A good paid search agency is difficult to find.
I repeat – a good paid search agency is REALLY difficult to find.
Have you ever had an inkling your paid search agency just isn’t doing everything they can? Has your gut told you that you should be getting more out of this relationship? Or that something with their reporting feels… off?
In these situations I always believe you should trust this feeling. The opportunity comes in proving that your instinct is correct.
So, how do you know when to trust your gut? How do you know when your uneasy feeling is right?
Here, I’m going to outline 7 questions you can ask your paid search agency to uncover the red flags. These questions can also be used when you’re interviewing a new paid search agency or creating an RFP.
Questions to Ask Your Paid Search Agency
1. Can I see an example of your reporting?
I put this question first because it is by far the most important. If you don’t receive a solid report from your paid search agency outlining key metrics and growth – you need to get out of this relationship.
Follow up question to this one: what platform do you use to generate your reports? If “proprietary” is anywhere in their answer, be careful. When an agency says they use a proprietary reporting system or platform, ask them where they pull the metrics from and how. Many agencies have proprietary reporting dashboards that simply display your data in creative, visual ways. This can be incredibly helpful. However, some agencies use proprietary platforms as a way to skew numbers and keep you from accessing your data.
This is a major pet peeve of mine – when agencies don’t give you access to YOUR data. You should always, always, always have access to and control of your data. If you don’t, start asking questions.
2. How many people are (or will be) working on my account? And, who are they?
It is the agency’s responsibility to staff your account appropriately. If you have too few team members you can run into issues where things can fall through the cracks. Conversely, too many team members and you’re left paying a huge monthly retainer with little left over to actually spend on ads.
In addition, you want the right mix of people on your account. Typically, this will consist of an account manager, a strategist, and a coordinator, with some ancillary people who may come in and out to help with specific tasks.
3. What’s the experience level of people on my account?
This question is more important than you may think. There are a number of paid search agencies known for “churning and burning” through their associates. Essentially, these agencies hire people straight out of college because they can get them inexpensively and work them crazy hours until they move on.
For these agencies, this works for them. For you, it shouldn’t. Although the people they hire are likely smart and capable, they’re incredibly inexperienced.
This comes back to needing a mix of people on your account and a variety of experience levels. Ensure you have more than a few years of combined experience on your account.
4. How do you handle issues that arise?
There are two parts to this question:
First, your account team should be in your account on a daily basis to ensure it’s running appropriately and your campaigns are optimized. In short – they should be finding issues as they occur. And, if they find an issue or opportunity, they should communicate that with you immediately.
Second, if you are constantly auditing your own account and are finding issues and opportunities yourself – this is a clear red flag. You hired an agency so you don’t have to manage your ad account.
5. Do you use an attribution model? What is it?
Attribution models and reporting go hand-in-hand. They define how your metrics are reported, so it’s incredibly important for you to understand how your metrics are being attributed to various campaigns and why.
Just like with reporting, if your paid search agency uses a “proprietary attribution model” be careful. If they do use a proprietary attribution model you need to ask what it is and how it works. If they can’t provide you an answer, then you should not partner with this agency.
As I mentioned early in this post, you need access and control of your data – proprietary attribution models do not allow for that.
The most common attribution model is last touch or last click. This is the attribution model I prefer to use because it’s straight-forward and most of your marketing tactics are tracked using this model. This will keep everything you do online and offline on the same playing field.
Google offers a number of other attribution models as well. There are positives and negatives to all of them. So, you really need to collaborate with your paid search agency to find the best attribution model for your business.
You can find all of Google’s various attribution models and their definitions here.
6. How do you structure paid accounts?
The structure or approach to your ad account is crucial to your account’s success.
To be clear – there is no one right way to structure an ad account and many paid search agencies will have a different approach. That’s OK. What’s important is finding a paid search partner that will structure your ad account in the best way for your business.
Here are a few basic best practices:
- Your account should be split into multiple campaigns. At the campaign level is where you can adjust targeting and budget levels, so the more campaigns you have, the more granular you can target specific messages.
- Under each campaign you should have multiple ad groups that have specific keywords under each ad group. At the ad group level is where you can adjust your message for the keywords you’re targeting. This is where your copy and keywords work together to create relevance.
- Under each ad group you should have multiple, related keywords you’re targeting. You shouldn’t have too many because the ad copy needs to be relevant for all of the keywords in that group.
7. Are you a Google Partner?
Being a Google Partner or a Google Premiere Partner gives a number of benefits to an agency that trickles down to you. Here are just some of the benefits of using a paid search agency that’s a Google Partner:
- The agency has to pass a certification exam to earn this designation. This ensures they understand how to use Google’s products.
- The agency has access to Google representatives and support when they need them.
- The agency may get early access to new Google products, which they can pass on to you.
So, what does this all come down to?
What this all comes down to is finding a good paid search agency is difficult. Paid search in general is complicated and it takes time to build out an ad account correctly. So, it’s important that you arm yourself with enough knowledge that you can hold your paid search agency accountable and find a great partner you can trust.
Phew. This is a lot of information. If you have questions about paid search or feel like your paid search agency isn’t doing everything it could, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here to help.