Showing up in Google search results is all about budget, buyer knowledge, and a sprinkle of unicorn magic.
Most businesspeople don't have in-depth knowledge of Google Ads. Not only do they have no idea how Google Ads works; they also have no idea how a Google Ads agency works, or what to expect from their current or potential PPC advertising agency.
No two search engine advertising companies are quite the same. However, they fall into two general categories: the leeches who thrive by taking advantage of unsuspecting businesses, and the unicorns who put their heart and soul into getting results for their clients. We call the former black hat PPC and SEO agencies, and there are plenty of horror stories about the havoc they cause.
How do you know which type of agency you're working with? We've put together 11 questions you should be asking a Google Ads management agency to ensure you find your unicorn:
First Things First: Let's Answer Some PPC FAQs
If you already understand what PPC is, you can skip to the "11 Questions to Ask ..." section below.
Again, most clients that arrive at the doorstep of an agency have a limited understanding of PPC and Google Ads. If that sounds like you, read this section first, as it covers everything PPC beginners need to know before they approach an agency.
What is PPC advertising? What does PPC stand for?
PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising. It’s pretty self-explanatory: You pay every time someone clicks on your ad, but ONLY when they click the ad. Simply displaying your ad is free.
PPC is not the same thing as SEO (search engine optimization). The latter is concerned with helping you rank organically, without paying for ads. Many digital marketing agencies offer both SEO and PPC services, but if you want a guide specific to avoiding hiring a bad SEO company, click here.
How does PPC advertising work?
For your ads to appear in the results of a search engine like Google, it takes more than a fat wallet.
It's technically not possible to pay more to ensure your ads appear more prominently than a competitor’s ads. Ad placement (or lack thereof) is determined by the Ad Auction, a 100% automated process that Google and other major engines use to judge the relevance and value of submitted advertisements.
This system prompts you to bid on search terms, or "keywords," you want to trigger your ads in search results. For example, if you offer precision machining services for medical devices, you might want to bid on "CNC precision machining" and "medical device manufacturing."
When a user submits a search query, the Ad Auction's algorithm performs the complex calculations to decide which ads to display and in which order.
How effective are PPC advertising services?
The benefit of search engine advertising is that it's so highly targeted, it’s more likely to yield a conversion vs. other marketing and advertising methods.
Another advantage of PPC advertising is that it puts you into a "high commercial intent" category by default. So, creating a PPC advertising campaign will more than double your chances of attracting valuable traffic to your website.
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is a PPC advertising platform. (We'd argue it's THE advertising platform for PPC). Those who use Google Ads reach their targeted audience both through the Google Search Network, and through the Google Display Network.
PPC campaigns are created through Google Ads, as well as launched, measured, and tracked through the platform.
While anyone is able to create an account and run Google Ads campaigns, to get the most out of your investment it's wise to partner with a PPC advertising agency who can help optimize your campaigns.
11 Questions to Ask Your Google Ads Agency
Here are 11 questions that you can ask your current or potential Google Ads agencies. They should be able to answer every one of these before you sign a contract.
1. What if we don't have a Google Ads account already?
If you don't have an Ads account yet, ask your agency about the process and what assets and credentials it'll need from you to get started ASAP.
To run a successful campaign, your pay-per-click ad agency should be able to quickly set up your:
- Campaign structures and settings
- Payment options
2. Are you a Google Partner?
This isn't a deal-breaker, but an official Google Partner agency can make your decision very simple. You'll know that they have some experience and knowledge, and that they follow Google Ads best practices.
3. Do you have a monthly minimum ad spend?
Many agencies do, so don't get caught off guard. Any agency should be up-front with their minimums if they have them.
4. How are your management fees structured?
Some agencies bill you based on your ad spend, some on a flat monthly fee, and some on estimated hours. Have a good understanding of how you'll be billed for management time.
Keep in mind that, in most cases, this is separate from your ad budget.
5. What type of management is included with your management fee?
Beyond the standards listed above, what are you getting for your money?
Make sure there's clear agreement on the ongoing level and frequency of PPC management. Get specific with your interrogation: What's included in "management?"
- Keyword grooming?
- New-ad creation?
- Manipulation of existing ads?
Learn everything that's included in your PPC management contract to avoid unexpected bills. As always, read carefully before signing.
6. Are we able to see actual spending within Google Ads, or do we pay you and you pay the bill?
If you're paying an ad budget, you should be able to see and track every penny spent within Google advertising. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In some instances, you'll pay an agency a bulk sum and they will pay the ad bill and not provide you "actual spend" numbers.
We're trying to give neutral answers to most of these questions, but this is the one exception where we'll say this is a MUST. You should have full access to every penny spent on ads, and be able to see how your budget is being used.
7. If we pay you for our ad budget, what happens to extra dollars if we have extra spend?
If you get caught in a situation like #6, you'll probably wonder about your excess investment.
Generally, you can expect this to be rolled over into the next month. Ask your Google Ads services agency just to be sure.
8. Do you offer full reporting? Is it included or an additional fee?
One of the biggest advantages of all online sponsored advertising is the ability to capture data on every action, no matter how small. Try to find pay-per-click consulting services that include transparent and thorough reporting and analysis.
Ask your paid search advertising provider if it'll report to you on a predetermined schedule, and if those reports will be included in your management fees. Additionally, ask what's included in those reports. Will they include strictly data, or analysis of the data and expert recommendations as well?
9. What type of strategy do you foresee with our business goals?
At a high level, your agency should be able to discuss some initial approaches (SKAG, journey-based advertising, etc.) that can help you reach your business goals. (This doesn't mean you should expect an agency to provide you with a free Google Ads strategy.)
Usually, a full strategy will come after you've chosen a vendor.
Sooner or later, the proposed strategy may grow beyond just PPC. Your search engine advertising agency may find that your business is best off with a multifaceted approach that also includes organic search engine optimization and content marketing. It may even recommend weaning off PPC in favor of tactics that aren't "pay to play."
10. Can you tell us about similar accounts you've managed successfully?
They may or may not give you client names, but your new friends should be able to share some high-level information about similar Google Ads accounts they've managed.
Keep in mind: not all Google Ads strategies are created equal. Some are much more advanced than others, some have a larger team to handle larger companies, and some offer to integrate your PPC advertising into a fully functional inbound marketing campaign.
To get the best value from your investment, be sure that your search engine advertising firm can handle your needs and requirements.
11. Can you tell us about your bid/budget management practices?
This should give you an idea of how your account will be managed on a regular basis.
Any pay-per-click advertising campaign worth its salt will include an internal strategy/process that the agency is ultra-transparent about. Look for a Google Ads agency that's always looking for ways to improve -- not one that sets the account on autopilot.
By asking these questions, you'll get the best value from your Google Ads agency.
Don't look for the cheapest and the quickest. Look for the best PPC advertising company for meeting your business goals of brand awareness, lead generation, and sales. Always be wary of any agency -- PPC, SEO, or content marketing -- that exhibits classic warning signs of incompetency.
Have you been considering implementing Google Ads into your marketing mix? Where else could you optimize your website for traffic and lead generation?
(Editor's note: This blog post was originally published in June 2016 and was recently updated to reflect new developments.)