advertisement so you can measure the ROAS (return on advertising spend).

    If you don't have the proper tracking, you can't make the right decisions on whether to pause keywords or advertisements, which can cost you a lot of money. Make sure to ask what platform the agency uses for call recording and reporting and whether it has development resources to place pixels for all of your tracking needs.

    Related: 4 Ways Advertising Agencies Can Protect Themselves From Click Fraud

    5. What is your online advertising niche?

    Just because someone is a PPC expert doesn't mean he is proficient in Google Shopping. You need to ask about the niche of the PPC company you'll be hiring. If the agency comes back and says they are experts in all areas, ask them what percentage of their clients' ad spend is allocated toward Google Shopping versus standard PPC. What industries are they most well versed in?

    Google Shopping (for ecommerce businesses) is a different beast compared to PPC. You want someone who has a high skill level in this specific area and knows the ins and outs of product catalogs.

    You should also ask the PPC agency how much money it manages for its clients. While this is a personal question, if the company you are seeking to hire is transparent, it shouldn't be afraid to give you a ballpark number. If it manages under $100,000 in ad spend, it is likely smaller and possibly not as established. If it manages over $1 million, it has some decent-sized businesses that trust it. If it is over $10 million, it either has one extremely large account or it likely has numerous businesses that trust it. There are plenty of individuals who handle less than $10,000 in ad spend and might be perfect for your company since they'll give you more personalized attention.

    Don't be afraid to ask about their skill set, how much money they manage and ask for references -- at least two to three!

    Related: How to Distribute Your Marketing Budget Between SEO and PPC

    6. Will you have ownership of your Adwords account?

    This could be the most important question of all to ask. You need to make sure you have complete ownership and control of your Google Adwords account. There are a lot of agencies that will create your account within their own Adwords account and not relinquish access if you try and take control of your own campaign or take your business elsewhere. Additionally, they could withold information from you if you don't have access to your account, such as the search terms report (which I mentioned earlier).

    Make sure to set up a Google Adwords account using your own Gmail account. After setting up your own account, you can provide the agency with access without relinquishing ownership.

    One of the most valuable components of Adwords is the data you collect within your campaigns. You don't want to lose this advertising history.

    Related: 7 Common Mistakes Companies Make With Google AdWords

    7. What is the fee structure?

    Some agencies will take a percentage of advertising spend. Others will work off of a flat fee. The more money you spend, the more inclined you'll be to negotiate for a flat fee. If you spend $1 million per month in advertising, a percentage of ad spend likely won't make sense for you since you'll be giving up a large chunk of money to the agency or individual managing your account.

    Make sure you aren't paying an agency $1,000 a month if you are only spending $500 on advertising, unless it is doing an initial audit to lay the foundation for your campaign. Typical agency fees (based on ad spend) range from 10-20 percent, so keep that in mind when running the numbers. Some agencies will have minimum monthly requirements for their service offerings.

    If you have a small budget and still want the assistance of a professional, an audit would be a better option. You can rest assured knowing your campaign was set up properly, you can run ads for a month or so and if you are seeing positive results, you can spend more money on advertising.

    Related: 5 Secrets to Increasing Adwords ROI

    8. Do you have development and design expertise?

    There are a lot of businesses that are surprised when the PPC company they decided to hire doesn't have the technical expertise to implement pixels on their website and a website developer is then another expense added into the equation. Make sure to ask whether agencies have the skills to implement code or if they'll need to bring on a developer.

    The same is true for landing pages. A solid landing page is an important factor for a successful PPC campaign. Does the company you are looking to hire offer landing page design as a core service offering, or will this be something you need in addition to their services?

    While there are great landing page sites like Unbounce and Instapage where a non-developer or designer can create a lander using a customized template, it is good having someone who can make the page look pretty along with someone who knows what needs to be placed where to achieve a good conversion rate percentage.

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