Choosing Your PPC Strategy – Outside Agency or In-House Staff?

With the constant evolution of digital marketing and the impending creation of new competitors, driving traffic to your website has never been more important.  Understanding and utilizing digital marketing strategies is vital to the success of any website and one of the key drivers remains a strong pay per click (PPC) strategy.

Big growth leveraging paid search requires an even bigger plan and there are two main paths you can take:  Hire an outside team to run your PPC strategy or assign an internal team (member) the task of managing your PPC plan.  Which is better?  You’d probably expect us to tell you it’s hiring an agency, right?  The truth is that it depends on what you have and what you need.  Check out our totally objective comparison on outside agency vs. in-house staff. No hidden sales pitch, we promise!

OUTSIDE AGENCY

Knowledge –

  • Pros:  Most agencies have previous PPC experience, meaning they can employ best practices (often gained working with other clients) to generate immediate growth.  They can help you think outside the box and their up-to-date knowledge on techniques and trends can be priceless in an ever-changing web-based world.
  • Cons:  Yet they often don’t know your business half as well as you do.  Getting them up-to-speed, directing them to the proper keywords (particularly if you’re a niche business), and maintaining their focus on your most urgent needs can be a struggle if it’s not managed properly.

Resources  -

  • Pros:   Instead of consuming your own staff with the tedious tasks and rampant reports of PPC, an agency’s account manager can dedicate his or her time specifically to your needs.  From a cost perspective, there’s always an agency willing to work within your budget, whether you plan to spend $1,000 or $100,000 per month.
  • Cons:   A typical account manager has multiple accounts, so no matter how special you think you are, the account manager’s priority is not always you.  Therefore, you may have to contend for his or her time and moments of critical thinking. Choose an agency that has a clientele of similar sized businesses.  It’s tempting to hire an agency based on their client list but you don’t want to be the smallest fish in the pond when the agency gets busy.

Alignment  -

  • Pros: PPC agencies often have experience in other channels of digital marketing, be it social media management or mobile marketing.  If you truly like an agency’s work, you can hire it to tie the rest of your online and mobile strategies together under one roof and that alignment is crucial.
  • Cons:  On the flip side, hiring an agency could lead to conflict or cause confusion, particularly if you already have other players running other aspects of your online and mobile strategy.  When you have multiple parties going in different directions, maintaining course can be a hassle.  Furthermore, if you’re working with multiple marketing agencies, you have to make sure there is someone to manage the relationships and coordinate efforts across multiple channels.

IN-HOUSE STAFF

Knowledge –

  • Pros:  Nobody knows your business like you do and having someone on the inside with industry-specific knowledge is irreplaceable.  If you’re in a niche market, for example organic clothing, your staff will often know the niche keywords and unusual terms, as well as where to target your ads online.
  • Cons:  Knowing your business is an integral part of PPC, but knowing the ins and outs of PPC is even more important.  If you don’t know how to research keywords, how much to spend and bid, or how to analyze the metrics, then you won’t know what is working and what is costing you precious dollars.

Resources –

  • Pros:  There are two resources to consider in-house:  human capital and monetary budget.  From a people perspective (and depending on your breadth of business), a PPC strategy requires at least one internal person with complete focus and dedicated work ethic. From a cost perspective, an in-house staff member can more readily monitor your spend and be quicker to push the ads or pull the reins.
  • Cons:  As said above, dedicating a person or people can be good for focus, but it can be a sacrifice too. Running your PPC strategy can be an everyday task, not to mention that understanding PPC means your staff should be constantly learning their newfound craft.  Cost should not be forgotten either.  It is not just PPC spend, but the salary and benefits of your in-house staff that have to be considered too.

Alignment –

  • Pros:  If you already have a team running online and mobile marketing strategies, then you can easily tie PPC into your overall business and company strategy.   Plus, as a manager, you can better control the direction of the keywords, ads, and spend.  Thus, a quick shift in direction is neither a problem, nor an argument.
  • Cons:  Yet anyone who’s been in business long enough knows that it’s hard to get your head out of a rut – you do business the same way year after year and you struggle to think outside the box.  The way you run your PPC strategy could end up in the same boat if you keep it in-house.

MAKING THE CHOICE

Outside Agency: If you lack the experience, could use the additional resources, and/or need help defining your over-arching digital marketing strategy, an agency is probably the wiser decision.   They have the expertise and the account managers readily available to help you grow.  So how do you choose the right agency?

  • Start by asking the right questions:  What is their past experience in PPC?  Do they have specific knowledge of your industry?  What are their reporting metrics?  Can they provide proof of past success?
  • Determine your monthly budget.  This includes setup fees, agency management fees, and most of all, ad spend.  Make sure the agency can work within your budget.
  • Be open about your company goals and your expected ROI.  This way you can ensure the agency will help you reach your target(s).  Don’t just ask for things like “more traffic” and “increased business”.  You need to know real numbers to have real goals. If you don’t know these key metrics yet, a good agency will help you establish realistic benchmarks.
  • Understand the metrics!  Each agency will have a different structure of reporting results and it’s imperative that you understand it so you can ask the right questions and help make the necessary changes.

In-House Staff: If you have the manpower, can fit this into an existing strategy, and/or are confident in your ability to run PPC campaigns, then in-house is a smarter path to take.   You will have more control over and more insight into your successes (or failures).  So how do you manage the strategy and staff member(s)?

  • Pick the right person(s).  Put this critical task in the hands of someone who understands digital marketing and your specific digital marketing goals.
  • Put a plan in place.  Every business objective needs a strategy of some sort and this one is no different.  Start by answering the basic questions:  What do we want to spend?   How much time do we want to dedicate to this?  What are our initial keywords?  What are our goals and anticipated ROI?
  • Pick the right bid management software.  There are dozens of great ones, but you need to find one that will help you optimize your keywords, lower your cost per click, improve your CTR and conversion rate, and drive more traffic.
  • Adjust reports to help you reach your results.  Whether you’re looking at Google Analytics or your software-specific reports, you need to customize reports to align with your goals.  There are plenty of metrics to stare at, so make sure you’re staring at the right ones.
  • Research and read about the latest trends and technology.  The web is a vast landscape and there’s always something new, whether it’s a major search engine update, a new way of bidding for ads, or a new popular website on which to focus your attention.  Take the time to give your staff proper training and updates, whether it’s taking the Adwords Certification Program or signing up for an industry e-newsletter.  The more you know, the better.
  • Steve

    I didn’t know this before, but with site extensions on your Adwords ads you can give people several options to visit your page, or, just offer a bunch of different ad copy in the form of links that all point to the same place. Do you have sitelinks setup, and actively gaining impressions/clicks in your account? If that sounds tricky, it isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. You can get help by just giving Simon a ring, his number is 302-401-4478.