10 Questions You Should Ask a Potential New PPC Management Firm

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You’ve either been trying to manage your company’s PPC account on your own, or you have hired a general marketing person to manage the PPC account internally. Regardless, you know that more could be done to get more bank for your buck. How do you know when it’s time to hire a PPC management firm?

  • You know more could be done.
  • You have 50 keywords in your entire account.
  • You have one or two campaigns total.
  • You’re blowing through your budget by noon.
  • You perform a search to find your ad, and it’s no where to be found.
  • You don’t know what the content network is, but you know it’s spending a lot of money.
  • Your cost-per-lead is much higher than any other way of advertising.
  • You don’t know how many leads your getting.
  • You don’t know what your users are doing once they enter your site.

Honestly, I could go on and on here. But the point of the post is to remind those people who think they can handle their PPC account just fine on their own, that just maybe they’ll make more money by hiring an agency than they would be saving the company money by doing it on your own.

But how does one know what questions to ask a PPC firm? How do you know this firm is legitimate? Is the pricing accurate for what their providing? Below I’ve provided the best questions to ask your potential PPC firm and the answers you should be looking for before hiring them.

1. How do you manage the Google Quality Score?

Answer:  The Google Quality Score is based on keyword, ad text and landing page relevance.  The key is to have smaller, more targeted ad groups with fewer keywords so we can write more targeted ad text and increase the click-through rates. We also like to have our keywords contained in the landing pages to increase relevancy and conversions.

2. What will be the first step when taking over the account?

Answer:  A good first strategy is to see if there is anything that needs to be fixed immediately like incorrect settings or an account re-structure. We would plan the re-structure carefully as to not revert any positive Quality Scores or remove any account history.

3. What kind of reporting will I get?

Answer: Any ad hoc reports you want. But pro actively a weekly or bi-weekly report as well as a monthly report detailing work completed and an analysis of the account statistics.

4. Will I have access to Google Analytics reporting and Adwords?

Answer: Yes we will set up a Google Analytics account for you if you don’t already have one and yes you can have access to the Adwords account. (Just remember if you hire a PPC firm to manage your Adwords or Yahoo account, you can’t go in and make changes on your own. That could mess up any potential strategy the firm has in place.)

5.  What is the communication process like?

Answer:  We respond to emails or calls same day or within 24 hours.  We also use an online project software management tool that documents all work completed.

6. How does keyword research work?

Answer:  We use several free keyword research tools to find any new keywords or variations of existing keywords. Keyword research is an on-going process as new terms come up frequently.  We would also use the search query report in Google Adwords to find new keywords and negative keywords to drive only qualified traffic.

7. What search engines will you advertise in?

Answer:  Mainly Google, Yahoo and Bing. However if we feel there is good opportunity to advertise in 2nd tier search engines we’ll definitely look into it.

8.  What kinds of testing will you be doing?

Answer: We write and test new ad text on a weekly basis.  We use different messaging, different calls-to-action and benefits to see what message gets the highest click-through rate possible. We also like to work in Google Website Optimizer to test different variables of your landing page to improve conversions.

9.  What is your bidding and budget strategy?

Answer:  It’s really different for every client. We create settings in the accounts that will show our ads all though out the day.  We also pay very close attention to see if we’re hitting our daily budgets. If we are, then we take the approach to either increase the daily budget or decrease our keyword bids gain additional traffic but at a cheaper cost.  Our goal is to reduce your cost-per-lead but at the same time increase the number of leads you receive.

10.  How can we be sure all potential opportunities for improvement are taken?

Answer:  We read all kinds of PPC and SEO related blogs to be sure we’re keeping up with the changing industry. We also have Google, Yahoo and MSN representatives that let us know if new beta tests are available or if a new optimization is available.

Not all PPC firms will have the same answers as I do. But they should all be generally identical.  I think one of the most important aspects of hiring a PPC firm is the amount of transparency they offer. If they’re willing to share with you what they’re working on for your account on a daily basis then they have nothing to hide.  Also, sending you reports on a weekly or monthly basis not only helps you track your success, but allows the PPC firm to track their success too!

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12 thoughts on “10 Questions You Should Ask a Potential New PPC Management Firm

  1. Alan

    A comprehensive checklist Amber.

    One thing you might also want to ask a potential PPC agency is what tracking solution they would like to adopt. Google Analytics may be the most popular, but depending on the extent of your other marketing activity (SEO, display, email, social media, offline), a more advanced solution may be necessary for more accurate conversion attribution.

    Especially agree with your 8th point – testing. I think that question alone is enough to separate the reputable, professional agencies from the ‘set-and-forgets’. It’s often only in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th months that a PPC campaign can really start to improve, so a clearly defined testing strategy is essential.

  2. Bruno

    This is fun, here are a few more:

    You don’t have web analytics
    You don’t get monthly reports
    You don’t talk to your rep on a monthly basis or more
    You only see impressions and clicks in reports
    You’re landing pages have not changed
    Your cost per click seems outrageously high

  3. Andy

    A very nice post Amber.

    I’ve been thinking about the same concept with the SEM company I work for, DragonSearch, and would have to agree on nearly all of your points. I think it’s very important to identify key components, like you have done, for your own company in order to not only fulfill current client satisfaction but improve your services.


  4. Ameer

    To add what Alan has said,
    I would also suggest to ask for with what Analytic tools they are expert with? This will show how they analyze the customer behavior, I would call it as post click analysis. And I would ask for the success stories.

    As Alan pointed out tracking methodology – It is very important if advertising in Shopping Engines bcoz, some shopping engines doesn’t provide you tracking mechanism, you will have to rely on third party – Google Analytics sometimes may not give you the accurate results.

    Also ask for the holiday season plannings. I was going through a similar thing on ehow and found two interesting articles I would definitely like to share,

  5. Robert

    I would add –

    One of the major issues I see from agencies is that they are not set up properly for transparency into an account. Main reasons being 1. There is more than one person working on the account so no one person is fully accountable, 2. Account structure is usually poor due to lack of documentation, 3. They don’t fully understand what the goals are for the client and are mostly focused on generic reporting, 4. They get lazy and stop testing.

    Great list though!

  6. Ameer

    1. Actually I think working more than one person is a good idea bcoz for a ppc firm it has to be very important that they think out of box, now when you have more than one person you have multiple thoughts and suggestions to improve the performance – having all said this, it is important to have accountability, I’m sure accountability cannot be lost bcoz of multiple persons, It is a dedicated team. PPC firm should show the face of accountable person then I wudn’t mind how many people are working on the account, I’m only bothered about the upward trend in my revenue and the representation of the data from the person accountable.
    I fully agree with Roberts 2 and 3 but 4 had put me under confusion, are you really ready to do testing on your performance?

  7. Robert


    That is a good point, I should not have created a sweeping generalization like that. For the most part what I meant to say was that – when more than one person works on an account information tends to get lost. Now there are probably talented agencies out there with very good documentation and collaboration skills, however a large percentage of the time I do not see this.

  8. tenny

    Can someone recommend the top 5 ppc firms in the us rated by efficiency honesty and transparency & price just having a real hard time finding one
    Thank you!!!

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