Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Not To Use Your Agency’s PPC Reports

People hire PPC agencies for a number of reasons: they want to use PPC, but don’t know how; or they’ve tried it but found it too complicated and time consuming. I’ve worked on both sides of the desk, in-house and agency, so I definitely see the advantages of each approach – and there are times where it just makes sense to hire an agency rather than try to do PPC yourself.

Any PPC agency worth its salt will provide some type of reporting on a regular basis. Some reports are more useful than others, but that’s a topic for another post. No matter what type of report you’re getting, there are ways to make use of the information, and ways not to. Here are some ways you should NOT use your agency reports.

Nitpicking over small details.

Ideally, your agency reports will include not only detailed data, but high-level insight and analysis. Even if the analysis is lacking, though, don’t obsess over minutiae. Focusing on one keyword’s stats, or one day’s data, is not a good use of your time – nor of your agency’s time responding to the inevitable questions you’ll have. You’re paying your agency to obsess over these details, precisely so you don’t have to. Don’t waste your time worrying about minor details that really don’t factor in to the big picture.

Ignoring the reports entirely.

Believe it or not, this is more common than you may think. A surprising number of clients receive their weekly or monthly report email and file it away without even opening it. On the one hand, maybe these clients trust their agency so completely that they aren’t worried about their account’s performance at all – sort of like the thousands of people who file away their 401K statements without ever looking at them. But just like a 401K, PPC performance can vary – and a good client will want to be aware of these variations.

Furthermore, a good report will contain not only data, but recommendations for future improvements such as landing page or website changes, shopping cart suggestions, and other information. (If only our 401K statements came with this info!) A good PPC manager can do a lot of great things without client involvement, but website changes often not are on that list. As the client, this is the stuff you’ll need to do – so ignore it at your own peril.

Taking the information and then trying to do things yourself.

I think some clients consciously try to use their agency as a training school, learning as much as they can so they can take everything in-house. Let me be clear – I’m not saying that no one should ever take things in-house. There are many instances where this makes a lot of sense: when the account has grown to the point that it warrants a full-time person managing it, for instance.

I’m also not saying that taking PPC training courses from qualified teachers such as Brad Geddes from Certified Knowledge is bad. Far from it! I’m a huge fan of continuous learning and training, and everyone, from agency managers to in-house PPC’ers, should take advantage of as much training as they can.

What I am saying is that it’s unfair to hire an agency under the guise of a vendor-client relationship, and use them to set up and optimize your account and make a bunch of recommendations – and then take the whole thing in-house in 3 months.

If you need help with initial start-up and optimization, that’s perfectly fine – but be honest about it! Tell the agency that you’re looking for a short-term commitment and you need help getting things off the ground. Some agencies will be fine with this, and some won’t – but in any agency-client relationship, a good fit is key to getting optimal results. Pretending you’re going to be a long-term partner, and then dumping the agency 3 months in, is not the best use of your money or the agency’s time. As the old adage goes, honesty is the best policy – and the best way to get what you really want out of the relationship.

If you’re thinking about hiring an agency, or if you’re already using one, I highly recommend my friend and fellow PPC Chatter Robert Brady’s post on agency reports, It’s Client Reporting, Not Training. It’s a great read, and it helped inspire this post. Thanks, Robert!

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  • Mel, you're always to spot on to the point!

    I would also suggest that if you use an agency that you should have full access to the PPC accounts.

    Some agencies like to make clients believe they have a mysterious magical box loaded with very sensitive parts that they tweak and fine tune everyday. In reality, they create a head heavy high priced CPC campaign structure, set it and forget it. If the client does not know the true cost of a PPC lead, then they will not know they are paying too much for their agency.

    Ask for negative
    keyword reports
    publisher exclusion reports
    Publisher targeting reports
    Top and worst performing:

    If your poorly performing elements never or rarely change then you know you are on a set it an forget it plan. IE a poorly performing keyword is not removed month after month.

    By Blogger Jerry Nordstrom, at 1:15 PM EDT  

  • Very true, Jerry. Agencies should have nothing to hide from the clients; if they do, it's a red flag. Hope you're well!

    By Blogger Melissa, at 2:47 PM EDT  

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