5 Things to Remember When Choosing a Search Agency for Your Business

5 Things to Remember When Choosing a Search Agency for Your Business
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Jeff Ferguson

Last updated September 12, 2017


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Finding the right search agency to fit your business can be a real challenge.

When businesses choose whom to partner with, they likely speak to half a dozen companies who claim to be the best of the best. So how do does your team determine if they’re any good at what they do? After all, you’re not a search engine marketing expert—that’s why you’re hiring an outside firm in the first place!

The following are some very common ways your business can ensure you’re getting the most from the search agency you’ve chosen. 

1. Access is a Must

If your search agency has created a Google AdWords campaign for you, remember that it is your account, not theirs. Agencies have been known to deny access to their clients’ AdWords accounts, either because they don’t want the clients messing things up (which can happen), or to cover up just how much money is being spent or how little work is being done.

TIP #1: Always insist that you get full admin access to your advertising accounts.

2. ‘Set It and Forget It’ Doesn’t Work 

An important report in Google AdWords is called Account History. This report is used by search managers to determine who has made changes to the campaign, or to remind them of when certain changes took place.

However, sometimes the account history can be a ghost town of activity. Unethical agencies may go months without accessing an account, and often only access it to change the creative for the occasional sale or promotion. No changes in bids, no new keywords, no optimization whatsoever! The agency will simply create the campaign and then let it sit, running on autopilot.

TIP #2: Any agency worth their pay will check in on your account at least once a week, if not more.

3. Track and Measure Progress

No matter what type of business, there will always be some sort of conversion to track. For example, say you own a plumbing business with multiple locations throughout your region. Your paid search campaign’s goal would be to generate more leads that could become paying customers. The website could also feature the company’s toll-free number so potential customers could speak directly to a company. These actions (filling out of lead capture forms and phone calls) are tracked to determine the success of your campaign.

If an agency doesn’t  set up proper conversion tracking,  the client has no idea what part of the campaign generated leads or how much each lead cost. Sometimes this is done out of ignorance of how to properly set up a campaign, but many times it is done to mask the overall cost of the campaign from clients, allowing an agency to claim that everything is “just fine!”

TIP #3: Your agency should help you establish the goal of your campaign and set up proper tracking so you can determine how best to optimize the campaign to get you the most conversions at the right price.

4. Beware of the Robot Attack

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is made up of both paid advertising and non-paid, organic listings. Once a company starts a paid search campaign with Google or any other search engines, the company should continue to receive traffic from their organic listings on that search engine.

However, an all too common, and particularly dirty trick some agencies use when managing both the websites and the paid search campaigns of businesses is to alter what is known as a “robots.txt” file on a website for their own gain. The robots.txt file is a little file that lives hidden on your website and controls which search engines can access your site. If this file is set up maliciously,  your site won’t be seen on Google or the other search engines. 

Agencies can use this trick to convince business owners to pay more fees by using more paid search advertising.

TIP #4: Your robots.txt file should be set up properly to allow good bots and crawlers, or you’ll be completely invisible.

5. Look for Low Monthly Fee but High CPC

Unethical search agencies can also mask the actual cost of the media for a search campaign, and claim that they are charging the business a low fee for their services. This is easily done when the client does not have access to its own account, as previously described. The agency will simply increase the cost of the media on its monthly invoices, stating that this will go to the search engines for advertising. 

TIP #5: Your paid search advertising media charges should be paid directly by you via credit card or invoice and never by your agency.

Choose Wisely 

Remember above all that your agency partners are managing your campaigns, not theirs. Make sure they are regularly active in the account and focus on the right conversion metrics for success. Ensure that your organic search traffic continues once your paid search advertising begins. Finally, ensure that your fees are kept separate from your media costs. 

Follow these simple tips to keep your company from getting taken advantage of by unethical agencies. That way you can focus on growing your business.

Learn how to maximize your online campaigns by taking a look at our PPC Specialist Training

About the Author

Jeff Ferguson is the CEO and founder of Fang Digital Marketing, a boutique digital advertising media agency, specializing in search engine, display, social, and mobile marketing. With over 20 years of online marketing experience, Jeff has led the online marketing efforts for companies such as Hilton Hotels, Kimberly-Clark, InterActiveCorp, Experian, and Napster. Jeff’s clients have also included renowned brands such as Belkin, CBS, eHarmony, JustFab, Paychex, PetSmart, Popcornopolis, The Smithsonian, Stila Cosmetics, ThriveMarket, and Sony.


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