You may think that a PPC agency is your only option if you're looking for help to run online advertising campaigns for your business. But, in actual fact, there are other PPC management options available, and a PPC agency is not always the best choice.
Even if you do decide to use a PPC agency, you'll find this term being used by a wide range of different types and sizes of company. They are likely to have varying degrees of expertise and various different ways of charging for their services.
In this guide, we'll look at how PPC agencies typically work and highlight some of the questions you should ask when choosing a PPC agency. We'll also talk about some of the alternative options such as using a PPC consultant or opting for PPC training instead of PPC management.
PPC stands for pay-per-click, which is a method of charging advertisers. With PPC, the advertiser only pays if their advert gets a response (usually a click) rather than paying merely for the ad to be displayed.
The biggest, and probably best known, PPC advertising platform is Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords) which powers the ads which appear above and below the organic search results on Google. Here's a screenshot showing the PPC adverts highlighted with a red box and the organic results highlighted with a green box.
PPC ads also exist on the Bing search engine courtesy of Microsoft Advertising (previously known as Bing Ads).
So a PPC agency will usually be able to set up and run campaigns for you on both these networks.
Most PPC agencies will also be able to run display campaigns for you on networks such as the Google Display Network and/or Google Shopping campaigns if you have an ecommerce website.
In addition, a PPC agency will usually offer social media advertising services for clients who want to run ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter - even though these are very often charged on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis and so don't strictly speaking count as PPC ads.
In most PPC agencies there will be various different job roles, such as: account managers, PPC executives, paid search specialists, display campaign managers, and so on.
Depending on the size of the agency, your account might be looked after by a single person or by a combination of the above employees. Either way, you would normally have a single point of contact within the agency and that person may or may not be someone who deals hands-on with management of your PPC campaigns.
Sometimes the actual day-to-day management of your campaigns will be handled by someone quite junior who may have only minimal experience of Google Ads and other PPC platforms. When I used to run regular PPC training courses, I often used to have delegates attending who had already been working in an agency looking after clients' PPC accounts for a few months and only now were being sent for any training!
Hmmm... pass me that piece of string and a tape measure, will you?
Before I try to give you a sensible answer to the question of what PPC agencies charge, let's talk about the different pricing models they use.
Some agencies will quote you a fixed monthly fee for managing your PPC campaigns, irrespective of your advertising budget. But others work on a percentage model whereby their management fee is a percentage of your total ad spend each month.
Personally I'm not a fan of the percentage based model, even though it is very widespread. This is because it disincentivises the PPC manager from trying to reduce the amount that you spend on your advertising campaigns.
Usually you will be responsible for paying your own advertising charges directly to the publisher (e.g. Google or Facebook). And then the PPC agency will invoice you for their management fee.
Sometimes, though, the agency will charge you an all-inclusive fee and undertake to cover your advertising bills for you.
Whilst this latter option may sound attractive, it has a significant drawback in that you can never be quite sure how much you are spending on management and how much on ad clicks.
Fees for PPC management vary a lot depending on your requirements and the type of PPC agency you engage.
A small agency or an individual PPC freelancer might charge you £500 per month or less, especially if you have a fairly small Google Ads account with only a handful of keywords.
A more established larger agency will probably charge anything from £1,000 to £3,000 per month depending on the size and complexity of your campaigns, your ad budget, and the number of advertising platforms you want to use.
With so many PPC agencies to choose from, and with some being more ethical than others, it pays to know what things to watch out for when deciding on an agency to work with.
Some agencies will charge you an additional fee in the first month to cover the additional work involved in setting up your PPC campaigns. Make sure you're clear on this before you sign up to anything.
Don't be afraid to ask who will actually be managing your PPC campaigns on a day-to-day basis. Will it be a seasoned PPC specialist, or is your ad budget being looked after by a junior PPC executive with minimal knowledge and experience?
Before you sign up with a PPC agency make sure you know what their minimum contract length is and how easily you can terminate if you are not satisfied. A good PPC agency or freelancer will have a minimal notice period.
Some PPC agencies (especially larger ones) may not be willing to work with you if your monthly ad spend is below a certain level.
Sometimes a PPC agency will create a Google Ads account on your behalf. If this is the case, check who actually owns the account and whether you will still have access to it in the event that you part company with the agency.
For many businesses, a PPC agency is not always the best option. So what are the alternatives?
Often you will get a better quality of service at a similar or lower price if you find a good freelance PPC consultant to look after your campaigns.
By dealing with a PPC freelancer you will definitely have a single point of contact and will know exactly who is in charge of managing your PPC campaigns. Provided the PPC consultant you choose is experienced, this can mean you get a more highly skilled person overseeing you PPC campaigns than you would if you went to a large agency.
The drawback, of course, is that you have a single point of failure. So, for example, if your PPC consultant goes off sick, who is going to be keeping an eye on your ad campaigns?
There are a number of PPC consultants who specialise in particular industry sectors. For example, I specialise in running PPC campaigns for IFAs, mortgage brokers, and other financial services professionals. Similarly, you can find PPC consultants who work exclusively with dentists, solicitors, restaurants, etc. Although a specialist might charge more than a generalist PPC freelancer, the results they get are likely to be better because of their in-depth knowledge and experience of your sector.
There are a number of PPC agencies and freelancers who will train you how to do your own PPC management. If you have the time and inclination to learn Google Ads and other PPC advertising systems yourself, or if you have a member of staff who could be trained up in this area, then PPC training can be a very cost effective option. There are even free online courses available.
Want to be involved in running your company's PPC campaigns but don't want to be left completely on your own? This is where PPC coaching is ideal. It costs less than getting a PPC agency to manage your campaigns and it gives you the chance to learn new skills from a PPC expert on an ongoing basis.
If you would like some free advice on whether a PPC agency is your best option, or whether you'd be better off working with a PPC consultant or even learning how to do your own PPC management, I'd be happy to talk to you.
As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services sector use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.
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