Putting your paid search performance in the hands of an external specialist can mean a huge leap of faith. You have targets to hit. You have a reputation to uphold. And more importantly, you’re trusting your current PPC agency with a high proportion of your online marketing budget.

So how should you calculate the performance of your agency according to industry standards, best practice guidelines and your own expectations and KPIs?

Here’s our guide on assessing your current PPC agency to see if their current approach and strategy is the right fit for your brand.

Auditing your AdWords account

A PPC agency that regularly audits your AdWords account knows the importance of moving with the fast paced nature of paid search and the fact that there is always a way to enhance your account and increase ROI – there is no point at which a paid search agency can sit back on its laurels. The very nature of the industry means that the job is never done, so check how regularly your current agency is auditing your account. A full scale audit should be undertaken at least once a year, however, small scale tweaks to your account should be happening constantly, in line with industry updates and movement in competitor activity.

Download our FREE guide on auditing your AdWords account, for a more detailed look at how your PPC agency should be refining your account.

Getting to know you

Your PPC agency should be making a conscious effort to get under the skin of your brand – are they disconnected from your internal marketing team or are they a seamless extension of it? Of course, this relationship will improve over time but your agency will only truly succeed in supplying you with a solid strategy if they really understand your intentions, your target demographic, business priorities and where you want to take the brand in the future. Is your current agency asking you for brand guidelines, for your target personas, USPs, and overall business model? If they’re not asking you for these broader marketing tools and plans then how can they align this with a comprehensive paid search strategy?

Regular communication

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This is a given. If you’re working with an external PPC specialist you should expect communication on a regular basis. You should never be surprised by changes in results as this should be communicated to you on a weekly basis – at the very least. Are you having regular catch-ups with a dedicated account manager from your current agency to discuss how you current strategy is performing? Monitor the frequency of their communication with you. If you have to chase them for updates, they may not be giving your account the attention it requires.

Best practice approach

Have you ever questioned the fundamentals of your agency’s approach? The single most important aspect of the success of your AdWords campaign is ensuring that a best practice approach has been taken from the very start, building your account structure in the correct way from the ground up. Following best practice for account structure and match types, as well as campaign setup is vital and will ensure that you have the best possible foundations to work with when building on campaigns. Google provides these guidelines for a reason. When combined with paid search expertise you’ll have the best possible recipe for success.

Need some inside knowledge when it comes to best practice guidelines for your AdWords account? Download our FREE guide on auditing your AdWords account, for a more detailed look at how your PPC agency should be refining your account.

Clear, tangible targets

dart on target

Setting targets will help you get a clearer idea of how your agency is performing overall. Without clear targets, it becomes difficult to monitor the success of your strategy and how exactly your PPC agency is pushing activity forward – if at all. Without clear targets and objectives outlined on a regular basis you have no real purpose to support your paid search activity. Make it easier to assess the performance of your current agency by giving them targets that are crystal clear, and regularly review them to see if they should be updated in line with internal changes or industry changes. Ultimately, your PPC agency should be confident when it comes to achieving targets, and should supply you with forecasts to cement the palpability of your targets.

Approach to optimisation

Do you have a clear idea of your current agency’s approach to optimisation? Are their current optimisation procedures out-dated or are they benefitting from efficient optimisation processes and tools to enhance your current paid search performance?  When managing your on-going campaigns, your PPC agency should also be considering all factors – internal and external. The should take a calculated approach to taking control of internal factors – implementing them into your campaigns before considering external factors such as competition, in order to continuously optimise your campaigns consistently.

Integration

Does your PPC agency take into account other factors that will affect your site? Do they tie in with your current SEO activity, or offline marketing strategies? If they don’t, they’re missing a trick. There are so many other elements that could be affecting the performance of your site, that your agency would be doing you a disservice by not considering other contributing factors and strategies that could help your brand reach its best possible potential.

Optimise, report, repeat

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Paid search is all about test and refinement. After optimisation has been conducted you should expect to be informed of the results of that activity, as well as next steps to take that strategy further. If your agency is being transparent with you about how activity has affected results, and knows exactly what their next steps are as a result, you can be sure that they will continue to refine your strategy. Moreover, if your agency has conducted optimisation on a particular campaign and it has not seen any positive effects, are they being transparent with you about it? And if so, are they giving you alternative options and ideas to turn this around? If you can rely on your agency to be completely transparent about results and how they plan on rectifying activity that may not have gone completely to plan, you’re in much safer hands than if they have tried to cover up the fact that their work has not gone to plan.

Tough love

Are you close enough to your PPC agency to have them challenge your own ideas? On the face of it this may seem like a negative but actually, if your PPC agency feel that one of your campaigns is heading in the wrong direction and they don’t inform you of that, they are quite simply doing you a disservice. Leave communication channels wide open between you and your account manager. If you sense that they’re your “yes” man, you may not be able to trust that they’ve got the expertise to explain why your campaign may not be working at its most effective. Without solid guidance on your strategy, you may want to go elsewhere.

Industry knowledge and passion

Is your account manager coming to you with fresh ideas for your account? Or, are you having to go to them with multiple questions on industry updates that will inevitably affect your account? A good way to gauge how your current agency is working for you is by monitoring whether or not you are being presented with new methods, innovative tools, and more efficient processes.

Ultimately, you’re outsourcing to an external PPC specialist in the hope that their knowledge, passion and expertise will support your campaigns and boost your bottom line. If their approach is fundamentally flawed, you may need to take your business elsewhere.

ClickThrough works with best practice guidelines at the very core of our approach, with excellence and trust at the forefront of our minds with our clients. If you’re having doubts about the way your current PPC agency is operating, contact our PPC management team for a consultation. We can help you build on your existing campaigns, set achievable targets and more importantly, help you achieve them.

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About the author:

Lisa Coghlan is a digital and content coordinator at ClickThrough Marketing. She writes SEO content for many of the company’s larger clients, and assists in the implementation of content strategy. She writes live gig reviews and has a mild obsession with finding new documentary podcasts.