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20 Questions to Ask When You Think it’s Time to Hire a New Paid Search Agency

Ever get a funny feeling that your brand’s Google AdWords campaigns or other paid search campaigns could be better? Maybe you’ve been with the same paid search agency for a long time and performance has dropped as the agency has grown complacent. Or, maybe you’re regretting going with that agency who promised the same results and service as the other five agencies you vetted but at a much lower price point. Or, maybe you’re campaigns are doing just fine, chugging along with decent enough results to stay off the radar even though you know they could be performing better. 

Whatever your reasons are, it’s a good idea to regularly review your search campaigns and the agency or agencies running them. To help pinpoint what to look for, we put together this list of 20 questions to ask yourself to find out if now is the time for that review.

The questions are broken down into four subjects – account management, campaign structure, partnerships and performance reporting – so feel free to skip ahead if you’ve had specific pain points. 

Account management

Need a new paid search agency-Account Management

Building successful paid search campaigns starts at the top with high-quality client service and communication. If you think your current agency’s account management is lacking, ask yourself the six questions below to know for sure. 

No. 1: How big is the paid search or paid media team running your account?

It’s the agency’s responsibility to appropriately staff your account with the right number and blend of team members. Too few team members and you run the risk of things falling through the cracks and mistakes being made. Too many team members and you’ll end up paying higher management fee (or your account will become unprofitable for the agency, which means the relationship is probably doomed anyway). 

There are a variety of factors that determine how many people an agency will need to appropriately run an account. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to spit out the right number. The important thing is to make sure your agency has figured out that number for your account and is able to explain the logic behind it.

No. 2: Do you have one dedicated team member charged with the overall strategy of your campaigns?

Depending on the complexity of your account, it may be necessary to bring in multiple paid search specialists to handle day-to-day operations across campaigns. However, there should always be a senior team member directing the overall strategy to keep the team on the same page. Make sure you know who that person is at your agency and have your account manager bring them in for major strategy meetings and performance reviews.

No. 3: Do you have one dedicated team member in charge of strategies across your digital marketing campaigns?

If your paid search agency is also managing other marketing campaigns like social media advertising, display campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), etc., it’s important that they dedicate one person (usually an account executive/manager or digital strategist) to coordinate with each product team. It’s this person’s job to make sure strategies from across your campaigns align to provide maximum ROI for your brand.

No. 4: Are you in the account finding issues and telling your agency to fix things?

No. 5: Is your agency having constant performance issues and/or not taking responsibility for their mistakes?

Answering yes to either of the last two questions is a definite red flag. To be fair, even the best agencies are bound to make the occasional error throughout the course of the campaign. But, if your agency is making too many mistakes, making a lot of big mistakes or not owning their mistakes when they do make them, it may be time to start looking elsewhere.

No. 6: Is your agency prepared to scale into other channels?

This gets into a much larger debate about the value of hiring an agency that specializes in paid search vs. a full-service agency that can manage a variety of marketing campaigns. The argument for the specialty shop is since that’s their only focus, they know it better than most. However, full-service agencies typically have teams dedicated to specific marketing solutions with account/project management specialists to coordinate. 

Going with a full-service agency allows you to scale efforts and align strategies across marketing channels. There’s significant value in having the person managing your AdWords campaigns sitting a few desks away from the specialist managing your Facebook ads or programmatic display campaigns. (And, even if those team members are in separate offices, internal collaboration is still way smoother than trying to coordinate with other agencies.)

Campaign structure

Determining if you need a new paid search agency - Campaign Structure

How your agency organizes your campaigns is a big factor in determining success. Here are some questions to help you determine if your campaigns are set up for success or haphazardly thrown together. 

No. 7: Is your account structured in a way that makes sense?

No. 8: Are branded and non-branded keywords segmented? 

No. 9: Are prospecting and retargeting efforts segmented?

No. 10: Is your account organized into ad groups representing distinct topics and themes?

There’s no single perfect way to structure an AdWords account – but, there are a lot of wrong ways. If the answer to any of the questions above is no, then it might be a sign to look for a new agency. If you’re not a paid search expert and you’d like to do additional research on campaign structure, Google provides plenty of resources on AdWords best practices for you to double check your agency’s work. 

