Posted by anthonycoraggio
Paid search management is a great component of your marketing to outsource or delegate to a specialist. The field moves fast, so even without other responsibilities, keeping up with campaigns on a daily basis and all the developments in the technology and market environment is very demanding. When your time is already at a premium, finding a qualified agency can make a world of difference. Here are some questions to help you choose how to resource your online advertising needs.
Where is your business going?
Is this the right way to get there?
The reason you’re looking to run PPC campaigns in the first place is because you need to achieve certain business results—but is it actually the best way to get where you need to go right now? Particularly if you’re driving a new initiative or running ads for the first time, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you’re not trying to buy a horse to win an air race, because someone will likely try to sell it to you anyway!
Some red flags to watch out for:
- Your target search niche is very small, or so new that no one’s searching for your product.
- You haven’t evaluated the competitive landscape
- Your website isn’t prepared to make effective use of the traffic you’ll be sending
It’s important to set expectations realistically. For example, if you’re trying to make a big break into the auto insurance market with a couple grand per month, you’re going to need some combination of very deep pockets and an outstanding value differentiator. On the other side of the coin, you can’t usually lean a major growth initiative on a target segment drawing only a handful of searches every month.
This can actually be a great task for an agency or experienced freelance consultant to address, but if you’re still at this stage make sure you’re being honest with yourself and them. Be ready to pivot to another channel, and make sure there’s a well reasoned backing for any promises of results you receive.
What kind of working relationship do you want?
In my experience, finding the right cultural fit is one of the most important things to consider when hiring out. Even if a deal looks good on paper, if you’re not on the same page and excited to work together, a cheaper fee or glossy list of credentials is going to lose its shine very quickly.
How do you actually plan to work?
Both sides of the table tend to start rolling out the idealism and HBR buzzwords during a request for proposals, but it ultimately works out a lot better for everyone if you keep it strictly realistic. Is your company large and methodical, or a scrappy team testing new ideas and patching holes every other hour? These situations demand very different skills and approaches from an agency to be successful, and if expectations are skewed to start, someone will wind up unhappy.
What do they need to be ready for?
Likewise, make sure to get a proper answer to this question from the agencies you’re considering. Just like in any hiring process, behavioral interviewing is going to be your friend. Need rapid responses and creative energy? Have a blunt or demanding teammate they’ll need to work with? Ask for examples of how they’ve succeeded in these kinds of situations in the past.
Are you looking for a bold experimenter or an obedient Igor?
Look for the full scope of success
Success in paid search is about much more than tweaking spreadsheets—you'll need to create a cohesive and functional user experience from end to end, and that means some serious work on landing pages, ads, conversion rate optimization, data analysis, and selling the ideas to make it all happen. Before starting a new project, ask these questions:
- What will it take to turn around new ad copy?
- What kind of input will you be getting from your agency on new or improved landing pages? Whose job will it be to get them created?
- What relationships might need to be cultivated between in-house stakeholders and external partners for the most effective communication and results when marketing messages or site changes are involved?
Don't forget to factor in your plans for SEO, either—paid search is playing on the same field, and you'll want to make sure the two are working together smoothly. If you're also looking for an SEO partner, consolidating the two to a single agency often leads to more and better collaboration.
Think long term
Last, but certainly not least, don't forget to ask where you see yourself in a year or two, and make that a part of the conversation. Are you aiming to bring the work in-house eventually, or will this stay outsourced for the foreseeable future? A good agency will be ready with a plan to help on-board or even help train a future replacement, and definitely won't hold your account or data hostage.
Scale is an important part of the long term picture too. If you're growing quickly into a rich market and could reasonably expect to double, triple, or 10x the scale of your campaigns in the near future, make sure you share your intent and find a partner who will be prepared when the time comes.
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