Recently, Entrepreneur posted an article that outlined how to look for an agency to handle your Google AdWords marketing. Their concepts are solid, but I also think that the approach outlined allows perfect to become the enemy of good. Additionally, some of their suggestions contradict each other.
For example, you’re supposed to look for an account manager that is self taught, is a part of an agency with a variety of resources AND isn’t the type with enough job security to think they can slack off on your particular account. So, you’re looking for someone terrified of loosing their job in a large agency due to not having had a standard education. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. /sarcasm
So, here’s my slightly more realistic way of finding an agency to handle your account, but a major hat tip still goes to the experts who wrote the Entrepreneur article for many of the ideas.
The benefits of the self-taught
If you’ve worked with computers, you know that the difference between someone who spent their youth Frankenstein-ing together computers from disparate parts and someone who just graduated with a degree in Comp Sci. Sometimes those worlds collide, and lead to very awesome results, but however someone was educated, real world experience is a must.
Unless you have an account manager that understands many things work great in theory and crater in reality, you’re probably not going to have a good time. Newbies need to learn, but it’s better that they do it as an apprentice under someone who knows what their doing or working on an account that’s not yours – your competition’s account perhaps.
Track-record of results > Large amount of resources
Going with an agency that has a large amount of resources is a great thing, but going one with one that has a proven track record of results is the far superior option. If you’re talking to someone who is good at what they do and can provide you with results, they’ll be more than happy to talk to you about their previous successes. Additionally, keep in mind that smaller niche companies that focus on particular industries may actually be the better bet because while they don’t always have the manpower, they do know the ins and outs of a particular business and how to advertise it.
Reporting style and contents
If you you chose a company that has a large number of AdWords clients, you’ll have a bare minimum of reporting required by Google, as discussed in this article. However, no matter the size of the company you chose, you’ll want to have detailed reporting that focuses on ROI, conversion costs and customer actions. Clicks and impressions are nice, but your goal is to make profits, not just get a lot of visitors.
Certifications, reputation and how they mesh with you
While having being AdWords certified and participating in the Google Partners™ program are fairly low hurdles in this industry, you still want them to be crossed. If an agency isn’t willing to do at least these things, they’re either unaware or unwilling to do the basics, both of which are red flags.
Reputations are also very important. If you aren’t referred to an agency by someone you trust for this type of information, you should do an online search for reviews. An occasional negative comment isn’t actually as bad as it sounds – many people have wildly unrealistic expectations of what AdWords can accomplish or insist on doing things their way (aka, the wrong way). However, if there are several, back away slowly. Even if an organization can point to several great success stories, if there are a lot of other horror stories, you don’t want to take the chance of falling into the latter category.
Finally, pick an agency, and especially an account manager, that you mesh well with. If you feel that you’re at odds with either the organization or the individual in charge of your AdWords account, you’re not going to be comfortable leaving your money or your ads with them. Even if they seem perfect on paper, sometimes you have to go with your gut to keep from constantly fretting about how your account is being managed.