Cheatsheet – a few basic Google AdWords best practices your agency should be following:
  • The account should be split into separate campaigns anytime different settings are needed (e.g., different budget or location targeting).
  • Campaigns should be organized into ad groups by distinct themes, products, services, etc.
  • Each ad group should include relevant search terms and at least three or four related ads.

Partnerships

New Paid Search Agency-Partnerships

Part of the reason top paid search agencies consistently execute successful campaigns is they work with industry-leading partners and leverage the most sophisticated tools available. Ask yourself or your agency the following questions to make sure they work with the best.

No. 11: Is your agency a Premier Google Partner?

Google’s partner program helps connect brands with agencies that have passed Google AdWords product certification exams and are up to date with the latest product knowledge. Google has two levels of partners – standard and premier – and partners can specialize in a variety of product areas.

On the Google partner page, you can search for either type of partner and check out each agency’s specializations. For example, if you go to Mindstream Media’s partner page, you’ll see agency specializations for Search Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Video Advertising and Display Advertising, plus all our individual certifications.

No. 12: Does your agency use bid management software or do they manage budgets manually?

For more complex paid search accounts like those for decentralized multi-location brands, bidding tools are an absolute must. If you have a large or complicated account, make sure your agency is using bid management software to automate routine tasks, optimize campaigns based on the elements that are driving the most value and scale campaigns strategies across locations.

Related – Automated vs. Manual AdWords Bidding

No. 13: Does your agency use a call tracking solution?

No. 14: Are they able to integrate their call tracking solution with other campaign management tools?

Call tracking solutions enable brands and agencies to record and analyze phone calls from their marketing campaigns. If one of your business goals is to drive calls, your agency should be using a tracking solution that integrates with other campaign tools to make sure you’re getting the right calls. 

Understanding the content and value of the calls to your business is essential in optimizing marketing campaigns. Call tracking allows you to identify the touchpoints that are generating high-quantity and high-quality call volume and uncover which efforts aren’t providing value.

Campaign performance reporting

New Paid Search Agency-Campaign Performance Reporting

It’s important that paid search agencies take the time to explain campaign performance and have the ability to provide you 24/7 access to reporting. Ask yourself these questions to make sure your agency’s reporting is up to par. 

No. 16: Does your reporting show a holistic picture of all your marketing campaigns?

Whether your current agency just manages your paid search campaigns or multiple marketing efforts, it’s important that they’re able to provide comprehensive performance reporting. If they do manage multiple efforts, their reporting should show the relationship between each to paint a holistic picture of how those campaigns work together to improve performance, increase conversions and drive ROI for your brand.

No. 17: Does your agency’s reporting focus on accurately tracking leads and conversions?

Top-of-the-funnel metrics like impressions and clicks can be a valuable indicator of performance but they don’t really tell you whether a marketing campaign is doing what it’s designed to do – increase conversions and drive sales. If your agency’s performance reporting focuses too much on these types of metrics and not enough on high-intent actions like calls, form submissions and visits, it may be time to ask why.

Accurately reporting bottom-of-the-funnel metrics can be difficult and no agency has a perfect system. But, as tracking systems become more sophisticated, it’s important your paid search agency is dedicated to measuring the key performance indicators that provide the most value to your brand.

No. 18: Does your agency use an attribution model that’s customized to meet the specific needs of your brand?

No. 19: Does your agency’s attribution model account for the entire customer journey?

If you answered no to either of these questions, you may have cause for concern. It’s important that your agency attributes performance to the right marketing effort, campaign, ad group, etc., and is able to understand the unique journey consumers take to become your customers.

Rarely do consumers view, engage and interact with a single message from a brand. Often, it’s a multi-step process that helps consumers move through a complex buying journey. It’s important that your agency understands that and is able to deploy customized attribution models that match your business model.

Final question

No. 20: How do you feel about your current marketing campaigns?

If the answers to many of the questions above seemed like a big swing and a miss, it might be time to review your agency partners. Switching can be complicated, but if you’re having reservations about your current agency, don’t let that stop you from moving to a new agency that can deliver the best possible results for your brand. 


Want to see if you could be getting more from your digital marketing efforts?

Contact Mindstream Media for a free audit of your brand’s paid search or Facebook campaigns.