The Do’s & Don’ts of Agency Goal Setting

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

Not every brand or business needs to utilize the resources of an external agency when it comes to PPC campaign management. For those that do, a few non-negotiables are key: communication, transparency and goal setting. We’ve recently dug in to how clients can communicate with your agency, but specifically how should you go about setting goals for that agency?


Let’s outline some basic do’s and don’ts that will certainly help tackle that exact task, in addition to why these guidelines are so important:


DO: Include agency fees when calculating goals for metrics like CPA/L.


WHY?: I’m willing to allow some flexibility on this situation dependent on the specifics, but I’d like to say at minimum, metrics should be reported with and without agency fees folded in. The reasoning behind this logic is that various levels of any company will and will not want to see straight performance data as opposed or in addition to total budget coming out of any channel of your marketing department.


You’ll definitely want to see improvement on interface-level CPA, but your supervisor may want to see how that CPA washes out once management gets added in (especially if this is the first venture in using an agency). Try setting targets or goals for metrics with and without fees, that way you can chart progress with both in consideration.


DON’T: Go too granular too fast with what metrics to focus on or set goals.


WHY?: Specifically if your account is new(er) to paid search as a marketing channel, it may feel like setting some kind of goal is better than none at all. That’s true, but you don’t want to pick something too deep right out of the gates. Selecting a metric that is calculated through combining multiple factors (i.e. Quality Score) and measuring your performance on those might make for a rather depressing outcome. In these initial stages, set goals for tasks that need to be achieved as well as some baseline metric goals (average CPC, perhaps). Which leads me to…


DO: Set mini-goals, or benchmarks, between goals.


WHY?: Not only do in-between goals help you feel tiny success steps on the way to the main finish line, they can also help you bookend where particular optimizations or strategies provided small ebbs or flows in performance. From there, you can then quarantine those tasks that caused your metric(s) to decline or extrapolate those that resulted in improvements. Additionally, benchmark goals can help you and your agency continue moving the needle in the right direction to bigger and better overall goal metrics (aka: moving from focusing on CPC to narrowing down cost per sale, etc.).


DON’T: Set realistic goals and then line them up with irresponsible timelines.


WHY?: PPC managers would love if pushing on the gas pedal always meant getting to the finish line faster, however that is just not the case in paid search. Some pieces of paid search quite frankly do just need time to mature and matriculate. Deciding you want to improve Quality Score is great, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you expect to hit those Quality Score goals in a week.


Not allowing enough time to do the right things to sustain your performance is the number one enemy of goal-setting, because even the most logical or achievable goals won’t be reached if you try to get to them with the wrong timeline in place. You can stop at the bakery on your way home from work and buy one brownie to satisfy your sweet tooth right now, then it’s over; or you can stop at the store, get the ingredients and make an entire plate-full of brownies that you can enjoy for a few days – the decision is yours!


DO: Avoid letting yourself or your agency settle for broad or ill-defined goals.


WHY?: This tends to look something like “larger sales volume” or “better quality leads” and I mean…duh. That’s what we all want! This goes back somewhat to my point about setting benchmarks because you can’t get to your goal overnight, but putting no number on that process or the hopeful end result leaves all parties involved without anything to hold themselves liable to. Larger volume or better quality are absolutely fine as broad goals, but assign some numbers to those and adjust as you learn.


DON’T: Leave your agency out of the goal-setting conversation.


WHY?: You will know your business better than your agency (especially at the onset of a new relationship) so you should certainly feel in control of your goals and the direction you want to see your accounts go. That said, your agency knows (or should know) paid search the same way you know your company – like the back of their hand. Let them help provide feedback and clarity to how possible your goals are, or let them help you build them in the first place. Again, it goes back to more of a true partnership than a vendor working with a client. If everyone helps mold the goals, it will feel more like everyone’s responsibility to hit and hopefully exceed them.


What are some of your do’s and don’ts when it comes to PPC goal setting with your agency? Those of you from the agency side – how do you most successfully determine where/how to focus management with your clients? Share your thoughts, ideas and comments with us below! Thanks for reading!